UK/EU Security Cooperation After Brexit: the UK Government’s Future Partnership Papers

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

Professor Steve Peers

The Prime Minister’s big speech in Florence has received the most attention in recent weeks, but it’s also worth looking at the UK government’s recent papers on its planned EU/UK close partnership after Brexit.  I’ll look here at the papers on two aspects of security – external security (foreign policy and defence) on the one hand, and internal security (police and criminal law cooperation) on the other. Both of them are impacted in the short term by the Florence speech, since the Prime Minister called for the current UK/EU security arrangements to apply for a period of around two years, followed by a comprehensive EU/UK security treaty. Assuming that such a transition period is agreed, the issue is what happens after that. In other words, what will be the content of that future comprehensive security treaty?

External security: Foreign policy and defence

The UK government’s foreign policy paper devotes much of its space – the first 17 pages – to explaining the UK’s major commitments in this field, including via its EU membership. A Martian reader would assume that the UK was applying to join the Union. Only the last few pages discuss the government’s preferred policy – which is both rather vague and highly resembles EU membership.

In short (although there’s no long version), the government seeks to maintain a relationship with the EU in this field that’s closer than any other non-EU country – although without offering many specifics. The government does, however, state that it wants to contribute to EU defence missions and to align sanctions regimes with the EU. The point about sanctions is particularly relevant, since the UK provides intelligence to justify their imposition and some of the individuals concerned have placed their assets in the UK.

For instance, in the recent ECJ judgment in Rosneft (discussed here), which followed a reference from the UK courts, the sanctioned company tried to reopen the case to argue that the referendum result already meant that EU sanctions ceased to apply in the UK. The ECJ simply replied that the Russian company had not explained how the Brexit vote altered the jurisdiction of the Court or the effect of its judgments.

Of course, the legal position will certainly change from Brexit Day: the UK government plans to propose a new Bill regulating post-Brexit sanctions policy in the near future, following a White Paper on this issue earlier this year (see also the government response to that consultation). One key question will be whether that Bill already attempts to regulate the UK’s post-Brexit coordination with the EU on sanctions, or whether that will be left to the Brexit negotiations to address.

This brings us to the issue of the ECJ, which is a difficult question as regards many aspects of the Brexit talks. In principle, in the area of foreign policy and defence, Brexit talks should not be too complicated by ECJ issues, since the Court has only limited jurisdiction. However, as the case of Rosneft illustrates, it does have jurisdiction over sanctions issues. In fact, there are frequent challenges to EU sanctions and many challenges are successful, so there will be a risk of divergence between EU and UK policy after Brexit that may need to be discussed. Such divergence could lead to a knock-on complication with capital movement between the UK and EU.

The paper also covers development and external migration policy, where the UK again seeks something which is both vague and much like membership – collaboration on coordinating policy. While the EU has its own development policy, Member States are free to have their own policies, subject to loose coordination – which is what the UK is aiming for as a non-member.

This was, perhaps, a missed opportunity here to touch on the most difficult issue in the talks: the financial liabilities upon leaving in the EU. Some of the EU’s spending in these areas is not part of the ordinary EU budget (as the ECJ has confirmed), although it is part of the EU negotiation position. So the UK could have addressed that issue to move talks along and to make links between ‘upfront’ and ‘future’ issues to get around sequencing problems in the Brexit talks. (The Prime Minister’s subsequent speech in Florence did not explicitly mention these funds). Furthermore, the UK government could have used this paper to reassure some febrile people that it will have a veto on what it chooses to participate in, as well as on the ECJ.

Internal security: Criminal Law and Policing

In many ways, the government paper on criminal law matters is similar to the foreign policy paper. It also starts out by saying how useful the current relationship is, for instance as regards data on wanted persons and stolen objects uploaded into the Schengen Information System, the use of the European Arrest Warrant for fast-track extradition, and the EU police intelligence agency, Europol.

What happens after Brexit? The UK paper correctly points out that the EU already has agreements in this area with many non-EU countries, particularly as regards the exchange of policing data but also as regards some forms of criminal justice cooperation. But as with foreign policy and defence, the UK wants a distinctive relationship after Brexit, given the existing close links.

Again, however, the actual content of what the UK wants is vague. Which of the current EU laws in this field which the UK has signed up to (for a summary of those laws, see my referendum briefing here) would it still like to participate in? The only clear point is that the government doesn’t want direct ECJ jurisdiction. In principle, that should be fine for the long term, since the EU27 negotiation position only refers to the ECJ during a transition period. There’s no insistence on using it afterward, which is consistent with EU treaties in this field with non-EU countries.

However, some of those treaties refer to taking account of each other’s case law, and dispute settlement or (in some treaties) possible termination in the event of judicial or legislative divergences. The UK paper gives no idea of how it will tackle those issues, whereas the recent paper on the parallel issue of civil litigation (discussed here) at least indicated a willingness to require UK courts to take account of relevant ECJ rulings.

Comments

The contrast between the importance of these issues and the vagueness with which they are treated is striking. Imagine a television viewer aching to watch Tenko or Broadchurch – but having to settle for Last of the Summer Wine.  It is fair to assume that the government has more detailed plans than this but doesn’t want to release them; but presumably anything more specific would have opened division in the cabinet or run the perceived risk of making the government look awkward by disclosing an ultimately unsuccessful negotiation position (what the government refers to as undermining negotiations). Increasingly these papers look like an attempt to respond to poor polls about negotiations rather than a contribution to the talks.

The government does have a point, however: the UK and EU have significant shared interests in this area, and the UK has a lot to offer, in terms of its defence contribution, supply of intelligence and round-up of fugitives from other Member States, for instance. Of course, the UK benefits in turn from having swifter access to other countries’ intelligence, as well as fast track extradition and transfer of criminal evidence.  The Brexit process might also be an opportunity to address the civil liberties concerns that sometimes arise about these measures, but there is no detailed discussion of that.

It will likely be awhile before these issues are discussed in detail in the talks, and it remains to be seen how interested the EU27 side is in the UK government’s position. But at first sight, it seems possible that the future of the EU/UK relationship on security issues will not be vastly different from the present.

The  European Union’s  Policies  on  Counter-Terrorism. Relevance,  Coherence and Effectiveness

FULL TEXT (226 pages) ACCESSIBLE HERE 

(*)This research paper was requested by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and was commissioned, overseen and published by the Policy Department for  Citizens’ Rights and  Constitutional  Affairs. (January 2017)

AUTHORS :
(PwC) : Wim  WENSINK, Bas WARMENHOVEN, Roos HAASNOOT, Rob  WESSELINK, Dr  Bibi   VAN  GINKEL,
 International  Centre for  Counter-Terrorism (ICCT)  – The  Hague:  Stef WITTENDORP,  Dr  Christophe  PAULUSSEN, Dr  Wybe  DOUMA, Dr  Bérénice  BOUTIN,  Onur  GÜVEN, Thomas  RIJKEN, With   research   assistance   from:   Olivier  VAN   GEEL,   Max   GEELEN,   Geneviève   GIRARD,   Stefan HARRIGAN, Lenneke  HUISMAN,  Sheila  JACOBS  and  Caroline TOUSSAINT.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (emphasis are added)

Background and aim

The series of recent terrorist attacks, as well as the various foiled and failed terrorist plots on European soil, have more than ever reinforced the popular awareness of the vulnerabilities that go hand-in-hand with the open democracies in the European Union (EU). The fact that these attacks followed each other with short intervals, but mostly due to the fact that they often did not fit the profile and modus operandi of previous attacks, have significantly contributed to the difficulty for security agencies to signal the threats as they are materialising. The modi operandi used showed a diversity of targets chosen, were committed by a variety of actors including foreign fighter returnees, home-grown jihadist extremists, and lone actors, and were executed with a variety of weapons or explosives. Furthermore, another complicating factor is the trend towards the weaponisation of ordinary life  in  which  a truck or  a kitchen  knife already  fulfils the purpose.

Governments, policy-makers, and politicians in most EU Member States feel the pressure of the population who call for adequate responses to these threats. Similarly, the various actors of the EU on their own accord, or the European Council driven by (some) Member States, have stressed the importance of effective responses to these increased threats, and have specifically underlined the importance of sharing of information and good cooperation. Very illustrating in this respect are the conclusions adopted during the European Council meeting of 15 December 2016, in which the European Council stressed the importance of the political agreement on the Counter-Terrorism Directive, emphasised the need to swiftly adopt the proposals on regulation of firearms and anti-money laundering, as well as the implementation of the new passenger name record (PNR) legislation.1 The European Council furthermore welcomed the agreement on the revised Schengen Borders Code, and stressed the importance of finding agreement on the Entry/Exit System and the European Travel   Information  and   Authorisation  System.2

Although the easy way to satisfy the call for action by the national populations seems to be to just take action for the sake of it, the responsibility lies with the relevant actors, in line with the objectives and principles of the EU Treaty and the values the EU represents 3, to actually assess the security situation, and implement, amend or suggest (new) policies that are adequate, legitimate, coherent and effective in the long run. It is with that objective in mind that this study, commissioned by the European Parliament, has made an assessment of the current policy architecture of the EU in combating terrorism, particularly looking into loopholes, gaps or overlap in policies in areas ranging from international and inter-agency cooperation, data exchange, external border security, access to firearms and explosives, limiting the financing of terrorist activities, criminalising terrorist behaviour and prevention of radicalisation. This study furthermore looks into the effectiveness of the implementation of  policies in Member States  and  the  legitimacy and coherence  of  the  policies.

Seven major policy themes were selected and addressed in depth by this study:

  • Measures and tools for operational cooperation and intelligence/law enforcement and judicial information exchange;
  • Data collection and database access and interoperability;
  • Measures to enhance external border security;
  • Measures to combat terrorist financing;
  • Measures to reduce terrorists’ access to weapons and explosives; . Criminal justice measures;
  • Measures to combat radicalisation and recruitment.

