12 Dec 2011
JRC provides technical support for a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR)In a new legislative proposal, the European Commission outlined the set up of a European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR), which will reinforce the control of Schengen external borders. With its expertise in maritime surveillance and open source intelligence, the JRC provided technical support for the conception, development and implementation of EUROSUR. The Action VESPO (as from 1 January 2012: VESCOSUR) has been responsible for providing expertise on maritime surveillance.
EUROSUR, envisaged to enter fully into service by 2013, will represent a mechanism for Member States' authorities responsible for border surveillance, such as border guards, coast guards, police, customs and navies, to share operational information and cooperate with the EU border security agency Frontex and with neighbouring third countries. In order to improve the situational awareness and reaction capability of Member States and Frontex when preventing irregular migration and cross-border crime at the external land and maritime borders, a common technical and operational framework has been established. It assigns clear responsibilities and competencies to national coordination centres for border surveillance in the Member States and Frontex, that will form the backbone of EUROSUR.
VESPO has been technically supporting the EUROSUR framework from its early start. In 2007 VESPO made a core contribution to the BORTEC study, led by Frontex, in which a structure of a surveillance system covering the southern maritime borders as well as the open sea was presented. This was followed by the European Patrols Network (EPN) project, which established an organisational structure and national coordination centres, and strengthened the cooperation and coordination among Member States involved in the network. Under EPN, in close collaboration with Frontex and several Member States’ operational services, JRC has experimented with using satellite surveillance for maritime border control.
VESPO has been and still is involved in a number of FP6 / FP7 projects that have contributed to the EUROSUR concept design (OPERAMAR, WIMAAS, SEABILLA, I2C) and provided support in the technical assessment of studies that the Commission and Frontex have contracted out to explore the EUROSUR components. As from 2011 onwards, JRC is in the coordination group of FP7 projects that have a direct bearing on EUROSUR.
In the proposed Regulation it is foreseen that the cooperation and information exchange between the national coordination centres and Frontex is done via 'situational pictures', which are established at national and European level, as well as for the pre-frontier area. These three pictures, of which the two latter will be managed by Frontex, are structured in a standardised way to facilitate the flow of information among them. Furthermore, Frontex will provide the service for the common application of surveillance tools in order to supply the national coordination centres with surveillance information on the external borders and on the pre-frontier area. The service includes the tracking of vessels over high seas, and the monitoring of designated areas in the maritime domain in order to detect, identify and track vessels suspected of, or used for irregular migration and cross-border crime. In providing this service, ship reporting systems (e.g. AIS, LRIT, VMS), satellite imagery and sensors mounted on platforms (e.g. UAVs) will be used. The in-depth knowledge and expertise of JRC in using these reporting systems and surveillance technologies will make it possible to develop the situational pictures further in the future. The research that is carried out by JRC on the integration of maritime surveillance data and data fusion tools, in the context of the Blue Hub, will also assist in providing the necessary technical support.
Overarching the setting up of EUROSUR is the Roadmap towards establishing the Common Information Sharing Environment (CISE) for the surveillance of the EU maritime domain. The CISE Roadmap consists of six steps towards generating situational awareness of activities at sea, impacting several policy areas including border control. VESPO is fully involved in the preparatory works leading to CISE, with its technical support to and co-chairmanship of the Technical Advisory Group in charge of developing the supporting framework, carrying out a gap analysis of the relevant maritime surveillance data and identifying the best technical means to integrate such data between the different user communities.
Finally, VESPO has been a leading contributor in the working group on GMES Border Security (2008-2009) to explore how space-based surveillance can support border security. VESPO is now contributing to its follow-up by providing technical support to the development of the ‘Concept of Operations for the common application of surveillance tools at EU level in the context of EUROSUR’.