Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The benefits of European integration, part 4,578

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the EU-wide arrest warrant, extremely helpful in fighting terrorism and organised crime - which, I think we can all agree, is largely cross-border these days.

And - please note - on this occasion a suspected terrorist mastermind has been let free thanks to the wishy-washy weaknesses of a mere national government - not through want of EU efforts. You can't pin this one on the European Union (though I have no doubt that the usual suspects at the usual blogs will try).

More discussions of the problems of the arrest warrant at the International Herald Tribune are also worth a look. This affects you too, you know - Slovenia could extradite you tomorrow under this agreement. Probably.

The fact that this arrest warrant has been deemed to go against the German and Polish constitutions and to violate suspects' basic rights is neither here nor there - after all, if they've got nothing to hide they've got nothing to fear, right?

(I really can't tell if I'm being sarcastic any more - this is a good thing for proving the effectiveness of closer integration, but it's a bad thing for civil liberties, but it could make us all safer, but it could be used to lock us all up, but... My brain hurts again.)

Update: Just noticed - this story gives a prime opportunity to compare and contrast news coverage to check for bias. Let's see...

EU Observer (run by a sceptic) - Terror suspect freed on European warrant glitch - taking “European” as a synonym for "The European Union", as many headline writers do, this would tend to suggest it’s the EU’s fault.

Compare to the pro-EU Guardian - Germany blocks extradition of al-Qaida suspect - factual, no confusing reference to "Europe".

That Scotsman article linked above, from a traditionally strongly Eurosceptic paper, opts for the sensible, factual Setback as German court bars al-Qaeda suspect's extradition. Unusual, as they're normally only too happy to have a dig.

The Financial Times, meanwhile – seemingly unable to make up its mind about the EU these days – plays it safe and goes for both headlines: first (possibly via Reuters) German court rules EU arrest warrant invalid, again bringing the EU up in the context of a failure in an apparent attempt to sully it by association, then Germany sets free suspected al-Qaeda financier - a more honest approach, as the EU actually has precious little to do with this story, other than as a possible way to prevent such a thing happening again.

Finally, the sceptic Telegraph has a not so subtle dig: Al-Qa'eda suspect freed as Germany rules EU extradition warrant illegal - note the cunning implication, by the use of the stronger "illegal" in place of the FT’s "invalid" that this is somehow the EU's fault for proposing a dodgy law, rather than Germany's fault for bollocking up the implementation?

If anyone spots any more interesting coverage of this story, let me know.

Update 2: Yesterday's headspack means I'm behind. The usual suspects have already latched onto it.

First up Ken at EU Realist seeing this ruling as the herald of the collapse of all international treaties and the the beginning of the end for EU Law. Wishful thinking there, old chap - that'd only be the case if every member state had the same legal situation of Germany. If they did, there'd be no need for legal rulings at an EU level as we'd already all be in perfect harmony.

Next, the increasingly barking Helen Szamuely at EU Referendum. Interesting how here the al Quaeda suspect of everyone else's coverage becomes "a half-Syrian, half-German businessman whose Import-Export Company is suspected of being a front for a money-laundering operation to provide funds for terrorists" - with little mention of how high up the wanted list he is or how important his financial dealings as thought to be. Because, hey, if the EU's trying to screw him over, he must be OK, right? Oh, and look - Ken "filthy communist" Livingstone's said he's dodgy, so he must be OK (for some reason).

In other words, smoke and mirrors to detract from the central point which is that, had the German government implemented the legislation correctly, EU legislation would have enabled the detention and trial of a man strongly suspected of funding terrorism. As it is, the sovereign courts old Helen praises so much have let a suspected terrorist fundraiser continue unimpeded, and she offers no practical suggestions for preventing this from occurring again.

But as she then starts drooling with conspiracy theories about the secret service aiding terrorists (whereby somehow because terrorists exist - erm... the EU's bad, m'kay?), I think it's probably best to back away slowly, smilying gently, and try not to make any sudden movements...

4 Comments:

Anonymous Dan said...

How's the migraine?

7/19/2005 10:56:00 am  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

As may be evident from my slight incoherence, better but not perfect. I normally have a day where my brain doesn't work properly after these things. Like being mildly drugged. Fun.

