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December 2019

Europol: SIRIUS: European Union Digital Evidence Situation Report 2019 (Press release, link):

"A new Europol report aims to draw a picture of the status of access of European Union (EU) Member States to electronic evidence held by foreign-based online service providers in 2018. The report presents data in relation to the volume of requests from EU Member States to online service providers; the main reasons for refusal or delay of EU requests; and the main challenges in the process from the perspective of the different stakeholders.

Manuel Navarrete, Head of the European Counter Terrorism Centre at Europol: “This is the first time such an exercise is carried out in a systematic way and including survey with judicial authorities, law enforcement from all EU Member States and input from over 12 online service providers. The information gathered gives indications of short-term actions, which could be taken to improve the swiftness of this process.”

European Parliament Study: The European Commission package of ETIAS consequential amendments - Substitute impact assessment (pdf):

"This assessment concludes, inter alia, that the Commission package expands the scope of the European Criminal Record Information System for Third-Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN) beyond the purposes stated in the ECRIS-TCN Regulation. This expansion constitutes a serious interference with the rights to respect for private life and to protection of personal data.

The necessity of this interference is called into question due to the potential overlap between the Schengen Information System (SIS) and ECRIS-TCN. The assessment moreover finds that the provisions on the automated processing of ETIAS application files also entail interference with the rights to respect for private life and protection of personal data.

It also highlights the existence of data quality issues and calls into question the relevance of certain data stored in EU information systems. That said, it finds the provisions on access by the ETIAS Central Unit and the ETIAS National Units relatively well balanced and recommends certain clarifications."

EU: European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS): Commission note explaining the "consequential amendments" to the ETIAS Regulation (pdf)

The note argues that changes to the legal basis of the European Criminal Records Information System for Third-Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), extending its scope so that it can be used for border checks, are "marginal".

GREECE-TURKEY: Videos Show Apparent Illegal Pushback of Migrants (Der Spiegel, link):

"The Greek government has repeatedly denied carrying out illegal "pushbacks" at its land border with Turkey. No asylum seekers, Athens insists, have been forced back across the Evros River into Turkey without a fair asylum process -- even if numerous refugees been claiming otherwise for years.

Now, videos provided to DER SPIEGEL and analyzed by the Forensic Architecture research collective, show for the first time what appear to be exactly these kinds of pushbacks taking place on the Evros. Six active and former police officers and soldiers have also independently told DER SPIEGEL that pushbacks are systematically carried out on the Evros."

State advertising as an instrument of transformation of the media market in Hungary (East European Politics, link)

"The study uses a comparative-historical perspective to examine the practice of state advertising in the Hungarian media by looking at the relevant practices of three governments. Using previous economic and political theoretical assumptions and data on Hungarian state advertising between 2006 and 2017, we argue that state advertising is a powerful tool of political favouritism as well as an instrument of market distortion, censorship and building an uncritical media empire aligned with the government. This practice can be viewed as part of a broader set of instruments deployed by illiberal states and hybrid political regimes to consolidate their hold on power."

AUSTRIA: Austrian Government Hacking-Law Is Unconstitutional (epicenter.works)

"The Austrian constitutional court decided on 11.12.2019 that the surveillance law that permits the use of spying software to read encrypted messages violates the fundamental right to respect for private life (article 8 ECHR), the fundamental right to data protection (§ 1 Austrian data protection law) and the constitutionally granted right that prohibits unreasonable searches (Art 9 Austrian bill of rights – Staatsgrundgesetz).

(...)

The court pointed out, that the there is a huge difference between traditional wiretapping and the infiltration of a computer system in order to read encrypted messages. Information about the personal use of computer systems provides insight into all areas of life and allows conclusions to be drawn about the user's thoughts, preferences, views and disposition. The court criticized especially that the law allowed to use the spying software for prosecuting offences against property which have a low maximum penalty, like burglary (maximum penalty of five years).

Further, the court empathized that the control mechanisms were insufficient."

UK: How to say ‘no’ to Government’s plan to strengthen police powers against Travellers (Friends Families and Travellers, link):

"On 5 November 2019, the Government launched a consultation to strengthen police powers against roadside Travellers. We need as many people as possible to stand up and fight against the Government’s plans. The information below shows the possible changes and explains how you can respond to the consultation. These are some of the most harmful changes affecting Gypsies and Travellers for decades – your voice should be heard.

