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Kirkhope: Cooperation not harmonisation in Home Affairs

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President: Those of you who have had the opportunity to look at my amendments to the Praesidium's proposals for justice and home affairs will, I'm afraid, be familiar with the word 'delete'. Among other things, I'm afraid I have had to delete the proposals for a European Public Prosecutor; I have deleted the proposals for a common asylum and immigration policy; and I have deleted the proposals for harmonising all our legal systems.

These deletions are certainly not grounded in a wish for the European Union, and Britain in particular, to be isolationist and narrow in this field, but rather a desire for us to base our activities on cooperation between Member States rather than harmonisation for harmonisation's sake.

For example, with Article 22, I am not happy about extending the powers of Europol, but I would like the use of Joint Investigation Teams to be extended and encouraged. The creation of a European police force should not be on the agenda.

People do want us to join together to fight the drugs trade that poisons our young people; they do want us to tackle international paedophile rings that threaten our children; and they do want us to stop the illegal trafficking of economic migrants. But these battles require cooperation, not harmonisation.

As a former Home Office Minister, I have sat in the Council of Ministers and now (when I'm not able to enjoy your company, Mr President) I sit in the European Parliament's Freedom, Security and Justice Committee. From these vantage points, I have been engaged in the formulation of policy in this area for nearly ten years.

My conclusion is that too often Ministers, MEPs and (dare I say it) Commissioners make proposals based on the powers that they will transfer rather than the effect they will have on crime and disorder.

What is so frustrating is that we have hardly scratched the surface of cooperation in these matters. Also, the possibilities of using bilateral and multilateral agreements outside the framework of the European Union have barely been explored. These should be the priorities of agenda and I urge Conventioneers to consider these points as we debate these amendments.

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