EU: Role of new EU Internal Security Committee being decided by the Council - in secret (1)

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- "internal security" to include crime, public order, illegal immigration and border controls

When the new EU Constitution was being hammered out one of the least contentious issues (at least amongst those privy to the discussions) was the proposal to create a Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security (Article III-261). The first draft of the report by "Working Party X" (on freedom, security and justice) spoke of such a committee dealing with issues "including" policing and judicial cooperation. This then changed to "internal security" – a concept which embraces all the agencies of the state from those who maintain "law and order" and border controls through to the military. Article III-261 says this standing committee is to be setup to:

"ensure operational cooperation [by facilitating] coordination of the action of Member States's competent authorities"

This text seems pretty explicit as to its role, namely "operational cooperation" and "coordination of.. action".

However, a paper circulated by the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union (the 25 governments) to the Informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, 27-29 January 2005 says, quite extraordinarily:

"The exact nature of the committee cannot be discerned by reading Article III-261"

If the "nature" (ie: the job) of the committee cannot be read into the text of the Constitution, where can it?

The Presidency paper asks whether the committee should be a "technical committee with an exclusively operational brief" or should it play a "legislative" role as well. However, the press release from the meeting noted "diverging points of view" on its role (Belgium, for example, argues in a Note dated 15 March that COSI should not have a legislative role).

By early 2005 the new committee had acquired the acronym, "COSI" (Standing Committee on Internal Security). Just prior to this informal meeting the Commission said that operational cooperation had "made least progress" and that:

"The COSI should not have legislative tasks"
(EU doc no: 5573/05, Note from Council General Secretariat to the Article 36 Committee)

By the end of February concrete options on the role of COSI were put forward for discussion in the Article 36 Committee (high-level officials from Interior Ministries). An unpublished “Discussion paper” (see full-text below) from the Presidency set out a "definition" of “internal security” by “combining” different Articles from the Constitution. “Internal security should at least include”:

* the prevention and combating of crime,
* the prevention of the terrorist threat
* intelligence exchange
* public order management
* the prevention and combating of criminal offences such as illegal immigration and trafficking in persons
* the provision of an integrated management system for external borders as a major factor for preventing (certain) forms of crime within the EU
* and crisis management with cross-border effects within the EU

(EU doc no: 6626/05, emphasis added)

COSI’s role is not to be:

"directly in charge of conducting operational activities but shall ensure that operational cooperation is promoted and strengthened. This could be described as providing the appropriate framework, tools, policy, implementation and evaluation to allow/oblige the competent authorities to cooperate in areas of common interest or threat." (emphasis added)

COSI should be informed of “shortcomings or failures” (including through evaluations) and have: “a mandate to direct action in order to address these shortcomings”.

The paper (6626/05) then sets out three “Options” for the role of COSI. The first “option” would limit COSI’s role operational planning and coordination – as set out in the Constitution.

The second “option” would give COSI: “strategic functions” including drawing up an “EU plan for internal sec

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