EU and US agree on more co-operation in fight against terrorism

The EU and US Justice Ministers have agreed to increase co-operation in fight against terrorism, including sharing information on ongoing operations.

  • EU-US judicial co-operation:

    At an historical meeting between the 15 EU Justice Ministers and US Attorney General John Ashcroft in Copenhagen on 14 September, it was agreed that a deal between the European Police Unit, Europol, and the United States providing for the exchange of personal data is to be concluded before the end of the year.

The European Prosecution Unit, Eurojust, and the relevant US authorities are to start negotiations on similar co-operation agreements.

Substantial progress in the negotiations on an EU-US agreement on extradition and mutual legal assistance is to be achieved before the end of 2002. Apart from ensuring the application of swift and efficient extradition rules the agreement is to address new types of mutual legal assistance, such as interrogation by means of video conferences.

  • Immigration:

    The EU Justice Ministers backed a proposal to forcibly expel illegal refugees and immigrants. The ministers asked the Commission to present detailed proposals for financing both voluntary and forced repatriation of unwanted immigrants.

The ministers agreed that Afghan refugees should be sent home as soon as possible as the first test of its repatriation policy. Around 100,000 Afghan refugees live in the EU.

The Justice Ministers plan to agree a common definition of a refugee by mid-2003, and a full EU common asylum and immigration policy by 2004.

The ministers will continue negotiations for readmission agreements with countries that are the main source of migration into the EU.

  • Enlargement and Schengen:

    The ministers reaffirmed that the new Member States must apply the Schengen laws before they can be integrated in the EU “area of freedom, security and justice”. The full Schengen law will only be applicable to new Member States as from a date to be determined by the Council. The Council will only decide on the full implementation of the Schengen law in a new Member State when it is satisfied that the new Member State is able to fulfil all the requirements in the Schengen law.

One of the requirements is a successful integration in the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). However, SIS II will not be ready before 2005, therefore none of the new Member States is expected to join the Schengen system before that date.

The EU will adopt a road map for the implementation and application of the full Schengen law following the enlargement and present it to the candidate countries at the joint Justice and Home Affairs ministerial meeting in October 2002.

     

    The British civil liberties organisation Statewatch has warned against negotiating an EU-US agreement without the European or national parliaments being consulted. Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, stated that "it is quite unacceptable in a democracy that an agreement should be negotiated with a non-EU state in secret, without the European and national parliaments or civil society having any say whatsoever".

     

    The EU and the US have increased co-operation between their law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC in September 2001. However, extradition of suspects remains a divisive issue, with the US death penalty a key problem for the Europeans. The EU does not want its citizens to face lifelong jail terms or death penalty in the US as the EU Charter on Human Rights bans extraditions where a suspect could be executed if convicted.

     

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