The research team has assessed the degree of implementation of EU counter-terrorism measures under these seven themes in a selection of seven Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Spain. This study sets out policy options for the future direction of EU counter-terrorism policy. The focus of policy options is on future threats and developments, and on developing creative yet feasible policy solutions.

Main findings Continue reading

Un commissaire britannique à la sécurité de l’Union européenne : le bon endroit, au bon moment, pour la bonne personne ?

PUBLISHED ALSO ON GDR  – English version will follow

 

La semaine dernière, la procédure de nomination de Sir Julian King en tant que nouveau commissaire en charge de la « sécurité de l’Union » a franchi l’obstacle de l’audition au Parlement européen. Par une large majorité de 394 membres pour contre 161 voix, le Parlement, qui est consulté en cas de démission d’un commissaire en vertu de l’article 246 TFUE, a donné son aval. Le 19 septembre 2016, le Conseil, en accord avec le président de la Commission, a donc nommé Sir Julian King, en remplacement de Jonathan Hill qui avait démissionné le 25 juin, ce pour la durée du mandat de la Commission restant à courir, c’est-à-dire jusqu’au 31 octobre 2019.

Auparavant, le 12 septembre, les trois heures d’audition du futur commissaire devant la Commission Libe ont été l’occasion de réfléchir à la nature et à la signification de ce choix pour le bon fonctionnement de l’Espace de liberté, sécurité et justice de l’Union européenne.

1. L’audition devant la Commission Libe

« A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire », la citation du Cid vaut particulièrement en matière européenne. Il était facile de deviner que l’avis des coordinateurs politiques de la Commission Libe serait positif. Les échanges par écrit de questions/réponses diverses recoupaient en effet l’attitude largement positive des principaux groupes politiques du Parlement. Le détail de l’audition permet cependant de comprendre le climat dans lequel elle s’est déroulée (pour les documents de référence et la webstream de l’audience, voir ici et ici ).

L’habileté du candidat, d’abord, toute diplomatique, a été saluée par tous. Ambassadeur en poste à Paris, ayant travaillé à la représentation permanente britannique et dirigé un cabinet de commissaire, sa connaissance des dossiers de l’Union est évidente et incontestable. Il a donc eu beau jeu de séduire, en esquivant les questions délicates relatives au Brexit ou à l’accord PNR avec le Canada tout en assumant ses convictions pro-européennes : « j’ai plaidé résolument en faveur de la position du gouvernement britannique durant la campagne référendaire. J’ai toujours été fier d’être britannique et fier d’être européen, et je n’y vois aucune contradiction. Mais le 23 juin, une majorité de mes compatriotes ont décidé qu’ils voulaient quitter l’Union et nous devons respecter ce choix ».

Sur le fond et sans surprise ici non plus, dans sa déclaration d’ouverture à l’audition Sir Julian King a présenté huit points qui sont en fait un mantra récurrent des diverses communications de la Commission relatives à la sécurité intérieure, des positions du Conseil européen et des rapports du coordinateur de la lutte antiterroriste.

Donc, peu de choses nouvelles en définitive si ce n’est une référence intéressante à l’article 4 du traité sur l’Union, qui fut modifié à la dernière minute pour prendre en compte une ligne rouge du gouvernement britannique dans la négociation sur le traité. Pour Julian King, « in today’s world, security of one Member State is the security of all. Article 4 of the Treaty is clear: national security remains the sole responsibility of Member States. But they cannot address alone threats which are transnational ». Implicitement, l’intervention de l’Union en matière sécuritaire est ici légitimée …

Approfondir ce débat aurait sans aucun doute été instructif afin de mieux cerner le contenu réel de la déclaration du futur commissaire, de deviner sa vision de la « sécurité nationale » et dans quelles conditions une menace peut donc être considéré comme « transnationale», légitimant éventuellement une intervention de l’UE. On sait à cet égard que le coordinateur de la lutte antiterroriste a souvent insisté pour distinguer ce qui relève du « national » et de « l’interne », qui ne sont pas synonymes. D’un côté, la « sécurité intérieure » pourrait être un domaine de « compétence partagée » qui, en cas de menace transnationale, peut justifier et même exiger une intervention de l’Union «  dans les domaines de criminalité particulièrement grave ayant une dimension transfrontière résultant du caractère ou des incidences de ces infractions ou d’un besoin particulier de les combattre sur une base commune » visés par l’article 83 TFUE. De l’autre côté, la « sécurité nationale » est plutôt jusqu’à présent un concept beaucoup plus limité, axé sur la protection de l’Etat lui-même et justifiant de ses services de renseignement.

La commission LIBE connaît bien ces concepts, le Royaume Uni n’ayant pas hésité à invoquer la « sécurité nationale » (et non sa « sécurité intérieure ») pour justifier dans les années 2000 sa participation à Echelon ou, plus récemment, l’activité de la NSA au Royaume-Uni comme dénoncé par Edward Snowden.

Au delà, le propos du candidat ne s’est guère écarté des orientations dessinées dans la Communication de la Commission relative à la mise en œuvre du programme européen de sécurité (COM (2016) 230) et il demeure donc très convenu, à quelques remarques près. On notera cependant, à propos du PNR, l’opinion ouvertement critique du futur commissaire faisant état de la capacité de seulement 2 ou 3 Etats membres à établir les PIU (Passenger Information Unit) indispensables au fonctionnement du système …

Sur ces bases, prendre du recul par rapport à l’aspect procédural de cette nomination conduit à s’interroger sur la portée d’une telle nomination.

2.  La nomination d’un commissaire britannique à la Sécurité intérieure de l’Union

Deux questions surgissent immédiatement à l’esprit : existe-t-il aujourd’hui une nécessité de procéder à une telle nomination et, si oui et de façon un plus malicieuse, le choix d’un ressortissant britannique était-il le plus adapté, dans le contexte actuel ?

1.  L’encombrement du domaine institutionnel de la sécurité

Les questions de sécurité intérieure sont déjà largement couverts au plan institutionnel dans l’Union, comme l’audition de Sir Julian King le démontre aisément.

Au sein de la Commission, tout d’abord, puisque, malgré le découpage actuel discutable des porte-feuilles en deux grands domaines, Justice /Affaires intérieures qui amalgame malheureusement les questions migratoires et sécuritaires, le président a jugé utile d’en consacrer un troisième, largement entendu et sans que sa lettre de mission clarifie beaucoup les choses .

Aujourd’hui, on peut ainsi recenser sur ce champ : le premier vice-président Timmermans (en charge de la coordination des politiques sécuritaires européennes au regard des droits fondamentaux), le Haut Représentant et vice présidente de la Commission, Federica Mogherini ( en charge de la sécurité extérieure et de la défense), le commissaire Avramopoulos titulaire du portefeuille « Affaires intérieures » comportant notamment la lutte contre le terrorisme et la coopération policière) et, last but not least, la commissaire Jourová en charge de la coopération judiciaire en matière pénale dont nul ne semble beaucoup se préoccuper aujourd’hui …

Comme si l’embouteillage n’était pas suffisant, il faut ajouter à ce constat la place prépondérante des ConseilsJAI et, dans une moindre mesure Affaires étrangères, ainsi que, surtout, le rôle particulier réservé aucoordinateur de l’UE pour la lutte contre le terrorisme depuis les attentats de Madrid. A n’en pas douter, le mandat du nouveau commissaire recoupe le champ d’activité de ce coordinateur, rattaché à l’autre branche de l’exécutif. Pour faire un compte exact de l’encombrement, on mesurera la schizophrénie du système en rappelant le rôle d’impulsion dévolu au Conseil européen et les prétentions de son Président actuel à exercer cette fonction d’initiative.

Dans ces conditions, il aurait pu être judicieux de s’interroger sur la valeur ajoutée réelle d’une telle superposition de responsabilités. On aurait ainsi pu imaginer de confier aux parlements, européen et nationaux, le soin d’évaluer l’intérêt d’une nouvelle figure institutionnelle, sur la base de l’expérience et d’une analyse des faiblesses de la politique anti-terroriste de l’UE sur le terrain. Si, récemment, EUROPOL s’était avancé à soutenir une telle évaluation, aucune voix en revanche ne s’est élevée dans l’Union ou les Etats membres pour la réclamer. Le bilan de l’Union en matière de lutte anti-terroriste ne justifierait-il pas qu’elle se livre à un exercice que le Congrès des États-Unis a immédiatement lancé, dans des circonstances similaires, après le 11 Septembre ? Est-il vraiment inutile de vouloir tirer les leçons des échecs du passé immédiat ?

L’articulation de l’intervention des différents protagonistes en matière de sécurité intérieure demeure donc une question posée ouvertement. Elle pourrait se focaliser autour de la place que les Etats membres et le Haut représentant accepteront ou pas de consentir à Sir Julian King dans le train de la lutte contre le crime, celle de la locomotive ou du wagon de queue. En particulier sur le front extérieur où l’on sait que l’essentiel des enjeux de la sécurité intérieure de l’Union se dessine et se joue en pratique. La lecture de la lettre de mission adressée par le président de la Commission n’aide guère à y répondre pas davantage que le site, toujours exclusivement anglophone, du portefeuille Home Affairs de la Commission : Sir King y figure désormais en médaillon avec l’actuel titulaire Dimitris Avramopoulos…

Un défi de taille attend pourtant le nouveau commissaire à « la sécurité de l’Union », celui de la gestion des « l’agenciarisation » des politiques sécuritaires, dont les composantes interviennent à des titres divers, d’Europol et Eurojust à Eurosur et Frontex nouvelle version. Ce n’est un secret pour personne que le succès croissant de ces organismes repose en partie sur le fait que, grâce à eux, les États membres ont été en mesure de construire des circuits administratifs parallèles, sans contrainte excessive ni contrôle réel par le Comite pour la Sécurite intérieure (COSI) ou les parlements européens et nationaux, sans parler de leurs propres ministres.

