Frontex 4: Raw Material For Securitisation

November 28, 2010

At the beginning of September a call for expressions of interest in demonstrating at Frontex’s Research and Development workshop “Small UAVs and Fixed systems for Land border surveillance” to take place in Bulgaria on October 19th appeared at Frontex’s website.

According to Frontex spokesman Michal Parzyszek the ‘Research and Development Unit’ of Frontex has researched extensively the possibility of employing automated border control equipment, including UAV’s, during 2010.

“In the domain of land border surveillance, there is a wide spectrum of possible technical means that can be employed to provide effective surveillance including: daylight and infrared cameras, ground radars, fixed ground sensors, mobile systems, manned aircraft and satellites. However, it is clear that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could also play an important role in further enhancing border surveillance in the future, though they face a number of technical and other challenges” the call read.

Frontex staff has not responded to inquiries of …. about information on the participants in the event or its possible participation.

Frontex’s interest in the emerging surveillance regime appears to overlap with a strong political will in Brussels to push ahead with securitisation of EU external borders as well as with business interests becoming increasingly active in the emerging European homeland security sector.

During the last two years the development of an integrated European Borders Surveillance System (EUROSUR), of which the policy objectives are influenced extensively by Frontex’s research on security issues, has become an attraction for producers of security equipment like Unmanned Aviation Vehicles, best known as ‘Drone Planes’, as well as other surveillance systems.

EUROSUR project was initiated on 2008 by the European Commission in order to control influxes of irregular migrants and contribute to the prevention of cross-border crime and to enhance search and rescue capacity.

As Ben Hayes has disclosed in his path breaking report “Neoconopticon”, a detailed account of the emerging European homeland security sector published for Statewatch and Transnational Institute, EUROSUR is backed by a plethora of security research projects funded with EU money that involve big defence companies. Hayes mentions two important examples. The OPERAMAR project, led by Thales Underwater Systems in conjunction with Selex (a Finmeccanica company), promotes the interoperability of European and national maritime surveillance assets. STABORSEC consortium, led by Sagem Defense Securite, recommended 20 detection, surveillance and biometric technologies for standardisation at the EU level.

The specifics of the relationship of Frontex with security business interests remains unclear but it has become notable after the conclusion of ‘European Security Research and Innovation Forum’ (ESRIF) that ran between 2007 and 2009, bringing together individuals and groups from the research community, the private business security sector and European Intuitions as well as representatives of European MS.

While EUROSUR and ESRIF are not formally connected they are both products of the wider European Security Research Programme, supervised by the European Commission, and involve the same political and commercial interests.

Frontex chaired the third working group of ESRIF (WG3) of the forum of which the rapporteur has been the Italian defense corporation Finmeccanica. WG3 object was border controls and maritime surveillance.

Frank Slijper, an acknowledged author on the emerging security-industrial complex in Europe and member of the anti-militaristic initiative Kampagne tegen Wapenhandel, said to …. that the forum has been more than an opinion exchange of security issues. “ESRIF was THE place in Europe where these supply and demand actors met in a structured formalised setting, a win-win situation really for all sides on the forum”.

“Such initiatives are steps that enable military integration at a later point. First getting the ‘softer’ side of security within the EU, and then through its common linkages getting the military sector fully involved. Note the number of arms companies on board of ESRIF (Safran/Sagem, Thales, EADS Finmeccanica etc.), who post 9-11 have all set up special (homeland) security divisions in their companies as that has been a new growth market for their companies”.

Beyond ESRIF, during the last two years Frontex is a regular participant in conferences and forums promoting the securitisation of controls in Europe alongside groups lobbying in favour of corporate interests. Last month it attended Security Research Conference together with CoESS, (a group founded in 1989 by a joint initiative of several national associations of private security companies belonging to EU Member States).

It often sits in conferences promoting security research together with big lobby groups like the Aerospace and Defence (ASD) association (which promotes Aeronautics Industry as a strategic priority for Europe) and the Security Defence Agenda (SDA) (a Brussels based think tank that provides a platform for the meeting of EU institutions and NATO, with national government officials, industry, the international and specialised media, think-tanks, academia and NGOs).

In its initiating position paper the European Organisation for Security, a new umbrella lobby group concentrating the interests of the security and defence industry, launched May 2008, defines Frontex role as “not only providing a common risk assessment, but also supporting and coordinating the definition, test and validation of elements of a common Architecture, such as EUROSUR, and be a relevant interlocutor for the supply industry sector”. Soon it could transform into a customer as well since the new European regulation mentioned already will offer the multimillion budget agency the option to acquire equipment directly.

While questioned, during a phone interview with …. about the agency’s relationship with the security industrial complex spokesman Michal Parzyszek has similarly described Frontex as “a broker between research institutions, private business and national border guard authorities”.

Regarding the issue of the possibility that Frontex is being lobbied by corporate interests MEP Franziska Keller answered that “we are not able to know who goes to Warsaw, at Frontex headquarters, and with whom they meet elsewhere”. Asked who knows she answered, “I think nobody knows”.


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