EUs securocrats

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EU plan: The rise and rise of the securocrats :: Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

Forget the eurocrat. It is the securocrat, a hybrid
national-European Union breed of official, you should be really worried
about.


At home and abroad – the securocrats are watching

The EU ”future group” report leaked in the newspaper on Thursday, read the source document here, is very significant. It is also well covered by the Guardian’s Ian Traynor.

This text – particularly through via the creation of a EU-US common
security area by 2014 and ”convergence” on surveillance and data
gathering – redefines ”home affairs” as a matter of EU internal
security. Britain is in the vanguard of this agenda and the rise and
rise of the securocracy.

These proposals, which will form the EU’s work plan on security between 2010 and 2014, are currently classified as limité
– meaning the report, ”European Home Affairs in an open world”, can
only, officially anyway, be read by diplomats and civil servants.

The report has a high official status. It has been drawn up by
Germany, Portugal, Slovenia, France, the Czech Republic and Sweden, the
six countries holding the EU’s six monthly rotating presidency between
beginning 2007 and the end of 2009.

The European Commission is involved and Baroness Patricia Scotland,
the Attorney General for England and Wales, has been involved as an
”observer” in the group’s discussions. It was discussed by EU justice
ministers twice last month.

The document illustrates how the same trends that lead to 42 days
detention legislation and ID cards in the UK converge at the European
level to set the EU’s agenda. Security is becoming the EU’s most
important and ideological policy area.

The significance of a common EU and US security area is that it is
preconditioned on an internal security agenda, moreover one that is
realised at the European level and has already sparked a bidding war
for who can get the most information on the movements of Europe’s
citizens.

”By 2014 the European Union should make up its mind with regard to
the political objective to realise a Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation
in the field of freedom, security and justice with the United States.
Furthermore, it deems that Home Affairs issues should be linked with
the Union’s external relations in the political as well as technical
dimensions; this is a major challenge for the internal security of the
European area,” says the report.

This story, here and here,
shows how the UK’s E-Borders system is in the vanguard, it holds data
on 54 million people. The proposals that it potentially clashes with
come from the Commission but have already, effectively, been canned by
national governments in the Council of the EU (the people who are in
the driving seat on all this).

Even the language in the ”future group” report is the same: ”An
‘E-Border’ concept on the basis of current reflections by the
Commission should be established.” I covered the Commission ideas in
February – see here and, later, here. New proposals will be forthcoming later in the year, most likely going the UK way.

The UK is pushing for travel data collected via ticket reservation –
Passenger Name Records or PNR – to be stored from purpose of fighting
”serious crime” (a loose and porous definition) rather than current
proposals to limit it to terrorism and organised crime. Britain, I
understand, it is pushing at an open door here.

I am told that the Commission asked the UK how many terrorists had
been caught by E-Borders – the Home Office spouts the figure of PNR
resulting in 25,000 alerts and involved in 2,100 arrests for offences
including from murder to firearms possession and drugs smuggling.
Answer came there none.

Britain also wants this surveillance to apply to flights within the
EU (it already collects it on domestic flights in UK) as well to rail
and sea. Data will be held on the principle of ”availability” – in
other words if another law enforcer or ”public security organisation”
wants it, it can have it.

There might be some Schengen legal issues here for the rest of the
EU but where there is a will there is a way… The idea, for air
travel, was floated by Franco Frattini, when he was still EU
Commissioner back in February.

The security agenda is a technocrat’s dream. It is based on
assumptions of threat or risk premised by an unconstrained mistrust of
people and daily activity such as travel. In practice, it is about
checks and surveillance. Systems, that spawn their own terminology, and
officialdom, bringing individuals, you and me, into new set of
relationships with the state.

One very important aspect of the report that has not been widely
enough covered is the invention of something called the ”convergence
principle” in terms of surveillance databases and the gathering of
information.

The securocracy – both at the national and EU level – began with
something called ”interoperability”, meaning that the information held
on databases could technically be used or exchanged more widely if
required.

As many privacy and civil liberties campaigners warned, this soon
gave rise to the idea of ”availability”, meaning that the exchange of
any of this information, defined as important for security purposes,
was required.

Now in the latest buzzword we have is ”convergence”. This concept
heralds a new era by standardising European police surveillance
techniques and creating ”tool-pools” of common data gathering systems
to be operated at the EU level.

”The aim of this idea is to bring member states closer not only by
means of standardisation when necessary but also by operational means,”
the report says.

Under the plans the scope of information available to law
enforcement agencies and ”public security organisations” would be
extended from the sharing of existing DNA and fingerprint databases to
include CCTV video footage and material gathered by ”spy drones”.

”As is well-known, the entire area of security technology has
undergone major developments in the past few years. Efforts must be
made to standardise new materials in order to obtain better
interoperability, especially in the areas of video surveillance,
Internet telephony, and police use of unpiloted aircraft. Sharing
certain state-of-the-art materials requiring large investments should
be considered when they do not need to be in continuous use. It appears
that this sector cannot be managed politically by individual Member
States or industrially only by the companies working in this field,”
the report says.

A new era of intrusion, monitoring and demands from officialdom is born.

Statewatch’s Tony Bunyan – this excellent civil liberties group
which monitors European security and justice proposals should be given
every support – on this development.

”The convergence principle is a very big step forward to a European
state. They want to standardise EU policing as well as working much
closely on an operational level.”

”They keep saying the public want security. Actually the public
wants safety. Public safety should not always be defined as security.
Security is the ideology of the state,” he told me.

”There are no privacy rights whatsoever to know or be informed
whether information is held on you. These proposals have been written
by and for security officials.

The security issue poses something of a conundrum for some traditional Eurosceptics. Dan Hannan is wrong
(it might be rare but it does happen). ”What is the point of fretting
about ID cards or 42-day detention when the whole field of justice and
home affairs is passing daily under Brussels jurisdiction?,” he asks.

EU internal security policy is as British as Whitehall or Queen
Anne’s Gate. The British police and Home Office love it. For that
matter it is also as German as Berlin’s Bundesministerium des Innern,
or… (repeat with the EU’s 27 variants).

The fight against authoritarianism begins at home, if it is to mean
anything elsewhere. The sad fact about David Davis’s stand was that it
was successfully ignored/marginalised by the Government and the
Conservatives.

EU internal security policy can only be meaningfully opposed, both
at home and abroad as a civil liberties issue – this included the
European Arrest Warrant. This question is now more important than
defunct left and right, Labour or Tory, politics.

Om Claes

A blogger and general internet nerd from Sweden. I write about politics, internet, technology, the world around me and whatever else interest me. I write mostly in swedish but some english.
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