L’absence de leadership fort de la Commission l’explique largement, dans le contexte d’une « lisbonnisation » de ces outils encore particulièrement en retard. On sait aussi que l’argument classique de l ‘ « indépendance » de ces agences masque en réalité l’omniprésence des Etats membres dans leurs conseils d’administration. D’où une forte tendance dans ces agences JAI à développer avec succès la « décision politique » dont la Commission se désintéresse au lieu d’en rester à un rôle, plus simple mais correspondant aux traités, de « mise en œuvre de la politique », comme il se doit dans une Union européenne régie par la primauté du droit et par les principes démocratiques.

Quoi qu’il en soit, au total, il ne sera pas facile pour ce nouvel acteur de trouver son chemin au cœur de ce paysage encombré même si l’histoire récente nous a malheureusement enseigné que, en cas d’attentat terroriste, la scène se vide et que personne ne se précipite plus devant les caméras ou dans les enceintes parlementaires pour expliquer que rien n’avait été prévu et pour quelles raisons nul ne s’en sent responsable…

2.  Un commissaire britannique à la sécurité 

Quoi que l’on enseigne dans les Facultés de droit sur l’indépendance des commissaires et la rupture de leurs liens avec leurs Etats d’origine comme avec le monde socio-professionnel, les choses sont un peu plus complexes que les affirmations de principe. L’actualité le démontre aujourd’hui amèrement à la Commission. Le contexte du Brexit autorise donc à s’interroger sur l’opportunité  de confier ce nouveau porte-feuille à un ressortissant britannique, notamment parce que la durée indispensable à l’installation d’un tel poste lui fera inévitablement défaut, dans la perspective d’un départ britannique futur.

La question ne touche en rien, évidemment, aux compétences personnelles du nouveau titulaire qui sont aussi manifestes que ses qualités humaines, ce dont témoigne la lecture de son audition. Pas davantage que ne se pose celle de la légitimité de la présence d’un commissaire britannique au sein de l’exécutif communautaire, jusqu’au retrait effectif du Royaume Uni. Bien au contraire. Elle repose simplement sur un constat objectif, relevant de la science administrative et trop éclatant pour s’expliquer uniquement par une coïncidence : l’espace de liberté, sécurité et justice a une forte, le mot est faible, tradition de présence et d’influence des hauts fonctionnaires britanniques, aussi inexplicable soit-elle quant on sait l’opposition résolue de leur Etat d’origine à la construction de cet espace. Qui plus est à des moments clés de cette construction.

De Sir Fortescue à la fin des années quatre vingt dix à Jonathan Faull au début des années 2000, de la direction d’Eurojust à celle d’Europol, le moins que l’on puisse en dire est que, pour un Etat en situation d’opt-out répété, son influence a été omniprésente … Sûrement faut-il d’ailleurs voir là une coïncidence regrettable dans le fait que, Europol mis à part, ce ne sont pas les années où le dynamisme et la clarté ont caractérisé l’action de l’Union … En d’autres termes, la réticence devant l’action législative et les schémas d’intégration n’était pas simplement une question de culture, donnant la priorité à l’action opérationnelle pour éviter de s’engager au plan européen. Elle marquait aussi une préférence à peine dissimulée pour l’intergouvernementalisme et, en fin de compte, les Etats étant incapables de décider efficacement, pour l’immobilisme. Il est permis de s’étonner que la Commission ait été contaminée par ce virus.

Trop visible pour être innocente, cette stratégie va buter dans les prochains mois sur un double obstacle. Juridique d’abord, avec l’obligation, enfin, d’assumer la pleine entrée en vigueur du  traité et de sa Charte des droits fondamentaux et l’expiration en 2015 d’une période de transition qui a d’ailleurs vu le Royaume Uni exercer un « opt-in/opt-out » préfigurant la situation actuelle… Factuel ensuite, la vague terroriste et la crainte grandissante des opinions publiques interdisant que cette politique de l’encéphalogramme plat à la Commission puisse durer.

Le défi du nouveau commissaire devrait donc être d’élever l’ambition de l’Union dans ce domaine. Deux dossiers permettront de tester sa réelle détermination.

Celui de l’évaluation, d’abord, qui fait cruellement défaut aujourd’hui, évaluation de ce qui n’a pas fonctionné dans la politique de lutte contre le terrorisme, non seulement au niveau européen mais au niveau national. Ce n’est qu’après une analyse sérieuse, totalement absente de la directive antiterroriste actuellement sur la table des institutions, qu’il sera possible de crédibiliser et de renouveler le cadre législatif de la coopération judiciaire en matière pénale et policière. Y compris en s’aventurant sur le terrain de la mise en cause des Etats membres défaillants.

Celui d’une proposition emblématique, ensuite, celle du futur Parquet européen. Le nouveau commissaire sera-t-il plus allant que son Etat d’origine à ce propos, par exemple en s’inscrivant dans la lettre et l’esprit de l’article 86 TFUE, c’est-à-dire en poussant à élargir le champ des compétences de ce Parquet à la criminalité transnationale, à donner sa véritable place à Eurojust et à accepter que le rôle d’Europe en subisse les conséquences ?

Wait and see …

Is the EU planning an army – and can the UK veto it?

 

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Steve Peers

Is the EU planning to create an army? If so, can and should the UK veto it – up until Brexit? The issue has been much debated in recent days. But this is the classic example of a debate that has created much heat but shed little light. The purpose of this post is to clear up misunderstandings. In short, the recently announced plans do not amount to an EU army – and so the UK is not able to veto the EU’s plans.

Background

Initially, the EU’s foreign policy had little to do with defence, in deference to Irish neutrality and the UK’s strong support for NATO. This has changed gradually over the years as the Cold War ended, US troops left Europe, and the parallel non-EU defence organisation (the Western European Union) was wound down.

Since the Treaty of Lisbon, the rules on EU defence policy are set out in Articles 42-46 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). I have included the full text of these Articles in an Annex to this post. The starting point (Article 42(1)) is that the EU has an ‘operational capacity’ to use on non-EU missions ‘for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security’, consistently with the UN Charter, as explained further in Article 43. These actions shall use ‘capabilities provided by the Member States’, meaning that they each retain their own armed forces. There’s a reference to using ‘multinational forces’ too (Article 42(3)), but it’s clear that it’s optional both to set up such forces and to contribute them to support the EU defence policy.

However, there is also a long-term objective. Article 42(2) TEU says that the EU includes ‘the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy’, which ‘will lead to a common defence’. But this policy must ‘respect’ the obligations of those Member States who are parties of NATO, and be ‘compatible’ with NATO policy. Equally it ‘shall not prejudice the specific character’ of some Member States’ defence policy: this is an oblique reference to neutrality. (Six Member States are neutral).

Most importantly, it will only happen when the European Council (consisting of Member States’ presidents and prime ministers) ‘acting unanimously, so decides’.  That decision then needs to be ratified by Member States ‘in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.’ For the UK, that would require a referendum, as set out in section 6(2) of the European Union Act 2011. It would need a referendum in Ireland too, since Article 29(4)(9) of the Irish Constitution rules out Irish participation in an EU common defence, and the Irish Constitution can only be amended by referendum.  Other Member States may also have stringent constitutional requirements to this end.

What happens in the meantime, before this rather mythical notion of a common defence is achieved? Article 42(3) says that Member States must ‘undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities’. A ‘European Defence Agency’ (see further Article 45) is set up to this end. It’s possible for a group of Member States to take on an EU-wide task (Article 42(5), as set out in more detail in Article 44). Member States have an obligation of ‘aid and assistance’ to each other, if one of them is ‘the victim of armed aggression’, in accordance with the UN Charter (Article 42(7)). Finally, certain Member States which meet higher standards as regards their ‘military capabilities’ and ‘which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation’ within the EU (Article 42(6), referring to Article 46).

New EU plans

What are the EU’s new military plans? Some newspapers and commentators have referred to plans for an ‘EU army’, which at first sight implies a ‘common defence’. In turn, the UK’s defence minister is quoted as saying he would veto these plans, as long as the UK is part of the EU.

As we saw above, any Member State can indeed veto an EU ‘common defence’. But still, it’s striking to hear a supporter of the Leave side acknowledge that the UK can veto an EU army, since many of them suggested during the referendum campaign that this scary prospect was unavoidable if the UK remained part of the EU. Having said that, there’s a misunderstanding here. According to the information available, the proposal is not to create an EU army, and therefore the UK can’t veto it.

In fact, the ‘State of the Union’ speech by Commission President Juncker proposed four things: a joint headquarters for EU military missions; common procurement to save on defence costs; a Defence Fund for the EU defence industry; and the development of ‘permanent structured cooperation’, as referred to briefly above (and see below). It did not propose merging armies to create a common army. Some press reports suggest that the recent EU summit discussed a ‘common military force’, but the ‘Declaration’ and ‘Road Map’ issued after the summit make no mention of such a thing.

So what exactly is ‘permanent structured cooperation’? It’s described in Article 46 TEU, as well in as a Protocol attached to the Treaties. Article 46 sets out the process: it’s set up by willing Member States only. Any unwilling Member States can simply choose not to take part. There’s no veto on setting it up, but that’s because participation is voluntary. Member States can join once it’s underway – and leave at any time, with no conditions attached. If more EU policies were this flexible, EU participation would be less controversial – although in a post-truth world some people would undoubtedly deny that those policies were flexible in the first place. (If the current EU plans go ahead, I expect to read somewhere that the soldiers are inspired by Hitler, and armed with Muslamic ray guns).

