Secret pact to bar Bosnian refugees

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The Independent Online
THE MOST powerful and secretive committee of the new European Union is drawing up an 'action plan' to ensure that millions of refugees from Bosnia and elsewhere are prevented from slipping into any member states this winter.

There are an estimated four million refugees in the former Yugoslavia, and EU officials fear a severe winter might trigger a wave of migration.

The move to harden the Union's frontiers is one of six priority tasks before the 'K4 committee', made up of senior home affairs and justice ministry officials of the Twelve whose names are kept secret and whose meetings go unannounced.

Members of K4, which was established under the 'Third Pillar' of the Maastricht treaty, are inaccessible to journalists and human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Britain and France are determined to keep the committee's work under wraps. At the first meeting of K4, they saw off an attempt by the European Commission to be given a greater role in areas of asylum and drug trafficking.

The officials answer only to the Council of Justice Ministers, although the democratically elected European Parliament has been promised 'consultation', but not the right to change or veto K4 initiatives.

At present K4 is focusing on the Union's asylum policies. This includes the establishment of a sophisticated fingerprint service to prevent multiple applications.

Tony Bunyan, a director of the civil liberties group Statewatch, says that K4 is 'a major step forward in the creation of the European state infrastructure that will be largely unaccountable and undemocratic'.

Other measures to be put to justice ministers at the end of the month include the speedy setting up of Europol, the new Union police agency in The Hague.

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