Weekly News Review

7th December, 2002

Convention: NGOs list demands


Four leading EU NGOs - the Standing Committee of experts on international immigration, refugee and criminal law (also known as the "Meijers Committee"), Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA), European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and Statewatch - have submitted 18 demands in a joint submission to the "Convention on the future of Europe" meeting in Brussels.

The primary concern expressed by the NGOs is that there is not in place adequate or effective judicial, parliamentary and public accountability nor guarantees of full compliance with human rights obligations in the fields of immigration and asylum, policing and legal cooperation (justice and home affairs).

The joint submission demands include:

1. The abolition of the "third pillar" (policing and criminal law) of the EU by fully merging it into the "first pillar". This will ensure greater democratic scrutiny and that individuals can enforce their rights in national courts.

2. The rules on external relations in the "third pillar" should also be brought under "first pillar" rules which would ensure parliamentary and public scrutiny of proposed agreements with non-EU states and organisations on policing and criminal law (covering, for example, the proposed EU-US agreement on judicial cooperation in criminal matters).

3. Normal EC decision-making procedures should be applied to all immigration and asylum matters and they should be subject to human rights obligations in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

4. If a European Border Guard is created it should be a civilian body not a police or military force.

5. The EU should formally accede to the European Convention on Human Rights to ensure effective independent scrutiny of EU measures with human rights implications which is particularly necessary in fields such as policing and asylum.

6. All EU institutions and bodies and agencies (for example, Europol and the Schengen Information System) created by it should be subject to the same rules of accountability, judicial control and rules on public access to documents.

7. The powers of the European Ombudsman should be strengthened (by allowing the Ombudsman to take case directly to court) and extended to ensure the protection of human rights.

8. The Council of the European Union (the 15 EU governments) should be obliged to meet in public when making legislative decisions.

9. The role of national parliaments to effectively scrutinise measures should be significantly increased and parliamentary timetables should be amended to allow civil society to make its views known. National and European parliaments should, in addition to their current roles, scrutinise the implementation of EU policies/measures.

10. The European Court of Justice should have full jurisdiction in justice and home affairs.

Commenting on the demands, Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, said that "The policies and practices affecting the fundamental freedoms and liberties of people in the EU must be subject to effective and transparent judicial, parliamentary and public scrutiny and human rights protection. This is not the case at the moment. It is a prerequisite of a democratic

Europe that these standards now be put in place"

Read the  full text of joint submission here

Prestige disaster "tip of the iceberg"


Progressive Members of the European parliament placed the blame for the Prestige disaster squarely on EU heads of governments when the matter was debated in the European parliament.  Camilo Nogueira MEP for the Galician Nationalist Bloc, attacked Member States for delaying the outlawing of single hull vessels, which has been repeatedly urged, most recently in a 2001 Parliamentary report authored by Mr Nogueria's colleague, French Revolutionary Communist league (LCR) MEP Roslyn Vacchetta. as last. Mr Nogueria said that he had no doubt "where the ultimate responsibility lies. It is with EU heads of states who have been unwilling to take the necessary action to prevent such disasters. They're too willing to listen to other responsible partners- crooks in the industry itself."

Monica Frassoni MEP, President of the Greens-EFA Group, said:

"The EU together with the Spanish and Galician governments must learn from this disaster and set up immediate measures to limit the impact and reduce contamination. It is also important that the Commission investigate the circumstances that led to the disaster, in particular the type and condition of the vessel and the causes of the accident as well as its destination, owner and all other actors involved in the mishandling. I would have expected the EU to have learnt from the Erika disaster that there is no time to waste and gets its house in order in terms of maritime safety regulations. It is with great regret that I learnt that the ecological damage caused by the Prestige is expected to be 10 time higher than that of the Erika."


Meanwhile, environmentalist groups have pointed out that Prestige is merely a particularly spectacular example of what is in reality a daily catalogue of catastrophe. Oil pollution caused by accidental tanker wrecks such as the current Prestige disaster in northwest Spain is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the devastation to wildlife and the environment caused by illegal dumping of oil, one such group, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has said.


IFAW and other environmentalist groups hope that the Prestige crisis will serve as the final proof of the risk from oil spills and alert the world to deal with the even larger problem of chronic oiling that is claiming hundreds of thousands of wildlife victims every year.


“Hopefully this tragedy in Spain will act as a last warning of the enormous wildlife, environmental and economic damage that is being caused by oil spills. The disasters from wrecks like this one are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day ships are dumping oil illegally into the seas, just using it as a giant waste tip,” said Jay Holcomb, the leader of IFAW’s Emergency Relief team, which is running the main rehabilitation centre in Spain handling the oiled wildlife affected by the Prestige slick.


“Chronic oiling is responsible for wiping out literally hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year, possibly millions. For example we know that several hundred thousand birds die annually off the east coast of South America because of ships illegally dumping oil when they clean out their bilges."


Scientific studies of the long-term impact of oiling have been carried out since the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska in 1989. A paper looking at these results by Charles H. Peterson of the University of North Carolina reveals that there is ‘elevated mortality for years’ for wildlife because of persistent toxic oil compounds, reduced reproduction, habitat degradation and other problems.


Go to http://www.ifaw.org for more from IFAW


Letter to Lamy


Over 50 European civil society organisations have reiterated their call to publish immediately the full GATS (General Agreement on Trade and Services) requests that the European Union has submitted and the incoming requests made to the EU by other WTO members; to conduct an economic, social and environmental assessment of the past and proposed service liberalisation before undertaking further GATS commitments; and finally, to exclude public services from the GATS negotiations. Read the Open Letter to EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy here

The Trans-National Institute (TNI), has lauunched a new electronic journal, Transnational Alternativ@s. TA describes itself as a multilingual electronic journal dedicated to promoting the exchange of critical thinking on global challenges and innovative proposals for progressive transformations. Its main goal is the constitution of an open and permanent forum for creative interaction between researchers and activists from the South and the North, through the translation and online publication of political texts and other analytical resources.

The pilot issue is dedicated to the concept of Social Forums and the Global Justice Movement. It includes an editorial on Social Forums and a bibliography of the Global Justice and

Solidarity Movement, as well as a contribution from Fausto Bertinotti. Read it here

Green Left Weekly is Australia's socialist newspaper. Issue #519 is on line now and focuses on how state and federal politicians are fuelling `terrorist' hysteria to justify the introduction of draconian new laws that give police and spy agencies unprecedented power. These powers won't stop terrorism but they will be used to crush dissent and attack ethnic and religious minorities. Plus Australian and international news and comment. Go to this website

Resources for Radicals is looking for material to review for its fifth edition.  If you have a print resource---magazine, pamphlet, book, calendar, manual, newsletter or other publication you'd like to have included, send a review copy by March, 2003 to Brian Burch, Editor, Resources for Radicals, 20 Spruce St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. RfR is produced by Toronto Action for Social Change. Write to tasc@web.ca for more information.

Water privatization has been a failure all over the world – but companies like Bechtel haven't given up. Read all about it here

The Significance of the European Social Forum Waldon Bello writes on the ESF here

Boris Kagarlitsky says "Get Organized Against War"