As for the substance of ‘permanent structured cooperation’, it’s explained fully in the Protocol (also reproduced in the Annex).  The criteria to join are development of defence capacities, and in particular supplying forces to support EU operations within a short period. Participating countries must aim to achieve approved levels of domestic spending, align their equipment and operability of their forces, fill capability gaps, and take part in joint procurement. That’s significant – but that’s it. It’s not an EU army.

Conclusions

Plans can always change. But the recent Commission plans, and the EU summit declaration, don’t amount to an EU army.  And if there’s no EU army, the UK can’t veto one.  It’s arguable whether a veto threat is a good negotiating strategy; but it’s indisputable that an empty threat is simply ridiculous.

A more rational approach to the issue would be to acknowledge (as a number of calmer voices on the Leave side have advocated) that the UK and the EU might well benefit mutually from continued defence and foreign policy cooperation after Brexit. In that light, the best way for the UK to spend its remaining time as an EU Member State as regards defence issues is to offer constructive criticism of the EU plans – and align that with sensible proposals for how post-Brexit EU/UK cooperation could go forward in this field.

Barnard & Peers: chapter 24

 

Annex – Treaty on European Union, defence clauses

Article 42

  1. The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States.
  2. The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides. It shall in that case recommend to the Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

The policy of the Union in accordance with this Section shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework.

  1. Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council. Those Member States which together establish multinational forces may also make them available to the common security and defence policy.

Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities. The Agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments (hereinafter referred to as “the European Defence Agency”) shall identify operational requirements, shall promote measures to satisfy those requirements, shall contribute to identifying and, where appropriate, implementing any measure needed to strengthen the industrial and technological base of the defence sector, shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and shall assist the Council in evaluating the improvement of military capabilities.

  1. Decisions relating to the common security and defence policy, including those initiating a mission as referred to in this Article, shall be adopted by the Council acting unanimously on a proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or an initiative from a Member State. The High Representative may propose the use of both national resources and Union instruments, together with the Commission where appropriate.
  2. The Council may entrust the execution of a task, within the Union framework, to a group of Member States in order to protect the Union’s values and serve its interests. The execution of such a task shall be governed by Article 44.
  3. Those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation within the Union framework. Such cooperation shall be governed by Article 46. It shall not affect the provisions of Article 43.
  4. If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.

Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.

Article 43

  1. The tasks referred to in Article 42(1), in the course of which the Union may use civilian and military means, shall include joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories.
  2. The Council shall adopt decisions relating to the tasks referred to in paragraph 1, defining their objectives and scope and the general conditions for their implementation. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, acting under the authority of the Council and in close and constant contact with the Political and Security Committee, shall ensure coordination of the civilian and military aspects of such tasks.

Article 44

  1. Within the framework of the decisions adopted in accordance with Article 43, the Council may entrust the implementation of a task to a group of Member States which are willing and have the necessary capability for such a task. Those Member States, in association with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall agree among themselves on the management of the task.
  2. Member States participating in the task shall keep the Council regularly informed of its progress on their own initiative or at the request of another Member State. Those States shall inform the Council immediately should the completion of the task entail major consequences or require amendment of the objective, scope and conditions determined for the task in the decisions referred to in paragraph 1. In such cases, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions.

Article 45

  1. The European Defence Agency referred to in Article 42(3), subject to the authority of the Council, shall have as its task to:

(a) contribute to identifying the Member States’ military capability objectives and evaluating observance of the capability commitments given by the Member States;
(b) promote harmonisation of operational needs and adoption of effective, compatible procurement methods;

(c) propose multilateral projects to fulfil the objectives in terms of military capabilities, ensure coordination of the programmes implemented by the Member States and management of specific cooperation programmes;
(d) support defence technology research, and coordinate and plan joint research activities and the study of technical solutions meeting future operational needs;
(e) contribute to identifying and, if necessary, implementing any useful measure for strengthening the industrial and technological base of the defence sector and for improving the effectiveness of military expenditure.

  1. The European Defence Agency shall be open to all Member States wishing to be part of it. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall adopt a decision defining the Agency’s statute, seat and operational rules. That decision should take account of the level of effective participation in the Agency’s activities. Specific groups shall be set up within the Agency bringing together Member States engaged in joint projects. The Agency shall carry out its tasks in liaison with the Commission where necessary.

Article 46

  1. Those Member States which wish to participate in the permanent structured cooperation referred to in Article 42(6), which fulfil the criteria and have made the commitments on military capabilities set out in the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation, shall notify their intention to the Council and to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

    2. Within three months following the notification referred to in paragraph 1 the Council shall adopt a decision establishing permanent structured cooperation and determining the list of participating Member States. The Council shall act by a qualified majority after consulting the High Representative.

    3. Any Member State which, at a later stage, wishes to participate in the permanent structured cooperation shall notify its intention to the Council and to the High Representative.

The Council shall adopt a decision confirming the participation of the Member State concerned which fulfils the criteria and makes the commitments referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation. The Council shall act by a qualified majority after consulting the High Representative. Only members of the Council representing the participating Member States shall take part in the vote.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

  1. If a participating Member State no longer fulfils the criteria or is no longer able to meet the commitments referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation, the Council may adopt a decision suspending the participation of the Member State concerned.

The Council shall act by a qualified majority. Only members of the Council representing the participating Member States, with the exception of the Member State in question, shall take part in the vote.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

  1. Any participating Member State which wishes to withdraw from permanent structured cooperation shall notify its intention to the Council, which shall take note that the Member State in question has ceased to participate.
  1. The decisions and recommendations of the Council within the framework of permanent structured cooperation, other than those provided for in paragraphs 2 to 5, shall be adopted by unanimity. For the purposes of this paragraph, unanimity shall be constituted by the votes of the representatives of the participating Member States only.

PROTOCOL
ON PERMANENT STRUCTURED COOPERATION

ESTABLISHED BY ARTICLE 42 OF THE TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION

THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES,
HAVING REGARD TO Article 42(6) and Article 46 of the Treaty on European Union,
RECALLING that the Union is pursuing a common foreign and security policy based on the achievement of growing convergence of action by Member States;
RECALLING that the common security and defence policy is an integral part of the common foreign and security policy; that it provides the Union with operational capacity drawing on civil and military assets; that the Union may use such assets in the tasks referred to in Article 43 of the Treaty on European Union outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter; that the performance of these tasks is to be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States in accordance with the principle of a single set of forces;
RECALLING that the common security and defence policy of the Union does not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States;
RECALLING that the common security and defence policy of the Union respects the obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty of those Member States which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which remains the foundation of the collective defence of its members, and is compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework;

CONVINCED that a more assertive Union role in security and defence matters will contribute to the vitality of a renewed Atlantic Alliance, in accordance with the Berlin Plus arrangements;
DETERMINED to ensure that the Union is capable of fully assuming its responsibilities within the international community;
RECOGNISING that the United Nations Organisation may request the Union’s assistance for the urgent implementation of missions undertaken under Chapters VI and VII of the United Nations Charter;

RECOGNISING that the strengthening of the security and defence policy will require efforts by Member States in the area of capabilities;
CONSCIOUS that embarking on a new stage in the development of the European security and defence policy involves a determined effort by the Member States concerned;
RECALLING the importance of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy being fully involved in proceedings relating to permanent structured cooperation,
HAVE AGREED UPON the following provisions, which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:
Article 1
The permanent structured cooperation referred to in Article 42(6) of the Treaty on European Union shall be open to any Member State which undertakes, from the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, to:
(a) proceed more intensively to develop its defence capacities through the development of its national contributions and participation, where appropriate, in multinational forces, in the main European equipment programmes, and in the activity of the Agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments (European Defence Agency), and
(b) have the capacity to supply by 2010 at the latest, either at national level or as a component of multinational force groups, targeted combat units for the missions planned, structured at a tactical level as a battle group, with support elements including transport and logistics, capable of carrying out the tasks referred to in Article 43 of the Treaty on European Union, within a period of 5 to 30 days, in particular in response to requests from the United Nations Organisation, and which can be sustained for an initial period of 30 days and be extended up to at least 120 days.
Article 2
To achieve the objectives laid down in Article 1, Member States participating in permanent structured cooperation shall undertake to:
(a) cooperate, as from the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, with a view to achieving approved objectives concerning the level of investment expenditure on defence equipment, and regularly review these objectives, in the light of the security environment and of the Union’s international responsibilities;

(b) bring their defence apparatus into line with each other as far as possible, particularly by harmonising the identification of their military needs, by pooling and, where appropriate, specialising their defence means and capabilities, and by encouraging cooperation in the fields of training and logistics;
(c) take concrete measures to enhance the availability, interoperability, flexibility and deployability of their forces, in particular by identifying common objectives regarding the commitment of forces, including possibly reviewing their national decision-making procedures;
(d) work together to ensure that they take the necessary measures to make good, including through multinational approaches, and without prejudice to undertakings in this regard within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the shortfalls perceived in the framework of the ’Capability Development Mechanism’;
(e) take part, where appropriate, in the development of major joint or European equipment programmes in the framework of the European Defence Agency.
Article 3
The European Defence Agency shall contribute to the regular assessment of participating Member States’ contributions with regard to capabilities, in particular contributions made in accordance with the criteria to be established, inter alia, on the basis of Article 2, and shall report thereon at least once a year. The assessment may serve as a basis for Council recommendations and decisions adopted in accordance with Article 46 of the Treaty on European Union.

EU Referendum Brief 5: How would Brexit impact the UK’s involvement in EU policing and criminal law?

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Steve Peers

What impact does EU membership have on policing and criminal law in the UK – and what would be the impact of Brexit? I’ll give the shorter summary version of the answer to those questions first, followed by a longer more detailed version.

Summary

The UK had a veto over EU laws in this area adopted before the Treaty of Lisbon came into force (1 December 2009). Since then, it has had two opt-outs instead: a) it can opt in (or out) of any new EU law in this field adopted after that Treaty; and b) it could go back and opt out of any old EU laws which were adopted before that Treaty. The UK used the latter power to opt out of the majority of pre-Lisbon laws.

