Friday, 29 June 2007

European Commission & Sanctions Against Employers of Illegal Migrants

The European Commission recently presented a proposal for a directive, providing for common sanctions and measures against employers of third country nationals who are illegally staying on the territory of the Member States. According to the European Commission, the possibility of finding work encourages illegal immigrants into the EU. Most EU countries already have sanctions against employers of illegal workers in place. Therefore, having a common minimum level of sanctions on employers will guarantee that all Member States are able to apply high sanctions and in this way there would not be a rise of illegal immigrants’ movements to Member States with lower levels of sanctions. Under the Directive, Member States would be required to oblige employers, before recruiting third-country nationals, to check if they have a residence permit or alternative authorisation for their stay. Employers who cannot show that they have carried out those obligations would be liable to sanctions.

Therefore, Member Sates would be obliged to provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions against the employer such as financial penalties and contributions to the costs of returning illegally staying third-country nationals. Moreover, under the current proposal, Member States would be required to provide for criminal penalties for four types of serious cases: repeated infringements, the employment of a significant number of third-country nationals, particularly exploitative working conditions, and circumstances where the employer knows that the worker is a victim of human trafficking.

In those respects, Member States would have to ensure that the criminal offences are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions. In addition, Member States would have to establish effective complaint mechanisms by which non EU nationals could lodge complaints. Furthermore, under this proposal, Member States would be required to inspect the employment of illegal immigrants in at least 10 per cent of their companies every year. Obviously, it remains very important to tackle illegal employment but this is a job for the Member States as well as legislating on criminal matters. Yet, the UK government has welcomed this proposal to combat illegal working and it will consider the Commission’s proposal. It should be noted that the UK has the choice to opt into the proposal. European business groups are very concerned and according to International Herald Tribune, Matthew Knowles, from the Federation of Small Businesses, argued that “this proposal threatens to hit honest employers with more regulation while dishonest businesses will continue to flout new regulations in the same way that they do with existing rules.”

EU hopes to raise taxes: The Energy Tax Directive

Currently, the taxation of energy products and electricity in the EU is governed by the 2003 Energy Tax Directive. Last March, the European Commission presented a proposal for amending the Energy Tax Directive in order to raise the minimum levels of taxation for gas and oil established at Community level.

According to the Commission, its proposal will reduce distortions of competition in the haulage sector, it will protect the environment and also diminish Member States budgetary losses from fuel tank tourism. The UK government believes that this proposal “will have a positive impact on the environment by reducing fuel tank tourism, so lowering fuel consumption and associated emissions."

Moreover, it would have no impact on UK fuel duty rates as they are already above the new minimum that would be introduced. Hence, the UK government’s main concerns are the possibility of a mechanism being created for implementing any differentiation between commercial and non-commercial diesel rates as well as the matter of implementation provisions for a refund mechanism being subject to qualified majority voting.

The government does not favour a harmonised approach since it considers that the most suitable way of implementing a differential should be up to the Member States. Therefore, Member States should maintain flexibility in this matter. Moreover, the government does not support the Commission proposal of implementation provisions being subjected to the qualified majority vote, since a policy of fiscal matters are determined by unanimity. Hopefully, the UK government would veto this proposal if the text is not amended with regards to this issue.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Significance of the EU Treaty

Interestingly, Bill Cash has pointed out in The Telegraph (26 June) the legal and constitutional significance of the new Treaty objectives in the EU mandate:

Sir - One thing must be made clear: there is no repeal provision in this treaty.

The treaty brings a fundamental change as a result of the merger of the Treaty of Rome, which was about trade and political co-operation, and the Maastricht Treaty, which was about European government.

This new treaty provides that "the two treaties constitute the treaties on which the Union is founded, and that the Union replaces and succeeds the Community". As I pointed out to the Foreign Secretary, in the House last week, this proposal in itself is the fundamental change that would require a referendum. She could not and did not answer my point.

