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EU Commission wants anti-drone defenses at Brussels HQ

EU Commission wants anti-drone defenses at Brussels HQ

by host

BRUSSELS ― The European Commission is exploring installing anti-drone technology at its Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels.

The EU’s executive body has started sounding out companies that could provide the equipment, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The system would be designed to ward off espionage from unmanned aircraft as well as physical attacks, the people said, on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Brussels is well known in diplomatic circles as being a hotbed of spying. There have been dozens of reports of people working for foreign states disguised as officials, journalists or NGO workers in a bid to gain special access. Drone warfare would represent a new front by enemy countries to attack the heart of the EU.

“Unauthorized drones flying in close proximity to sensitive public buildings could potentially represent a security threat,” a spokesperson for the Commission told POLITICO when asked about the plans.

“The Commission, together with other stakeholders and the host country [Belgian] authorities, are looking at possible measures to address the threat,” the spokesperson added. “Since this is a security matter, the Commission cannot comment further on measures taken or to be taken.”

People who discussed the issue with POLITICO declined to comment on what form the anti-drone structures would take.

Typically, they can be cameras that detect unmanned aircraft, or electronic devices that jam a drone’s ability to operate.

Curtains and blinds

Commission and other EU officials handle sensitive information and in the past, even on high floors, have been known to close curtains or blinds out of fear that a drone could take pictures of people or documents or film secret meetings through windows.

The Berlaymont building, which houses some of the most senior staff of the Commission’s some 32,000 employees, is also where its president, Ursula von der Leyen, lives.

The Commission has previously released strategy documents and handbooks that advise against “malicious,” “non-cooperative” drones. Brussels also introduced airspace measures to police drone traffic, which became operational last year.

Appropriate measures

The Council of the EU, which represents member countries and whose headquarters is situated over the road from the Berlaymont, and the European Parliament, whose main Brussels building is about 1 kilometer away, declined to say whether they were considering similar measures.

A Council representative said the institution “does not communicate on operational securities measures.” However, “appropriate measures are taken to respond to any specific or general risk.”

Authorities in Brussels have mostly banned drones from flying around the Belgian capital without prior authorization.

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