FRIDAY 28 MARCH 2003
LORDS REJECT EU POWERS OVER RIGHTS OF DEFENDANTS
Valery Giscard d'Estaing's proposal that the EU gain the power to determine the rights of individuals in criminal procedures was met with scepticism by an influential Lords Committee report published today.
The House of Lords European Union Committee was reporting on the draft Constitutional Treaty produced by the Convention on the Future of Europe, chaired by former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
The Committee concluded that it was unacceptable for the EU, without the consent of every country, to be able to change the rights of individuals in relation to such fundamental rights as:
Should the proposals, contained in Article 16 of Part 2 of the Constitution, come in to law, they could have serious consequences.
The Committee states that "Criminal laws and procedures lie at the heart of legal traditions" and "reflect fundamental historical, political and constitutional differences" and, as such, if the EU has to act, it should only be in very limited fields.
Part 2 of the draft Constitutional proposes a number of other important changes. It would take forward common policies on immigration, border controls and asylum and would strengthen the roles of Eurojust and Europol, which ensures coordination between prosecuting authorities and police forces respectively in relation to serious crime. Furthermore, the Commission would have a right to initiate legislation in police and criminal law matters.
To counteract the extension of powers to the EU, the Committee proposes a "red card" whereby the Commission would have to withdraw any proposal in these areas to which half of all national parliaments in the EU object. The Committee also rejects outright the plan for there to be a European Public Prosecutor. It says such a post would not be "a realistic and practical way forward."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The members of the European Union Committee that produced this report were:
Lord Cavendish of Furness
Lord Grenfell (Chairman)
Lord Hannay of Chiswick
Baroness Harris of Richmond
Lord Lamont of Lerwick
Lord Neill of Bladen
Baroness Park of Monmouth
Lord Scott of Foscote
The Earl of Selborne
Lord Shutt of Greetland
Lord Williamson of Horton
Lord Woolmer of Leeds.
2. The report is published by the Stationery Office:
The Future of Europe: Constitutional Treaty - Draft Article 31 and Draft Articles from Part 2 (Freedom, Security and Justice), House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 16th Report, Session 2002 −03, HL Paper 81. Copies are available from the reception of 2 Millbank House.
3. The Convention on the Future of Europe was set up by the Laeken Declaration with the remit of detailing options for the future of the European Union. It is composed of over 100 members from Member State governments, national parliaments, MEPs, Commissioners, representatives from candidate countries and other observers. It aims to produce a draft Constitution by June this year.
4. The House of Lords European Union Committee is scrutinising draft Articles as they arise from the Convention. So far it has published reports on Draft Articles 1−16 (9th Report, HL Paper 61) and 24−33 (12th Report, HL Paper 71).
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