Bill Cash MP (Con), London SW1

European Control over British Soil

The EU has become increasingly concerned with soil degradation across the Member States. Recognising the importance of protecting soil, the European Commission adopted a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection in September 2006. The Commission has suggested that in addition to action taken at local and national level, it is also necessary for action to be forced through at a European level. According to the Commission, large differences at national levels can have economic consequences which distort the functioning of the internal market. It has, therefore, proposed a Draft directive in “establishing a framework for the protection of soil and amending Directive 2004/35/EC.”

The Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Lord Rooker, explained to the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) that the Commission’s proposal does not respect the principle of subsidiarity for soil contamination and sealing, “where a more prescriptive approach is adopted.” The ESC considered, more recently, the government’s Regulatory Impact Assessment which reiterated the Committee’s concerns on the proposed directive and whether there is a need for Community legislation in this area. Therefore, according to the government, simply implementing the broad objectives sketched in the Thematic Strategy would have a generally neutral effect – however, the Directive’s implementation may well increase costs between £1.5 and 3.7 billion, whilst providing only minimal benefits. The Committee also suggested that these figures might be considerably reduced if the prescriptive provisions concerning the areas of soil sealing and contamination were removed.

Monday, 25 June 2007

French President’s Vision for EU Treaty Represents a Failing Europe of Regressive Protectionism and Market-Meddling

President Sarkozy’s recently accepted move in the EU Treaty negotiations towards removing the proposal for the single market "where competition is free and undistorted" demonstrates the scale of tragedy that the European Union is prepared to endure, to have its “Reform Treaty”.

It has been reported that the French President’s request for anti-competition rules in the Treaty – despite the key feature of the European Union being its free competition policy for the internal market – has been met with consensus at the EU Summit. It represents nothing short of a vision of a failing Europe characterised by regressive protectionist economic policy, the backing of a socialist legal charter of “fundamental” rights and state efforts to save and create jobs through market-meddling.

Jim McConalogue, Editor of The European Journal said
“This is an outrage. What EU official could have accepted such a deal? And how could a President with responsibility for an entire nation give up the rules of free competition because he thinks that good old-fashioned protectionism is the best way of saving jobs in France? The UK government should, at the very least, be vetoing all proposals – and at the very most, getting on the 5pm Eurostar back to Waterloo.”

Bill Cash MP, Chairman of the European Foundation, said:
“This is an astonishing proposal. Of course, the French President has already promised to restrict free competition. Sarkozy has made clear during his election campaign that he would resort to protectionism. The EU is in big enough trouble already – look at the failed Lisbon agenda. What Europe should be doing is reinforcing free trade globally and rejecting this proposal. If the EU Member States agree with Sarkozy on removing the proposal, then the future for the EU is bleak indeed.”

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Tony Blair’s U-Turn on EU Charter will Plunge Britain into European Socialism

After Tony Blair’s previous pledge to reject the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the new EU treaty – which will override British employment and social law in key areas – the promise by Margaret Beckett to the House of Commons today to “support a Charter of Fundamental Rights” on the new EU Treaty is a U-Turn that will plunge Britain into European Socialism.

The Foreign Secretary’s other concessions declared to the House of Commons before the EU Summit begins on Thursday, include the support of extended qualified majority voting, an extended EU common foreign and security policy and a new role for the EU President.

Not only must Margaret Beckett veto the proposals for the EU Treaty, but Britain must push for a referendum. The conditions for a referendum on all the existing treaties now clearly exist. And the Labour government has declared its intention to sign up to the Treaty.

Jim McConalogue, Editor of The European Journal, said:
“This is beyond the pale – there needs to be a referendum on the Treaty, to redress the failings of a government that does not seem able to consult with the electorate on an issue of vital national interest. Britain is in urgent need of a referendum simply because over thirty years of public deceit on the European issue do not warrant any further Treaty obligations.”

