Sunday, March 23, 2003
European Constitution: Internal Security - 23rd March 2003, 12.45

This is covered by Article 31 from Part One and draft articles from Part Two.The PDF file can be found here.

In summary, there are few surprises. All member states of the EU will recognise each other's judicial decisions. In Article One under Part Two of the Constitution, "The Union shall frame a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border control based on solidarity between member states and fairness to third-country nationals". It is clear that adoption of this clause would remove Britain's ability to act independently on asylum policy.

"The Union shall ensure a high level of safety by measures to prevent and combat crime and promote coordination and cooperation between criminal police and judicial authorities and other competent authorities as well as by the mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters and the approximation of laws". It is the phrase "approximation of [criminal] laws" that concerns me since it implies that all individual countries should endeavour, over time, to standardise their notion of what is considered illegal.

The Convention has recognised that this area of 'freedom, security and justice' is embedded in a country's national identity. therefore, they have taken extra steps to ensure that national parliaments may debate and evaluate the directives that will be emanating from the Commission. If a quarter of the national parliaments disagree with the proposal, "the Commission may decide to maintain, amend or withdraw its proposal". The chances of national parliaments co-operating with each other? Poor, so this can be viewed as another scrap tossed to those who wish to maintain a veneer of local accountability.

"Article 5: [operational cooperation]: In order to ensure that operational cooperation on internal security is promoted and strengthened within the Union, an internal committee may be set up within the Council. Without prejudice to Article [207 TEC], it shall be responsible for coordinating the action of Member States' competent authorities, including police, customs and civil protection authorities.The representatives of Europol, Eurojust, and where appropriate the European Public Prosecutor's Office, may be involved in the proceedings of this committee. The European Parliament shall be kept informed of the work of this committee." Weak oversight and anability to centralise an internal security apparatus overriding the concerns of national parliaments or the local constabularies. Britain will get a centralised police service by default. In the notes, it states that the "role is confined to general operational cooperation, for example in the event of a major catastrophe,attacks and events or demonstrations on a European scale". (my emphasis).

This area will be subject to qualified majority voting and where actions are undertaken in compliance with Union law, will be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. In the medium to long term, this implies that matters of criminal justice will increasingly be decided at a European level.

After this, the document details the common asylum policy and "the gradual introduction of a common integrated management system for external borders". Since this was already agreed at the Seville European Council in 2002, it appears that Blair has signed away British asylum and immigration policy without any reference to Parliament or the electorate. A word of explanation here. Once a policy has been agreed by the European Council, that area ceases to be the domain of national law and is instead dealt with as a Union competence. The European Parliament and Commission would decide legislation in this area.

"Article 14: [Judicial Cooperation in Civil Matters] The union shall develop cooperation in civil matters based on the principle of mutual recognition of judgements and decisions in extrajudicial cases. Such cooperation shall include the adoption of measures for the approximation of national laws having cross-border implications." Such latitude spells the end of common law and will prove a coercive measure to standardise and unify all laws throughout every European country. Any sophist can find a cross-border implication. Think German Chancellor and Mail on Sunday here. At a start, family law will be decided at Union level. That's a surprise!

On criminal justice, the same approximation applies and at Union level, minimum standards will be set for: the admissibility of evidence, the rights of criminals, the rights of victims, and other aspects of ciminal procedure decided unanimously by the European Council.

"Article 17 [Substantive criminal law]: The European parliament and the Council, in accordance with the legislative procedure, may adopt framework laws containing minimum rules concerning incriminations and sanctions: in the areas of particularly serious crime with cross-border dimensions resulting from the nature or impact of the offenses of from the special need to prosecute them jointly. These areas of crime are the following: terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drugs trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting of means of payment, computer crime and organised crime. The Council, on the basis of developments in crime and acting unanimously after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament mayidentify other areas of crime that meet the criteria identified in this indent." In the appended notes, this list of crimes also includes racism and xenophobia.

The document includes a Union role in crime prevention, sets out the role of Eurojust and states that a European Prosecutor may be set up, though its institution is purposefully left vague.

"Article 21 [Cooperation with regard to internal security]: 1. The Union shall establish cooperation involving all the Member States authorities with responsibility for internal security, including police, customs and other specialised services in relation to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences. 2. To this end, the European Parliament and the Council, in accordance with the legislative procedure, shall adopt laws and framework laws concerning, - the collection, storage, processing, analysis and exchange of relevant information, - the training and exchange of staff, equipment and research, - any other measure not referred to in the following paragraph, that encourages cooperation between the authorities referred to in this Article. 3. The Council may unanimously adopt laws and framework laws concerning operational cooperation between the authorities referred to in this Article. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament." Here's a law we passed earlier - suck it and see!

Europol is also the preserve of the Council and the Parliament. Here's a ray of sunshine: "The application of coercive measures is the exclusive responsibility of the competent national authorities". But I spoke too soon...

"Article 23 [Operations on the territory of another member State] The Council, acting unanimously, shall adopt laws and framework laws laying down the conditions and limitations under which the competent authorities of the Member States referred to in Articles 13 and 15 may operate in the territory of another Member State in liaison and in agreement with the authorities of that State. It shall take its decision following consultation of the European Parliament." This is a worrying catch-all clause that would provide the legal justification for any coercive measure required to maintain the European Union. Under the comments, it states that some countries, if they so wish, could take bilateral steps to encourage even closer integration!

To use Andrew Dodge's famous precision: another vile document.


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