7/19/2005 11:12:00 am  
Blogger Jarndyce said...

Helen "increasingly barking"? I didn't think there was anywhere for her to increase to?

7/19/2005 12:27:00 pm  
Blogger ken said...

Hi, Thanks for the plug! Having read and much appreciated your live Blogging from London of the 7th I can understand your feelings on the matter of terrorism. Which is why this debate needs to be disassociated from the emotive issues surrounding terrorism.

Imagine that a person has been accused of committing a crime and was investigated by the police, but no evidence was found that would enable a prosecution. Then an arrest warrant was issued by a judge in another country who did not have to produce evidence of any wrong doing, in order for that (innocent) person to be brought to that country to face that countries laws for a crime that was not committed in that country, you now have the basic situation faced by this particular individual.

I do not know if he is innocent you do not know if he is guilty, the German investigators could find no evidence that he was guilty yet Judge Baltazar Garzon decided to have him arrested and extradited to face further investigations in Spain. I do not know about you but I would have thought at the very least we could question such a system on the grounds of basic human rights. Unless of course you are advocating that human rights can go hang, and I am sure you do not belive that.

That deals with the case against Darkazanli, except to say that he may be as accused, the "permanent interlocutor and assistant" in Europe for Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden. Or he may be just a businessman, he may even be you or me.

On a different point I like you do get frustrated when our laws do not seem to be capable of meeting the terrorist threat, when those who support terrorism or promote it, are able to turn our own laws back on us so that we are faced with imponderable questions about our rights and freedoms, whilst we all know that these people have no interest in either.

However my post which you so graciously commented on was not about the details of this particular case, it was rather about the retention by the German Constitutional Court of the power to make the final decision in these matters, and the potential repercussions of this stance on EU law generally.

The FCO says on this point “No international organisation could function if domestic law undermined treaties” A point they argue for accepting the EU Constitution clause that EU law is superior to state law. If the FCO is right then not only me, but everyone should understand that for the German court not to recognise the agreement creates problems.

In Germany, as both houses of the government have passed the Constitution, and accepted the EU Arrest Warrant obviously accepting the supremacy of EU law, yet their own court has rejected the principal saying that it is incompatible with the German constitution. This must mean according to the Constitutional Court, that the German government has acted against its own constitution by passing the treaty.

Within Germany this situation needs to be addressed, either EU law is, or is not superior to German state law, if it is superior then the ECJ and not the German Constitutional Court is the final arbiter. The court argued that the warrant infringed rules governing freedom from extradition, and said Germany’s implementation contravened basic rights. The court reasoned that the law infringed on every German citizen's right, enshrined in the country's Basic Law, to a hearing in a court in Germany before extradition can take place. The five judges agreed that extraditing Germans to a foreign country when the main part of the crime was committed in Germany is unconstitutional. And said there also needs to be a legal way to challenge the extradition under an EU arrest warrant.

It would seem that the German government will now change the law and allow a hearing for the accused in German courts before granting an extradition, therby undermining the very essence of the EU Arrest Warrant which relies on the recognition of the laws in each EU state, obviously such a hearing will entail the necessary production of evidence to support the application, this will mean that the remit of the EU Arrest Warrant will cover the whole of the EU with the single exception of Germany.

The German Constitutional Court made the same ruling over the Maastricht treaty, reserving for itself the final authority, so it should come as no surprise that they have acted in the same way in this case. If I am correct the same court is also to decide on the legality of the EU Constitution, under German Law and have they not also stopped the ratifying of the treaty until they have ruled.

Going back to the FCO argument as the German court has used domestic law to undermine the EU Arrest Warrant where does that leave the rest of us who are subject to these rules.

We either have a system of government that must obey the legal limitations placed on it, usually by its own hand, or we end up with nothing less than a dictatorship, if a government can ignore the constitution which gives it power in the first place, then what value are we to place on any protection we may have from our own state.
On the point you make about unravelling EU Law the link to the International Herald Tribune quotes Daniel Keohane, Centre for European Reform this is an important case "first because it involves an alleged Al Qaeda connection, and second because it raises questions about whether the European arrest warrant can work at all."

7/20/2005 04:39:00 pm  

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