The Government’s plan could:

This will affect anyone who stops on land that they do not own, this includes common land."

‘Enormous amount at stake’ in Irish murder data appeal case (euractiv, link):

"There is an “enormous amount at stake” in an appeal against a High Court decision that found the police’s capturing of mobile phone metadata in relation to a murder case breached EU law, Ireland’s Supreme Court has heard.

Graham Dwyer was convicted in 2015 for the murder of Elaine O’Hara, after mobile phone evidence retrieved from O’Hara’s handset was obtained by the Irish authorities. Dwyer’s legal team have since claimed that the prosecution’s use of the data was invalid because the legislation allowing for the capture of this data had been annulled by the European Court of Justice."

France, UK say they look beyond Brexit in Mali cooperation (euractiv. link):

"Sharing the cockpit of a helicopter on sizzling tarmac, French and British air force chiefs vowed to pursue the joint fight against jihadists in the heart of the Sahel even as the shadow of Brexit looms over their countries.

“We’ve got a long, fabulous history of working alongside each other, and I don’t expect anything to change anytime soon,” Royal Air Force (RAF) Chief of Air Staff Mike Wigston told AFP on a visit to the central Malian city of Gao with French counterpart Philippe Lavigne.

“If anything, we are going to work stronger together,” he said."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (10-16.12.19) including:

EU: New analysis: Monitoring "secondary movements" and "hotspots": Frontex is now an internal surveillance agency

The EU's border agency, Frontex, now has powers to gather data on "secondary movements" and the "hotspots" within the EU. The intention is to ensure "situational awareness" and produce risk analyses on the migratory situation within the EU, in order to inform possible operational action by national authorities. This brings with it increased risks for the fundamental rights of both non-EU nationals and ethnic minority EU citizens.

Why are we letting the defence industry hijack the EU? (The Guardian, link) by Apostolis Fotiadis:

"For three years now, the European Union, created to promote peace and understanding, has been undergoing a profound pivot to militarisation and hard power. Europeans are served up a relentless narrative about their continent’s duty to stand up to external challenges: Russian assertiveness, the US retreat from Nato and traditional Euro-Atlantic structures and China’s rise as a geopolitical force. But this narrative has served to legitimise a militarising agenda that, away from the spotlight, is being set and pushed by defence industry interests and their political cheerleaders.

Countries in Scandinavia and central and eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, Poland, Romania, Finland and Sweden, have all increased military expenditure as part of this creep towards arming and organising for potential use of lethal force. Major western European countries have kept the annual military spending-to-GDP ratio stable, but at least four are consistently among the biggest military spenders in the world."

Turkey raises prospect to send troops to Libya (EurActiv, link):

"Turkey moved closer to military support for Libya’s internationally recognised government late on Saturday (14 December) when a bilateral deal that provides for a quick reaction force if requested by Tripoli was sent to parliament.

Ankara’s latest move raises tensions in the Mediterranean region and risks confrontation with forces led by Khalifa Haftar based in eastern Libya, where rival political factions have been based since 2014.

Late last month, Ankara and Tripoli signed an expanded security and military accord and, separately, a memorandum on maritime boundaries that Greece said violates international law."

EU: Eurojust becomes an Agency (Eurojust press release, link):

"Eurojust today heralds a new phase in its development, as it officially becomes the European Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, with the application of the Eurojust Regulation as the new legal basis. The new Regulation will make Eurojust fit for the purpose of fighting increasing levels of cross-border crime, with an Executive Board dealing with administrative matters and giving the College of prosecutors from all Member States more leeway to focus on the continuously rising number of criminal cases. Eurojust will start applying many of the standard rules of the decentralised Agencies."

See: Regulation (EU) 2018/1727 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018 on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) (pdf)

Data watchdog raps EU asylum body for snooping (EUobserver, link):

"The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) monitored refugee networks to detect new routes and find smugglers – until the project ran into trouble with the EU's own data protection authority.

EASO combed through social media to monitor refugee routes to Europe over the past three years. The agency sent weekly reports on its findings to member states, the EU Commission and institutions such as UNHCR and Interpol.

