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Statewatch News Online, 6 November 2007 (24/07)

Home page: www.statewatch.org

Statewatch Specials:

1. EU: Terrorism plans threaten freedom of expression
2. EU: Statewatch wins Ombudsman complaint against the Commission
3. EU: All children over six to be fingerpinted for EU passports
4. EU: G6 – Communique
5. EU: European Commission proposes EU-PNR:

The regular News Online e-mail will follow on Thursday.

1. EU: Proposed expansion of EU terrorism law a threat to freedom of expression (Analysis and full-text of Commission proposals):
www.statewatch.org/news/2007/nov/03eu-com-terror-plans.htm

It must be asked why the welcome proposals on “practical action to stem the use of explosives” have taken so long to be put forward? The Commission should focus on practical steps to improve cooperation between the Member States instead of trying to impose sweeping restrictions on freedom of expression

2. EU: Statewatch wins Ombudsman case against the Commission over its failure to publish its 2005 access to documents report in time: (full-story and documentation): www.statewatch.org/news/2007/nov/02sw-complaints-com-eu-ombudsman.htm

The European Ombudsman has declared a case of maladministration against Commission for its failure to produce a 2005 annual report on access to documents in 2006 and found it “especially deplorable” as these reports are “a key mechanism for accountability”.
The European Ombudsman’s Decision says that:

“In the Ombudsman’s view, the reasons given by the Commission to explain its failure, which refer to administrative and organisational constraints, do not show that there was an objective impossibility for the Commission to comply with its legal obligation (ultra posse nemo obligatur)” and

“The Ombudsman considers that the instance of maladministration revealed by the present inquiry is especially deplorable since the publication of reports is a key mechanism of accountability to, and communication with, European citizens. The Commission should set a good example to the many new Community Agencies which have recently been established by giving high priority in future to the timely publication of reports.”
This is the first of two complaints lodged by Statewatch against the Commission. Previously Statewatch won eight complaints taken to the European Ombudsman against the Council of the European Union.

3. EU: ALL CHILDREN IN THE EU OVER SIX YEARS OLD TO BE FINGERPRINTED FOR EU PASSPRTS AND ID CARDS

The European Commission is proposing that all children over 6 are fingerprinted for EU passports (and nationally-issued ID cards) – the only reason that those less than six years old are not to be fingerprinted is a technical one: “the fingerprints of children under the age of 6 seemed not to be of sufficient quality for one-to-one verification of identity”

The term “and travel documents” mainly refers to the use of nationally issued ID cards which are used to travel in the EU Schengen area – in December 2006 the Council of the European Union adopted a Resolution saying that the same standards had to be used for ID cards as for EU passports (ie: the taking of biometrics, fingerprints).

The new Regulation is proposed under Article 62(2)(a) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) which gives the European Parliament the power of co-decision with the Council of the European Union.

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council, amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States (presented by the Commission)::
www.statewatch.org/news/2007/nov/eu-com-passport-reg.pdf

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:
“The taking of finger-prints from all children from the age of six upwards is highly questionable and is a moral and political question, not a technical one.
The European Parliament has the power of co-decision on this measure – it is to be hoped that it will reject it and do so in a way that is open and transparent for all to see”

Background:

– The initial on fingerprinting children took place in the context of issuing biometric visas to visitors: Fingerprinting of children:
www.statewatch.org/news/2006/aug/02eu-fingerprinting-children.htm

– EU governments blackmail European Parliament into quick adoption of its report on biometric passports:
www.statewatch.org/news/2004/nov/12biometric-passports-blackmail.htm

– EU: Biometrics – from visas to passports to ID cards:
www.statewatch.org/news/2005/jul/09eu-passports-id-cards.htm

– Secret trilogues and the democratic deficit: www.statewatch.org/news/2007/sep/ep-co-decision-secret-trilogues.pdf

4. EU-G6 Communique: The G6 group of EU states is comprised of: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK meeting in Poland: Joint Declaration by the Ministers of Interior of G6 States Sopot, 18 October 2007: www.statewatch.org/news/2007/oct/g6-poland-oct-07.pdf

Four points, from this secret meeting, stand out:

1) The G6 states “will actively participate in the works aimed at achieving the desired shape and scope of task of the internal security committee” – this is reference to the Standing Committee on operational cooperation (known as COSI) to be created under the Reform Treaty;

2) They also welcome “the work of the Futures group” – this is a reference to the group set up under the German Council Presidency earlier this year to draw up the next five year plan for justice and home affairs (following the Tampere programme, 1999 and the Hague programme, 2004) – despite promises none of the documents being discussed are available;

3) Undoubtedly at the behest of the UK the G6 Ministers noted the difficulty of expelling “non-nationals who pose a threat to national security”. The Minister want to see an “EU commitment to “seek assurance through diplomatic understandings” – a reference to the highly controversial agreements reached by the UK to deport people to Jordan, Libya and Morocco;

4) In a direct reference to the mass protests at the G8 Heiligendamm Summit earlier this year the Ministers refer to the “acts of violence” at “mass events” which affected the “security of participants” and want to “continue the discussion” on “providing security and public order”. See Statewatch report: Heiligendamm G8 Summit: a chronology of protest and represssion: www.statewatch.org/news/2007/nov/g8.pdf

– Conclusions of the G6 meetings in Venice, 11-12 May 2007:
www.statewatch.org/news/2007/may/05venice-g7-may-2007.htm

– Conclusions of Interior Ministers meeting 25-26 October 2006:
www.statewatch.org/news/2006/oct/g6-conlcusions-uk-oct-2006.pdf

– G6 meeting in Stratford upon Avon, UK:
www.statewatch.org/news/2006/oct/14g6-uk.htm

– G5 Group on Interior Ministers becomes G6: Heiligendamm, 22 and 23 March 2006 – Full-text of Conclusions
www.statewatch.org/news/2006/mar/
06eu-interior-minister-conclusions.htm

– UK Select Committee on the European Union slams G6's role:
www.statewatch.org/news/2007/feb/08eu-g6-hol-report.htm

– G6-G8-Prum: Behind closed doors – policy-making in secret intergovernmental and international fora:
www.statewatch.org/news/2006/sep/05eu-g6.htm

5. EU: European Commission proposes PNR (passenger name record) scheme proposed to place under surveillance all travel in and out of the EU:
www.statewatch.org/news/2007/nov/01eu-pnr.htm

– All passengers to be “profiled” and the data kept for 13 years – EU PNR plan mirrors controversial EU-US PNR scheme – European Parliament only to be “consulted” – Data protection fiasco – “not convinced of the necessity of such a proposal and is therefore opposed to the proposal” (Article 29 Data Protection Working Party)

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

“This is yet another measure that places everyone under surveillance and makes everyone a “suspect” without any meaningful right to know how the data is used, how it is further processed and by whom. Moreover, the “profiling” of all airline passengers has no place in a democracy.

We have already got the mandatory taking of fingerprints for passports and ID cards and the mandatory storage of telecommunications data of every communication, now we are to have the mandatory logging of all travel in and out of the EU.

The underlying rationale for each of the measures is the same – all are needed to tackle terrorism. Yet there is little evidence that the gathering of “mountain upon mountain” of data on the activities of every person in the EU makes a significant contribution. On the other hand, the use of this data for other purposes, now or in the future, will make the EU the most surveilled place in the world”.

Statewatch: Monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe
PO Box 1516, London, N16 0EW. UK
tel: +44(0)20-8802-1882; fax: +44(0)20-8880-1727 www.statewatch.org

  
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