Military-style command centres, databases of millions of people, massive surveillance through remote-controlled drones, billion-Euro research and national procurement programmes. Far from the public eye, the governments of the European Union are pursuing a weighty long-term plan to use technology on a massive scale for the control of the European borders.
At their most recent summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, EU government leaders even chose border security as their most important topic of discussion. They deemed it important to “stop illegal migration” and “protect our people’s security”, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said. She saw it as a new “spirit of collaboration” in an otherwise rather divided Europe.
But will the desired surveillance system serve its purpose? Will it make Europe safer? We, Investigate Europe, a team of nine journalists from eight different countries, have tried to find answers to those questions. For two months, we have talked with over 200 border guards, investigators, military personnel, police, law experts, researchers, engineers, EU officials, doctors, municipal employees and politicians.
The results are alarming: for Europe’s new border control project in the years leading up to 2020, six billion Euros will be needed from the EU budget and about the same amount from the national budgets, with no demonstrable benefits; the European Commission and the national governments want to abolish fundamental privacy laws and store citizens’ personal data on a massive scale without judicial control; the European Commission has directed its policy almost exclusively towards the interests of the security and arms industry, and allows their representatives to influence decisions and law-making processes despite massive conflicts of interest in advisory boards.