Statewatch: Human rights and the EU's "Area of Freedom, Security and Justice"

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EU: Fundamental rights, fundamental flaws:
Human rights and the EU's "Area of Freedom, Security and Justice"

Statewatch press release: 18 April 2007

Statewatch has today published a damning critique of crucial EU proposals on suspects' rights in cross-border criminal proceedings, data protection in the area of police and judicial cooperation, and the expulsion of migrants from the EU.

Four detailed Statewatch analyses of the draft EU measures show the extent to which powerful member states are driving down standards of human rights protection in the creation of the so-called EU "Area of Freedom, Security and Justice".

Two of these measures - suspects' rights and data protection - will be discussed by the Member States at this week's Justice and Home Affairs Council (19-20 April 2007).

The analyses were prepared for Statewatch by Professor Steve Peers (Human Rights Centre, University of Essex) and Frances Webber (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers).

Professor Peers comments:

"On March 1, 2007, the EU's new Fundamental Rights Agency officially began operations. Due to the insistence of the UK and several allies, the Agency has no competence to deal with the issues of policing and criminal law.

But even if the Agency had such competence, would it make a difference? The powers of the agency are limited anyway. More importantly, the EU's human rights record as regards legislation on the issues of policing, criminal law, immigration and asylum is so poor, and becoming rapidly so much worse, that is hard to imagine that political gestures such as the creation of this Agency could have a significant impact".

The four Statewatch analyses demonstrate this problem:

a) Suspects' rights: key ECHR protections undermined

The proposed EU Framework Decision on suspects' rights is still opposed by a group of Member States, led by the UK. The German Presidency has attempted to improve the text so as to meet the concerns of the Council of Europe about compatibility with the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights. But following changes to the text insisted upon by Member States, the Council of Europe no longer feels that it can be certain that the text will be compatible with the ECHR. See: analysis and documentation

b) Data protection: key principles disregarded

The proposed EU Framework Decision on data protection has been amended by the German Presidency, in order to reach an agreement, so that many important principles of data protection law have been dropped and the Framework Decision has been limited in scope so as to in effect exclude the issue of data transfer outside the EU. But a group of Member States, again led by the UK, is seeking to limit the scope of the proposal still further. See: analysis and documentation

c) Expulsion: basic safeguards for migrants and refugees weakened...

A proposed Directive on expulsion was weakened at Member States' insistence to reduce most of the procedural safeguards for individuals. See: analysis and documentation

d) ... and then removed altogether

Finally, the same proposed Directive on expulsion will now be more radically weakened at the behest of the German Presidency, so that the remaining procedural safeguards for individuals will effectively be removed altogether. See: analysis and documentation

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