20th March 2014: Yesterday afternoon at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons put the following questions to Commissioner Reding during a hearing in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the Stockholm Programme.
"I should like to ask about judicial training (eventually of all judges in the EU).
"What is the content of the training and how will its effectiveness be measured. Would you envisage any measurement of the extent to which the training has been understood?
"Would the content be prescriptive or persuasive with regard to the power to create precedents in common law systems? Would it be prescriptive about approaches to the interpretation of legislation?
"Will it simply be descriptive of, and informative about, different legal systems and that of the EU?"
Commissioner Reding made references to judicial training in her responses to all of the questions, taken together. At the end of her responses, she said that she had replied to Andrew. However, she did not provide answers to any of his specific questions.
Andrew's intention was to see whether the training to which our judges would be subjected would try to influence our judicial culture indirectly.
19th March 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on "How to deal with the on-going crisis in the Mediterranean".
"The Minister (representing the Greek Presidency of the Council) said that his Government had an action plan to control migratory flows but then went on to mention non-refoulement*, which, in the way in which it is interpreted, encourages and facilitates illegal migratory flows.
"We, in LIBE, were told by the Executive Director of FRONTEX, perhaps two years ago, that illegal migrants over the Turkish-Greek border were processed and then released, sometimes with a piece of paper asking them very politely to leave the EU. However, that order was not enforced.
"Deaths in the Mediterranean of people seeking to enter the European Union illegally in unsafe or inappropriate boats are primarily the responsibility of the adults who embark on those boats and any traffickers who assist them.
"However, the people with almost equal responsibility for those deaths are those who develop asylum policy for the EU or for the United Nations, under which the people rescued are brought to Europe and granted asylum or refused asylum but allowed to stay anyway.
"People in danger must always be saved but they must not be rewarded for attempting to enter the EU illegally.
"If you want to stop these tragic deaths in the Mediterranean, you refuse every asylum application from anybody who has entered the EU illegally or was intending to enter the EU illegally. Furthermore, these failed asylum seekers must then be forcibly removed from the European Union preferably to their countries of origin.
"When the word spreads that the EU and its member states will not accept any of these people, the passage of these people immediately from North Africa but often ultimately from Southern Africa will cease overnight.
"We have been told this morning** that immigration is unavoidable and even necessary because of our demographic problem. We have been told that this is because of our falling birth rates and that immigration - most of it from outside Europe - will compensate for unborn European babies.
"When you bring in immigrants from Africa and Asia, they do not become substitute Europeans. They turn parts of Europe into Africa and Asia.
"Europe - at least in the West - is becoming, by the day, less and less European. Those of you from the East of Europe, don't worry. It will be your turn next.
* Non-refoulement is a principle in the United Nations 1954 Convention on Refugees. It says that states should not expel or return a person to a country in which his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
In practice it is interpreted much more widely to mean that people cannot be returned to dangerous countries, even if the person would not be singled out for ill-treatment.
** By Mr Eugenio Ambrosi, of the International Organisation for Migration.
19th March 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on "What future for Europol?"
"Europol, like many EU agencies, started in a modest way, with minimal powers but its range of powers and responsibilities have grown and will grow, gradually but steadily.
"We were initially told that it had neither powers of investigation nor arrest. Information could be given only when (and I quote), 'strictly necessary for preventing and combating crime'.
"It now seems that Europol has an 800 strong European Gendarmarie Force. What will be its role? Or is this an invention of your detractors?
"It now seems that Europol will have access to all information held by police forces, including that on victims, witnesses and others, not convicted or even suspected of offences".
"Europol co-operates with third countries. Presumably that involves passing information that it has received from member states to those third countries. We are assured that data protection principles will be observed but the member states will have lost control of that data and will not be able to ensure that data protection is observed.
"There is no doubt that as crimes become more international, so must investigations, arrests and preventative measures. However, theEU is not (yet at least) synonymous with international. Criminals do not restrict their activities to an EU Single Criminal Market. They go back and forth inside and outside the EU.
"In my view, international co-operation must be on an ad hoc basis, depending on the countries in which the activities being followed are conducted.
"What can Europol do that Interpol cannot do?
"Is Europol not duplicating Interpol functions with an eventual aim of having supervisory powers over national and regional police forces and even replacing them - yet another manifestation of ever closer union - not so much a policing objective as a federalist objective?"