The Refusal to Inform Parliament on the Status of EU Treaty negotiations is to Hold Parliament in Contempt

Since the Foreign Office has, so far, refused to release the German Presidency’s draft mandate providing the roadmap for the EU Constitution to the Houses of Parliament, this postponed release must only be taken as a sign of treating Parliament with contempt.

The German Presidency is said to have circulated the 10-page draft mandate relating to the roadmap for the Constitution on the afternoon of Tuesday 19 June. It was then assured – as would be the usual practice – that this would be made available to the UK Parliament. No mandate has been provided by the Foreign Office so far.

Bill Cash MP, Chairman of the European Foundation, said:
“What clearer case is there of Parliament not being informed on the basic progress and details of the EU Treaty negotiations? To not have respected our principled system of Parliament – which should aim to inform Members in a transparent and accountable way – is to hold Parliament in contempt.”

Constitutional Treaty – Blair Must Veto Proposals but it is up to Brown to Ditch Treaty

It is now becoming clearly apparent that the position facing Blair before the Summit on 21 June will substantially differ from the situation facing Brown after Blair’s departure on 27 June. During the approaching negotiations, Blair must veto proposals for the Treaty in all the key areas – including foreign policy, employment and criminal law – in order to lay the path for Brown’s reform of the relationship between the UK and the EU. Whilst Blair must now veto the proposals, it is up to Brown to ditch the Treaty.

Whilst the real responsibility for the Treaty will lie with Gordon Brown, it is important that Blair vetoes all areas to lay the groundwork for Brown’s formal rebuttal of the Constitutional Treaty or the prospect of a treaty-by-referendum. David Cameron and the Conservatives must push for the policy of holding a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty and on all other existing treaties. There is simply no other way forward than to begin further negotiations with a respect for due democratic process.

In order to enable the European Union to become an institution which is useful and valuable to UK and the other Member States, it is essential for the UK to hold a public referendum. It can thereby renegotiate its position not only on the new Constitutional Treaty but on all other existing treaties. Since there should not even be a Constitutional Treaty without public consent, the secret negotiations are entirely unacceptable. A Treaty should not be signed behind the backs of the British people and it needs to be held to public referendum.

Jim McConalogue, Editor of The European Journal, said:

“Tony Blair is the last horse in the Constitutional race – don’t put your money on him. You’ll only go home disappointed. Although I wouldn’t put my money on Gordon Brown and his ‘radical reform’ of the EU either, he must repudiate the Constitutional Treaty. Brown must, in the long term, realize – as the Conservatives have now done – that it is about putting the national interest before any interests in Europe. The best way of doing that is to hold a national referendum on the Treaty.”

Bill Cash MP, Chairman of the European Foundation, said:

““The current state of the EU treaty negotiations under Tony Blair, are deceitful both to Westminster and the public. The very least Blair can do is to veto proposals on all key issues, so that Gordon Brown does not grudgingly carry Blair’s cross through Europe. A new treaty in the shape of another Maastricht, another Amsterdam, or another Nice will mark the end of national sovereignty. Since all the existing treaties have formed a European trans-national state of sorts, since they have all significantly altered our legal relationship with the EU, we have enabled sixty per cent of our statute book to now be dictated by Brussels. What, then, will a Constitutional Treaty do?”

Roger Helmer, MEP, adviser to the European Foundation, said to the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering:

“I remind my country's incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he is bound by a clear Labour manifesto commitment to put the Constitution to the British people. He cannot pretend that a few cosmetic changes can invalidate that pledge.”

Friday, 15 June 2007

EU Space Race and Technology Meltdown – Two Projects, Two Failures … and They Haven’t Even Started

Ever since the European Space Council recently endorsed a Common Space Policy, the EU has been struggling with the funding for the Galileo satellite navigation programme. The Space Council has already failed on its public-private partnership financing of the scheme yet the European Council has consistently reaffirmed “the value of Galileo as a key project of the European Union.”

