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Kirkhope: Cooperation not centralisation in European Home Affairs

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen: As a former British Home Office Minister and in my current capacity as the British Conservative Party's spokesman on European Home Affairs, issue of freedom, security and justice is very close to my heart. The Laeken Declaration rightly noted that "people feel that the Union should involve itself more with their particular concerns, instead of intervening, in every detail, in matters by their nature best left to Member States' and regions' elected representatives."

This Convention has rightly sought to gauge public opinion on the future direction of the European Union through listening to Civil Society, through the Youth Convention and through the plethora of projects carried out by individual Convention members. The most important mass survey of public opinion was carried out by Eurobarometer in April 2002. This survey showed us that the fight against organised crime and drugs trafficking ranks third (after peace and security and the reduction of unemployment) in public priority and has the support of almost 9 out of 10 Europeans. And yet, only a minority of those surveyed were in favour of European-level decisions being taken on justice (58% against) and police matters (63% against). The message from Eurobarometer is clear: 'yes' to cooperation between member states' judiciaries, police forces and Home Offices; but 'no' to greater harmonisation in this field.

If the Convention proposes a European Police Force, a European Public Prosecutor, a European Border Guard, the abolition of the third pillar and greater qualified majority voting, I feel that we will be going against pubic opinion and fuelling the dissatisfaction that many people feel about politics and politicians in general.

What people want is co-operation, not harmonisation, in justice and home affairs. My European Parliament report on Joint Investigation Teams—included in the recent Queen's Speech in the United Kingdom—is based on cooperation rather than harmonisation. Why should we have a centralised European Police Force when national police forces can cooperate together to tackle crime?

If this Convention proposes more centralisation in justice and home affairs, we will be seen as integrating for integrations sake and not tacking the issue that matters most to people, namely crime and disorder. People want us to fight the drugs trade that poisons our young people; they want us to tackle international paedophile rings that threaten our children; they want us to stop the illegal trafficking of so-called asylum seekers; and they want us to work together with countries right across the world to crush the greatest evil of our time: terrorism. These battles require cooperation, but they do not require harmonisation.

Winston Churchill—recently voted Greatest Briton of all time—urged politicians to trust the people. In the context of justice and home affairs, this requires us to focus on cooperating together to tackle international crime rather than harmonising for harmonisations sake. If we do not listen, we will be ignoring the lessons of Laeken.

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