The United Kingdom currently holds the revolving office of the Presidency of the European Union.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke and the Home Office has presented a paper to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, outlining some of the dubious Policy Laundering that NuLabour seeks to impose on the 60 million people of the United Kingdom and on the 450 million people of the European Union as a whole.
Paper by the UK Presidency of the European Union: Liberty and Security - Striking the Right Balance (07/09/05)
Obviously the UK Government's habit of "dealing with the difficult part of the policy in the title", as illustrated by the first "Yes Minister" episode back in 1980 still seems to be en vogue.
We will devote a posting to each of the following sections of this paper, as it illustrates just how wrong the balance between liberty and security is, that NuLabour are trying to impose on us, simply to Be Seen To Be Doing Something, and, presumably, as the result of behind the scenes lobbying by vested interests.
Retention of telecommunications traffic data
Biometrics in identity cards and passports
A modern border control: using passenger name records
Closed Circuit TV
The European Union has helped create freedoms for our citizens that were unimaginable 50 years ago. We can work and travel more easily than ever before, buy and sell over the internet with confidence and send money across borders at the click of a button. Yet despite this fantastic record many of our citizens remain highly sceptical about the European Union.
What on earth has the European Union got to do with working or travelling more easily, with internet commerce or with cross border funds transfers (which pre-date the internet) ??
We are not "anti-EU", except, of course, to criicise its stultifying bureaucracy, which is worthy of comparison with Whitehall, but claims like this from Charles Clarke just give ammunition to the very isolationists that he berated in his speech which introduced this paper, and which has been commented on elsewhere, e.g. by Nosemonkey cross posting to The Sharpener blog.
I believe that a deep reason for these doubts is that the European Union does not appear to give sufficient priority to offering practical solutions which make a difference to some of the issues of greatest concern.
Correct. However this statement is also true of the NuLabour Government in the United Kingdom as well.
I refer specifically to serious and organised crime, including drug-dealing and people trafficking; to illegal migration and false seeking of asylum; and to countering terrorism whatever its origins. These issues top the political agenda across Europe, and they are often the most potent in mobilising political activity, often in a reactionary and even dangerous way.
These are not the issues which most European citizens worry about most !
They are not even at the top of the United Kingdom's political agenada, especially not dealing with "people trafficking".
Why does the NuLabour Government still refuse to sign or ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on action against trafficking in human beings which they should have signed and ratified in Warsaw in May ?
I therefore believe that the whole European Union, but in particular the Justice and Home Affairs Council, needs to give real priority to tackling these issues in a practical and systematic way.
And in so doing I suggest three principle approaches.
The first is that in our globalised world no single country can tackle these problems alone, even in their own country. In each of these areas we will all, including within our own countries, achieve most by sharing experience, information and resources and by identifying, and then targeting, the threats systematically and consistently.
The second principle that must underlie our approach is to strengthen the foundation of practical and pragmatic police and intelligence work. In each of these areas we have already taken action at the EU level. For example we have agreed the European Arrest Warrant, common rules on the penalties and definitions for terrorism, people trafficking and other serious crimes. We have rules on police and judicial cooperation and have established Europol and Eurojust to support their work. We have also strengthened freedom to travel with the EU and established the European Borders Agency.
The "European Borders Agency" is a misnomer. Astonishingly, it is actually called the:
"Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX)" !!
It is not true to say that Frontex, based in Waesaw, Poland , "has been established", it is still not yet operational, and is still in the process of recruiting its staff, although the top officials have been appointed, together with a multi million Euro budget.
Incredibly, for an "intelligence agency", which will no doubt be targeted for infiltration, and whose staff will be under threat of bribery and blackmail, by organised criminals, terrorists and foreign governments, Frontex is only accepting job applications and CVs via unencrypted internet email>
"Applications must be sent by e-mail to the Agencys address: JLSemail@example.com .
The following documents, preferably in English, must be provided:
- a motivation letter (free format),
- a curriculum vitae in European format, available on the EPSO website.
Only applications submitted by e-mail will be accepted."
