5th September 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Measures to integrate the Roma.
"I am sure that the proposers of these measures see themselves as kind people, generous people, who have the best interests of the Roma at heart. I don't want to rob them of that self-image entirely.
"However, the use of the passive mood to describe the present condition of the Roma and what might be hoped for them is extremely revealing
"The Roma are portrayed as a people who have and have had unpleasant things done to them and need pleasant things to be done for them. They are portrayed as a people that cannot choose its way of life - indeed as people who are incapable of choosing or deciding for themselves.
"They are told that they must give up their present way of life as though their wishes did not matter. The idea that they could change their way of life if they chose to do so is simply not entertained for a moment. To describe this approach as patronising would be an understatement.
"We are told that the Roma must not discriminated against but also that they must not be stereotyped. To stereotype, in English means, literally, to fix the form of something permanently or to make unchangeable.
"Whether or not the characteristics of a people are changeable would be a question for debate - if only we allowed ourselves to debate such things. However, many people have been programmed to use what George Orwell called crime-stop whenever they find themselves thinking a heretical thought.
"Colloquially, the word, stereotype, is used to mean, to generalise about a group or a people. We are often told that we cannot or should not generalise, which is a nonsense. What we cannot or should not do, is apply a generalisation to all members of the group. There are large or small exceptions to nearly all generalisations.
"However, generalisation are made about the Roma by EU institutions such as Europol. It published a booklet on the 1st September 2011, entitled, Trafficking in Human Beings in the European Union. It put the populations from which criminal gangs involved in human trafficking were most frequently reported were placed in a list . . . at the top of that list were the ethnic Roma.
"However, it ought to be said that Roma girls and women head the list of victims of human trafficking. To ignore that fact is to perpetuate the dangers to which those women and girls are subjected.
"The British press misleadingly describes those who are involved, disproportionately, in street robberies as Bulgarian and Romanian citizens. However, it omits to mention that these Bulgarian and Romanian citizens are disproportionately from the Roma community.
"Problems are not solved by censoring our words or our thoughts and denying evidence."
11th July 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the United States National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programmes and bodies in various member states.
"Whilst I am concerned about intrusive collection, by the United States, of information, especially personally sensitive or political information, I am more concerned about the possibly indiscriminate use or transfer of that information.
"I am particularly concerned that an investigation into a serious criminal offence might result in no proof of the serious (or any) offence but might result in the collateral collection of non-criminal political information or personal information that could be used to provide leverage over individuals.
"In 2011 and 2012, the UK Government intended to legislate to ensure the retention of telephone number dialled, e-mail addresses to which messages had been sent and websites visited but it did not proceed with that legislation. To be fair, the proposed British legislation would not have covered the content of communications but only the addresses to which they were sent.
"I would like to think that the UK Government did not proceed with the legislation for the best of reasons - to preserve individual liberties. However, it is possible that it did not need it because the United States is now providing the UK (security services) with more detailed information about the content of communications and not just the addresses to which they were sent. William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, when asked about this in the House of Commons, did not deny this clearly and unambiguously.
"Many governments of member states have express policies of discriminating against their own citizens who are prospective or current public sector employees, because of their political opinions or affiliations. I am less concerned about the United States collecting information about the political activities of citizens of member states, than I am about the possibility of the US NSA passing information about those citizens to their own member states. That could cost people their careers for opinions and affiliations that have no criminal connections. A police officer in Liverpool lost his career in 2009 (on account of his alleged membership of a political party disapproved of by the Government).
"Perhaps a better approach would be to persuade European states to desist from carrying out politically discriminatory policies against their citizens. However, that would provide for freedom of association and that would not be acceptable in EU circles, as we know from the debate that has taken place about European Political Parties."
10th July 2013: Yesterday 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 The Programme of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council* for the next six months.
"I welcome your giving priority to control of external borders to prevent illegal migration and your recognition of the necessity for border control to combat human trafficking, terrorism and other serious organised crime.
"I am not as optimistic of your succeeding in doing so effectively. The facilities for holding large numbers of people do not exist in the main areas of entry. Furthermore, there is active lobbying against the detention of illegal migrants. Even when an illegal migrant has failed to be granted asylum to be allowed to stay, they are not forcibly returned to their country of origin. We were told by the Executive Director of Frontex** that they are simply given a written order to leave the EU, which they might or might not comply with.
"There was a reference (in the presentation) to migration management, "to satisfy the labour market". We have large numbers of unemployed people in most member states. There no occupations for which at least some of those who could not be educated and trained.
"We must not treat human beings as though they were impersonal factors of production to be sold on a market. Indeed when people are moved to satisfy a market, there is a dangerous similarity with human trafficking."
