Telegraph UK (Link) - Bruno Waterfield (June 10, 2009)
The European Union is stepping up efforts to build an enhanced pan-European system of security and surveillance which critics have described as “dangerously authoritarian”.
Civil liberties groups say the proposals would create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.
Europe's justice ministers will hold talks on the "domestic security policy" and surveillance network proposals, known in Brussels circles as the "Stockholm programme", on July 15 with the aim of finishing work on the EU's first ever internal security policy by the end of 2009.
Jacques Barrot, the European justice and security commissioner, yesterday publicly declared that the aim was to "develop a domestic security strategy for the EU", once regarded as a strictly national "home affairs" area of policy. "National frontiers should no longer restrict our activities," he said.
Mark Francois, Conservative spokesman on Europe, has demanded "immediate clarity on where the government stands on this".
"These are potentially dangerous proposals which could interfere in Britain's internal security," he said.
"The chaos and division in Gordon Brown's government is crippling Britain's ability to make its voice heard in Europe."
Critics of the plans have claimed that moves to create a new "information system architecture" of Europe-wide police and security databases will create a "surveillance state".
Tony Bunyan, of the European Civil Liberties Network (ECLN), has warned that EU security officials are seeking to harness a "digital tsunami" of new information technology without asking "political and moral questions first".
"An increasingly sophisticated internal and external security apparatus is developing under the auspices of the EU," he said.
Mr Bunyan has suggested that existing and new proposals will create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.
"In five or 10 years time when we have the surveillance and database state people will look back and ask, 'what were you doing in 2009 to stop this happening?'," he said.
Civil liberties groups are particularly concerned over "convergence" proposals to herald standardise European police surveillance techniques and to create "tool-pools" of common data gathering systems to be operated at the EU level.
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, kept and stored for new digital generation ID cards, to include CCTV video footage and material gathered from internet surveillance.
The Lisbon Treaty, currently stalled after Ireland's referendum rejection last year, creates a secretive new Standing Committee for Internal Security, known as COSI, to co-ordinate policy between national forces and EU organisations such as Europol, the Frontex borders agency, the European Gendarmerie Force and the Brussels intelligence sharing Joint Situation Centre or Sitcen.
EU officials have told The Daily Telegraph that the radical plans will be controversial and will need powers contained within the Lisbon Treaty, currently awaiting a second Irish vote this autumn.
"The British and some others will not like it as it moves policy to the EU," said an official. "Some of things we want to do will only be realistic with the Lisbon Treaty in place, so we need that too." †
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