Denied EU document reveals issues of public interest

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In May Statewatch applied to the Council of the European Union for a document submitted by the German delegation concerning: "Additional measures to combat terrorism" (document no: 8784/02). This latter document was of particular interest because an earlier set of far-reaching post-11 September initiatives put forward by the German delegation all of which are being acted on - this was in a "Meeting document" dated 27 September 2001 (SN 4038) - this was later converted into a proper document (13176/02) but not put on the public register of documents until 6 January 2002 (Statewatch carried a report on it in November 2001, see:

1. Plans to extend the SIS
2. German government proposals: Full-text (Word 97) Full-text (pdf)
3. Full Statewatch report with more details on "foreigners" registers and the European Commission's Communication on illegal immigration: Full report - the "enemy within" II (pdf file)

In June Statewatch was given a copy of "Additional measures to combat terrorism" (document no: 8784/02) but with "Partial access" and all the new proposals omitted. The document is "Kafkaesque" with four whole pages of text left out: "Partial access" document: 8784/02-PA (pdf)

Statewatch immediately lodged a confirmatory application (an appeal against refusal of access). The Council's Working Party on Information (WPI) unanimously agreed to reject the appeal, see document no: 10036/02 The Council's response says that the initial refusal was correct because access: "could seriously undermine its decision-making process" and deny the so-called space to think for national delegations, especially as: "no final decision has yet been taken". Moreover, they argue that the "public interest" in protecting their secret discussions until a decision has been taken is greater that the public's right to know what is being discussed.

The Council finally says that disclosure "would seriously hamper the Council's decision-making" on an issue concerning "strategic options for the coordinated European Union's campaign against terrorism"

However, the full-text of the document, which Statewatch has acquired, shows that the proposals being put forward by the German delegation - like the last ones - nearly all affects the rights and protections of refugees and asylum-seekers and of third country nationals resident in the EU, not merely strategic options but strategic proposals, see: Full-text document, which although dated 13.5.02 actually refers to the submission of the document from the German delegation dated 19.2.02: 8784/02 (pdf).

Analysis of the document

The Note from the German delegation recognises that significant initiatives have been taken following the meetings of the Justice and Home Affairs Councils on 20 September and 27/28 September 2001 and that on its proposals last year: "considerable progress has already been made on the individual proposals" but:

"Germany takes the view that in addition to these measures, preventive information gathering in the fight against terrorism needs to be significantly improved"

The Note therefore proposes:

1. On "Uniform visa and security norms": proposes that in addition to the "integration of photos" on EU residency permits the EC regulation on uniform format for residence permits (which has now been adopted), should be amend to allow for "the possibility for the future use of biometrics" in the permit.

This proposal is included in the "Co

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