The Stockholm Programme of the European Union
The Stockholm Programme, the latest in a series of
EU agreements on security policy, was endorsed in December 2009. Based
on the "principle of availability", the Programme plans to enable the
cross-border collection, processing and sharing of data on a massive
scale. Supposedly promoting "openness and security", it is a further
step towards a hi-tech Fortress Europe, writes Christine Wicht.
German chancellor Angela Merkel’s neologism Flüchtlingsbekämpfung,
coined in the German parliament in 2009 and translatable as "refugee
combating", might have seemed like a misanthropic lapse; it could,
after all, easily belong to the jargon of the extreme Right. Yet in
actual fact it accurately represents future EU strategies for
immigration and justice policy, and well expresses the increasingly
severe methods being used by EU states in sealing their outer borders
and placing their own citizens under surveillance.
The catalogue of measures resolved upon by the EU at the Stockholm
security conference in December 2009 constitutes an endeavour to
establish a standardized European security architecture and "an area of
freedom, security and justice serving the citizen".
Although this "security and justice" agenda for 2010 to 2014 is still
only a declaration of intent, and must be translated into guidelines or
legislation before it becomes legally binding, it has a good chance of
being implemented in the current geopolitical climate.
If it is implemented, the exchange of information between the national
security services would be significantly facilitated. In line with the
"principle of availability" endorsed by the Programme, national
databases would be centrally connected within the EU and made freely
accessible to the authorities of individual member states.
Because the media was heavily concentrated on the Copenhagen climate
summit that was taking place at the same time, these far-reaching
resolutions largely escaped public notice. With fatal consequences:
after all, EU citizens do not know which information is being stored in
the fight against terrorism and crime, who exactly receives access to
this data, and how long the data is supposed to be stored.
The multi-annual programme establishes, among other things, the agenda
for EU refugee policy for the next five years. This would mean that the
political course already embarked upon – i.e. barricading, surveillance
and control – would be significantly stepped up. The likelihood of
lethal consequences would become even greater.
Hi-tech fortress Europe
Ever since the beginning of the
1990s, the European Union has been steadily tightening the militarized
controls at its external borders. Now, with the Stockholm Programme, it
is planning the extension of the European border control system
Eurosur. Using satellites and cameras in drones and aeroplanes, Eurosur
would secure EU borders and collect data that it would distribute
within the EU. The EU agency Frontex, which specializes in border
control in the Mediterranean region, would also be extended in order to
detect refugees illegalized in the "watertight" surveillance network.
Nevertheless, an increasing number of refugees will risk their lives
trying to get past the EU’s borders in the coming years. Faced with
catastrophic situations in their home countries, they are prepared to
risk anything for the hope of a better future in Europe. Regardless of
this, the Stockholm Programme contains no trace of solutions for
tackling the causes of immigration. Instead – very much in the spirit
of "refugee combating" – it readily accepts a rising number of victims
of the policies of defence and barricading as a price worth paying:
each year, hundreds if not thousands of migrants drown trying cross the
EU borders in boats.
For several years the EU has been financing deportation camps in
third-party countries and signing agreements with "cushion states" on
the deportation of migrants. The intention with this is to pick up
refugees before they reach the European borders. With the development
of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, plans were made for
visa and trade relaxations for EU neighbour states.
In return, the EU demanded from its neighbours reliable border controls
and the honouring of readmission agreements. For example, of the 494
million euros that Ukraine will gave received between 2007 and 2010, 30
million were earmarked for setting up internment camps.
In order to strengthen defences against refugees at EU borders, the
Stockholm Programme plans to give intelligence agencies access to
European databases that until now have been used solely by police
forces. It will also join up and merge these information systems into
an agency whose job will be to "develop technically and manage
large-scale IT-systems in the area of freedom, security and justice".
In order to deal with the influx of data, the Programme aims to create
an administrative department under the command of Europol and Frontex,
so that the planned "interoperability of IT systems" is carried out "in
full compliance with data protection standards". The police and
security authorities of all member-states will receive access to the
Schengen Information System (SIS), to the Customs Information System
(CIS), to the Visa Information System (VIS) and to the EU fingerprint
database for asylum seekers (Eurodac).
European civil rights campaigners have been especially critical of the
widening of the availability of joined-up databases. In Germany, the
unsupervised access of secret services to sensitive data is seen as
particularly problematic, because of the experience of the Gestapo.
Discussion about the necessary separation of the military, the police
and the secret services will become increasingly theoretical if the
areas of responsibility overlap, and if investigative methods that were
originally "secret" and the preserve of intelligence services become
available to police authorities throughout Europe. Privacy campaigners
fear serious abuses as a result of setting up a combined database on
such a gigantic scale.