There are five main areas of EU criminal law and policing. One area is the definition of crime, where the UK has opted into a small number of EU laws on issues such as child abuse. A second area is criminal procedure, where the UK has opted into some EU laws on suspects’ rights and crime victims’ rights. These are basically domestic areas of law, and there’s no reason to think the UK would change its rules after Brexit.

However, the other three areas concern international cooperation, where it is impossible for any individual country to act alone. Those areas are: a) recognition of criminal decisions (on arrest warrants or gathering evidence, for instance); b) the exchange of police information; and c) EU agencies like Europol, the EU police intelligence agency.

On criminal law mutual recognition, there are other international rules on some of these issues – such as extradition – but they do not go as far as the EU rules. In some cases, there are no alternative international rules on the same issue. The UK could seek to negotiate a treaty with the EU on these issues, but the past precedents show that non-EU countries are able to negotiate only limited participation in these EU laws.

On EU agencies, non-EU countries can participate as associates, but this means a more limited involvement in each agency than they would have as EU Member States.

The UK’s involvement in police information exchange with the EU would also be subject to renegotiation if the UK left the EU. Again, past precedents show that non-EU countries are able to negotiate only limited participation in these EU laws. And if the UK did not continue to sign up to EU data protection laws fully, there would be difficult legal disputes that could limit the transfer of policing data to the UK’s law enforcement authorities from the EU.

It cannot be seriously argued that the UK has ‘lost control’ over its law enforcement and intelligence agency operations to the EU, given the UK’s opt-out, the focus of EU law on cross-border issues, and the lack of any EU law on intelligence issues.

Overall, a Brexit is very likely to lead to a significant reduction on cooperation in criminal and policing matters between the UK and the EU.

The details

First and foremost, while the EU has adopted a number of laws in this area, the UK only participates in some of those laws, and has an opt-out over future laws in this area too. This blog post will in turn: (a) describe the basics of EU law in this area, including the UK opt-out; (b) summarise the main EU laws in which the UK does (or does not) participate in; and (c) indicate what could happen in the event of ‘Brexit’. For a full academic treatment of these issues, see the fourth edition of my EU Justice and Home Affairs Law book (volume 2).

(a) The basics of EU policing and criminal law 

Before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (on 1 December 2009) police and criminal law matters were subject to a different legal framework from ordinary EU (or European Community) law. The powers of the EU institutions (Commission, European Parliament, EU Court) were more limited, and each Member State, including the UK, had a veto over all laws.

The Treaty of Lisbon repealed these special rules, bringing EU criminal and policing law into the general framework of EU law. From this point on, the usual rules of EU law have applied to this field, with a few exceptions. However, the key point for the UK is that in place of a veto, it got not just one but twoopt outs from EU law in this field.

First, the UK can opt out of (or into) any individual EU laws on criminal law or policing proposed after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Secondly, the UK got the power to opt out of EU criminal laws which it had already agreed to before the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. It could invoke this power as of 1 December 2014. The UK government used this to opt out of all but 35 of the EU criminal laws adopted before the Treaty of Lisbon. (See the discussion of that process here).

(b) Which EU criminal and policing laws does the UK apply?

EU criminal and policing law touches on five main issues:

(a)    substantive criminal law (ie the definition of crimes);
(b)   mutual recognition in criminal matters (ie applying another EU Member States’ criminal law decision, where there is a cross-border issue like gathering evidence in another EU country, or asking another country to hand over a fugitive to face a trial or serve a sentence);
(c)    harmonisation of criminal procedure;
(d)   exchange of police information; and
(e)   EU agencies.

The effect of the two sets of opt-outs is that the UK has been highly selective about the EU law in this area which it wishes to apply. Taking the five areas of law in turn, first of all the UK has opted out of almost all EU substantive criminal law. It is covered by the EU Directives adopted since the Lisbon Treaty defining offences relating to trafficking in personssexual abuse of children and attacks on information systems (a form of cyber-crime), but not by EU laws defining offences relating to terrorism, organised crime, fraud, drugs, market abuse by bankers, racism, or currency counterfeiting.

Secondly, the UK is far more engaged in mutual recognition in criminal matters, in particular the flagship law on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which is a fast-track extradition system. The UK has also signed up to EU laws on:

(a)    mutual recognition of investigation orders (gathering physical evidence, or interviewing witnesses, in another EU country);
(b)   victim protection orders (where the victim of domestic violence moves to another EU country and wants a restraining order against her abuser to be transferred to that country when she moves there);
(c)    pre-trial supervision (so a criminal suspect can be released on bail to await trial on less serious offences back in Britain, rather than spend a long time in pre-trial detention in a foreign prison);
(d)   confiscation of assets and freezing orders (to ensure that the proceeds of crime held by alleged or convicted criminals in another EU country can be frozen pending trial, and seized if the suspect is convicted);
(e)   the effect of prior sentences or other judgments (so that previous criminal offences committed in another EU country are counted when assessing whether someone is a repeat offender); and
(f)     the transfer of prisoners and criminal sentences (simplifying the movement of foreign prisoners to jails in their EU country of origin, and recognizing fines imposed by a criminal court too – including any penalties imposed against companies for breach of criminal law).

Conversely, the UK has opted out of only one measure in this field, concerning the mutual recognition of probation and parole orders.

Thirdly, as regards the harmonisation of criminal procedure, the UK participates in the EU Directiveon crime victims’ rights. However, the UK has only opted in to two of the six EU laws which set out criminal suspects’ procedural rights. In particular, it has opted into the laws on translation and interpretation, and giving suspectsinformationon their rights; but it has opted out of laws on access to a lawyer,presumption of innocencechild suspects’ rights, and a proposed law on legal aid(not yet agreed).

Fourthly, the UK is particularly keen to participate in the exchange of police information. It participates in every significant measure in the field:

(a)    the Schengen Information System (information on wanted persons and stolen objects, including terrorist suspects under surveillance);
(b)   the Customs Information System (used particularly in drug trafficking cases);
(c)    the ‘Prum’ decisions (which give access to other EU countries’ police databases on fingerprints, licence plates and DNA); and
(d)   the laws on exchange of criminal records.

Finally, as regards EU agencies, the UK participates in Europol(the EU police intelligence agency) and Eurojust (the agency which coordinates work of prosecutors in cross-border cases) at present. However, it has opted out of a new law concerning Europol, and a proposed new EU law concerning Eurojust, which set out (or would set out) revised rules for those agencies following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, although it might decide to opt in to those Regulations after they are adopted. The UK used to host the European Police College (a training agency), but refusedto continue hosting it and opted out of a new version of the relevant law.

There has been some concern particularly about the prospect of the UK participating in a law to create a European Public Prosecutor. While the EU Commission proposeda law to create a European Public Prosecutor in 2013, the UK has opted out of that proposal. Indeed, the UK would have to hold another referendum before it opted in to that law, according to the European Union Act 2011.

(c) What would the impact of ‘Brexit’ be?

It’s sometimes argued that EU laws on policing and criminal law are irrelevant to the UK’s membership of the EU, because the UK can simply do everything it wishes to do in this field in its domestic law. That’s a valid argument for two of the five areas of law described above: substantive criminal law and harmonisation of procedure. But it doesn’t work for the three other areas – mutual recognition, exchange of information and participation in EU agencies – which necessarily require some cooperation with other states. Put simply, a British Act of Parliament cannot regulate how France or Germany issue extradition requests.

What would happen if the UK left the EU? In each case, as with other areas of EU law and policy, it would depend on what the UK and EU negotiated afterward. But it is possible to give some general indication of the consequences.

In the area of mutual recognition, the UK can fall back on Council of Europe treaties, which address some of the same issues (note that the Council of Europe is a separate body from the EU, which includes non-EU European countries like Turkey and Russia; some of its treaties can be signed also by non-European states like the USA).

However, the relevant treaties do not go into as much detail as the EU laws, and are often less effective.  As an indication of this, see the UK governmentinformationabout the application of EU law in this area. Extradition from the UK has gone from 60 people a year (to all countries) before 2004 to 7000 since 2004 on the basis of the European Arrest Warrant. Over 95% of those sent to other Member States are not British.

Moreover, in some cases the UK and/or some other Member States have not ratified the relevant treaties. For instance, fewer than half of all Member States have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on validity of criminal judgments; the UK has not ratified it either. But the EU law on mutual recognition of criminal penalties sets out rules on one of the key issues in that Council of Europe treaty: the recognition of criminal financial penalties imposed by another Member State’s court. Some issues have not been the subject of Council of Europe treaties at all, such as the pre-trial supervision rules set out in EU law. In these cases, the EU law is the only means of ensuring the cooperation in question.

Another alternative is to negotiate treaties with the EU on these issues.  The EU has been willing in practice to negotiate access to some aspects of its criminal law measures: a form of the EAW for Norway and Iceland, an extradition treaty with theUSA, and mutual assistance (exchange of evidence) with Norway and Iceland, theUSAand Japan. But the extradition treaty with Norway and Iceland took years to negotiate, is still not in force at time of writing, and does not oblige States to extradite their own citizens – meaning that the UK would not be able to ask Germany to extradite Germans, for example. That restriction cannot easily be negotiated away in the event of Brexit, because some EU countries have constitutional problems which prevent them extraditing their own citizens outside the EU. (On these sorts of issues, see E Guild, ed, Constitutional challenges to the European Arrest Warrant).

Overall, there are no such treaties agreed with any non-EU countries on the large majority of EU criminal law mutual recognition measures. Of the treaties which are agreed, not a single one goes as far as the relevant EU legislation in force.

