EU proposal on European arrest warrant: Swedish parliament votes in favour - update 23.5.02

After a fierce debate the Swedish parliament agreed to accept the proposal for a European arrest warrant (22.5.02). The vote was 164 in favour, 51 against and 71 abstentions.

A parliamentary majority in the Swedish parliament is opposed to the two EU Framework Decisions on combating terrorism and the creation of a European arrest warrant. The first creates a problem for Sweden because it is one of a number of EU states which do not have an anti-terrorist laws in their criminal codes.

This became clear on Thursday (14.3.02), when the Swedish centre-right party, Moderaterna (the second largest group in parliament), unexpectedly withdrew its earlier support for the social-democrat government's plans to have the framework decision on combating terrorism nodded through by parliament before the end of spring. Moderaterna also withdrew their support for another EU framework decision on the introduction of a common EU-wide arrest arrant. The turn-about of the Swedish parliament could delay the adoption of new national law necessary for the implementation of the two EU measures by up to one year and revive opposition in other EU countries against the sweeping "anti-terror" measures adopted by the Council of the European Union since 11 September.

The spokesman of Moderaterna on crime policies and chairman of the parliamentary judicial committee, Fredrik Reinfeldt MP, told the Swedish press agency TT that his party was not prepared to approve the EU-measures before agreement is reached on changes of national law necessary to implement the EU measures in Sweden: "These proposals highlight essential issues regarding the relation between the rule of law in a constitutional State and the European Union and it is our opinion that the national legislation council, legal experts and other interested circles must be given an opportunity to carefully analyse the consequences first", Reinfeldt told TT. "If we just approve the framework decisions without being aware of their consequences for Sweden, we do not know how "terrorism" will be defined here. This will also have effects on accelerated extradition procedures, since terrorism is one of the grounds for extradition". Reinfeldt is also critical of the very principle of member state governments agreeing on framework decisions and other EU measures within the Council without sufficient prior consultation of national parliaments which are expected to merely nod through ensuing national legislation.

In seeking parliamentary approval of its policies, the social-democrat minority government of Prime Minister Persson usually relies on the support of its red-green allies, the Left Party and the Environmentalist Green Party. But this time both parties opposed the EU measures from the very beginning and the government would have needed support from the right to push through its agenda.

European background

The EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council reached "political agreement" on the two Framework Decisions on 6 December (the measures have yet to be formally adopted). Under the Framework Decision on combating terrorism all member states bind themselves to introduce stringent common minimum penalties for offences considered to be terrorism-related. Among others, the framework decision aims to make leadership of, participation in, and support of a "terrorist organisation" a criminal offence entailing severe punishment. The content of the framework decision has drawn strong public criticism in a number of member states. Among others, critics point out that the definition of the term "terrorist organisation" in the framework decision is all too extensive and vague and therefore could be used as a catch-all provision to put under surveillance and prosecute people on political grounds and to associate street protest with terrorism. Such fears were further fuelled by a recent proposal from the Spanish EU Presidency linking "violent urban youthful radicalism" to terrorism.

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