Full interview with Joanna Apap: EU allowed infringement of passengers’ privacy rights

Joanna Apap, head of the Justice and Home Affairs research unit at the Centre for European Policy Studies gives a strong warning to Member States not to undermine human rights through security measures.

Joanna Apap is the head of the Justice and Home Affairs research
unit at the Centre for European Policy Studies. Read the

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How do you assess the progress made in establishing an Area
of Freedom, Security and Justice in the EU since the Tampere
European Council?

There was a very clear policy agenda set up in
Tampere, the so-called ‘Tampere scoreboard’ and the Commission made
proposals on all its aspects. However, the priorities of the
different presidencies as well as the events, such as the 11
September terrorist attacks on the US and the numerous deaths of
illegal immigrants, have placed the accent much more on a security
agenda rather than on an agenda tackling freedom, justice and
security in an equal way. Member States were reluctant to adopt
initiatives from the Commission in the freedom field, that’s why
the outcome is orientated towards security.

What is the status of transatlantic co-operation on justice
and home affairs issues? Can the EU influence the US on the how
terrorism should be tackled? Are there examples where the EU has
really exerted meaningful influence?

The Tampere agenda had foreseen measures on
external relations. Following the 11 September attacks, there has
been a call for reinforced transatlantic co-operation. However,
there are divergences on the view of what cooperation/partnership
means. All Member States emphasised that the USA had to go through
multilateralism and the United Nations system, even if some Member
States, such as the United-Kingdom, Spain and Italy, were more
inclined than others to respond to America’s requests. So far,
Europe has responded to America’s requests. It is America that has
pushed security to the top of the agenda. EU Member States did not
clarify enough what cooperation would be put in place and EU
citizens were not consulted enough on the implications of such
co-operation on their rights – particularly how their right to
privacy may be affected. Reciprocity is very important and Europe
should ask for it from its transatlantic partner. US politicians,
other than the current government, could have decided in a
different way and given more place to multilateralism. Countries
such as the UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy have had their
own experience of terrorism. It would be fruitful if there could be
better exchange of information and closer ties between officials
both within the EU as well as at the transatlantic level to create
mutual confidence and share experience on how to deal with
terrorism.

Do you consider that the current trend of registering
travellers (PNR) and including biometric data in identification
papers is the way forward to ensure EU citizens’ security?

The transfer of passenger data to the US by
certain airlines has been taking place since March 2003, without
informing the public. EU passenger data will be used for testing
the CAPPS II system [the US Computer Assisted Passenger
Prescreening System to deny access to flights to suspected
criminals]. The EU institutions are not being transparent on the
implications of infringement of privacy rights of EU citizens. An
approach of maximum security is not really a guarantee for safety.
People must not live with fears and attempts should be made towards
more dialogue. More police everywhere will strongly emphasise the
perception of the threat and increase a feeling of insecurity
rather than safety.

Do politicians slip too easily between the terms
‘anti-terrorism’, ‘organised crime’ and ‘illegal
immigration’?

Terrorism, organised crime and illegal
immigration are being used as concepts. They are not concepts, they
are acts carried out by diverse groups of individuals and they
certainly are not of equal gravity. The agenda of politicians has
been geared towards security. To attract more votes, conservative p
oliticians tend to use the terms ‘anti-terrorism’, ‘organised
crime’ and ‘illegal immigration’ as buzz words. This is very
confusing for the public. This is also reflected to an extent in
the EU Council of Ministers, which is made up of government
officials from across the EU. There is a blurring of these terms to
push for a security agenda and to attract public and media
attention. We have to be careful not to create a security continuum
by putting the three terms in the same basket. It is important to
separate these terms. For example, human traffickers have to be
distinguished from the illegal immigrants who try to come to Europe
in search of a better life.

Is the EU building a ‘fortress Europe’ and closing its
doors to economic migrants? What obstacles do you identify in the
development of a legal immigration policy?

With the Tampere agenda, the hope was to put in
place a pro-active immigration policy. Instead, certain politicians
used the 11 September attacks to close Europe’s doors and to create
a fortress Europe. Europe will be taking a step backwards if
Europeans become afraid of foreigners. The main obstacles in the
development of a legal immigration policy are the persistent
unemployment in Europe and indeed the blurring of the terms illegal
immigration, organised crime and terrorism.

How long will Germany, Austria and Italy keep their border
controls with the new Member States in place? Are the new Member
States well enough equipped and receiving sufficient support to be
left in charge of managing the EU’s external borders?

In three/four years’ time, it is expected that
the new member states will become full members of the Schengen
area. They will need to show that they are capable of managing
their borders. If, they are not assessed able to do so, their entry
into the Schengen area could be deffered. I believe that some
countries may be ready earlier than others due to their border
specificities and geography. This could create a multispeed entry
into the Schengen area. To be part of the Schengen area and be left
in charge of managing the EU’s external borders, the new Member
States must secure trust in themselves. I hope that they won’t
adopt too repressive a stance in order to secure this trust. People
from outside Europe should be allowed to ask for asylum and
protection. All Member States have pledged to value protection of
human rights and they should show that they value it as mush as
protecting the borders of Europe against organised crime.

In your view will the EU set itself another ambitious
agenda for JHA? If so, what would be its main features?

Proposals for a Tampere II agenda are being
discussed. An upcoming European Council would discuss what has and
what has not been achieved and define the Justice and Home Affairs
priorities in an enlarged EU. The main points for this new JHA
agenda could be:

  • to make the EU a signatory party to the European Convention of
    Human Rights and to ensure that people benefit from procedural
    safeguards and legal remedies to enforce the rights foreseen by
    this Convention.
  • to give a clear status to the Charter of Fundamental Rights as
    foreseen by the Constitutional Treaty and to give the European
    citizenship a more concrete reality.

If the constitution is agreed, more JHA issues will be dealt
with through European legislation, and not anymore through
intergovernmental cooperation. Therefore, the decisions will come
under the scrutiny of the European Parliament and the European
Court of Justice. This will ensure a more democratic and legitimate
Europe.

Can you comment on the budget allocated to JHA in the
financial perspective for 2007-2013?

The six main net contributors, among others
Sweden, the United-Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Sweden, the
Netherlands and France – sent a letter to President Prodi about
budget cuts for the next budget, not only the JHA budget – but the
overall one. One can not be ambitious with an under-financed
budget.

 

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