A particular concern of critics of the EU rules on extradition is the ‘sufficient evidence’ (‘prima facie’) test which was traditionally applied by the UK before accepting an extradition request. While it is sometimes argued that the EAW abolished the ‘prima facie’ test as regards EU countries, this is not correct. In fact, the UK waived the right to apply this test to European countries when it signed up to the Council of Europe extradition treaty back in 1990, over a decade before it signed up to the EU’s EAW: see the Extradition Act 1989, section 9(4), which was implemented by the European Convention on Extradition Order 1990 (SI 1990 No. 1507). In other words, the test was not abolished because of EU law, but was already abolished well before the EU had any involvement in extradition law.

Why did the UK abolish the prima facie test? As noted in the 2011 Baker review of UK extradition law, the decision was made because of the difficulties it posed for extradition in practice: a White Paper of 1986 stated that it ‘did not offer a necessary safeguard for the person sought by the requesting State but was a formidable impediment to entirely proper and legitimate extradition requests’. Ultimately the Baker review recommended that there was ‘no good reason to re-introduce the prima facie case requirement’ where it had been abolished, and that ‘No evidence was presented to us to suggest that European arrest warrants are being issued in cases where there is insufficient evidence’.

The prima facie test is sometimes described as an aspect of the ‘presumption of innocence’, although in fact a fugitive who is extradited pursuant to this test still either has to be convicted pursuant to a trial in the requesting State, or has already been convicted but fled the country. In other words, the presumption of innocencestill applieswhen the substantive criminal trial takes place (or took place).

As regards the EU agencies, the UK can enter into agreements to cooperate with Europol and Eurojust, like other non-EU countries. However, as the Director of Europol points out, such agreements don’t allow the UK to have direct access to databases, to lead investigation teams, or to take part in the management of those agencies: both Europol and Eurojust have had British Directors.

Finally, as regards policing, the EU has given some non-EU states access to theSchengen Information System, and to the ‘Prum’ rules on access to each Member State’s national policing databases. But this was linked to those countries fully joining the Schengen system. The UK would obviously not do that after a Brexit.

The EU has also signed treaties on the exchange of passenger name records with non-EU countries (the USACanada and Australia), as well as a treaty on the exchange of financial information (concerning alleged terrorists) with the USA, so might be willing to sign similar treaties with the UK. It has also recently agreed an ‘umbrella’ treaty on general exchange of police information with the USA, although this is not yet in force.

However, the EU has not extended access to its system on exchange of criminal records to any non-EU countries. While there is a Council of Europe treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters (which the UK and all other Member States are party to) that provides for some exchange of information of such records, it results in far less information exchange. The exchange of criminal records is particularly important for the UK: the government has reportedthat the UK is one of the biggest users of the EU system, and that criminal records checks of foreign nationals in the criminal justice system have increased 1,650% since 2010.

However, there is a particular issue that has complicated the exchange of personal data between the EU and with non-EU countries, particularly as regards policing data. Are their data protection standards sufficient as compared to the standards maintained by the EU? If not, then the European Parliament may be reluctant to approve the deal, or it might be challenged in the EU Court. This isn’t a hypothetical possibility – it has happened several times already.

I have discussed this issue in more detail in a recent blog post for The Conversation, but I will summarise the main points there again.

As regards deals between non-EU countries and the EU itself, the EU Court of Justice has struck down a Commission decision on the transfer of personal data to the USA, because there was insufficient examination of the data protection standards applied by US intelligence agencies as regards access to personal data on social media. A replacement deal is planned, but will also be challenged in court. A further case is pending, where the EU Court has been asked to rule on the legality of the most recent EU/Canada treaty on the exchange of passenger records data, to ascertain if it meets EU standards for data protection.

If the UK left the EU, any UK/EU agreement on the transfer of personal data would have to meet the same requirements. Those requirements cannot simply be negotiated away, since they stem from the EU Charter of Rights – part of the primary law of the EU. The Charter can be amended, but to have legal effect the EU Treaties would also have to be amended to refer to that revised text. It is hard to believe this could happen at the behest of a country which has just left the EU.

Would UK legislation meet the test of being sufficiently similar to EU standards? The Court of Justice has been asked in the pending Davis and Watson case whether the rules on police access to personal data comply with the EU law that binds the UK as a Member State. Another Bill on this issue is pending before the UK Parliament, and would likely become an Act of Parliament before Brexit. Since many privacy campaigners are critical the draft Bill, there would almost certainly be similar legal challenges to transfers of personal data to and from the UK after Brexit, unless the UK agrees to continue fully applying EU data protection law.

(d) Arguments by the referendum campaigns

The official leaflet summarising the position of the two sides in the referendum campaign contains a number of relevant claims from each side. For the Remain side, the pamphlet says that the EAW ‘allows us to deport criminals from the UK and catch those fleeing justice across Europe’, and that EU membership helps to tackle ‘global threats like terrorism’. For the Leave side, the pamphlet says that the EU ‘will continue to control…vital security policies such as counter-terrorism’ and the EU Court ‘will keep taking powers over how our intelligence services fight terrorism’.

Are these claims valid? As for the first Remain claim, as noted above the statistics show that the number of persons extradited to and from the UK have indeed increased since the EAW has been applied – although some extradition would still take place even if the UK did not apply the EAW.

In light of the official UK government information referred to above, other operational cooperation via Europol and other forms of EU police and criminal law cooperation presumably has some impact on combating threats like terrorism and other serious crimes in practice. However, it is not possible to estimate their impact compared to purely national actions and other forms of international  cooperation.

As for the arguments by the Leave side, it is clear from the description of the laws which the UK applies that the EU does not ‘control…vital security policies’. The functioning of the UK law enforcement authorities is up to the UK, and there is no EU regulation of intelligence agencies. EU law impacts only cross-border issues.

As we have seen, the only EU case law to date impacting intelligence agencies concerns non-EUintelligence agencies. The ruling restricts transfers of data gathered by social networks to those non-EU countries in that context, unless those countries apply EU data protection law. If the UK left the EU, it would therefore be subject to the same restrictions on obtaining personal data in criminal cases from the EU. Leaving the EU is therefore more likely to impede UK intelligence agencies’ work, than it is to facilitate it.

Conclusion

The UK’s participation in EU criminal and policing law has led to an increase in cooperation in areas such as extradition and the exchange of police information. In these cases, there are question marks about what would happen after Brexit – mainly political but to some extent legal too. In the event of Brexit, there is a very high likelihood that cooperation between the UK and the remaining EU would be reduced (although not to zero). And in light of the UK’s opt-outs and the limited effect of EU law on purely domestic matters, it cannot seriously be argued that UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies are ‘controlled by’ the EU.

Data retention and national law: whatever the CJEU rules, data retention may still survive!

ORIGINAL PUBLISHED ON EU LAW ANALYSIS

by Matthew White, Ph.D candidate, Sheffield Hallam University

Should governments be able to retain data on everyone’s use of the Internet and their phones – because it might arguably aid the fight against terrorism and serious crime? This ‘data retention’ issue raises fundamental questions about the balance between privacy and security, at both national and EU level. Initially, in the electronic privacy (e-Privacy)Directive, EU legislation set out an option for Member States to adopt data retention rules, as a derogation from the normal rule of confidentiality of communications in that Directive. Subsequently, in 2006, at the urging of the UK government in particular, the EU went a step further. It adopted the Data Retention Directive (DRD), which requiredtelecom and Internet access providers to keep data on all use of the Internet and phones in case law enforcement authorities requested it.

However, on 8 April 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the latter Directive went too far. In its Digital Rights Ireland judgment (discussed here), that Court said that the EU’s Data Retention Directive (DRD) was invalid in light of a lack of compliance with the rights to privacy and data protection set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) (para 69 and 73). This left open an important question: what happens to national data retention laws? Can they also be challenged for breach of the EU Charter rights, on the grounds that they are linked to EU law (the derogation in the e-Privacy Directive)? If so, do the standards in the Digital Rights Ireland judgment apply by analogy?

Instead of addressing this matter urgently, the United Kingdom government sat on its hands for a while and then unprecedentedly rushed through the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA 2014). DRIPA 2014 was intended to be a reactionto the Digital Rights Ireland ruling, giving the UK as a matter of national law the power to retain data that had been struck down by the CJEU as a matter of EU law.

In 2015, Tom Watson (now the deputy leader of the UK Labour Party), David Davis (a Conservative party backbencher) and others challenged s.1 of DRIPA 2014 arguing that the powers to obligate data retention on public telecommunication operators set out in that section of DRIPA did not sufficiently reflect what the CJEU ruled in Digital Rights Ireland. Although that CJEU ruling only applied to EU legislation, they argued that it also applied by analogy to national legislation on data retention, since such legislation fell within the scope of the option to retain communications data set out in the derogation in the e-Privacy Directive, and so was linked to EU law (and therefore covered by the Charter). Even though the e-Privacy Directive only related to publicly available electronic communications services (Article 3(1)), it is submitted that any extension of the definition of public telecommunications operator would fall within the Data Protection Directive, and thus the CFR would still apply. The High Court (HC) ruled in the claimants’ favour inDavis where an order was made for s.1 of DRIPA to be disapplied by the 31st of March 2016, insofar as it is incompatible with Digital Rights Ireland (para 122). This was in the hopes that it would give Parliament sufficient time to come up with a CFR compliant data retention law (para 121).

The government appealed to the Court of Appeal (CoA) which took a radically different approach maintaining that ‘the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland was not laying down definitive mandatory requirements in relation to retained communications data’ (para 106). But for the sake of caution, the CoA made a preliminary reference to the CJEU asking:

(1) Did the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland intend to lay down mandatory requirements of EU law with which the national legislation of Member States must comply?

(2) Did the CJEU in Digital Rights Ireland intend to expand the effect of Articles 7 and/or 8, EU Charter beyond the effect of Article 8 ECHR as established in the jurisprudence of the ECtHR?