Responses from Mr Rob Wainwright, head of Europol:
He said that it was not accurate to describe his organisation as a European Gendarmarie Force.
Andrew told him after the meeting that the term had originated with the Daily Mail. Andrew said that he would write to the writer of the article to clarify the issue.
Mr Wainwright said that he agreed that crime was a global issue and that Interpol played an important role.
* This was a major LIBE (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) hearing but UKIP's full member of the committee and its spokesman on Home Affairs was absent again. He hardly ever attends.
13th February 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made this second contribution a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the special report of the Ombudsman concerning FRONTEX.
"It is customary to say that human rights are indivisible and must be held equally by all. Some clearly and self-evidently are: Article 4 on the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for example.
"People can, by their conduct and suspected conduct, place themselves in a category in which they can legitimately be treated differently. People suspected of being an illegal migrant or irregular migrant as you might like to call them, lose certain rights by virtue of that status. They cannot be expected to be able to roam freely throughout the Union.
"FRONTEX officials must question illegal migrants, forcefully though not forcibly, about their origins, especially when they have destroyed their documents quite deliberately. They must detain them in order to do that.
"Rescue at sea was mentioned earlier. I am, of course, wholly in favour of people, in danger, being rescued – indeed of there being a duty to rescue them. However, upon being rescued they should not be rewarded by being brought to Europe. They should indeed be returned to their countries of origin or to the countries from which they have embarked.
"The problem is that when in Europe they are either permitted to stay or refused permission but allowed to stay anyway! We heard a representative of FRONTEX, a couple of years ago, who said that refused asylum seekers were not forcibly returned but simply handed a piece of paper and asked, very kindly, if they would leave the European Union.
"We cannot give people the job of protecting the EU’s frontiers and then place them in the firing line of malicious complaints. I believe that all relations between officials and migrants must be recorded to prevent this from happening.
"I find it sinister that complaints are sometimes made, not by the migrants themselves but by NGOs on behalf of the migrants but without the authority of the migrants.
"Employers have a responsibility in civil law for the wrongful actions of their employees, because they can discipline them and even dismiss employees who act wrongly. However, they are not usually responsible for the actions of people over whom they have no control. The idea that FRONTEX should be responsible for the employees of member states is preposterous."
13th February 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the special report of the Ombudsman concerning FRONTEX.
"The principle of non–refoulement is sending a blank cheque to accept as many people from dangerous countries as turn up on our shores. If we take that to the logical or illogical conclusion then we cannot tolerate the existing populations of those countries remaining there.
"We had better bring the whole populations of all of the dangerous countries in the world to Europe and then watch it sink."
13th February 2014: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution a debate after a presentation from Cecelia Malmström on an EU Anti-Corruption Report.
(A report into corruption in the public and the private sectors in all twenty-eight EU member states but excluding corruption in EU institutions)
"Would you restrict the term 'corruption' to positive incentives provided for changing a decision - whether economic or political - or would you extend it to threats - for example of disclosure - particularly relevant to people who have life styles that make them vulnerable?
"To what extent do countries - that is political states - use financial incentives to influence political parties, governments or individuals? There was an example in the UK about ten years ago, in which a generous political donor, with close connections to a country that had contentious relations with its neighbours, was found to have donated funds to the campaigns of all of the candidates for a senior position in a political party. This was quite an eye opener. It was not so much an attempt to influence the outcome, as it was to buy the loyalty of whoever won.
"Is corruption sometimes, at least in the beginning, so subtle as to be barely perceptible - invitations, flatter and attention, rather than hard cash in sealed envelopes? Do all decision takers need to be trained to recognise it?
"I have never been approached to take a corrupt decision but that might be attributable to my complete lack of power or influence. I have never regarded lack of opportunity to be a sign of virtue!"
Response from the Commissioner:
She said that she and her colleagues used the UN definition of 'abuse of power for private gain', which would seem to exclude threats and would not include donations to parties, though it might extend to personal campaigns within parties, such as the one mentioned.
13th February 2014: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons put the following questions to Dr Marianne Wade who gave a presentation to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on on developing a Criminal Justice Area in the European Union.
"Would you agree that courts in the executing country of a European Arrest Warrant should be able to refuse to execute a warrant for lack or insufficiency of evidence?