* The Council (not to be confused with the European Council) contains one representative from each member state government. It is presided over by the government of a different member state each six months. Lithuania has held the Presidency since the 1st July and will hold it until 31st December. I was making reference to a presentation by the Lithuanian Minister of the Interior, Mr Dailis Barakauskas.
** The agency for controlling the external border of the EU.
9th July 2013: Yesterday 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 the Annual Report on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the EU, by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).
"Of all rights, the most important and fundamental are the political rights without which political change would be inhibited and democracy would be incapable of operating. Of these, freedom of speech is paramount. Without freedom of speech there can be no debate worthy of that name.
"However, freedom of speech is scarcely mentioned in the Annual Report, if indeed it is mentioned at all. Why should that be? Perhaps because the Agency and many members of this committee are not very keen on it.
"I am sure that the Agency is keen on freedom of speech for those with whom they agree but so is everybody – even totalitarian monsters from bygone eras were.
"However, free speech for people who are critical of the liberal consensus is not favoured.
"These critics and their opinions are demonised by ugly and moronic names like “hate speech”. Why? Well, ironically, to incite hatred against people and parties they dislike.
"In case there is any doubt, the Agency has compiled a hate list at the back of the Annual Report."
25th June 2013: Last week 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) with representatives of national parliaments, on police and judicial co-operation in civil and criminal matters with particular reference to Europol.
"Does Europol restrict itself to suspected serious offences that are being committed or have been committed? Is it involved in surveillance of political activities that do not constitute criminal offences? How serious would an offence have to be, to be the business of Europol?
"Where there are differences between the definition or even existence of offences between different member states, would the police forces of a member state be expected to pass information about or investigate activities that do not constitute an offence in that country?
"I understand fully that current and proposed supervisory bodies should not supervise operational activities of Europol (or any other police force). However, I presume that they can exercise surveillance over operational activities, because general conclusions might be drawn from that surveillance.
"If Europol were to be found to have exceeded its powers, what actions could, and would, be taken by these supervisory bodies? Could they trigger a more formal investigation and/or disciplinary proceedings?
Lord Hannay* said that (the supervisory bodies) did not want to get involved in operational activities but he did not make a distinction between supervision and surveillance.
Mr Neumann (for Europol) said that all information collected comes within their mandate.
None of Andrew’s questions was answered directly
* Lord Hannay is Chairman of All-Parliamentary Group on the United Nations. He was a career diplomat who acted for the British Government during its application to join the European Economic Community in 1973.
24th June 2013: Last week 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 Missing Persons in Cyprus (during the Turkish invasion in 1974).
"How many and what percentages of missing persons and of discovered remains, come from each community (Greek and Turkish Cypriots)?
"Are there any indications about whether they were killed by army personnel, private persons or by militia? On what criteria do the victims appear to have been chosen? Who were they?
"Will there be a report compiled at the end of the process (of investigation)?
"Can there be any real closure (for the families of victims), when the Northern third (of Cyprus) is still under occupation and families cannot bury remains in desecrated church grave yards in the North?
"I am aware that responsibility for the occupation rests with the Turkish Government and not with Turkish Cypriots, many of whom are also opposed to the occupation. Three years ago, we met some representatives of Turkish Cypriots in the Parliament who were opposed to the occupation. The representation of both communities on this committee is most encouraging.
"How much co-operation is provided by the Turkish administration in the North and by the Turkish Government?"
Andrew was told that of the missing persons: 1590 were Greek Cypriots and 502 were Turkish Cypriots. Of the remains found (included in the previous category), 338 were Greek Cypriot and 17 were Turkish Cypriot.
He was told by the UN representative that the Committee was not mandated to investigate the circumstances of death or the criteria for choice of victim.
He was told, by the UN representative, that there had been 22 requests for access to military areas in Northern Cyprus, since 2006 and all had been granted.
He was told by the Turkish Cypriot representative that most of the Turkish Cypriots missing were civilians and that 28% were women or children.
20th June 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons asked a series of questions following a presentation given by Vivianne Reding, Vice President of the Commission, about European Commission priorities in the field of Justice.
