Saturday

23rd Jul 2016

Dutch minister: Border cameras do not break EU law

  • Police will physically intercept cars when the cameras give a nod (Photo: Oscar in the middle)

The Dutch interior minister has told Brussels his new border cameras will catch illegal immigrants without breaking EU rules.

Gerd Leers defended the project - which has already seen military-grade surveillance technology installed on main roads from Belgium and Germany - in a letter sent to the European Commission on Friday (27 January) and seen by EUobserver.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Citing chapter and verse of the EU's Schengen code on passport-free travel, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Dutch constitution, its so-called Aliens Act and the privacy rules of its data protection regulator, he said the cameras are an alternative to more invasive policing.

He noted that under Schengen "internal borders should be crossed freely and in an unhindered way," meaning that "physical checks in border areas are [currently] carried out at random." But the new system "will ensure that the military police will run samples at the right time and right place as effectively as possible ... minimising the number of people of good faith who are needlessly harassed."

The cameras normally work by storing data on which models and colours of cars tend to cross the border at certain times of day.

If intelligence indicates that, for instance, white minibuses driven in convoys at night are being used to transport illegal workers, when the cameras see a suspicious convoy they automatically send an alert, triggering motorcycle police to go into action.

If authorities issue a so-called "amber" warning - as in the case of a missing child or a terrorist threat - the cameras step up a gear and send an alert when a car with a particular number plate comes into view.

Access to the data is controlled by the Royal Military Police and information on specific cars linked to specific people is only stored in amber cases, for up to five years.

Leers said the cameras are already in place in 10 locations in zones up to 20km inside Dutch territory - "[where] the chance of encountering illegal residence and migration crime is greatest." They will cover the remaining five highways from Belgium and Germany - the A76, A74, N280, A77 and A12 - by 31 May. Another six units are being mounted on police vehicles.

Leers' letter comes in response to a query from Stefano Manservisi, a senior EU official working for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.

Manservisi wrote to the Dutch ambassador to the EU, Pieter de Gooijer, on 17 November saying he found out about the cameras by chance "during informal contacts with the Dutch authorities."

His letter - addressed to "Dear Piet" - has a friendly tone. But it gave The Hague a clear deadline to come clean. "I would be grateful if you could provide your observations on the above concerns within 10 weeks," Manservisi said.

Malmstrom's spokesman on Tuesday told this website she will "analyse the elements of the reply before taking a position and decide whether further steps ... are required."

The Dutch project is the latest in a line of anti-Schengen-type measures adopted by EU countries with increasingly influential far-right political parties.

Denmark, France and Italy last year also tightenend up borders.

For his part, French President Nicolas Sarkozy - who is trying to scoop votes from far-right candidate Marine Le Pen ahead of April elections - warned in a major speech in December that EU passport-free travel is too free.

"Europe, which has to apply internally the principle of free movement but which does not control its external frontiers - that can't go on. Schengen must be reconsidered," he said.

Investigation

ECB in ‘bail-out’ of scandal-tainted VW

The ECB has started to “bail out” Germany’s Volkswagen Group by buying its corporate bonds, but other EU-linked banks continue to shun the scandal-tainted firm.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event Agenda for 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels

Latest News

  1. A very British (and Corbynite) coup
  2. Poland 'changing for the worse' for Muslims and refugees
  3. EU aims to lift visas on Turks despite purge
  4. ECB in ‘bail-out’ of scandal-tainted VW
  5. EU failed to learn lesson from Brexit, Poland says
  6. UK accord on EU workers 'crucial', France says
  7. EU and US take different lines on Turkey crackdown
  8. ECB to use 'all instruments' in case of Brexit impact