Letter: Secret EU deals on immigrants

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Sir: The transfer of immigration and asylum matters ("Dutch to unveil plan for multi-speed EU", 24 March) to Community competence has important significance for the future protection of human rights in the European Union. Treatment of these issues, presently dealt with in secret, intergovernmental "third pillar" meetings, has been consistently criticised for lack of democratic and judicial accountability.

While the move to "communitise" will potentially provide a better constitutional basis for decisions in this area, the degree of protection is in the details. Although it is proposed that the European Court of Justice will be competent to adjudicate, there appears to be no proposal to fully involve the European Parliament. As the new title is to include regulation of the free movement of persons, which currently requires parliament's agreement under the co-decision procedures, this would represent a dilution of democratic control.

If there is a serious wish to address the democratic deficit during this Inter-Governmental Conference, empowering the only directly elected institution to play a greater role seems essential. This would be backed by the proposed protocol to provide a legally binding minimum period for national parliaments to ensure effective scrutiny of the same proposals at member-state level.



London EC4