LETTER: Is Howard right to resist EU anti-racism legislation?

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From Ms Sarah Ludford

Sir: Michael Howard is trying to make out that his resistance to an EU resolution on racism and xenophobia is a stand against unnecessary Eurocentralism. In reality, it is resistance to democracy and the rule of law in European decision-making. It is essential that all British citizens understand this in the run-up to the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) and a general election.

Your report by Sarah Helm ("Howard vetoes EU anti-racism drive", 24 November) referred to the resolution being drafted by the "highly secretive K4 committee of senior officials from all member states". The very name sends a chill down the spine! It is a committee of national civil servants - not, note, Brussels bureaucrats - who meet behind closed doors. They discuss policy and reach decisions on matters of vital importance to individuals such as visas, asylum, immigration, cross-border policing, drugs and terrorism.

But neither the European Court of Justice nor the elected European Parliament gets a look in. This is because the Maastricht treaty provides for intergovernmental co-operation rather than European Union competence for these matters, so only the governments of the member states, and not the EU institutions, are involved. Michael Howard says the interior ministers are happy. Well, they would be, wouldn't they? No messy democratic debates in open session and no inconvenient judicial review to bother with!

It is vital that this scandal is exposed, and remedied in the IGC. This is a story of democracy and law against secrecy and arrogance, not of admirable Albion against the crafty Continentals.

Sarah Ludford


Central London Europe Group

London, N1

24 November