The asylum agency, based in Malta, says its reports have helped to detect migrants on their way to Europe, but the monitoring activity has raised concern from data protection authorities."

See: European Data Protection Supervisor: Formal consultation on EASO's social media monitoring reports (case 2018-1083) (pdf)

No need to stargaze, digitalisation in healthcare is already here, say health experts (euractiv, link):

"Using digital tools to deliver care more efficiently presents a massive opportunity to relieve Europe’s strained healthcare systems, but also carries significant ethical and environmental considerations, EURACTIV heard at a recent event. (..)

The digitalisation of health care is set to be a hot topic for the new European Commission, with new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen making clear her ambition to ensure that the next five-year EU legislative cycle harnesses the potential of digital innovation to drive improvements in all aspects of healthcare.

This included a pledge to create a European Health Data Space and to adopt legislation on AI in the first 100 days of office."

UK: Rats in the kitchen, sodden carpets in the living room (IRR News, link):

"When researcher John Grayson visited a family with disabilities living in a Mears asylum house in Rotherham, he was stunned by what he saw."

EU-USA: Joint EU-US statement following the EU-US Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting (Press release, pdf): The twice yearly meetings of respective Ministers concerning justice and home affair took place 11 December 2019. As usual the press release contain little of substance.

There are references to the threat to security posed by drones and and the need to access electronic eviudence. On digital evidence:

"We also acknowledged that the use of warrant-proof encryption by terrorists and other criminals – including those who engage in on-line child sexual exploitation – compromises the ability of law enforcement agencies to protect victims and the public at large. At the same time, encryption is an important technical measure to ensure cybersecurity and the exercise of fundamental rights, including privacy, which requires that any access to encrypted data be via legal procedures that protect privacy and security. Within this framework, we discussed the critical importance of working towards ensuring lawful access for law enforcement and other law enforcement authorities to digital evidence, including when encrypted or hosted on servers located in another jurisdiction."

Silencing the Opposition in Hungary (verfassungsblog.de, link):

"On 10 December, the Hungarian opposition MPs got a lovely present from the governing majority for Christmas wrapped in a big legislative package amending both the Act on Parliament and the Rules of Procedure.

In the rush before the end of the fall-term session, there was no time for wrapping paper, ribbons and bows. However, I am sure that the Fidesz-KDNP coalition’s argument that the modifications will reinforce the authority and the prestige of the House and ensure decorum in the conduct of business will cheer them up.".

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (3-9.12.19) including:

UK: Mobile fingerprint scanners bring a dangerous new front to the hostile environment (Liberty, link):

"Police technology is being used to draft frontline officers into the Government’s hostile environment, undermining access to vital police services for countless people, Liberty research has found.

In England and Wales, more than half of police forces have deployed mobile fingerprint scanners – devices that carry out on-the-spot ID checks against immigration databases, turning officers into border guards.

Liberty obtained detailed information about police use of mobile fingerprint scanners through a series of freedom of information requests. So far more than 4,000 people have been matched against immigration databases after coming into contact with frontline police."

SERBIA: Unlawful video surveillance with face recognition in Belgrade (SHARE Foundation, link):

"The installation of smart video surveillance in Belgrade, with thousands of cameras and face recognition software, has raised public concern. Three civil society organisations (CSOs) – SHARE Foundation, Partners for Democratic Change Serbia (Partners Serbia) and Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) – published a detailed analysis of the MoI’s Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) on the use of smart video surveillance and have reached a conclusion that the document does not meet the formal or material conditions required by the Law on Personal Data Protection in Serbia.

The Commissioner on Personal Data Protection in Serbia also published his opinion on the DPIA, confirming the findings of the aforementioned organisations According to the Commissioner, the DPIA was not conducted in line with the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Law."

Secret document: "Club de Berne" criticises member in Austria for possible extremism (link):

"An audit report of the "Club de Berne" finds serious deficiencies in the Austrian domestic intelligence service. Its IT systems were not approved for secret information. The authority should also ensure that it is not infiltrated by "extremist organisations“.

The Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (BVT) is regarded as a security gap for European intelligence cooperation. This is the conclusion reached by the European "Club de Berne" in an audit report. The document classified as "secret" was leaked to the daily newspaper "Österreich" and published."

