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Sarah speaking on freedom, security and justice

January 31, 2008 12:30 PM
By Sarah Ludford (on behalf of the ALDE group) in European Parliament

Mr President, we are looking at the progress that the European Union has made towards becoming this area of freedom, security and justice. This means a development towards a Europe in which both civil rights are upheld and complex issues of law enforcement, such as terrorism and transnational crime, are addressed.

But, unfortunately, what we have had in the last 10 years is a failure to strike the right balance between security, freedom and justice, and actually rather a narrow definition of security.

Law enforcement needs to be better targeted and civil liberties need an upgrade. For instance, the failure - in 10 years - to agree on a measure upholding minimum rights for suspects and defendants is a real hole in the record.

Advocate-General Maduro, in an opinion on terrorist blacklists - quoting, I think, from the Israeli Supreme Court - said, 'It is when the cannons roar that we especially need the laws. There are no black holes. The war against terrorism is also law's war against those who rise up against it.'

It is a pity that the Council of Member States did not bear that in mind in considering our report from the Temporary Committee on Extraordinary Rendition. We have had no substantive response to that report.

I agree with Commissioner Frattini that we need an agreement between the Commission, Council and Parliament about the way forward in the transition from the unsatisfactory intergovernmental procedures in criminal justice to normal Community decision-making. This is going to take a change of culture and attitude as well as procedures. Some of the third-pillar measures in the pipeline, like Prüm, data protection, EU P&R, are of low-quality in terms of both democratic scrutiny and civil liberties safeguards.

A lot of confidence is being invested in technological projects, either of exchange of data between Member States or of construction of new EU databases. I am all in favor of appropriate data sharing, but I caution against over-reliance on technological quick fixes. Do not let us forget traditional, intelligence-led policing; even if it is more difficult in making it work across borders, it should not be relegated to a secondary effort in the light of the dazzling allure of databases, because this raises big questions of data protection and data security.

I have asked Commissioner Frattini to consider doing a green paper on whether our regime of data security is adequate, particularly in the light of the scandalous losses of data in the UK. He has declined so far. I hope he might reconsider.

Also, can he consider the need for that in the light of the route of profiling that we are going down? Commissioner Frattini does not acknowledge this, but the UK Government does quite openly say, 'we are doing profiling'. Let us have a debate about what safeguards we need.

Finally, on the UK opt-out, I think colleagues in Parliament might appreciate - and certainly I, as a British MEP would - having some idea what the UK strategy will be in the use of the opt-ins and opt-outs, because I think that would be quite helpful in making clear that the UK intends to engage positively in justice and home affairs in the years to come.