EU rubber stamps work in progress - more cooperation with US; fast-track expulsion of migrants from the EU

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EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers meeting informally in Copenhagen were joined by US Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Danish presidency reports that progress was made on a number of issues, though closer inspection of the matters discussed suggests that most of the Council conclusions merely acknowledge work already underway. There were, however, new pledges to fast-track proposals to create joint EU-US investigative teams, send refugees back to Afghanistan and introduce 'anti-drugs' clauses into EU aid and trade agreements.

EU-US cooperation on terrorism: Council conclusions

[Conclusions in italics, Statewatch comments in normal type face]

1). An agreement between the European Police Unit, Europol, and the United States providing for the exchange of personal data should be concluded before the end of the year.

This agreement was already scheduled for the end of the year and follows an 'interim' Europol-USA cooperation agreement - excluding the exchange of personal data - that was signed in December 2001. The Europol data protection supervisory body (which was not properly consulted on the agreement in accordance with the Europol Convention) has argued that there is no legal basis for such an agreement in the Convention which only contains provisions for 'full' cooperation agreements. The EU has not yet been able to enter into such an agreement because of the absence of a relevant data protection regime at the federal level in the US. Instead, "the exceptional transmission of personal data without an agreement" has been taking place all year. It should also be pointed out that unlike previous Europol-third state cooperation agreements, the draft text of the Treaty and data protection report to the supervisory body have not been made available to the public or even listed on the Council's register of EU documents.

2). The European Prosecution Unit, Eurojust, and the relevant US authorities should as a matter of priority consider starting up negotiations on similar co-operation agreements.

Eurojust's data protection supervisory body has not yet been set-up so the agency can not yet exchange data or enter into agreements with third-states or agencies to do so. However, Eurojust representatives have held regular meetings with their US counterparts since the 11 September attacks.

3). Substantial progress in the negotiations on an agreement between the European Union and the United States on extradition and mutual legal assistance should be achieved before the end of 2002 in order for the negotiations to be finalised as soon as possible. Apart from ensuring the application of swift and efficient extradition rules the agreement should address new types of mutual legal assistance, such as interrogation by means of video conferences. Fundamental legal principles will of course be observed.

Negotiations on mutual legal assistance treaties between the EU and US are being conducted in secret and despite widespread concern for democratic standards this process looks set to continue (see documentation below). US Attorney-General Ashcroft is quoted as stating "any final deal would be made public to EU citizens", which suggests that the negotiations will continue without public scrutiny or a role for national or the European parliaments until a deal is reached. Before the meeting, Danish minister of justice Lene Espersen told reporters that "no EU country will extradite suspects to the United States" if they risk capital punishment, though earlier discussions exposed by Statewatch suggest that some EU member states may be willing to become accomplices to the death penalty by supplying witnesses and evidence for such trials.

4). The European Union and the United States will continue their close dialogue concerning the negotiations within the UN on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

The US has been promoting a UN Convention on terrorism since the attacks.

5). A swift and efficient exch

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