|Vol.7, No.26, 28.6.01, p18
IN THE fight against international crime the Union's biggest weapon is not armed police or undercover intelligence - it is cooperation.
For EU leaders the key to clamping down on organised crooks is to make sure that law enforcement representatives can operate across borders as smoothly as do the villains who use the bloc as a single market for illegal activities.
A key achievement of the Belgian presidency and the state's justice minister, Marc Verwilghen, should be to complete work on a vital component of this trans-frontier anti-crime crusade: the European office of public prosecutors, Eurojust.
The law-enforcement body, made up of high-ranking prosecutors from each member state, has been operating in a fledgling form since March, meeting several times a week in Brussels.
But it will be Belgium's responsibility to clinch a deal on the form and powers of the full strength office by the end of the year.
It will not be easy. Prosecutors' roles vary wildly from country to country, and there are differences of opinion about how powerful the pan-European ones should be. The French are keen to give Eurojust extensive powers to match the muscle which its own hugely powerful national magistrates can flex.
Others, such as the UK and Ireland, where prosecutors are more of a cog in the legal machine, are keen for a slimmed-down version. "The end result will inevitably be some kind of conglomeration of what everyone wants," said one EU diplomat.
The Belgians will have to strike a deal on whether the unit will stay in its current home or move to sit alongside the bloc's police service, Europol, in The Hague.
The Belgians have also promised to try and finalise deals on a number of pending pieces of asylum and immigration and legislation.
Rules standardising asylum procedures and reception conditions for refugees as well as proposals to make it easier for their families to come and join them in the Union, could all potentially be sewn up."If they were to get these we would be a long way down the road to having a common immigration and asylum policy," said an EU diplomat.
Article forms part of a survey on the Belgian EU Presidency, July-December 2001.
|Justice and Home Affairs