Counter-terrorism versus basic rights
A similar paradigm shift
is taking place in counter-terrorism. Here, the Stockholm Programme
plans to join up databases that until now have been separate. In
concrete terms, the intelligence findings of the Joint Situation Centre
(also known as SitCen), the EU organization responsible for gathering
and analysing information provided by the national secret service
departments, would be made available to the European Council, the EU
Commission, Europol and Eurojust. Joint counter-terrorism centres are
planned in all member states, based on the German model established in
2004, the Gemeinsames Terrorismusabwehrzentrum,
or GTAZ. The work of the GTAZ involves the Federal Intelligence Agency,
regional intelligence and criminal justice departments, the Federal
Police, the Customs Investigation Bureau and the Military
At the end of 2009, EU ministers of the interior decided to extend the
controversial Swift agreement to allow US investigators access to
movements in European bank accounts. The Belgium-based financial
services company "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial
Telecommunications" (Swift) compiles information on financial
transactions from around 7800 banks, stockbrokers, stock exchanges and
financial institutions worldwide. The interim agreement entered into
force on 1 February 2010 and lasts until October; however on 11
February the EU parliament vetoed the heavily disputed agreement with a
clear majority. As a result, the Swift agreement has been temporarily
The demand lodged by the German EU presidency for comprehensive
surveillance of the Internet along with collaboration with the security
departments of the member states in this field resurfaced in the
Stockholm Programme. Capacities would be increased in order to allow
better control of the World Wide Web with regard to "terrorist
activities" within the EU. The worry is that the fight against crime
and terrorism will be used to pave the way for comprehensive censorship
of the Internet, as the discussions in France and Germany over the past
year have shown.
The thwarted terrorist attack on the Airbus A 330 from Amsterdam to
Detroit in September 2009 highlighted that it is not shortage of data
that is the problem, but inefficient processing of existing
information. Despite this, the EU obviously sees no alternative than to
place the 500 million citizens of the EU under general suspicion, to
monitor them and to collect and analyse their personal data in a
centralized database. Basic democratic rights – the main achievement
above all of European history – are being chucked overboard.
Redefining development aid
It is not only the borders between
counter-terrorism and refugee policy that are blurred in the Stockholm
Programme. Civilian foreign policy and military operations also
overlap. In the future, military and police forces would work more
closely with development aid organizations.
In September 2004, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and the Netherlands
signed an agreement establishing the European Gendarmerie Force (EGF).
Romania has since also signed the agreement and a partnership agreement
exists with Poland.
The Stockholm Programme now plans to move the Gendarmerie into the
legal framework of the EU. This could mean that the EGF would operate
throughout the whole of Europe.
The EGF is a 3000-strong army tasked with civilian duties, which can
and should also be deployed in crisis areas inside and outside Europe.
The paramilitary outfit works closely with the border police force
Frontex, for example in using coast guard boats, helicopters and
aeroplanes to prevent refugee boats in the Mediterranean coming ashore
and driving them back out to sea instead. Although the German police
force is not yet a member of the EGF, it already cooperates with the
police and military units of other states – for example in Kosovo and
Afghanistan. According to the European Council, the EGF supports the
NATO Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A) in the Hindu Kush, among
other things in developing police infrastructure.
VENRO, an umbrella organization of German development NGOs, has
strongly criticized the lumping together of civilian and military
duties: if soldiers are increasingly deployed in reconstruction and
food aid, this endangers independent humanitarian aid organizations
whose work is determined not by political (far less military)
considerations, but duty-bound solely to the "humanitarian imperative".
European preventative logic
Alongside refugee and counter-terrorism policy, the five-year plan of
the EU interior ministers also sets it sights on criminal prosecution.
To improve cross-border cooperation in crime fighting, the decision was
taken to extend the European Criminal Records Information System
(ECRIS), and to set up a European Index for Convicted Third Country
Nationals (EICTCN), a European Police Records Index System (EPRIS), and
a European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN). The EUCPN is an
observation centre for criminal prevention, in which all EU data on
crime are compiled and processed into statistics. It has a secretariat
that would be attached to Europol. Crime prognoses would be made in
collaboration with European police departments, using data mining
programmes to search the gigantic stocks of data.
In November 2009, the EU Commission approved the Green Paper on
Obtaining Evidence in Criminal Matters from One Member State to
Another. This concerns a far-reaching system for obtaining evidence in
cross-border criminal cases.
The Stockholm Programme also "emphasizes the horizontal importance" of
the already existing electronic linkage of national criminal registers
(e-Justice) in combating cross-border criminality. The EU is planning
to simplify the regulations for criminal investigations when these are
carried out on the sovereign territory of another member state. Until
now, agreements had regulated which information may be exchanged
between member-states under what conditions; however the "principle of
availability" now gaining ground assumes that entire data sets may be
forwarded without restrictions.
