Sinn Féin - On Your Side

de Brún sets out arguments against the EU Constitution

28 May, 2005


Sainmhíníonn an Bunreacht cruthú an AE mar "limistéar saoirse, slándála agus ceartais" rud atá ina chuspóir bunúsach in Airteagal I-3. Daingníonn sé an tAontas mar Chomhlimistéar Saoirse, Slándála agus Ceartais ag Airteagal I-42 agus leagann sé amach na sonraí air seo i gCaibidil IV (Airteagail III-257 -- III-277). Bronnann Airteagal I-14(j) "comhinniúlacht" ar an AE i gcúrsaí ceartais, a chiallaíonn "nach n-úsáideoidh na Ballstáit a n-inniúlacht ach sa mhéid is nár úsáid an tAontas a inniúlacht". (Airteagal I-12).

Ní ceisteanna a thuilleadh iad do na parlaimintí náisiúnta amháin nó do cheannasaithe stáit an AE comhaontú ar na cinní ar bheartais agus ar dhlíthe bainteach le ceartas ina measc féin de réir comhthoilithe mar a tharla roimhe seo. Cuireann an Conradh nua deireadh le dlí idir-rialtasach an AE nó "an tríú colún" mar a thugtar air in ábhar an Cheartais agus Ghnóthaí Baile, agus cuireann sé faoi "colún pobail" na cinnteoireachta é, ina measc cinní Comhairle deánta ag Airí Ceartais an AE ag úsáid VTC agus comhchinneadh déanta le Parlaimint an AE.

The proposed EU Constitutional Treaty defines the creation of the EU as "an area of freedom, security and justice" as a fundamental objective in Article I-3. It establishes the Union as a Common Area of Freedom, Security and Justice at Article I-42 and sets out the details of this in Chapter IV (Articles III-257 -- III-277). Article I-14(j) bestows on the EU a "shared competence" in justice matters, meaning that "Member States shall exercise their competence [only] to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence." (Article I-12)

Decisions on policies and laws related to justice will no longer be solely a matter for sovereign national parliaments to determine, nor for EU heads of state to agree among themselves by consensus as in the past. The new Treaty eliminates the intergovernmental or so-called "third pillar" of EU law in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, and brings it under the so-called "community pillar" of decision making, including Council decisions made by EU Justice Ministers using QMV and co-decision with the EU Parliament.

This completes a process that commenced under the Maastrict Treaty which first introduced EU competence in justice by establishing the third pillar; that continued under the Amsterdam Treaty which set a 2004 deadline for the creation of the Common Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, introduced the Schengen Aquis on the abolition of internal borders and consolidation of external borders, agreed the Tampere Agenda involving establishment of a Common Migration and Asylum Policy, and brought Title 4 matters (civil including immigration and asylum policy) under the community pillar; and progressed further with the Nice Treaty which introduced QMV into third pillar decisions that had previously been subject to the unanimity requirement.

The draft EU Constitution thus finalises a process that dramatically reduces state sovereignty, and increases EU competence in criminal law in particular as it expressly moves towards greater "approximation" (harmonisation) between Member States' law as stated in Article I-42(1)(a).

The EU will make law in the following areas:

∑ a common policy on asylum, immigration and external border controls (Articles III-257(2) and III-265)

∑ judicial cooperation, coordination, mutual recognition and approximation in civil matters (Articles III-257(4) and III-269)

∑ judicial cooperation, coordination, mutual recognition and approximation in criminal matters (Articles III-257(3) and III-270)

∑ police cooperation and coordination (Article III-275)

Ceadaíonn Airteagal III-271 do dhlíthe an AE a ordaíonn íosrialacha ar shainmhíniú coireanna agus smachtbhanní maidir le "coir thromchúiseach a bhfuil gné trasteorann uirthi" ina measc sceimhlitheoireacht, mangaireacht daoine, drochíde ghnéasach ban agus páistí, mangaireacht mhídhleathach drugaí, mangaireacht arm, sciúradh airgid, éillitheacht, falsú, coir ríomhaireachta, agus coir eagraithe. Féadann leis an Chomhairle comhaontú d'aon ghuth ar réimsí eile dlí choiriúil le haghaidh comhchuibhithe, le comhthoil Pharlaimint an AE ach gan an gá leis an Chonradh Bunreachtúil a leasú nó a dhaingniú.