The European Commission, the Parliament and many of the Member States now want to finance Galileo from the EU budget. However, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands want Member State governments to fund Galileo through contributions to the European Space Agency budget, since this would ensure that the Commission has a limited influence on Galileo. According to the government, the Council cannot make a decision on the way forward for the Galileo project as there is not sufficient evidence on the perceived cost and risks, or affordability in terms of the current EU budget.

At the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council which took place on 6-8 June, the EU transport ministers could not reach an agreement on how to fund the extra €2.4 billion needed to complete the Galileo programme. A total of €1 billion was already allotted to the programme by the EU’s 2007-2013 financial budgetary plan. The Council has until October 2007 to make a decision on the implementation of Galileo, the public financing and the way forward on public procurement.

The European Parliament Budget Committee has also been forced to reassess the serious funding problems faced by the European Institute of Technology (EIT). The European Commission has estimated the costs of the EIT to be around €2.4 billion for 2008-2013. Therefore, according to the Commission proposal, approximately €310 million should be allocated from the EU budget for six years. The Commission has suggested that around €527 million should come from the private sector and from Member State contributions – an unreasonable figure given its current failings.

Jim McConalogue, Editor of The European Journal, said:
“Of course, Galileo has been a royal flop. What really beggars belief is that the European Commission has proposed to take up €1.5 billion from other existing programmes on so called ‘Competitiveness for growth and employment’ in order to finance the European Institute of Technology for the next six years. It needs to meet its €2.4 billion estimated cost. But even the European Parliament Budget Committee has demanded that the Institute cannot get its money from dipping into other EU pots.”

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Arrest and Extradition in Europe

On 11 June, William Rees-Mogg of The Times made some very important criticisms of the new European arrest and extradition procedures, ending his article with the conclusion: “We have made British extradition law respond to every judge in Europe and to the varying laws of every European country. That was a crazy thing to do.” To read the original article, click here.

In a letter to The Times today, Bill Cash offered some support to William Rees-Mogg in criticising the Labour government’s involvement in accepting European policy against the better judgement of Blair's own parliamentary colleagues: “The European Scrutiny Committee issued a warning to the House of Commons against the Government abandoning the safeguard of dual criminality, by which you cannot be charged for something that is a crime in, say, Italy, that is not a crime in Britain. … Our own Prime Minister, who authorised our commitment to the European arrest warrant in the furtherance of European integration, could now be hoist by his own petard.” To read Bill Cash’s letter, click here.

Since the Labour government ignored significant criticism on this issue particularly with regards to the principle of dual criminality – which we have documented on The European Arrest Warrant and in the May-June issue of The European Journal – there was no real excuse for them to have accepted these.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) – Why it Boils Down to Bananas

On 4 April, the EU proposed to eliminate tariffs and import quotas for all African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries as part of the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations. Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) are the trade and development agreements that the European Union is presently negotiating with ACP countries. These agreements are set to replace the generalized preferences system, which are incompatible with the WTO rules. The EPA will replace the trade chapters of the 2000 Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP countries. The proposal covers agricultural goods like beef, dairy, cereals and fruit and vegetables. The EPAs are aiming at the sustainable development of ACP countries, their integration into the global economy and the eradication of poverty. Furthermore, they also aim to facilitate access for ACP products to the European market by enabling a free trade area and to support the process of regional integration.

According to the European Commission, this offer will give all ACP countries the same full access to EU markets that all Least Developed Countries have under the EU's ‘Everything But Arms’ Duty and Quota Free market access system. However, development campaigners are not as content with the offer, arguing that the EU just wants to gain greater access to ACP markets. These agreements are scheduled to be signed before January 2008.

The Council, under the Development Cooperation item, reiterated its wish to see the Economic Partnership Agreements with ACP countries and regional negotiations completed on time. The Council has recognized that “access to ACP markets by the EU must be progressive and carefully managed, and that flexibility in favour of ACPs (exclusions of products, long transition periods and safeguard clauses) must be compatible with WTO rules.”

