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Date: Tue, 4 Nov 97 20:40:42 CST
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: EU Charter Gives Cops Greater Powers
EU Charter Gives Cops Greater Powers

EU Charter Gives Cops Greater Powers

By Dag Tirse'n, The Militant, Vol.61 no.39, 10 November 1997

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - The revised European Union charter that was negotiated in Amsterdam last June incorporates a new section that gives police greater powers in the name of establishing a "freedom of movement" within the EU.

The provisions include increasing border controls at the outer borders, a system of European-wide registrations of individuals, and more collaboration between cops in the EU-member states.

The provision began as an accord between five EU governments-Paris, Bonn, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Luxembourg-signed in Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985 to eliminate border control between those countries, and establish a common visa policy. In 1990 an "Implementation Convention" was set up, centered around increased control over travelers.

The Schengen convention is said to be about the freedom of movement over the "internal borders" between the Schengen countries. But just four articles in the convention are about open borders and 138 are about increased control. Some of the members states, including the French government, make use of one article that says that control still can be kept at certain borders. In addition, Paris has 16,000 officers deployed in public institutions, including toll collections, border cops, and state cops, who are authorized to control people in a zone within 20 km (12.5 miles) from the borders. This is considered a "compensating action" for participation in the free-travel zone. The government of Holland, for its part, has established a mobile border control force with the task of stopping and controlling selected people.

Aim is to control movement

The biggest effect of the Schengen treaty will be at the external borders, which means more rigorous control for all travelers. Everybody crossing the border will be checked against the Schengen Information System (SIS) files. In 1995 this system consisted of 30,000 computer terminals and a central computer that at the beginning of this year had a capacity of 9 million records, with plans to expand.

Non-EU citizens are subject to "special control." They have to have one or more valid travel documents, approved by the Schengen Executive Committee, which in most cases includes a valid visa. In March 1995, citizens of 126 countries needed a visa under the Schengen rules, and those of just 20 did not. In addition, those entering the participating countries must present proof of the purpose and conditions of their stay, have cash to support themselves, not be on file in the SIS as "not wanted," nor be judged to endanger the public order of the country, its national security or its international relations. Anybody that does not fulfill all these conditions will be denied entrance to the whole Schengen territory.

One aim of the convention is a common asylum policy under which an asylum seeker who is unwanted in one country will be turned away in all the other Schengen countries. To implement that, all asylum seekers down to 11 years of age are today already recorded in the SIS system.

The people listed in the SIS files so far have mainly been asylum seekers. Of the 700,000 persons entered in the file by Bonn by late 1995, 86 percent were under the category of unwanted foreigners.

Connected to the SIS is a system called Supplementary Information at the National Entry (SIRENE), where the bulk of material of each person is stored. These files include photos, fingerprints, and other information. SIS is essentially an index for SIRENE. The guidelines for the data entries in SIRENE are confidential. SIRENE is not formally part of the Schengen convention, but was established by the Schengen Executive Committee. Unlike the Schengen convention itself, this system does not have to be ratified by any parliament.

Legitimizing police surveillance

Reports on persons may be stored in the SIS for the purpose of "discreet surveillance" or "specific checks" where "concrete evidence gives reason to suppose" that the information is "necessary for the prevention of a serious threat by the person concerned or other threats to internal or external State security." According to this, a person can be placed under surveillance not because of his or her own acts but because of "other threats" to the state security. In a recently published book on the Schengen convention, Thomas Mathiesen describes this formulation as "pointing in the direction of political surveillance."

The Schengen convention and its inclusion in the EU charter means legitimization for more surveillance by the cops and more restrictions on democratic rights. It goes hand in hand with other campaigns to legitimize the activities of the cops.

One example was the action by the Netherlands cops during the conference in Amsterdam in June where the recently adopted EU charter was prepared. Tens of thousands of workers and youth from across Europe came there to protest the meeting, and held a peaceful demonstration. The next day the police arrested about 700 young people, in groups of up to 200. No charges were presented, and all were released in a few days. Most of the arrests were made under Article 140 in the criminal law of the Netherlands, which makes it illegal to belong to a "criminal organization." It was the first time that law was used this way. Cops from several European countries was present as observers, including from Sweden.

In March, a "joint action plan against organized crime" was approved by the Amsterdam European Council. One of its main components was that all member states makes it illegal to "participate in a criminal organization."

At the same time, the Swedish government was working on proposals in the same direction: to make it punishable by law to be "an active participant" in an organization that commits crimes, to increase the powers of the cops to deal with gatherings declared to be "disturbing public order."

But the increasing tensions between the ruling classes of Europe make it difficult for them to make rapid progress in the cops' collaboration. Also popular resistance is a problem for the rulers. After a plebiscite on the EU was defeated in Denmark, the government there demanded, and got, several exceptions from implementing the EU charters. At the Amsterdam meeting the governments of Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Ireland were exempted from the "Schengen" part in the new EU charter. Several other states have not ratified the convention yet, including Stockholm, which plans to do it at the end of the year.

The EU is pasted together with layers of different agreements. The Schengen convention was an attempt move things forward a little faster through having those governments that were willing to initiate collaboration before the others. Now this is incorporated in the Amsterdam charter as the principle of "flexible integration."

Earlier this year a coalition was formed to fight Sweden's ratification of the Schengen convention. It includes organizations and individuals, some of whom have been active in struggle against racist and fascist organizations, against Sweden's membership in the EU, and in the environmental movement. A series of informational meetings have been held. A march against the Schengen treaty is planned for November 9, the day of "Kristallnacht," which is the anniversary of a Nazi pogrom in 1938.

Dag Tirse'n is a member of the Foodworkers Union in Stockholm, Sweden.

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