Migration control: Drones now fly across the English Channel (link):

"1,700 migrants are said to have crossed the strait between France and Great Britain in small boats this year. Both governments therefore requested patrols with drones from the European Union next year. Until then, the border authorities will fly with their own aircraft.

The British Coast Guard will observe the English Channel with drones in the future. This is reported by the British BBC with reference to the British Ministry of the Interior. The government in London wants to prevent the crossing of migrants from France across the 30 kilometre wide strait to Great Britain. However, it is unclear which unmanned aerial vehicles will be used and which company was awarded the contract. The Ministry of the Interior refused to provide any information to the BBC."

'Oval Four' men jailed in 1972 cleared by court of appeal in London (Guardian, link):

"Lord chief justice expresses ‘regret that it has taken so long for injustice to be remedied’

Three men who were convicted nearly 50 years ago on the evidence of a corrupt police officer have finally had their names cleared by senior judges.

Upholding an appeal against conviction by Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths – who, with Constantine Boucher, were part of the “Oval Four” – the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, told them: “Our regret is that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied.”

The men were arrested in March 1972 by a group of undercover police officers at Oval Underground station and accused of “nicking handbags” on the tube. They were beaten in the police cells and then charged with attempting to steal, theft, and assault of the police."

All EU security and defence missions to adopt access to documents policies - but enforcement will be voluntary

All the missions and operations launched under the EU's common and security and defence policy (CSDP) have been ordered by the European External Action Service (EEAS) to adopt policies on public access to documents by February 2020, but their enforcement will be voluntary and lie beyond the reach of the Court of Justice of the EU.

EU: Ministers call for renewed migrant smuggling crackdown on "Eastern Mediterranean" route

The EU should put a "stronger focus" on "the fight against human smuggling" along the Eastern Mediterranean route, according to the interior ministers of almost two dozen central and eastern European states, who have called for joint investigations and enhanced cooperation with Turkey and Western Balkan countries.

FRANCE: Preventing Violent Extremism in France: from a society of vigilance to a society of suspicion? (CIDOB, link):

"The French government has called for a general detection of “early signs” of radicalization. But, what does it mean exactly and how the listing of these considered “early signs” can avoid generating a climate of generalized suspicion? In the field of preventing violent extremism (PVE) policies, the use of such indicators is not only questionable in theory but dangerous in practice.

...indicators that are presented as a reliable means of detecting violent radicalization and thus promoting a “society of vigilance” are in fact a tool whose design is not based on science and whose practical use can encourage suspicion and denunciation. In such a context, the authorities’ action may encourage the marginalization of certain segments of the society, and work against the inclusion that would make vulnerable communities more resilient to radicalization."

UK: JUSTICE FOR ALFIE MEADOWS: Two weeks discplinary hearing of PC Mark Alston beings 11AM on 4 December 2019 at 21 New Street, London, EC2M 4TP (DTRTP, link):

"On 9 December 2010 Alfie Meadows was a 20 year old philosophy student from Middlesex University when he joined student protests against the tripling of tuition fees.

At around 3:30pm police officers kettled thousands of protesters inside Parliament Square. At the same time police officers temporarily opened up their police lines to facilitate mounted police charges into the crowd. As Alfie tried to leave the containment he was struck around the head with a police truncheon.

...The disciplinary hearing of PC Alston is expected to last until 17 December 2019. The officer faces two charges: one for using his baton dangerously and the other for causing Alfie’s head injuries."

Conclusions of the joint international press freedom mission to Hungary: Hungary dismantles media freedom and pluralism (ECPMF, link):

"Since 2010, the Hungarian government has systematically dismantled media independence, freedom and pluralism, distorted the media market and divided the journalistic community in the country, achieving a degree of media control unprecedented in an EU member state.

While avoiding the physical violence or the jailing of journalists common in autocratic regimes elsewhere, the Hungarian government has pursued a clear strategy to silence the critical press through deliberate manipulation of the media market – engineering the forcible closure or effective government takeover of once-independent media – and through the delegitimization of journalists. The construction of a pro-government media empire serves as a vast propaganda machine for the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, insulating large parts of the public from access to critical news and information so as to maintain the Fidesz party’s hold on power."