"I am not an enthusiast for the EU and neither am I a supporter of the European Arrest Warrant. I would not normally be a supporter of the proposed European Investigation Order. However, I am inclined to think that as long as the European Arrest Warrant exists and applies to the United Kingdom, a European Investigation Order might serve to reduce the issuing of European Arrest Warrants in the weakest of cases. Would I be right to suppose that?"
Response from Dr Wade:
Dr. Wade said that she would prefer the decision to issue the warrant and the decision to execute it to take place at the same time. She did not say directly whether the court in the executing country should be allowed to refuse extradition on the ground of insufficient evidence.
12th February 2014: A report from Andrew Brons on this morning's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels.
I arrived at my LIBE meeting at 9.00 as usual and it started (promptly?) at 9.10. I have never known a meeting to start on time.
The first substantive item on the agenda was an ‘exchange of views’ with the Executive Director of LISA – the EU Agency for large scale IT systems, Mr Krum Garkov who spoke with the charisma that we would expect of an IT expert, and in passionate monotones.
We listened to him politely, displaying expressions that affected an understanding of, and interest in, the subject matter. When I say ‘we’ that was strictly accurate, but only just. If there had been one fewer in the audience, I should have had to use the pronoun ‘I’. Yes there were only two of us in the audience (out of 119).
A third member joined us at the end of Mr Garkov’s presentation but the fact he had missed the oration did not prevent him from asking about it.
This item finished at 9.30 and the next item on the agenda was not scheduled to start until 9.45. Our President- a kind man- gave the three of us a well deserved break!
12th February 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on measures to prevent the counterfeiting of the Euro.
"There is no doubt that problems associated with a currency being undermined extend beyond the countries that use it as their national currency.
"With that in mind, it is understandable that a regulation should be proposed to extend the Pericles 2020 programme to member states that have not adopted the Euro.
"However, there are ten EU countries that are outside the Zone and each has a national currency. Those currencies need to be protected against counterfeiting, just as the Euro does.
"Does the EU take any measures to protect those currencies. Does it spend EU money doing so?
"We know that there is a Fund of 7,344,000 Euros to implement the Programme for the seven years up to the end of 2020. If you think that that does not sound much more than a round of drinks, don't worry. If the Commission wishes to exceed that amount by more than 10%, it can pass delegated acts to authorise itself to do so.
"This money is presumably from the EU Budget subscribed to by all net donor member states but by some more than by others.
"If it is in everybody's interest to protect the Euro from counterfeiting (and I accept that it is), it is also in the interests of all to protect the other currencies. We cannot have a situation in which all twenty-eight (or at least the net donors among them) pay to protect the Euro but each of the ten also pays, alone, to protect its own currency."
Response from the Commission and the Rapporteur:
The representative said that the extension would protect other currencies because the training provided would develop expertise that would enable other currencies to be protected.
However, the Rapporteur admitted frankly that the proposed regulation did not apply to other currencies but invited me to propose an initiative
for a regulation that would do so. This might be rather a tall order to be completed in two months!
12th February 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on an arrangement with various Non-EU countries* to participate in the European Asylum Support Office.
"If I were a citizen of any of these countries, I should ask whether we (meaning 'they') were under particular pressure from asylum applicants that the Office could help us with. The answer is likely to be 'No'. So why is their co-operation being sought? They are being asked to contribute financially and to provide homes for asylum seekers.
"We must ask how many asylum seekers have arrived in the EU directly from the country from which they are fleeing. The EU does not have a land border with any of the countries from which people are fleeing. If they by-passed the first safe countries, they ceased to be asylum seekers and became migrants of choice.
"Many from North Africa are supposedly fleeing countries that have had democracy bombed into them by those kind Western countries.
"Those from Sub-Saharan Africa have by-passed or passed through many countries before putting their families at risk in leaky boats.
"The mood of Europe is changing very quickly and it is ironic that Switzerland is one the countries whose co-operation is being sought. The referendum on Sunday was not about asylum seekers but its mood was unmistakeable."
Response from the Commission:
The representative of the Commission said that Norway had indeed received numerous asylum seekers. However, he did not say whether they had just arrived (as they had done in Lampedusa) or they were allowed in voluntarily by the Norwegian Government.