However, not all Member States are pleased with prospect of ACP countries opening up their markets. Spain fears that its bananas will not be able to compete with the cheaper prices of the ACP bananas. France, Portugal and Poland are in support of Spain. Therefore, bananas might be considered as sensitive a product as rice and sugar. Other Member States, such as Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden are very much in favour of complete opening of the markets.

In the meantime, the European Parliament called the Commission to make the conditions for the Economic Partnership Agreements less onerous for the ACP countries. Obviously, ACP countries are very concerned with the impact of such agreements on their economies. Therefore, Robert Sturdy’s own initiative report called for the “pacing, timing and scope of liberalisation to be gradual and flexible in order to improve ACP regional integration and competitiveness.” Furthermore, it asked for “duty-free, quota-free market access for the ACP as well as simplified, liberalised and more flexible rules of origin in EPAs that is the case under the 'Everything but Arms' initiative.”

The ACP-EU Council of Ministers met in Brussels on 25 May to assess the state of negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements. The Council has endorsed a joint review of the progress of the negotiations (as required by Article 37(4) of the Cotonou Agreement, based on six regional reviews for all EPA regions). It has recognised that EPAs “must take account of the specific economic, social, environmental and structural constraints of the ACP countries and regions concerned, as well as of their capacity to adapt their economies to the EPA process.”

All the parties are committed to concluding negotiations by the end of this year but, it should be noted that in order to meet the deadline there must be acceptable progress in all regions, in three key areas: market access, the text of the agreement, and the accompanying measures, such as development finance and EPA related adjustment costs.

It is well known that the EU offered market access to ACP Countries but only after transitional periods and with special treatment for a number of highly sensitive products. Transitional periods were proposed in the EU’s market access offer for rice and sugar. With regards to bananas, before the conclusion of the negotiations, the European Commission will make an assessment of developments and, if necessary, submit relevant proposals to ensure adequate treatment is provided.

The European Council recognized the need to apply trade defence measures, when necessary. Clearly, ACP countries took the view that ACP exports will have a limited potential impact on the European Union’s commercial interests. Consequently, those countries have proposed that the EC should waive its right to apply safeguard measures under EPAs. The EC has proposed “asymmetry in both safeguard measures and liberalisation schedules as the means to take account of the development needs of the ACP countries in this respect.” The ACP countries have called for the trade-distorting subsidies in the cotton sector to be abolished. Federal Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul guaranteed the German Presidency full support on this issue.

Monday, 11 June 2007

EU’s Regulation on Mobile Roaming Calls – Who is it Good For?

Good news for holidaymakers but bad news for domestic consumers – the EU Roaming Regulation is likely to lead to higher domestic costs including other mobile services such as text messages. According to Syed Kamall, MEP – who recently spoke at the CIVITAS conference in London – the Roaming Regulation will only benefit MEPs and EU officials. As Syed Kamall argued, “a teenager making a domestic cross-network call on a prepay phone to his mates will often pay up to 40 pence per minute, while a MEP or businessman will shortly pay no more than 34 pence to call across the EU.”

Unsurprisingly, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council have endorsed the EU Roaming Regulation. On Thursday 7 June, the Council reached a political agreement on the Roaming Regulation and it has approved the European Parliament’s first reading from 23 May 2007. The Regulation will be formally adopted on 25 June and will be directly applicable in all EU Member States after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal, scheduled before the end of June. Therefore, the Regulation will enter into force before the summer as the European Commission had demanded.

However, there have been disagreements over the way in which this regulation has been legislated for. In this case, Article 95 was used as a legal base “to regulate prices.” It should be noted that the House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) believes that Article 95 should be used to approximate national legislation or to deal with a situation where prospective national legislation was expected to differ, but not to approximate prices. The minister explained to the ESC that according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on “smoke flavourings” and on the European Network and Information Security Agency, “Article 95 EC is an appropriate base” for this regulation. The ECJ has laid down a very broad definition of harmonization measures which might be adopted using Article 95 as a legal base.