Privacy campaigners quite rightly point object that this data could
include sensitive information and that it has not yet been explained
how the EU will be able to guarantee protection from unauthorized
The EU interior ministers are also planning a strategy on the basis of
the Prüm Decision, in order to facilitate the exchange of information
between member states‘ police forces. The Prüm Decision stipulates that
police and criminal departments may have direct access to certain
databases maintained by the authorities in other signatory states. It
enables the cross border exchange of personal identity data, of the
results of DNA analyses, of vehicle registration data and of
telecommunications data without the approval of the courts. Also
stipulated in the Prüm Decision are jointly operated police patrols,
cross-border intervention in order to prevent dangerous situations, and
the transferral of sovereign authority to police officers of other
Because the Prüm Decision only holds between individual states
(currently ten EU member-states and Norway), the signatories are
consciously acting outside the framework of EU law. In other words, by
signing the agreement they are consciously bypassing the formal
structures and legal principles of the EU as well as the principle of
unanimity at the ministerial level within the EU.
At the EU summit in June 2008, the Justice and Home Affairs Council
(i.e. the Ministers for Justice and of the Interior) – chaired by
Germany – agreed on carrying across parts of the Prüm Decision into EU
law. This obliges all member-states to introduce databases for the
automated transfer of data between EU states. In this way, each EU
member-state gains access to all available data.
In order to strengthen Europol, the Stockholm Programme plans to create
investigation groups consisting of civil servants of multiple
member-states, and also to make the national databases of all
member-states available to Europol and Eurojust. In addition, an ad-hoc
network would be introduced to make it easer to join up various police
forces. Data could be linked via portable appliances such as mobile
phones or laptops, without the necessity of an overarching network
infrastructure. Data obtained using surveillance cameras and movement
sensors could then be constantly transmitted via this network. The
hi-tech manufacturer IABG has announced that it wants to couple its
especially developed mobile ad-hoc communications system HiMoNN (Highly
Mobile Network Node)
with the Galileo PRS Signal (GPS). This would allow mobile security
service personnel to locate "suspicious" persons automatically at
anytime. The new system is due to be tested for the first time during
the London Olympics in 2012 and from then on will be deployed in other
large sporting events and demonstrations.
Finally, the Stockholm Programme takes aim at a central achievement of
the European integration process: EU citizens‘ freedom to travel. While
German minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schäuble claimed that the
Schengen Agreement meant "more freedom and at the same time more
The Schengen Agreement did indeed make it easier for EU citizens to
cross borders, namely by removing the need for time-consuming passport
controls. However the Schengen Information System (SIS) has long since
ceased to be a straightforward database, and now focuses on "the
prevention and recognition of threats to public order and security".
Also planned is an electronic system of registration for travelling in
and out of the sovereign territories of the EU member-states. The
introduction of a European registration system for travellers is also
being tested. Information on incoming travellers would in the future be
stored electronically and linked up using a so-called "entry/exit
system". This would for example allow the immediate detection of
expired visas, whereupon the responsible department would be alarmed.
If the system goes ahead, the conventional passport with stamp and
photo will quickly be a thing of the past. The European space would
indeed remain borderless, however more under surveillance than ever.
Practically unnoticed by the public, the EU
member-states are using the Stockholm Programme to persevere with their
increasingly repressive policies. The programme of the next five years
bolsters Fortress Europe and increases the surveillance of EU citizens,
whose data is compiled, stored and processed in data networks of which
is impossible to gain an overview. In this way, the EU interior
ministers hope as far as possible to be able to control the citizens of
It is difficult not to suspect that behind the Stockholm Programme lie
governments‘ fears of their own unjust social policies and the danger
of crisis-like escalations. Rising unemployment, continuing
redistribution from the bottom up, and growing social disadvantage
among the lower rungs of society could give rise to increased social
tension and political protests in the EU states. If the Stockholm
Programme is any indication, large-scale demonstrations in the future
will be accompanied by enormous surveillance measures along with mass
police and military presence.
The dramatic threat to fundamental rights posed by the new "security
architecture" is all too easily dismissed by the argument that we live
in a healthy democracy and that abuse by organs of the state is
impossible. The constitutional restrictions placed on official
authorities and "state morality" are constantly being undermined in the
name of counter-terrorism, while the balance between freedom and
security has for years been shifting steadily in favour of security. It
is a fact that we, as citizens of the European Union, pay heavily in
terms of freedom for our supposed "gain in security".
The crucial question, however, is: what happens when anti-democratic
powers are only able to maintain their power and influence and to
combat their opponents by abusing instruments introduced for the
purposes of crime fighting and counter-terrorism? It would not have
been the first time that social protest was itself declared "terrorism".
The Stockholm Programme deals neither with the causes of terrorism, nor
seeks to ask why people seek shelter in Europe. It is therefore unable
to achieve its proclaimed aim of creating "an area of freedom, security
and justice serving the citizen".
As the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso put it
so well: the Stockholm Programme should bring concrete and tangible
changes for EU citizens. Indeed, thanks to the Stockholm Programme,
Europe’s citizens will have to accept some very concrete incursions on
Translator’s note: This formulation, included in the title of earlier
drafts of the Programme, was changed in later drafts to "An open and
secure Europe serving and protecting the citizens". See: http://www.se2009.eu/en/the_presidency/about_the_eu/justice_and_home_affairs/1.1965
 See: Conclusions of the Chair of the Meeting of the European Council in Brussels (18/19.06.2009).
 See footnote 1 – trans.