EU Should Get Its Own House in Order
Sally McNamara /
After three years, British citizen Andrew Symeou has been found not guilty by a Greek jury of fatally attacking another British vacationer on the island of Zante. However, this is no ordinary judicial outcome, for Andrew Symeou has endured injustices far beyond being falsely accused of murder.
Two years ago, Symeou was taken from his home in London and extradited on request to Greece. He was subsequently sent to the notorious Korydallos maximum-security prison. He was rendered under the EU’s much-lauded European Arrest Warrant (EAW)—without a shred of prima facae evidence against him. In fact, there was more than substantial evidence of Symeou’s innocence—his friends had had false statements tortured out of them by Greek police (statements they immediately retracted); contradictory eyewitness accounts; and seriously corrupt police practices. The victim’s family still has no justice following Symeou’s acquittal.
Civil liberties campaigners and European Parliamentarians are usually at the forefront of calling for such flagrantly flawed systems to be changed. The EAW was introduced after 9/11 on the grounds that it would stop terrorists hopping across Europe’s open borders. But far from being used to target terrorists (and ignoring other useful measures such as mutual recognition of terrorism laws), people are being routinely extradited for far less serious offenses, such as leaving a gas station without paying. From April 2009 to April 2010, 1,032 Britons were extradited to other EU member states without any prima facie evidence.
Apart from a few brave legislators such as Daniel Hannan (MEP), the European Parliament has been unusually quiet on the EAW issue—even though (or likely because) most European Parliamentarians have backed this program to the hilt. As Hannan states: “Their attitude is perhaps understandable but, like the anti-Dreyfusards, they seem dangerously ready to abandon an innocent man rather than re-examine their prejudices.”
It was the same with the illegal bailouts of failing Eurozone countries: The EU willingly broke its own laws and propped up failing economies with hundreds of billions in taxpayers’ money, because breaking the law was preferable to admitting that the European project is failing.
However, as obsessed as it is with advancing European integration, the European Parliament is equally as fanatical about frustrating EU–U.S. cooperation. The European Parliament has forced several renegotiations of the EU–U.S. Passenger Name Recognition (PNR) deal on sharing airline information, and EU lawyers now claim that the current iteration of the deal is “disproportionate”—that petty criminals will be caught by American law enforcement officials, rather than terrorists and serious criminals.
Parliamentarians should perhaps pay attention to testimony by EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton, who proclaimed the benefits of PNR profiling in March 2007. The concern for proportionality might also be easier to stomach if the EU’s own house were in order.
Their objection is simply thinly veiled anti-Americanism. And this is not the first information-sharing deal with the U.S. that the European Parliament has opposed, either; it legally voided the EU–U.S. SWIFT agreement on sharing financial information in February 2010.
The EU–U.S. PNR deal may not be so easy to disrupt, however. The U.S. Air Transportation Safety Act of 2002 requires that the PNR data of travelers to the U.S. is provided to American authorities in advance of arrival. If the Parliament stops airlines from sharing this data, then flights stop—simple as that.
The EU and U.S. formally entered into renewed negotiations on a fourth iteration of the PNR agreement in January this year, but the latest “leaks” by the EU lawyers mean that agreement is unlikely in the near term—and the existing deal carries on working perfectly well. The Obama Administration must ensure that it sticks to its guns in future negotiations, however. Information-sharing is not an indulgence in the post–9/11 world; it is a necessity.