A humane and effective immigration and asylum policy

Federalist Letter to the European Constitutional Convention

Issue number 4, 5 June 2002

Dear Members of the Convention

Not a week goes by without further evidence of the desperation felt across Europe in the face of immigration. The new law in Denmark that comes into force from 1 July and the proposal from Italy, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain on a European border police force show how concern is spreading, and how impossible it is for national governments to exercise any meaningful degree of control.

The British government, for example, is torn between resisting European proposals on border controls on the one hand and demanding the closure of the Sangatte camp in France on the other. The Swedish immigration minister, Mona Sahlin, has denounced the new Danish laws as serving to increase immigration pressures in Sweden instead.

When Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish prime minister, declared that Denmark’s immigration law was not the business of other countries, he was both right and wrong. Wrong, because immigrants and asylum seekers will go elsewhere in Europe. But right, because there can be nothing more central to a country than the right to define who are its own citizens.

It is plain that we require a European policy towards immigrants and asylum seekers that is both humane and effective. A series of national policies can be neither.

But European cooperation will not be forthcoming as long as governments like that of Denmark persist in such unilateral measures. The Convention must take the opportunity this week to start to map out the reforms that are needed to ensure that a common European immigration policy can be both democratic and effective.

But does this mean yet more powers moving further away from the citizen towards an unaccountable bureaucracy? We think not.

First, the decision-making process must become more accountable, both to the European Parliament and to the citizen. The right of citizens and taxpayers to bring cases before the European Court of Justice must be enshrined in the Constitution. And the European Parliament should be given co-decision powers on all these policy instruments, and not just be consulted as at present.

National parliaments, too, have a role to play. Their former role as the exclusive embodiment of democracy looks out-of-date in a Europe of shared sovereignties, but their significance as a representative of the citizen cannot be denied.

Already, they have an important function of scrutinising the actions of the Council of Ministers – they should consider whether they do this adequately. They also have a range of duties under the Treaties: TEU Articles 48 and 52 (treaty amendment), 49 (enlargement), 17.1 (defence), 24 (international agreements in foreign and security policy), 34.2(d) (conventions in the field of police and judicial cooperation), 42 (passerelle between third and first pillar), and by virtue of European Community Treaty Articles 22 (development of European citizenship), 190.4 (electoral procedure of the European Parliament) and 269 (system of own resources).

But what more? Here are two suggestions:

– demand that the Council should meet in public when adopting legislation, to enable proper scrutiny

– national parliaments should cooperate more closely with the EP, to ensure that executive action at both European and national level can be held more effectively to parliamentary account

To set national parliaments against the European Parliament is a false choice. Both have a role to play in ensuring that the citizens’ interests are respected.

A European Federal Constitution is the framework in which an immigration and asylum policy can be managed effectively and democratically, for the benefit of the citizens of Europe today, and of those who will be coming to live here in the years to come.

This “Federalist Letter” is issued by the Union of European Federalists as part of the “Campaign for a European Federal Constitution”. For further information and support:
UEF – Chaussée de Wavre 214 d B-1050 Brussels, Tel: + 32-2-508.30.30 – Fax : +32-2-626.95.01, E-mail: uef.european.federalists@skynet.be – Website: www.federaleurope.org With the financial support, but not representing the opinions, of the European Commission.

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