"When there is a conflict between the rights of competing parties to a case, on what principle or criteria would the relative value of those rights be decided?*
"The Commission mentioned the importance of the Rule of Law being respected by all European Union institutions. Would she agree that the Rule of Law goes beyond the state obeying its own laws. Some tyrannical systems do that. Would she agree that laws drafted so that so that they target some political or philosophical ideas, as distinct from others, violate the spirit of the Rule of Law. They would also, incidentally, be a breach of Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
"If Article 21 prohibits discrimination against people on the ground of political opinion, what action should be taken against states that dismiss people from certain jobs in the public sector on the ground of membership of some named political parties?**
"There are laws in many member states against incitement to hatred against people defined by race, religion, sexuality and other features. In view of the fact that political opinion is on the discrimination list, should incitement to hatred against people on the ground of political opinion, also be prohibited or would that cramp the style of the Political Class?***"
* Black and Morgan v. Wilkinson
** Police officers and prison officers in the UK are prohibited from joining Nationalist political parties.
*** I did not advocate such a law but I wanted to know if she would support the enactment of such a law in the pursuit of consistency.
Ms Reding did not answer any of Andrew's questions or even refer to them!
19th June 2013: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following speech during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) following a presentation of the Greek National Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management by the Greek Minister for Public Order and Citizen Protection, Mr Dendias.
"The current policy of simply accepting that third countries have "difficulties and delays" in the issue of travel documents to their own nationals is admitted to result in "significantly low return rates".
"This flawed approach sends out a message to would-be illegal immigrants that they will either be granted the right to stay or refused it but allowed to stay anyway, while waiting for documents that will probably never arrive or they will be allowed to spend months perhaps years pursuing numerous appeals and court cases. Alternatively they will wait indefinitely and not necessarily in detention for their cases even to be heard.
"These factors will act as a 'pull factor' drawing more and more intended illegal migrants to try their luck.
"Countries of origin that refuse or delay in fulfilling their responsibility of accepting back their nationals must be named and shamed in international organisations and they must be pressured to accept their nationals. If they still fail to act, Greece and its friends, who might otherwise become unintentional hosts to these people, must provide these failed migrants with unilateral, generous, direct, physical and not-to-be-refused help to return to their countries of origin, with or without travel documents.
"Greece seems to be doing its best to deal with an insurmountable problem, within the limitations of EU and other international constraints and they are part of the problem. The sooner they rid themselves of these constraints the better.
"Operation Shield has, we are told, reduced migration flows over the Turkish-Greek border by a staggering 96.8%. However, there are still 52,000 migrants waiting to be process. It does not have the accommodation for these, so they are released into the community.
"It does have pre-removal centres but they have only 5,000 places - soon to be increased to 10,000.
(They have a Voluntary Repatriation Programme that has assisted 8,500 people to return to their own countries. Furthermore, Greece hopes that its Additional Returns Programme will result in the return of 6,000 illegal migrants.)*
"The impression is of a country trying to solve a serious problem but hindered by obligations placed on it by an overbearing guardian - the European Union.
"There is a parallel here with Greece's economic policy. Its economy is being ruined by an austerity and unemployment policy foisted on it by an indifferent European Union. In the same way its identity and stability are being undermined by an intrusive and ruinous immigration and asylum policy."
* This paragraph was omitted to keep within the overall time limit of two minutes.
19th June 2013: 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 Protection of the Euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law.
"We are, of course, all against counterfeiting, even of the ill-conceived Euro.
"I was under the impression that counterfeiting was a serious criminal offence in virtually every country in the world.
"Are there any EU countries in which it is not an offence?
"Are there any EU countries in which it is treated leniently?
"If the answer to both questions is no, why is there a need for EU legislation?
"This seems to be EU law for the sake of it - harmonising for the sake of it - and not for the first time!
"Of course, the European Union does not yet include every country in the word but just give it time. EU legislation will have no effect in rogue states that tolerate criminal activity of this kind.
"Minimum penalties are alien to the different legal systems in the United Kingdom, with very few exceptions such as murder and drinking and driving. However serious this offence is (and that is not in doubt) there must always be judicial discretion to be used in very exceptional cases."
2nd June 2013: Last Thursday at the European Parliament in Brussels, in his fifth and final speech of the day, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Unaccompanied Minors in the EU.
"I am very sceptical about the idea that people of even seventeen years have the resources and knowledge to get themselves to Europe from other continents. The idea that young teens and pre-teens have done so is simply and literally incredible. Is proof of age required or even asked for?
"If minors are really unaccompanied when they come to the attention of the authorities, it is certain that they were not when they started out. They were either trafficked by criminals or brought by their families for their betterment.
"If the best interests of the child are the paramount criterion, it will pre-determine the decision to be taken. It is clearly in the best material interests of the child to stay in Europe. They will be better educated; they will be better paid; and they will be better housed.
"The interests of a child: to live in their countries of origin; with immediate or extended families; to speak their own languages; and to follow their ways of life; can be simply disregarded.
"There is an agenda in favour of unlimited immigration and a pre-text will always be sought to allow it. The concept of the unaccompanied minor is simply the latest."