European Court should have power over extradition, Delors says

Click to follow
Indy Politics
POWERS given to the European Court of Justice should be extended so that it has control over agreements between member states in areas such as the fight against international crime, Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission, said yesterday.

His speech at the 40th anniversary of the European Court is likely to alarm British opponents of the Maastricht treaty, who will see it as further proof of the EC's centralising tendency.

Mr Delors told the court's 13 judges that the treaty was 'relatively uneven' as some articles, including those dealing with justice and internal affairs, are not intended to become part of EC law. Instead, the treaty anticipates agreements in these areas between member states.

But Mr Delors called for these agreements to be overseen by the European Court, a policy which was not envisaged in the Maastricht treaty.

Thus, an extradition agreement signed by the member states could be declared unlawful by the court.

'Behind this is the right of individuals,' Mr Delors said.

His comments will be interpreted by those hostile to the EC as a further sign of his programme for a federal Europe. However, sources close to the British government indicated that the plans would be unlikely to upset ministers.

'If you have agreements signed by all 12 members, you need to ensure that they are uniformly implemented,' the source said.

Mr Delors also outlined his view of subsidiarity - a vision that appeared to differ markedly from that of John Major.

Mr Delors said the principle of subsidiarity should not be used as 'an instrument' for reducing the Community's powers, 'but rather a guide in exercising them.

'It is first and foremost a principle of good sense in action,' he said.

Speaking at the court yesterday, Lord Mackay, the Lord Chancellor, paid tribute to the work of the judges.

'We appreciate the deep learning, commitment, indepedence of mind and perspicacity of judgement shown by the members of the court over these 40 years,' he said.

But judgments from the court needed to be delivered more quickly, he said.

At present, it takes an average of about two years for the court to hand down a ruling.

Lord Mackay said that more cases should be handled by the lower European Court of First Instance, also based in Luxembourg. This would ensure speedier judgments, he said.