Article III-271 allows for EU laws stipulating minimum rules on the definition of offences and sanctions in relation to "serious crime with a cross-border dimension" including terrorism, trafficking in human beings, sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, counterfeiting, computer crime and organised crime. The Council may also unanimously agree other areas of criminal law for harmonisation, with the consent of the EU Parliament but without the need for amending or ratifying the Constitutional Treaty.

Article III-274 allows for the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor following a unanimous Council decision and EU Parliamentary consent. This continues the incremental enhancement of the EU's independent enforcement, investigation and prosecution architecture that started with EUROPOL and more recently EUROJUST.

Taken together these elements represent an unprecedented consolidation of EU control over an area previously held to be a cornerstone of state sovereignty together with control over taxation and independent foreign policy.

Some will hope that Ireland could benefit from progressive EU laws in this area, and be encouraged by some of the language in Chapter IV promising respect for fundamental rights. But what we have seen so far from the EU in practice are actually the repressive and draconian trappings of a security state, dubbed the "Fortress Europe" policies, including:

∑ the introduction of universal mandatory traffic data retention (communications by telephone, fax, text message or email)

∑ the introduction of "biometric" passports -- including fingerprints, face scans or iris scans

∑ the introduction of an EU-wide database containing personal information (the Schengen Information System, or SIS-SIRENE)

∑ the establishment of joint investigation teams -- so that police forces including their intelligence services can operate in any other member state -- without adequate safeguards, according to human rights groups

∑ the introduction of an EU-wide arrest warrant to expedite extradition -- without adequate safeguards, according to human rights groups

∑ a so-called "white list" -- a list of countries from which asylum seekers shall be presumed to be lying, contrary to the Refugee Convention

∑ mass forced deportations -- contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights prohibition on mass expulsions say human rights groups

∑ a common law on "terrorist offences" that also targets peaceful protest activity and fundraising for genuine liberation movements

Just as the emerging EU Common Asylum and Migration system has not so far increased the human rights protections afforded to refugees and migrants, we see no evidence to date that the emerging EU criminal justice system will be a synthesis of the best procedures and protections that exist in the Member States or under international norms. In particular, we are concerned that the new EU-wide justice system will continue to transfer power away from the individual accused to the policing and prosecuting authorities at the expense of human rights and civil liberties. Ironically, the proposed EU Constitutional Treaty could actually lead to less freedom, security and justice than many in the EU presently enjoy.

Finally, the so-called "Solidarity Clause" (Article I-43) requires all Member States to make military and other resources available on request for combating terrorism and "terrorist prevention" activities in other Member States. What constitutes "terrorist prevention" is not defined, however -- not even where implementation of the Solidarity Clause is elaborated in Chapter VIII (Article III-329). As Article III-329(2) recognises in its reference to the potential "defence implications", Article I-43 is another provision that draws us closer into an EU Common Defence -- although this has been deliberately obscured by its focus on "internal security" and inclusion under the Common Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

Go díreach agus nár mhéadaigh Comhchóras dealraitheach Tearmainn agus Imirce an AE an chosaint chearta daonna ar theifigh agus ar imircigh, ní fheicimid fianaise ar bith ann go dtí seo go mbeidh córas dealraitheach ceartais choiriúil an AE comhdhéanta de na gnáthaimh agus den chosaint is fearr atá ann cheana féin sna Ballstáit nó faoi chaighdeáin idirnáisiúnta. Go háirithe tá muid buartha faoin gcorás nua ceartais uile-AE a leanfaidh ar aghaidh cumhacht a aistriú ón duine cúisithe ag na húdaráis phóilíneachta agus ionchúisimh ar chostas chearta daonna agus saoirse sibhialta. Go hiorónta, d'fhéadfadh le níos lú saoirse, slándála agus ceartais ná mar atá ag daoine san AE faoi láthair teacht as Conradh Bunreachtúil molta an AE.

It is Sinn Féins view that such changes are not in the interests of Irish citizens. They will reduce the degree of democratic control over an important policy area, by passing the Irish people and our elected decision making bodies. These changes will also lead to a reduction in the civil and human rights protections for ordinary people with little or no return in terms of crime reduction or prevention.

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