Statewatch article: RefNo# 29428
Notes on the high-tec industry of European Border Control: migration control and the arms industry in EU security research policy, by Vassilis Tsianos (Preclab, Hamburg)
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 19 no 3 July-September 2009
A new political migration paradigm is developing, which - in the name of the "global approach to migration" - is transforming circular migration, border management and development policy into restrictive operational fields of the European geopolitics of "re-bordering”.

In the field of border studies, critical research on intergovernmental institutions such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) gained increasing importance in the 1990s. Today, the exploration of the arms industry’s involvement in the harmonisation of the EU's security architecture is of increasing relevance. This is not surprising, given that the total budget for IOM projects amounts to $784 million, while the Hague Programme estimated the cost of arming the EU's external borders, which the Commission updated in 2008 under the label "border package", at 2.1 billion euros for the period 2007-2013.

The creation of a European border surveillance system (EUROSUR)

The consolidation of the Schengen border agency, Frontex, plays a decisive role. In December 2005, the European Council instructed Frontex to develop a system for the comprehensive surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea through common border patrols and an information-based network for improved maritime border controls. To this end the agency conducted a feasibility study, entitled BORTEC, which aimed to create a European border control system (EUROSUR). The Commission formulated its expectations of Frontex in its Communication to the Council of 30 November 2006 [1] as follows:

EUROSUR could in a first stage focus on synergies created by linking the existing national surveillance systems currently in use at the southern maritime external borders. In a second stage, however, it should gradually replace national surveillance systems at land and maritime borders, providing a cost-efficient solution, including e. g. a combination of radar and satellite surveillance at European level, taking into account on-going developments realised in the framework of GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). EUROSUR will benefit from experience at national and European level with similar surveillance systems; possible synergies with existing European surveillance systems for other purposes should also be explored.

The arms industry’s involvement in the EUROSUR project

The BORTEC study remains unpublished, but the arms company Thales applied for a grant within the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) with a project called SEASAME. Thales is an international electronics company and computer retailer in the defence, aviation, aerospace and security fields. The company employs 68,000 people in 50 countries and generated a return of 12.7 billion euro in 2008. The SEASAME project plans to chart, arm and make compatible national surveillance technologies in three phases; in its final stage it will consolidate the data in a "permanent and comprehensive situation report". To this aim, Thales drafted a "Green Paper: Thales’s Contribution to the Consultation Process on Maritime Safety and Security (MSS)."

In its 2008 Work Programme, the Commission included a note under the heading "Migration Package", which proposes the creation of a European border surveillance system, EUROSUR, in three stages. The stages correspond to those of the Thales' SEASAME Programme. In its 2007 Research and Development (R&D) programme, the agency planned to conduct two seminars every six months with security technology researchers and contractors; four R&D studies on border protection; the drafting of communications on the capacity and operability of selected technologies for Member States' authorities; the testing of new technologies in pilot projects and a feasibility study on linking universities and their research in the field of border management.

European security research

On 13 February 2008 the Commission published a Communication proposing the creation of a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR). [2] It suggested using the FP7 programme "to improve the performance and use of surveillance tools to increase the area covered, the number of suspicious activities detected as well as to improve the identification of potentially suspicious targets and access to high resolution observation satellite data." The aim of financial support is to "support the (re)structuring of the European security sector...whilst simultaneously improving the global competitiveness of Europe’s industrial base...." [3] The committee evaluating the project’s applications comprises not only numerous consultancy firms and arms companies but also Frontex representatives as well as representatives from the European Defence Agency.

For the development of security research, the Commission instituted a European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF). Its members come from interest groups (‘stakeholders’) from industry, research institutions, public and private end users, civil society organisations and the European Parliament. Until November 2008, the Forum was chaired by former EU counter-terrorism coordinator, Gijs de Vries. The deputy chairmen are Jürgen Stock, vice-president of the German Federal Crime Police Bureaux (Bundeskriminalamt), and Giancarlo Grasso, of the Italian arms company Finmeccanica. The Border Security working group is chaired by Erik Berglund as Frontex representative; his deputy is Giovanni Barontini, also from Finmeccanica. The latter employs 60,000 people Europe-wide and has an annual turnover of 12.47 billion. Euros. According to the Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni, Finmeccanica will be commissioned to set up a satellite surveillance system in the Sahara border regions, for which Libya has requested financing from the European Commission. The target is “illegal migration” from Africa to Europe as well as “Islamic terrorism”.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security
The “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security” (GMES) initiative [4], supported by the European Commission and European Space Agency (ESA), is a self-declared service for “European citizens to improve the quality of life in terms of their environment and security”. GMES was founded in 2001 to simplify crisis management during environmental disasters. To this aim, GMES collects data from European Earth Observation satellites to map natural resources, to increase disaster response capacities in “emergencies” and predict certain events such as tornados and the movements of refugees. Its instruments have also been used for EU security policies and by Frontex. Frontex has used GMES to monitor the sea around Malta, as well as using the EU Satellite Centre (EUSC) for the surveillance of West African coastal regions. Further, the German Information Centre on Militarisation (Informationsstelle Militarisierung - IMI) reports that GMES was used in the fight against drugs in the Caribbean, for the identification of opium production zones in Afghanistan, during the EUFOR military operation in Chad and for surveillance of the EU-Latin America summit in Lima. [5] Two of the numerous programmes taking place under the GMES, the MARISS and LIMES frameworks, deal with border security. LIMES (Land and Sea Monitoring for Environment and Security) is intended to support the surveillance of maritime traffic but also of land borders and critical infrastructures inland, as well as supporting the “distribution of the population according to the available resources” in the case of a humanitarian crisis. MARISS was explicitly set up to control “illegal migration”, {the Council requested an Integrated System for Monitoring Europe’s Southern Maritime Borders).

Flourishing space landscapes during the crisis

The German space company, OHB Technology, and its chairman Marco-Romed Fuchs, also Italian honorary consul to Bremen, has reported flourishing space landscapes. The company’s turnover last year amounted to 232 million euro, representing a 6 per cent increase. The upward trend will continue says Fuchs: “We are expecting a 15 per cent increase of total output for the current year”. The OHB’s business division Telematics & Satellite Operations, which develops Frontex’s systems, is responsible for around 10 per cent of that increase. OHB and the EADS Astrium company, which is also based in Bremen, are responsible for the development of satellite programmes that serve as technical systems in Frontex’s EU border surveillance. For example, the Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite (SAR Lupe), which provides high-resolution images of any point on the planet day or night and in all weather conditions. The satellite was developed by OHB in 2006 but initially was only used by the German military. This technology is also used by GMES.


[1] COM(2006) 733 final

[2] COM(2008) 68 final:

[3] Work Programme 2009. Cooperation. Theme 10. Security, European Commission C(2008)4598 of 28 August 2008,

[4] See

[5] Christoph Marischka, 'Frontex: Im Netz des EU-Sicherheitssektors', in 'Militärmacht EUropa: Eine Zwischenbilanz', Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI), April 2009, pp 16-21,

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