EU: COSI - Standing Committee on Internal Security rescued from the debris of the EU Constitution (1)

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In Statewatch vol 15 no 1 concern was expressed as to the role of the proposed Standing Committee on Internal Security (COSI) to be set up under Article III-261 of the EU Constitution. Now that it seems very unlikely that the EU Constitution will be adopted it might be assumed that COSI would not see the light of day - on the contrary it is one of the first projects to be rescued.

The EU Constitution in Article III-261 said that a "standing committee" should be set up to ensure "operational cooperation on internal security". In February the Luxembourg Presidency produced a "Discussion paper on the future Standing Committee on Internal Security (COSI) - Constitutional Treaty,
Art III-261" (EU doc no: 6626/05, 21.2.05).

In the Hague Programme on justice and home affairs adopted on 5 November 2004 it was agreed that a six-monthly interim committee should be set up:
to prepare for the setting up of the Committee on Internal Security, envisaged in Article III-261 of the Constitutional Treaty. The first meeting was held on 13 May 2005 and the report on the discussion was circulated by the Council Presidency on 8 June 2005. However, the "Subject" of this report was significantly changed to:

"Summary report on the first six-monthly meeting for coordination of operational cooperation, as foreseen by the Hague programme"

There is no mention in the subject nor the text of the EU Constitution or its Article III-261, instead the Hague programme is presented as the authority for the meetings of the interim COSI. So why the change? Between the meeting on 13 May and the report on 8 June the referendums on the EU Constitution in France (29 May) and the Netherlands (1 June) had rejected it.

The Council of the European Union (the 25 governments) of course has the power to set up any committee it chooses - though any such committee will be subject to the current rules of accountability and access to documents (issues which were not at all clear in Article II-261).

The membership of COSI is one of the subjects under discussion. At the moment it is comprised of the chairs of the Article 36 Committee (policing and judicial cooperation) and the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) and representatives of the Commission, Europol, Eurojust, the Police Chiefs Task force, the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen) and the newly-created European Border Agency (EBA). Surprisingly it appears from the record of the 13 May meeting that "DG H of the Council Secretariat" (full-time officials from the Directorate-General on justice and home affairs) is also at the table as a policymaker rather than simply servicing the committee's work. Also worthy of note is the fact the neither the Police Chiefs Task Force nor SitCen have any legal basis for their existence.

In the report on the first six-monthly meeting of the "interim" COSI the Commission expressed the view that COSI should "prepare decisions of the Council" and "not a day-to-day tool for operational cooperation" (EU doc no: 8989/05). Thus its role should be: "setting out a legislative framework for operational action" but with "no link" to "budgetary issues". The Police Chiefs Task Force said it should be "integrated into COSI" as its officers "will be implementing the operational cooperation". While SitCen said it had no operational capacity but: "SitCen expects to be tasked by COSI as well as to provide it with spontaneous reports".

The UK, the incoming Presidency, took a quite different view on COSI composition saying it should be a high-level committee: "bringing together senior law enforcement specialists and Ministers' advisors from capitals" (see Statewatch vol 15 no 1). Similarly the UK and Europol said COSI should set the
"priorities for operational cooperation".

Finally, the issue of "data protection, fundamental rights etc" was discussed as a "general policy point" (not one specific to COSI) and it was recorded that:

"it might be diff

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