Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report


CHAPTER 10: External Relations

66.  The Hague Programme closes with a section on external relations, in which the European Council identifies the development of a coherent external dimension of the EU JHA policy as a growing priority. It calls on the Commission and the Secretary General/High Representative to draw up an EU strategy covering all external aspects of all EU JHA-related policies by the end of 2005. Other parts of the Hague Programme also include references to the external dimension of EU action: there is a separate and detailed section, for example, on the external dimension of asylum and migration, stressing the need for EU partnership with third countries, and with countries and regions of origin and transit. Emphasis is also placed on return and readmission.

67.  Many of our witnesses were concerned about the tone of the Hague Programme on EU co-operation with third countries. Amnesty noted that "there is a marked shift to counter 'illegal immigration' through engaging with third countries in ways that blur the fine line between co-operation and pressure".[115] JUSTICE criticised the emphasis on EU agreements with third countries on issues such as border controls and readmission, instead of developing third countries' capacity to strengthen protection of refugees.[116] ILPA believed that the EU focus was "unduly influenced by self-interest, i.e. the desire to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are prevented or deterred from making their way to the territory of EU Member States".[117]

68.  As we have commented in earlier Reports,[118] co-operation between the EU and third countries is essential in developing an effective policy on immigration and asylum. Ways of providing protection for asylum seekers and refugees in regions of origin should be explored, but they must be a part of a general strategy of conflict prevention and resolution in regions of origin with the aim of achieving security and stability.[119] Care must also be taken to ensure that the rights of asylum seekers, in particular protection against refoulement, are fully protected.

69.  Concerns have also been raised about the external dimension of EU action in the field of police co-operation and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. JUSTICE mentioned the agreements between the EC and the United States on the transmission of information on Passenger Name Records (PNR) and the agreement between Europol and the United States. It argued that these agreements did not sufficiently acknowledge EU standards of protection.[120] JUSTICE noted that "if EU co-operation with the US is to be further consolidated under the next five-year programme, greater attention needs to be paid to the inclusion of appropriate safeguards and remedies for those affected by the agreements".[121]

70.  We recognise that concerted action is essential to address global problems, such as international crime and terrorism but this must not be at the expense of fundamental rights, including data protection. As part of our regular scrutiny work, we have closely examined agreements aimed at forging a transatlantic partnership in criminal matters and have repeatedly raised concerns regarding the lowering of EU standards in order to ensure co-operation with the United States.[122] In this context, EU-US co-operation, but also global co-operation, is crucial. So is co-operation of Member States with global organisations like Interpol.[123] We urge the Commission and the Secretary General/High Representative to give full weight to, and promote the protection of, fundamental rights when preparing the EU external action strategy for JHA.


115   p 23. Back

116   pp 41-42. Back

117   p 32. Back

118   A Common Policy on Illegal Immigration; and New Approaches to the Asylum Process.  Back

119   See New Approaches to the Asylum Process, paragraph 95. Back

120   pp 44-45. Back

121   p 45. Back

122   In particular in respect of the Agreement on the exchange of personal data between Europol and the US (Correspondence with Ministers, 49th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 196, pp 191-201); and the Agreement on Passenger Name Records (PNR) between the Community and the US (Correspondence with Ministers, 25th Report, Session 2003-04, HL Paper 140, pp 128-135). We also expressed concern about the EU-US Agreements on extradition and mutual legal assistance (38th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 153).  Back

123   We examined the EU's relationship with Interpol in some detail in our report After Madrid: the EU's response to terrorism, paragraphs 68-75Back


 
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