According to the ESC, the government has not properly considered “the possible consequences for the scope of the Community’s regulatory powers on the wider economy of allowing Article 95 to be used as a legal base to regulate prices in the absence of any need for the approximation of national laws in the area.” The legal basis of the Regulation may be challenged by mobile phone operators, before the ECJ.

Tony Blair’s EU Treaty Negotiations Demonstrate a Vulgar Deceit of the British Electorate

It is now clear that Tony Blair is hoping to ensure a new framework for the new Constitutional Treaty, only weeks before he leaves office. President Sarkozy’s recent comments from Germany, proposing that “Tony Blair and I have just agreed on what might be the framework for a simplified treaty” are devastating, given that the Foreign Secretary and Downing Street spokesmen have simultaneously promised the British people that there had been no such negotiations. The Labour government’s conduct throughout the secret negotiations demonstrate a shameful degree of deceit in face of public demand for a referendum.

The current Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, earlier insisted that no negotiations were being held whilst in the meantime, Blair and Sarkozy agreed on the framework for the EU Treaty at the G8 conference. Earlier claims made by Margaret Beckett before the parliamentary European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) on Thursday 7th June – insisting that "Nothing that you could really call negotiations has taken place" – remain largely erroneous.

Even when Bill Cash, MP, of the ESC asked Margaret Beckett to account for possible negotiations being held of which she was not aware, Beckett replied “It’s not that I don’t know what’s going on, it’s just that nothing is going on”. As it is now clear that the British government were forming negotiations with President Sarkozy at the time of their denial to Westminster, something clearly has been going on. The current Labour government has approached the British people with a striking degree of contempt – a level not seen since Blair’s troubled and ongoing foreign policy in Iraq.

It is clear from the current position that in order to make the European Union an institution which is beneficial to Britain and the other Member States, it is essential for the UK to hold a public referendum and thereby renegotiate its position not only on the new Constitutional Treaty but on all other existing treaties.

There should not even be a Constitutional Treaty and if either the Labour government does think it is necessary, it should not be signed behind the backs of the British people. The Treaty needs to be held to public referendum.

Bill Cash MP, Chairman of the European Foundation, said:
“Nothing surprises me with Tony Blair’s deceptive tactics. If nothing’s going on, why are Blair and Brown in discussions about the Treaty? Blair’s swan song is the European Treaty. As I said to Blair on the floor of the House in 1997, ‘you are walking on water now but you will drown in Europe.’ This is now coming true. If he doesn’t veto the treaty, his legacy will be deeply stained by his putting Europe before the national interest.”

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

EU's Harmonization of Conditions does not boost Competition

This month in The European Journal, the Slovakian economist, Peter Gonda, defeats the claims from EU officials that the centralization and harmonization of conditions within Europe will lead to a more competitive economy. As he argues:

“Managed harmonization (unification) from above does not boost the competitive environment and the competitiveness of the entities within the EU. On the contrary, it has an inverse effect. Such harmonisation causes an undesirable leveling and reduces the motivation to become better and more successful, restricts competition and the search for better conditions, thus reducing economic performance and the standard of living in the EU. So, centralized harmonisation and its aim of a more competitive environment not only impairs competitiveness, but it even goes against (the otherwise absurd) aim of the EU – an increase in competitiveness.”

Indeed, it is obvious that such harmonisation causes a social and economic leveling and in principle, reduces the motivation and incentive for individuals to progress. EU officials themselves have sometimes referred to a leveling with regards to economic competitiveness, so it is well worth a read. To read Peter Gonda’s article, click here.

