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Judicial integration continues

Posted by Helen Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another momentous decision was taken at this week-end’s meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. (Yes, our own Charles Clarke, the last remaining beard of the Labour movement was there. Experience tells one that he may not have realized what he signed up to, but we shall see.)

The Council has agreed on the terms of the European Evidence Warrant, which will allow police of one member state to seek evidence in another member state. Presumably, at some stage soon, this will apply to Europol, which is in the process of becoming an operational force under the Hague Programme, adopted last year without any special publicity. (In fact, finding the exact text of the Hague Programme is not the easiest thing in the world, though it can be done.)

There was, it seems, some dispute whether the concept of dual criminality should apply to the European Evidence Warrant but, in the end, what is quaintly described as a compromise was adopted.

The compromise said that the 32 items that are listed under the European Arrest Warrant as not needing dual criminality, should be transposed to the forthcoming European Evidence Warrant, either.

To refresh our readers’ memory, I have decided to list them here:

- participation in a criminal organisation,
- terrorism,
- trafficking in human beings,
- sexual exploitation of children and child pornography,
- illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,
- illicit trafficking in weapons, munitions and explosives,
- corruption,
- fraud, including that affecting the financial interests of the European Communities within the meaning of the Convention of 26 July 1995 on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests,
- laundering of the proceeds of crime,
- counterfeiting currency, including of the euro,
- computer-related crime,
- environmental crime, including illicit trafficking in endangered animal species and in endangered plant species and varieties,
- facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence,
- murder, grievous bodily injury,
- illicit trade in human organs and tissue,
- kidnapping, illegal restraint and hostage-taking,
- racism and xenophobia,
- organised or armed robbery,
- illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including antiques and works of art,
- swindling,
- racketeering and extortion,
- counterfeiting and piracy of products,
- forgery of administrative documents and trafficking therein,
- forgery of means of payment,
- illicit trafficking in hormonal substances and other growth promoters,
- illicit trafficking in nuclear or radioactive materials,
- trafficking in stolen vehicles,
- rape,
- arson,
- crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,
- unlawful seizure of aircraft/ships,
- sabotage

It does not take much studying of the list to work out that only very few of the listed “offences” have anything to do with terrorism or even cross-border criminality, which is, in any case covered by various inter-governmental agreements.

Nor does it take long to see that several of the so-called offences are so vaguely defined as to be completely meaningless. Sabotage can mean anything and, as we know from the Soviet experience can be used to punish the slightest error at work.

Indeed, if desired, it can be used to punish people who have not fulfilled the plan through no particular fault of their own. Shall we, in future, see trials of those who have “sabotaged the Lisbon agenda”?

And, of course, there is racism and xenophobia. Now, I am not one of those who is afraid of being arrested and tried because I have expressed (ever so mildly) some criticism of the European Union. One way or another I know enough about totalitarian states to understand the difference between them and the European Union.

One does not, however, need to fear totalitarianism to be anxious about so-called offences that are little more than thought crimes, are not crimes in this country and can be used for all sorts of purposes under European Evidence and Arrest Warrants that obey no particular law that one can quite think of.

Who needs the Constitution for Europe? The tanks are going round the Maginot Line again.

When we remember that the Council has also reaffirmed its desire to strengthen the Framework Directive on Racism and Xenophobia and continues to talk about banning certain symbols of nazism (but not, of course, of communism), it is time for everybody to get worried.

It is not just British law that is being undermined here but the whole concept of legality and jurisprudence. Ironically, that idea is one of the great achievements of European culture as it has developed from the early Middle Ages onwards. The European Union, supposedly in existence for the purpose of advancing and strengthening European ideals and European culture, is once again doing the exact opposite: undermining one of the key concepts in its pursuit of integration and centralized control.