The last months of 2013 saw a continuing trend of border militarisation, with the official launch of the EU border surveillance system Eurosur, the announcement of the building of a razor wire border fence along Bulgaria’s border with Turkey and the news that the EU ‘civilian’ border mission in Libya is in fact training paramilitary Libyan border guards.
Meanwhile international border agencies and the military and security industry gathered at the World Borderpol Congress in London in early December to see how tightening border security and making profits of it can best be done.
A just as important event for the military and security industry was the start of the new EU research and development program Horizon2020, the successor to Framework Program 7. One of its pillars is the section ‘Secure societies – Protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens’. This includes “[t]he protection of the European borders”, which “requires the development of systems, equipment, tools, processes, and methods for rapid identification”.
Under this security section of Horizon2020 calls for several border security projects in 2014 and 2015 have been announced. With border crossings from the Mediterannean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean still the focus point of much of the EU border control policies, a lot of the calls are aimed at strengthening sea border surveillance and furthering the development of Eurosur. For 2014 this includes ‘Radar systems for the surveillance of coastal and pre-frontier areas’ and ‘Light optionally piloted vehicles (and sensors) for maritime surveillance’. Both projects are estimated to cost between 5 and 12 million euros.
The former must “contribute to redress the limitations of current border surveillance systems at sea, particularly concerning the detection and tracking of small unseaworthy vessels. Impact will be benchmarked against improved capabilities to meet surveillance requirements in conditions ranging from those of the Southern Atlantic to the Greek archipelago.”
The latter must “extend the portfolio of light surveillance platforms for reduced operational cost, and increased capability in surveillance in high seas”, to be used in for example maritime operations of the EU border security agency Frontex. This should include the use of “affordable, optionally piloted, reconfigurable aerial and/or naval platforms […] connected with ground control stations, as in legacy surveillance systems, and designed in order to be fit also for installation in optionally piloted aircrafts and/or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial System).”
In 2015 several other border security project calls will be launched, including ‘Novel mobility concepts for land border security’ and ‘ Exploring new modalities in biometric-based border checks’.
Netherlands-based companies, notably TNO and EADS, gained millions of euros in border security projects under the Framework Program 7, the predecessor of Horizon 2020. No doubt some of them will be part of consortia that will submit proposals for the new border security-related calls. The calls will be open for submissions from the 25th of March.
The one-sided focus on strengthening and militarising border security is exemplary for the EU migration policies, that keep on heightening the walls of Fortress Europe. In December this approach was criticized, for the umpteenth time, by Amnesty International, saying that “European leaders should hang their heads in shame over the pitifully low numbers of refugees from Syria they are prepared to resettle” and concluding that “refugees from Syria are met with deplorable treatment, including life threatening push-back operations along the Greek coast, and detention for weeks in poor conditions in Bulgaria.”
Just a week later the European Council responded by adopting new anti-immigration measures, including the strengthening of Frontex, more border surveillance and increasing pressure on third countries to stop migrants on their journey to Europe.
[MA, 10 January 2014]