Civil rights groups are worried about a new EU proposal that would enhance a "dangerously authoritarian" European surveillance and security system that will include ID card register, Internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems.
On 15 June 2009, EU justice ministers discussed on the so called Stockholm programme trying to set up the first EU "domestic security strategy for the EU", by the end of this year. The 'Stockholm Programme' is the Swedish EU Presidency's proposed legislative agenda in the area of justice and home affairs for the 2009-2014 period.
According to the Swedish Presidency, the Stockholm Programme aims to "define the framework for EU police and customs cooperation, rescue services, criminal and civil law cooperation, asylum, migration and visa policy".
"National frontiers should no longer restrict our activities," said Jacques Barrot, the European justice and security commissioner on 9 June when he presented the EU priorities in the justice area for the next five years. The measures include increased security co-operation and improved immigration management.
The paper presented by the commissioner calls for stricter border controls, a better exchange of information on criminal and security issues between the member states and an increased police co-operation.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that "in future, EU action must aim above all at delivering the best possible service to the citizen in an area of freedom, security and justice more tangible for the citizens".
"We want to promote citizens' rights, make their daily lives easier and provide protection, and this calls for effective and responsible European action in these areas. In this context, I consider immigration policy particularly important. This is the vision the Commission is presenting to the Council and Parliament for debate, with a view to the adoption of the new Stockholm Programme by the European Council in December 2009," he added.
But civil liberties advocates commented in a different way the proposal: "What stands out are the proposals related to the Future Group report. A promise to balance better data protection and EU standards for 'Privacy Enhancing Technology' with the law enforcement agencies demands for access to all information and communications. An 'information system architecture' to bring about the sharing of all data across the EU. The use of 'security technologies' to harness the 'digital tsunami' to gather through mass surveillance personal data on peoples' everyday activities through public-private partnerships. What is new is the clear aim of creating the surveillance society and the database state. Future generations, for whom this will be a fully developed reality, will look back at this era and rightly ask, why did you not act to stop it." said Tony Bunyan from Statewatch.
The paper reintroduces proposals related to immigration and asylum, insisting on "burden-sharing and solidarity" between member states as regards asylum seekers and stating legal migrants should have the same status across the EU and that they should have easier access to the job market. Frontex, the external borders agency should be given more powers in preventing human traffic and irregular immigrations at the EU borders.
In the opinion of liberty advocates, these plans will only get us closer to a surveillance type of society. "An increasingly sophisticated internal and external security apparatus is developing under the auspices of the EU," commented Tony Bunyan.
One of the main concerns is the intention of standardising European police surveillance techniques and of creating common data gathering systems operated at the EU level. A particularly worrying statement of the proposal is: "The SIS II and VIS information systems will have to enter their fully operational phase. An electronic system for recording entry and exit and a registered traveller programme must be established. The usefulness of a system of prior travel authorisation must be examined."
The plans have in view an extension of the sharing of the present DNA and fingerprint databases stored for new digital ID cards to CCTV video footage and material gathered from Internet surveillance.
The Daily Telegraph stated they had information from EU officials that the new plans would need the coverage of the Lisbon Treaty presently stopped by the Irish referendum in 2008 and waiting for a second Irish vote this autumn. The Treaty stipulates the creation of a Standing Committee for Internal Security to co-ordinate policy between national forces and EU organisations such as Europol, the Frontex, the European Gendarmerie Force and the Brussels intelligence.
The Stockholm programme will be discussed at the informal ministerial meeting in Stockholm in July 2009, to be further on examined by the European Parliament in November with the hope that it would be approved at the Summit in December 2009, under the Swedish presidency.