Fair Trials raises serious concerns about increasing mandates of Europol and Frontex

Article by Fair Trials

On 9 November, Fair Trials and MEPs Saskia Bricmont and Birgit Sippel organised a discussion at the European Parliament about the serious structural issues in EU policing. With representatives from European Digital Rights (EDRi), Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) and European Network Against Racism (ENAR), we raised our concerns about the increasing mandates of Europol and Frontex. There is an urgency to act given the numerous accusations of non-respect of EU laws and fundamental rights by both security agencies.

MEP Bricmont pointed to the scandals in EU policing, including most recently the PeDRA programme that was revealed by investigative journalists last summer and the way in which Europol tried to delete Dutch activist Frank van der Linde’s personal data to avoid disclosing it. The agencies are side-lining the expertise of their own data protection officers and orders from the supervising agency, the European Data Protection Supervisor. Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard, Legal Director (EU) of Fair Trials, stated that the scandals show there is a structural problem with oversight and accountability. Baudrihaye-Gérard argued that the expansion of policing is a rule of law issue. In a system based on the rule of law, police should not have a blank cheque to do whatever they like: they must act within their remit and legal powers.

MEP Sippel called for taking a step back and talking about the general problems when it comes to European policing systems. MEP Sippel highlighted two key problems. First, the data-driven model of policing, with policing agencies increasingly relying on the collection and processing of data. Second, policy-makers are moving ahead with digitalisation and artificial intelligence in the belief that technology will make everything better. One such technology is predictive policing, which is known to undermine fundamental rights and reinforce discrimination. Fair Trials and other civil society organisation have consistently called for a ban on predictive AI systems in policing and criminal justice in the EU’s AI Act.

The key messages from the event were:

  • We all need to work together and participate in the complex ecosystem of checks and balances on EU policing. Civil society plays a key role in demanding increased transparency and accountability. We cannot accept double standards: EU policing needs to be held to the rule of law and fundamental rights standards.
  • There is a need to work across movements to question the underlying assumptions on which the politics of data collection are based and to counter the securitisation narrative, including the conflation between migration and criminality.
  • We can work together towards a shift from punishment to support, and reimagine public safety beyond policing, focusing on promoting policies centred on communities that we want going forward.

Read the full report here.