Bill Cash Calls on Conservative Party to back John Reid

The European Foundation issued the following statement on 25th May, supporting the Home Secretary's comments on national security:

The Home Secretary’s remarks on national security – which have made it clear that British government needs to reinterpret parts of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – are a significant step towards redressing the current failures of human rights in meeting the needs of national security. The incorporation of ECHR into UK law via the Human Rights Act of 1998 is a major obstacle to public security. We need to opt out of ECHR. The Human Rights Act of 1998 needs to be repealed.

Reid’s efforts are a step in the right direction but Britain needs to put public security and suppression of terrorism at the heart of its policy making and allow for the legislative supremacy of Westminster. The British parliament is perfectly capable and competent of legislating for the British electorate on those matters.

On European affairs, Mr Sarkozy is also now seeking to sign up to the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a declaration under the erroneous belief that a “declaration” will not have the force of law. Yet, as Bill cash declared in The Times: “the European Court would still construe any such declaration as being a matter for the European Court, taking ‘precedence over those by national judges.’” A declaration would have the force of law. Therefore the case for rejecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights – as a principle and as a part of the Constitution – must be repudiated by all political parties.

Bill Cash has always argued for the fair trial of terrorist suspects, habeas corpus, and for due legal process, but the whole practice on human rights, from the Belmarsh case to the present day has clearly shown that the judiciary refuses to put public security first.

Bill Cash MP, Chairman of the European Foundation, said:
“Somebody needs to pat John Reid on the back. I have been arguing for Britain to opt-out of the ECHR for years. I also proposed that we should repeal the Human Rights Act when I was Shadow Attorney General and have argued consistently since then that we should opt out of ECHR.”

Dear John … The Euro Haggling Has Just Begun

On 31 May, the well-versed European correspondent of the Guardian, John Palmer, criticised the awkward tactics of the British position in her persistent haggling with the dominant pro-European visionaries – this led him to call for the end of “Euro haggling.” In his commentary, Palmer criticises the British refusal of a “consensus agreement among its EU partners”. His claims are, on the whole, erroneous.

I could not pull Mr. Palmer from his general framework, as I am aware that it seems to be so firmly entrenched within such a disturbing European ideology that it blinds a fuller analysis from grasping the overwhelming public disaffection with further European integration across Europe – such as the rejection of the Constitution in France and the Netherlands and the public calls for referendums on further integration across the Member States.

In particular, he loathes the situation that “we now have the grotesque prospect of a Labour government – yes a Labour government – campaigning for the charter [of Fundamental Rights] to be excised entirely from the treaty. All of this is justified by ministers in muttered terms about "changed political circumstances". What they mean is that they have an understanding with the proprietors of The Sun and the Daily Mail etc not to whip a new euro-phobic, anti-treaty jihad among Tory MPs.” To be honest, this analysis gravely misconstrues the issue and offers an undemocratic assessment of the current process.

The decision over the Charter is not about reaching an understanding with the proprietors of The Sun – it is about whether human rights issues should be governed by the laws of Brussels or Westminster. (And may I remind Mr. Palmer that it is still the demand of this country that Westminster laws and institutions should take precedence over those of Brussels). Those like Mr Sarkozy who are now seeking to sign up to the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a declaration are now doing so under the erroneous belief that a “declaration” will not have the force of law. Yet, as Bill Cash declared in The Times: “…evidence from eminent QCs to the European Scrutiny Committee has made it clear that the European Court would still construe any such declaration as being a matter for the European Court, taking ‘precedence over those by national judges.’” A declaration on the Charter would therefore have the force of law. Thus, the case for rejecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights – as a principle and as a part of the Constitution – must be repudiated by all political parties. The decision over the Charter is not about reaching an understanding the proprietors of The Sun – it is about the battle to prevent Europe taking legal and political authority over British law and government. That is why even our very own dreaded and occasionally-democratic Labour government might be looking to remove the Charter.