The CoA was not the only national court to make a preliminary reference to the CJEU on matters regarding data retention and the reach of Digital Rights Ireland. On the 4th May 2015, the Force was with Kammarrätten i Stockholm when it asked the CJEU:

Is a general obligation to retain traffic data covering all persons, all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any distinctions, limitations or exceptions for the purpose of combating crime (as described [below under points 1-6]) compatible with Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58/EC [the electronic privacy Directive], 1 taking account of Articles 7, 8 and 15(1) of the Charter?

If the answer to question 1 is in the negative, may the retention nevertheless be permitted where:

access by the national authorities to the retained data is determined as [described below under paragraphs 7-24], and

security requirements are regulated as [described below under paragraphs 26-31],

and all relevant data are to be retained for six months, calculated as from the day the communication is ended, and subsequently deleted as [described below under paragraphs 25]?

The way in which the first question in Davis and Watson is asked doesn’t specify whether the general obligation applies to every service provider under the state’s jurisdiction or specific service providers to retain what they individually process. The assumption is the former as ‘all means of electronic communication and all traffic data without any distinctions’ implies a catch all to the relevant services. The Home Secretary (and indeed the government) may argue that if the CJEU rules in the negative (note that Article 15(1) of the e-Privacy Directive only applies to publically available electronic communications services, thus the justification for retaining data from other services would have to be found in the Data Protection Directive (DPD)) it would mostly have affected cl.78 of theInvestigatory Powers Bill (IPB) (currently before Parliament) which would grant the Secretary of State the power to issue retention notices on a telecommunications or any number of operators to retain for e.g. any or all data for 12 if the power in cl.1 of the draft Communications Data Bill (dCDB) had been replicated. The dCDB was a legislative measure introduced in 2012 to allow public authorities to keep up to date with the sophistication of e-Crime. Clause 1 maintained that:

1 Power to ensure or facilitate availability of data

(1) The Secretary of State may by order—

(a) ensure that communications data is available to be obtained from telecommunications operators by relevant public authorities in accordance with Part 2, or

(b) otherwise facilitate the availability of communications data to be so obtained from telecommunications operators.

(2) An order under this section may, in particular—

(a) provide for—

(i) the obtaining (whether by collection, generation or otherwise) by telecommunications operators of communications data,

(ii) the processing, retention or destruction by such operators of data so obtained or other data held by such operators.

This measure was, however abandoned because the Liberal Democrats (in the then Coalition Government) did not approve of the far reaching nature of the proposal. In regards to cl.1, it clearly was a general power, as no distinction was made on who the obligation to retain may fall upon, and thus it is submitted that this power is analogous to the power which is the subject of the question being asked of the CJEU. Clause 78(1) of the IPB on the other hand, makes the distinction that a data retention notice may require a telecommunications operator to retain relevant communications data. Though there are two possible conflicts, the first, based on the assumption that the CJEU rules in the negative (to the first question) is cl.78(2)(a) and (b). This gives the Secretary of State the discretion to issue retention notices on any description of operators to retain all or any description of data. This could be considered a general obligation because it could affect all telecommunications operators and then be classed as a general obligation.

Secondly, retention ‘without distinction’ or ‘exceptions’ may be important when it comes to traffic data pertaining to journalists, politicians, and the medical and legal professions. But because the reference doesn’t mention specific service providers it cannot be said with certainty how much this would affect cl.78(1) which doesn’t make distinctions or exceptions.

When it comes to limitations on data retention, there is at least one, which was first noted in s.1(5) of DRIPA 2014 which allowed for a 12 month maximum period of retention. This is replicated in cl.78(3) and takes on board the recommendation of the Advocate General’s opinion (AG) in Digital Rights Ireland (para 149).

The President of the CJEU felt it was desirable to combine both preliminary references. The questions of access by both the Swedish and UK courts do not directly affect the cl.78 issuing of retention notices (insofar that it at least doesn’t involve everytelecommunications operator) nor does answering whether Article 7 and 8 was intended to extend beyond Article 8 ECHR jurisprudence. The security arrangements are dealt with by cl.81 (whether they are adequate is a different matter) and thus not relevant to the issuing of retention notices.

This, however, proceeds on the assumption that the CJEU will rule in the negative to the Swedish preliminary reference regarding retention being lawful for the purposes ofaccess, because if it does not, cl.78(2)(a) and (b) would not be affected at all. Moreover, the HC in Davis felt that the CJEU believed that data retention genuinely satisfied an objective of general interest (para 44) and that it must be understood to have held that a general retention regime is unlawful unless it is accompanied by an access regime which has sufficiently stringent safeguards to protect citizens’ rights set out in Articles 7 and 8 of the CFR (para 70). The CoA was silent on this matter, and therefore for the mean time, it is understood that if the CJEU rules in the positive, cl.78 would not be affected as a matter of EU law.

On the matter of whether the HC or the CoA had interpreted Digital Rights Irelandcorrectly, it is important to highlight one of the justifications for the CoA conclusions. It maintained in relation to mandatory requirements, that in the opinion of the AG, he was at least, not looking for the Directive to provide detailed regulation (para 77). Yet the CoA failed to mention his conclusions, where it was stated that the DRD was invalid as a result of the absence of sufficient regulation of the guarantees governing access to (by limiting access, if not solely to judicial authorities, at least to independent authorities, or, failing that, by making any request for access subject to review by the judicial authorities or independent authorities and it should have required a case-by-case examination of requests for access in order to limit the data provided to what is strictly necessary (para 127)) the data collected/retained and that the DRD should be suspended until the EU legislature adopts measures necessary to remedy the invalidity, but such measures must be adopted within a reasonable period (para 157-158). So at least in this regard the AG actually supports the stance of the HC (even though no reference was made on this point) and may therefore have had implications for the IPB (which does not require judicial or independent authorisation/review) in relation to access to communications data without a word from the CJEU.

Many thanks to Steve Peers for helpful comments on an earlier draft.

An EU Institutions “Google Maps”? Six years after Lisbon Treaty still the quest for a common compass …

by Emilio DE CAPITANI (*)

As a preliminary disclaimer I have to say that the following observations could not be seen as neutral as I have been an official of the European Parliament for 26 years and it is more than likely that I have been influenced by that experience. That having been said what I will say echoes a direct experience in some crucial moments of the interinstitutional relations since the negotiation of the Single European Act until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. I have to say that the evolution of the role of the European Parliament has not been linear even if its importance was growing Treaty after Treaty but also with some stops, not to say, some regressions, as I am afraid it is happening, quite surprisingly, since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

However it has been an exciting experience to see how that institution has been able to play a decisive role when the European Community first and the European Union later faced the challenge of establishing an internal market as a supranational area without borders, and, even more when after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Member States decided, albeit with several reservations to transform progressively the EU in a full-fledged supranational political organization.

It looks like ages ago, when, for instance, under the impulsion of Commissioner Sutherland the Institutions tried in ’87 to define their first common legislative programme.  Moreover it was an extraordinary experience to accompany the European Parliament in its transformation from a consultative body  to a co-legislator  by shaping its internal rules dealing with the legislative activity and the special relation with the Commission (also in the Comitology framework -see OJ L 197, 18.7.1987) or , after Maastricht when the first modus vivendi on codecision procedures was agreed.

The EU Freedom security and Justice area at the core of Member States and EU Institutions relations  

But probably the most interesting experience also from an interinstitutional perspective  has been when, before the entry into force of the Amsterdam treaty I had the chance to lead the secretariat of the Civil liberties Committee (LIBE) which was (and still is) in charge of almost all the freedom security and justice related policies. At that time LIBE was also the Committee in direct relation with the EU Member States notably when they played their role as initiators of EU legislation (which is still the case for judicial cooperation in criminal matters).

From 99 until 2009 (at the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty) the legislative dialogue between the Member States meeting in the Coreper II, the various Council Presidencies  and LIBE was intense and fruitful notably in the domains already covered by the codecision procedure such as borders, migration and asylum as well as domains giving specific expression (to use a CJEU definition) to fundamental rights such as anti-discrimination measures, transparency and data protection.

To prove the seriousness of the relation between the EP and the Council reference can be made to the fact that it was LIBE who started in 2001 the practice of the so called “first reading agreements” in legislative procedures. It is more than unfortunate that since then this practice of informal trilogues has been progressively developed following the Council internal practice of closed doors by transforming legislative negotiations which should by definition be transparent it in a sort of Bermude’s triangle. I can only hope that the Court of Justice will draw to an end this practice which threatens the implementation of the democratic principle in the EU as well as the right to access foreseen by the Treaties and the European Charter.

Before entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty LIBE committee was also consulted on legislation dealing with judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters and it as more than clear that the Council wanted to maintain a full control and responsibility of these domain so that the only possibility for LIBE to influence the content of the EU legislation in third pillar was by indirect means through it codecision powers on community legislation which was complementary to third pillar measure (see the case of EU legislation on irregular migration,..). When this was not possible and the EP was convinced that the Council or Commission measure was infringing the Treaty or threatening its constitutional prerogatives the European Parliament also brought to the Court the Council and/or the Commission.

In this perspective of reaching an objective by indirect means a pivotal role was played by the legislation on protection of personal data where the European Parliament was co-legislator since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. As, according to the Treaties (and now the Charter) protection of personal data requires an assessment of the necessity and proportionality of a measure taken also in the security domain the LIBE committee took this occasion to assess also the content and the proportionality of EU security related policies such as the infamous PNR agreement with the US. We all know that the EU will also have soon its own “EU-PNR” which have now been agreed with the EP as co-legislator also in the judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters. Someone will think that this 13 years long saga is now drawing to an end. I am not sure. I will advise him to wait at least the incoming CJEU Opinion on the EU-Canada PNR agreement and maybe the first judicial cases on the new EU rules ..

