At the European Parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee on August 27, MEPs clashed with the Belgian EU Presidency over the European Union’s role in managing anti-globalisation protests. The backdrop to the heated debate was the riots at the G-8 Summit of world leaders in July in Genoa, where a protester was shot dead by Italian police. The presiding Belgian Home Affairs Minister, Antoine Duquesne, insisted that the host country must remain primarily responsible for handling such events. However, many MEPs argued for a stronger EU role, in particular in upholding the right of EU citizens to travel freely to, and peacefully protest at, such summits.
..JJ(BB) EU or national role? Chairman of the Parliament Committee, Graham Watson, (ELDR, United Kingdom), said Italy did not abide by the Conclusions agreed by the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council on July 13. He cited as an example the case of a European Commission official who was denied access to Italy at Milan airport after admitting he was there for the protests. He held that this was not purely an issue for national authorities, as it affected the fundamental rights of citizens, which are guaranteed in Articles 5 and 6 of the EU Treaty. Mr Watson wants his Committee to draft an own-initiative report on the matter, although he noted the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents would have to give it the green light. Such a report would form the basis of a Recommendation to the EU Council of Ministers, which has the real power in this field.Meanwhile, Minister Duquesne summarised for MEPs the recently adopted Council conclusions on tighter security at EU Summits (see European Report 2609 and 2610). Refusing to comment on the specific events at Genoa, he was adamant that police control should remain at national level. He stressed the need for a dialogue with protest organisers before the event, but added this was often difficult due to the non-centralised structure of these groups. He announced the Justice and Home Affairs Council would discuss the issue on September 27/28, as would a Task Force of EU police chiefs on October 31.Other MEPs varied widely in their views over what the EU’s role should be. Italian Marco Cappato (TGI) urged his colleagues to stop attacking the Italian police and wait for the results of the eight Italian inquiries into the Genoa riots before passing judgement. Danish MEP Mogens Camre (UEN) argued that all future EU Summits should be in Brussels, so that one police force is trained and equipped to deal with the problem. Spanish Socialist Anna Terrcn I Cus degrees complained that the measures approved at the July 13 Council would not bring the citizens any closer to the EU. Her opinion was echoed by Belgian Liberal Jan-Kees Wiebenga, who highlighted the democratic deficit caused by the Council not being accountable to the Parliament on crime policy.Europol – easier data transfer and broader mandate. Immediately following the debate, the MEPs heard about a new proposal to allow the European Police Office, Europol, pass on information more easily to non-EU countries and bodies. The Swedish/Belgian proposal relates to “onward transmission”, i.e. information Europol has sent to a third party, which the latter wants to forward to another body (see European Report 2599 for details). The Council representative at the Committee pointed out that a 1999 Council Decision bans onward transmission for an organisation such as Interpol. The Council sees the need to amend the rules, and he said the current initiative has the support of all but one of the Member States.Europol Director JArgen Storbeck informed MEPs that 99% of police co-operation in Europol is between Member State police forces. However, occasionally Norway, Iceland and EU candidate countries are also involved. The issue is especially tricky with Interpol because it cannot pass on to its members information Europol has sent it. For crimes such as Euro-counterfeiting, closer co-operation with non-EU states was needed, argued Mr Storbeck. He acknowledged that there must be controls – both technical and democratic – on such data exchanges. The rapporteur for the Parliament’s non-binding Opinion on the proposal is Maurizio Turco (TGI, Italy). He opined that the proposed three-to four-year deadline for transmitting data was too long.The other part of the proposal would give Europol a more general mandate to investigate crime. For example, presently Europol can investigate drug-related crime, but if this extends to cyber-crime or child porn, the inquiry must stop as the nascent European police body has no mandate in these areas. Mr Storbeck said this approach was old-fashioned and unsatisfactory because organised criminal groups tend not to specialise in one crime. Thus, the Council is now proposing to include in its mandate all the crimes listed in an appendix to the 1995 Europol Convention. This includes environmental crime, racism and computer crime (see European Report 2582 for details).Strasbourg debate on G-8 Summit.The European Parliament’s plenary session on September 5 will debate the Conclusions of the G-8 Summit in Genoa. Some political groups, notably the Greens, are calling for a Resolution, but the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents narrowly rejected this idea on August 30. The Socialists are arguing that future G-8 meetings should be held in camera. They are organising a series of conferences on globalisation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over the coming months. The Greens are unhappy about the police’s behaviour at Genoa, claiming they arrested people on misleading information. They insist that the whole area of EU police co-operation needs to be put on a firmer democratic footing.
(c) European Report 2001.
EUROPEAN REPORT 01/09/2001