European Commission
Interinstitutional negotiations begin on Europol mandate revision and Schengen Information System
The Commission’s proposal to strengthen Europol’s mandate, in order to reinforce police cooperation across the EU and enhance the agency’s data sharing capabilities, is progressing fast through the EU’s legislative process. On 21 October, the European Parliament voted to enter interinstitutional negotiations with the Council of the EU, in what is termed “trilogues” – where both institutions enter an intense negotiation cycle with the aim of hammering out a joint compromise text. The Slovenian Minister of the Interior, Ales Hojs (whose country holds the Council Presidency) stated on 27 October that the first trilogue meeting took place with a “constructive atmosphere” and revealed a compromise should be possible by the end of this year. The meeting was also attended by the Parliament’s rapporteur Javier Zarzalejos, an MEP from Spain, as well as the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson. Linked to the proposal to strengthen Europol’s mandate is an additional legislative proposal that aims to modify the Schengen Information System (SIS), to allow Europol to issue alerts in SIS under a new category. (link)

Commission is aiming to strengthen ties with third countries in the context of the EU’s migration policy
According to leaked documents, the Commission is reportedly assessing ways to strengthen cooperation on migration policy with several “partner countries” including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. The document on Afghanistan indicates the possibility of installing a Frontex team in Pakistan to deal with the incoming migration flows from the conflict zone, and also allocating another €79m for 2022 to deal with the “regional dimension of Afghan displacement.” The Bosnia and Herzegovina document indicates November and December will see deeper discussions of the country’s enlargement prospects, with possible new funding. With Libya, the leak indicates plans for holding a migration dialogue with Libya once the mid-December presidential elections have occurred, and for installing a “right-based” migration system with the country. Meanwhile, the plans for Morocco include “structured cooperation” with Frontex and also a framework for Morocco’s cooperation with Europol, alongside a new budget for 2021-2027 which is currently being prepared. Finally, the document for Tunisia indicates the €30 million of EU funds already allocated for strengthening the country’s coastguard will likely be topped up with an additional €10 million. (link)

Country News:

·        France: French police have ordered 26 units of a mid-engine sports car, the Alpine A110, to be used by the Gendarmerie in rural areas with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. (link)

·        Greece: Greek police have arrested several Tibetan activists protesting against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, who disrupted the flame-lighting ceremony in Olympia and unfurled a Tibetan flag. (link)

·        Germany: German police said they stopped more than 50 far-right vigilantes armed with pepper spray, machetes and batons who were patrolling the Polish border to stop migrants from entering Germany. (link)

·        Italy: A man under house arrest in Italy asked the Carabinieri to arrest him and put him behind bars, because he was “no longer able to cope with the forced cohabitation with his wife.” (link)

·        Malta: Malta has still not submitted any actionable reports to the European Public Prosecutor in over 5 months, and the Prosecutor, Laura Kovesi, stated all national authorities have a duty to inform her office of any criminal conduct of a financial nature. (link)

·        Slovenia: Slovenian police had to fire tear gas and water cannons in a wide-scale anti-lockdown protest in Ljubljana on 5 October, just ahead of an EU Western Balkans summit in Brdo. (link)

·        Spain: Spanish authorities coordinated an EU-wide operation against several organized crime groups, leading to 330 arrests. The operation was jointly conducted with Interpol and Europol, within the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT) framework. (link)

·        UK: The United Kingdom joined the EU’s vaccine passport system, meaning that EU countries will recognise the UK NHS vaccine QR code, and the UK will recognise EU QR codes. (link)

Other news
European Parliament supports ban on facial recognition technology at least in mass surveillance terms
On 6 October the European Parliament voted to adopt a resolution which calls for a ban on police and judicial authorities using facial recognition, at least in the form of mass surveillance in public places. The resolution, which was adopted by a majority of 71 votes and 62 abstentions, proved a source of contention for the various parliamentary political groups with the EPP (the largest group) voting mostly against, and the other major groupings – the S&D, Renew Europe, and Greens/EFA backing it without exception. Central to this divergence was where AI can be a useful tool for police forces, and where AI undermines fundamental rights and civil liberties. Referencing data from “multiple NGOs,” the resolution’s author, Petar Vitanov (S&D, Bulgaria) described cases where persons were arrested following wrongful facial recognition. By contrast, Belgian EPP MEP warned against outright bans, stating “We must remain vigilant but we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Commissioner Ylva Johanssen also indicated her position was more in line with the EPP’s, and pointed towards recent AI success stories, such as the capture of the murderers of Dutch journalist Peter De Vries in July using smart technology. (link)

France captures British fishing trawler as Brexit fishing tension escalates
France has seized a British fishing trawler for operating without a license as a complex post-Brexit fisheries dispute between both countries continues to worsen. The French maritime ministry says the ships were given formal warning during checks by their maritime police off the coast of Le Havre on the night of Wednesday 27th October, mere hours after the Macron government warned it would “speak the language of strength” with London. France is now threatening retaliatory measures (including bans on UK boats entering French ports, and extra customs checks on UK goods) from November 2 if the UK continues to deny French fishermen licenses to fish in British waters, as France says had been agreed in last year’s EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said thus far, the UK had granted a mere 50% of the licenses it was supposed to. In response, the UK Government stated it had granted 98% of license applications from EU vessels to fish in UK waters, and PM Boris Johnson vowed to hit back at France were it to break the TCA’s fisheries agreement. The UK Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has also summoned the French Ambassador to the UK, Catherine Colonna. (link)

Look Ahead :

–       30-31 October: G20 Summit in Rome, Italy, where world leaders will discuss, amongst other issues, the need to improve global health resilience via a possible international treaty on pandemics.

–       31 October – 12 November: 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

–       9 November: LIBE Committee meeting – agenda not yet released but will be soon accessible at this link.

–       24 November: European Parliament plenary sitting discusses breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

 

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