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and of the Charter of fundamental rights the EP did no more need to use transversal tactics to reach the objectives he was searching before. Judicial and police cooperation was finally ordinary competence to be dealt with qualified majority and fall in the co-decision procedure. Moreover the Charter emphasis on the rights of the individual in all the EU policies and notably in  the freedom security and justice area was paving the way to what LIBE was asking for since its creation in 1992.

After Lisbon still need of a legal “Google Maps” ?

What is paradoxical is what happened at interinstitutional level after the entry into force of  that Treaty and of the Charter. The EU institutions have not all moved at the same pace towards the new constitutional legal framework order and this is a source of growing misunderstanding between them and ultimately of confusing messages for the EU citizens (what can explain why many of them are turning their back to the EU construction) .

If there was a Legal “Google Maps” I  would say that now the only institution which is strongly rooted in Lisbon is, no surprise, the CJEU (even if sometime it is also taken by the nostalgia of the previous world..).

Let me quote some statements in the CJEU in Opinion 2/13 where it is written that : the founding treaties of the EU, unlike ordinary international treaties, established a new legal order, possessing its own institutions, for the benefit of which the Member States thereof have limited their sovereign rights, in ever wider fields, and the subjects of which comprise not only those States but also their nationals… …These essential characteristics of EU law have given rise to a structured network of principles, rules and mutually interdependent legal relations linking the EU and its Member States, and its Member States with each other, which are now engaged, as is recalled in the second paragraph of Article 1 TEU, in a ‘process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’…

This legal structure is based on the fundamental premise that each Member State shares with all the other Member States, and recognises that they share with it, a set of common values on which the EU is founded, as stated in Article 2 TEU. That premise implies and justifies the existence of mutual trust between the Member States that those values will be recognised and, therefore, that the law of the EU that implements them will be respected. Also at the heart of that legal structure are the fundamental rights recognised by the Charter (which, under Article 6(1) TEU, has the same legal value as the Treaties), respect for those rights being a condition of the lawfulness of EU acts, so that measures incompatible with those rights are not acceptable in the EU

The autonomy enjoyed by EU law in relation to the laws of the Member States and in relation to international law requires that the interpretation of those fundamental rights be ensured within the framework of the structure and objectives of the EU… As regards the structure of the EU, it must be emphasised that not only are the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the EU required to respect the Charter but so too are the Member States when they are implementing EU law.

The pursuit of the EU’s objectives, as set out in Article 3 TEU, is entrusted to a series of fundamental provisions, such as those providing for the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons, citizenship of the Union, the area of freedom, security and justice, and competition policy. Those provisions, which are part of the framework of a system that is specific to the EU, are structured in such a way as to contribute — each within its specific field and with its own particular characteristics — to the implementation of the process of integration that is the raison d’être of the EU itself. Similarly, the Member States are obliged, by reason, inter alia, of the principle of sincere cooperation set out in the first subparagraph of Article 4(3) TEU, to ensure, in their respective territories, the application of and respect for EU law. In addition, pursuant to the second subparagraph of Article 4(3) TEU, the Member States are to take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the EU “

Are these ambitious concepts also shared by Member States or the Council or in our Google Maps is still trapped in the Maastricht interpillars games (with some Member States even dreaming to go back in the pre-Schengen era)?  The experience of the last six years and of notably of the last year on the Migration Border and Asylum Crisis shows that several Member States are going backward to the old good time  and do not change the former legal situation notably in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

The fact that even today

  • there is no real Internal Security Strategy adopted with the support of the European Parliament and in full knowledge of national Parliament (and this notwithstanding the art. 70 and 71 of the Treaty on functioning of the European Union requires a close parliamentary oversight of these policies);
  • that the “threats” EU impacting on the EU citizens are defined, measured and assessed only at bureaucratic level at national and european level within EU Agencies (such as EUROPOL, FRONTEX and EUROJUST ) whose oversight is almost virtual
  • that sharing security related information between EU MS is still mostly on voluntary basis
  • that the so called “policy cycle” bringing together (on a voluntary basis) the MS administrations is still managed without a credible connection with judicial authorities at EU and national level.

All this shows that notwithstanding 40 years of engagement (since Trevi in 1975) Member States are still far from sharing their experience and implement the principle of solidarity in the old latin meaning where faced to a common problem everyone is responsible “in solidum” with all the others.

As an EU citizen I am appalled to see that even after more than one year of successive terrorists attacks the EU has not yet decided:

  • to build an EU Anti-terrorism Enquiry Commission (as the US did decided immediately after 9/11)
  • to strengthen the powers of EUROJUST in terrorist domain (as required also by the 2005 decision) in preparation of a future EPPO competence as already foreseen by the Treaties. Let’s hope that the European Parliament unblock the Commission proposal and that the Ministers of interior will not wait for other terrorists attacks before launching a credible “lisbonised” Eurojust (if needed even in a form of enhanced cooperation) .

What is worrying is that instead of strengthening the operational cooperation on specific and measurable targets,  the measures adopted (or under negotiations) at EU level increase the impact on individual’s rights.

Under this perspective it is doubtful that the Council has followed its own internal guidelines according to which (quote) : The recent case law of the European Court of Justice[1] confirms that the Court will not satisfy itself with anything less than a strict assessment of the proportionality and necessity of measures that constitute serious restrictions to fundamental rights, however legitimate the objectives pursued by the EU legislature. It also indicates that such measures do not stand a serious chance of passing the legality test unless they are accompanied by adequate safeguards in order to ensure that any serious restriction of fundamental rights is circumscribed to what is strictly necessary and is decided in the framework of guarantees forming part of Union legislation instead of being left to the legislation of Member States.  (emphasis added)

And where may you find the European Parliament in a virtual Google Maps ?

I think that you can find it  somewhere between Amsterdam and Lisbon as it looks more and more afraid to take position in domains which are clearly still unfamiliar to him and on which relevant background informations are not shared by the Commission or by the Member States (not to speak of the EU agencies and of the so called COSI). I don’t see other explanation to the fact that more and more frequently the EP start working on the most sensitive issues only after the Member States have agreed on something. So, one sensible way to help the EP in playing its co-legislative role would be to share with a credible picture of what is happening on the ground in the different Member States. It is quite promising that when this happens (as now in the framework of the new Shengen evaluation mecahnism)  the EP and the national parliaments feel much more confident than before. But when the same will happen in the framework of the mutual evaluation of  judicial and police cooperation in criminal matters as it is required by the art. 70 of the TFEU ? In the absence of this regular exchange of information how can be improved the mutual recognition of national measures?

This is today a rhetorical question because the Member States with the support of the Commission, which, as we all know, is the “guardian of the Treaties have just decided that the mutual evaluation should remain on a voluntary basis as framed in a Joint Action dating back to the Maastricht era.

Will the EP accept to be continuously be side-lined? I am afraid it will and this not for a legal or institutional reasons but for the very trivial reason that its current political majority is in a way or another mirrored in the main Member States governments so that it may feel uneasy in dealing with issues which can place these Governments in a wrong perspective. As a citizen I can’t but blame this situation because I consider that a weak Parliament could not protect my rights and fullfill the objectives outlined in the EU Charter. Any way what the European and national parliaments don’t dare to do is more and more done by national judges (see the NS and ARANYOSI Jurisprudence as well as the recent ruling of the BVG on the European Arrest Warrant).

Again as Citizen I would prefer to be protected by a clearly defined law and not depend from the appreciation of a judge but this is apparently more and more what we have expect from the EU legislation as the envisaged Directive on terrorism I have cited above.

And the Commission ? In a virtual Google maps the Commission is in a sort of Neverland still trying to re-build its pre-Santer role by trying to become at the same time the Guardian  of the Treaty as well as the true Government of the EU. Has this strategy any chance to succeed ? Could the President of the Commission pretend to have also a support of the EU citizens in alternative to the EP itself because of the Spitzencandidat invented in the very last days before the EU elections ? I am not sure even if are now countless the family’s photo bringing together the Presidents of the EP, of the European Council and of the Commission.

What I notice instead is that executive functions also in the Freedom Security Justice Area are more and more transferred to European Agencies where the Member States come back on the driving seat by becoming some pre-federal entities (which are deemed to be INDEPENDENT both from the Commission and of the Parliament which can play a light oversight). This “agencification” trend notably in the freedom security and justice area can now be further developed thanks to the ESMA ruling and will probably progressively change the institutional balance.

The case of Frontex is to my understanding a proof of this. It is unfortunate that until now the Member States have not found the same courage for the EPPO notwhistanding the explicit provisions in  the Treaty. In this perspective the Better Law Making agreement by which the Commission is trying to harness the legislative policy cycle looks more like a tail which pretend to move a dog ….  But even when the Commission has to play its role faces some difficulties . Look at the draft Directive on terrorism which has been presented without a credible impact evaluation of the existing legislation nor of the new rules. Guess how could had been the text if it was not proposed by the same Vice President of the Commission in charge of the Better Law making and of the implementation of the EU Charter..

I can’t end my short intervention without making reference to a new “Quasi-EU” Institution more and more proactive within the freedom security and justice area. We can call it the “Head of State and of Governement Group” which has recently agreed with Turkey a so-called Deal. The EP and also some scholars have raised questions about the legal nature of such a deal. The provisional answers given until now even the President of the European Council is that it is binding but it is not a formal EU agreement. This remind me the famous Magritte painting showing a pipe but stating “this is not a pipe”. Following the same logic the next question is;

“Is this still an European Union or are we already looking at in the new season of Games of Thrones ?

(*) NOTA BENE : this is a transcripition of an intervention at the ECLAN Seminar on : The Needed Balances of EU Criminal Law: Past, Present and Future  (Brussels 25-26 April 2016)

NOTES

[1]             See Judgment of 8 April 2014, Cases C‑293/12 and C‑594/12,  Digital Rights Ireland (information note by the Council Legal Service in doc. 9009/14)