When, not if, these European Agencies make a mistake, what independent complaints procedure can a European Citizen set in motion to obtain redress against them ? None at the moment !
There is of course more that we can and are doing. We have agreed a comprehensive programme of action in the Hague Programme and the Counter-Terrorism Action Plan. These contain many sensible practical measures that will make a real difference to our citizens. If we want to demonstrate the real value of the EU we now need to work together to deliver on those commitments.
But it is the third principle which I believe poses the greatest challenge in its modern application. That principle is that we need to use intelligence effectively and intelligently to target, track down, identify and convict the criminals who through terrorist violence and committing serious and organised crime threaten the security and strength of our society.
Criminals and terrorists use modern technology: the internet and mobile communications to plan and carry out their activities. We can only effectively contest them if we know what they are communicating. Without that knowledge we are fighting them with both hands tied behind our backs. And of course the criminals know that and actively and consciously organise themselves to take advantage of our weaknesses.
It may seem obvious to state in this way that we need to collect and use intelligence against the threats that we face. But this European Parliament, as well as national Parliaments throughout Europe, needs to face up to the fact that the legal framework within which we currently operate makes the collection and use of this intelligence very difficult and in some cases impossible.
The rules that currently govern our law-enforcement bodies seriously inhibit their ability to protect us against criminals. Information is the life-blood of law-enforcement operations and enables our police and agencies to prevent crimes with the minimum of impact on our daily lives. To tackle organised crime and to stop terrorist groups before they carry out activities they need a clear picture of who the criminals are, what they are doing, where they are and how they communicate with each other.
Theis claim that "our police and agencies" actually "prevent crimes"
is rather hard to prove, and in fact the very next sentence gives the game away:
Often that picture is pieced together after the fact.
But if we are to be effective in dismantling organised crime groups we must analyse intelligence and information so that we can target our efforts on the most dangerous criminals. However, that need is not always reflected in the rules that we apply to our police.
This is not a sterile debate about principles but about practical measures to contest criminality and out opponents.
Neither the UK Home Office, nor the European Union, has a track record of producing "practical measures".
That is why we argue that internationally consistent and coherent biometric data should be an automatic part of our visas, passports and identity cards where we have them - and would even suggest driving licences as well.
Biometrics are an unproven technology for the purpose which Charles Clarke is proposing. He cannot even propose a system that would scale to work properly for 60 million UK citizens, let alone 450 million European Union ones - see the cross party NO2ID campaign
There is no such thing as "internationally consistent and coherent biometric data", and Charles Clarke is himself at the forfront of introducing Biometric technology in his UK ID Card scheme, which is incompaible with that used in other countries. Even the so called International Civil Aviation Organiszation Machine Readable Travel Document "standard", leaves open the question of "the second biometric identifier" to be used in addition to a Digitised Facial Photograph.
There has not yet been any international agreement on the second most popular "biometric identifier" - fingerprints, even at the simple level of how many fingerprints are to be used ? One digit or all ten plus palm prints (if they exist) ?
There is no agreement at all on the use of "iris scans", the most accurate of the popular "biometric identifier technologies", especially since the USA is not considering them because of a "not invented here" attitude and lobbying.
But I believe that the central point for us to remember is that as we make our considerations we should not forget that we now possess many hard-fought rights such as the right to privacy, the right to property, the right to free speech and the right to life. Those rights are actively threatened by criminals and terrorists.
It appears that neither the European Parliament, nor the Mobile Phone Indutry, nor Civil Liberties campaigners have been convinced by this paper.
Those rights are also under threat from increasingly repressive Governments. Given the power of modern Governments, they potentially pose a bigger threat than any criminal or terrorist gang.
We have a duty and responsibility to help protect them for our citizens through practical measures. As we consider how best to do this there will always and inevitably be a balance in rights. What matters in each case is that the steps are proportionate and that protections against abuse are effective. I believe that our proposals offer that.
Many people believe that the NuLabour Government has already shifted the balance too far in the direction of repression, without any commensurate reduction in serious criminality or terrorism, to offset the loss of our freedoms and liberties.