GERMANY: The Lingering Trauma of Stasi Surveillance (The Atlantic, link):

"BERLIN—It has been 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this group-therapy session for victims of the East German dictatorship still meets every two weeks. Seated at the table in a cozy room off a peaceful cobbled street is a tall, sturdily built man who wears a thick gold chain and heavy boots. It was his penchant for edgy dressing that first got him in trouble with the secret police: He refused to cut his hair and wear a government-approved scarf to school exams. To his left is a woman who also protested the state-administered school uniform. Opposite is a man who made the mistake of applying to leave the country.

...It was an unashamed police state, one in which extreme measures, even by authoritarian standards, were taken to curtail freedoms, until it finally fell and was subsumed into a newly reunified Germany. Yet the impact of the GDR’s measures did not end then. Indeed, that impact continues to be felt today. And if its efforts serve as an example to modern surveillance states—China, North Korea, Belarus, and Uzbekistan among them—its legacy serves as a warning, an insight into how such vast systems of control can affect our minds and societies."

European Data Protection Supervisor: Leading by Example: EDPS 2015-2019 (pdf):

A report looking at the last five years of work by the EDPS: "This report provides an overview of the activities carried out by the EDPS from 2015-2019. In particular, it focuses on how the EDPS has worked towards implementing the objectives set out in the EDPS Strategy 2015-2019, which relate to digitisation, global partnerships and the modernisation of data protection. This involved not only contributing historical pieces of legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation and Regulation 2018/1725, but also bringing the concepts of ethics and accountability to the forefront of data protection discourse and application."

French parliament backs resolution calling anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism (Middle East Eye, link):

"The French parliament backed a resolution on Tuesday labelling anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism.

The motion proposes to adopt the definition issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which states that some criticism of Israel could be antisemitic.

“Criticising the very existence of Israel as a collective composed of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred towards the Jewish community as a whole,” the resolution states.

The resolution has passed with 154 votes for and 72 against. It was drafted by Sylvain Maillard, a Paris lawmaker from French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move) centrist party."

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council, 2-3 December 2019

Including: press release, agendas and background note.

GAMM UPDATE (Limite doc no: 13452-19, pdf) 6 November 2019: 63 pages:

"This document provides an updated overview of the main external migration dialogues and processes implemented in the framework of the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM). The document is compiled for the information of the EU High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration by the responsible European Commission services, in association with the EEAS."

EU: The political proxy war driving the race for EU citizens’ champion (Politico, link):

"Emily O’Reilly defends her record as she campaigns for reelection as European Ombudsman."

Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (26.11-2.12.19) including:

EU: Lisbon Treaty: Commission marks ten years of judicial and police cooperation between Member States of the European Union (press release, link)

"Today in the House of European History, President of the European Commission Ms Ursula von der Leyen marked the ten-year anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The 1st of December 2019 also marks ten years since EU cooperation on borders, migration, justice and internal security is a fully-fledged Union policy.

With the Treaty of Lisbon, Member States created an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, one in which people can move around freely and yet remain safe from crime, as well as have their interests protected by the courts."

UK: EU citizens will need US-style visa clearance after Brexit as Tories unveil 'take back control' border pledges (PoliticsHome, link):

"Under a raft of promises the party claims will improve border security if it wins the election, the Tories said a new visa waiver scheme called Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) would be brought in for EU citizens wanting to travel to the UK.

Under current EU free movement rules, travellers from the bloc only need an ID card to gain entry.

But the new regime will see them asked to bring passports and fill in an online form before travelling, a move the Conservatives said would allow officials to "to screen arrivals and block threats from entering the UK"."

ECHR-BULGARIA: A civilian tried by military courts for an ordinary criminal offence did not have a fair trial (press release, pdf):

"In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Mustafa v. Bulgaria (application no. 1230/17) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights

Mr Mustafa, a civilian who had no links to the army, was tried and convicted by military courts for an ordinary offence because one of the other defendants in the case was serving in the army at the time it was committed. Mr Mustafa argued that those courts were neither independent nor impartial.

The Court found in particular that Mr Mustafa’s doubts about the independence and impartiality of the military courts could be regarded as objectively justified."

Judgment: Mustafa v. Bulgaria (French only, pdf)


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