Of course, Mr. Palmer’s wishes for the enforcement of an EU legal personality, and to further legitimise the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), would be a death knell for national sovereignty. John Reid’s earlier remarks on national security – which have made it clear that British government needs to reinterpret parts of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – are a significant step towards redressing the current failures of human rights in meeting the needs of national security in the UK. The incorporation of ECHR into UK law via the Human Rights Act (HRA) of 1998 is, in actual fact, a major obstacle to public security in the UK. We need to opt out of ECHR, not promote it. The Human Rights Act of 1998, which allowed for the enforcement of the ECHR, needs to be repealed so that Britain may control her own affairs.
A call for the end of Euro haggling is therefore misplaced, since the true Euro haggling must continue.

The “1984” European Police

Recently, the European Commission has been proposing radical revisions into the future direction and governance of the European Law Enforcement Organisation (EUROPOL), including the governance of cross-border serious crime and coordinating data on individuals. The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) has been carefully analysing the European Commission proposal for a Council Decision to replace the previous Europol Convention with all the amendments already incorporated in the three Protocols, as well as some new provisions. The Commission hopes to establish the EUROPOL as a separate EU agency. The Commission has also proposed that EUROPOL’s competence should not be limited to cross-border organised crime and that it should extend EUROPOL’s mandate to any serious cross border crime.

The Minister of State at the Home Office, Mr Tony McNulty, has explained his concerns about EUROPOL being funded from the Community budget – which would lead to the UK losing its influence over EUROPOL’s budget. Moreover, the Minister of State believes that the proposal for the Community Staff Regulations to apply to EUROPOL’s staff might increase the EUROPOL’s budget.

The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) also believes that the Commission has not provided enough justification regarding EUROPOL’s mandate being extended to serious cross-border crimes. The Committee is very concerned that "serious crime" is defined as the offences listed in Annex I of the Draft Decision. The ESC believes as there is no EU broad definition of the offences it would be difficult to individuals to know whether – under the Decision proposal – EUROPOL would be entitled to hold information about them. Furthermore, it would be also difficult for Member States to know if they are or not obliged to provide EUROPOL with an individual’s personal data.

Therefore, this extension of power needs to be not only limited but accurately defined. According to the Government, the introduction of EC Staff Regulations and community financing would not bring operational benefits to EUROPOL, but it would actually increase costs. A decision on Europol’s future financing and staff regulations is expected to be taken by the Council this June.

More information? We have also reported on both EUROPOL and the European Arrest Warrant in the most recent issue [May-June] of The European Journal.

Monday, 4 June 2007

What have we REACH? … More bureaucracy

After four long years of negotiations and intense lobbying from industry, environmental and consumer groups, last December, the European Parliament and Council agreed on the regulation for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). This regulation entered into force on 1 June 2007. It will replace the existing 40 legislative texts with a single regulation establishing a single system called REACH. It also creates a new Chemicals Agency, which will be based in Helsinki and will be responsible for the registration and authorisation process of chemicals.

Under the new regulation, chemical producers will be obliged to submit a registration to the Agency of all chemical substances produced or imported above a total quantity of 1 tonne per year. The registration will affect about 30,000 substances. Producers will have to submit a substitution plan to replace more hazardous substances with safer alternatives. If there are no alternative, producers will have to present a research plan aimed at finding one. The burden of proof has now been reversed so it is up to the chemical industry to prove that their substances are safe before they can be put on the market.

The Chemicals Agency will be the central point in the REACH given that it will run the databases necessary to operate the system as well as co-ordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database where consumers and professionals can find hazard information.

The European Commission has been developing guidance documents to facilitate REACH implementation. However, according to Euractiv, the United States Council for International Business’s manager for environmental affairs has said that "these guidelines are neither workable nor proportionate.” The European Chemicals Industry Council (CEFIC) already launched the ReachCentrum, to help companies to fulfil the requirements of REACH. The regulation will have a huge impact on the industry – not only on chemical manufacturers but also on users of chemical products. Obviously, business will have additional costs fulfilling REACH requirements. According to industry representatives, REACH will increase bureaucracy and strangle innovation in Europe.