Four leading NGOs submit report to the Convention on the future of the EU

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Four leading EU NGOs - the Standing Committee of experts on international immigration, refugee and criminal law (the "Meijers Committee"), Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Statewatch - have submitted 18 demands in a joint submission to the "Convention on the future of Europe" meeting in Brussels.

The primary concern expressed by the NGOs is that there is not in place adequate or effective judicial, parliamentary and public accountability nor guarantees of full compliance with human rights obligations in the fields of immigration and asylum, policing and legal cooperation (justice and home affairs).

The joint submission demands include:

1. The abolition of the "third pillar" (policing and criminal law) of the EU by fully merging it into the "first pillar". This will ensure greater democratic scrutiny and that individuals can enforce their rights in national courts.

2. The rules on external relations in the "third pillar" should also be brought under "first pillar" rules which would ensure parliamentary and public scrutiny of proposed agreements with non-EU states and organisations on policing and criminal law (covering, for example, the proposed EU-US agreement on judicial cooperation in criminal matters).

3. Normal EC decision-making procedures should be applied to all immigration and asylum matters and they should be subject to human rights obligations in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

4. If a European Border Guard is created it should be a civilian body not a police or military force.

5. The EU should formally accede to the European Convention on Human Rights to ensure effective independent scrutiny of EU measures with human rights implications which is particularly necessary in fields such as policing and asylum.

6. All EU institutions and bodies and agencies (for example, Europol and the Schengen Information System) created by it should be subject to the same rules of accountability, judicial control and rules on public access to documents.

7. The powers of the European Ombudsman should be strengthened (by allowing the Ombudsman to take case directly to court) and extended to ensure the protection of human rights.

8. The Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) should be obliged to meet in public when making legislative decisions.

9. The role of national parliaments to effectively scrutinise measures should be significantly increased and parliamentary timetables should be amended to allow civil society to make its views known. National and European parliaments should, in addition to their current roles, scrutinise the implementation of EU policies/measures.

10. The European Court of Justice should have full jurisdiction in justice and home affairs.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"The policies and practices affecting the fundamental freedoms and liberties of people in the EU must be subject to effective and transparent judicial, parliamentary and public scrutiny and human rights protection. This is not the case at the moment. It is a prerequisite of a democratic Europe that these standards now be put in place"

The joint submission was edited by Professor Deirdre Curtin, University of Utrecht and Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex.

Full-text of joint submission: Submission (pdf) Submission (Word)

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