EU Suspension?

This was unexpected.

Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs, warned that any countries found to be allowing the CIA to operate the detention centres – part of a global secret gulag used to hold al-Qa’ida suspects and other “ghost detainees” – could have its voting rights suspended.

I don’t think it’s going to happen, though it’ not wholly inconceivable. It probably should. In any event, cheers to Frattini for raising the issue.

….Henry Farrell comments.

26 thoughts on “EU Suspension?

  1. I would say it /is/ wholly inconceivable.

    One, you’d have to prove violations. Good luck.

    Two, you’d have to get a political consensus that the violations are violations, and that suspension is an appropriate punishment. This is IMO wildly unlikely.

    Three, you’d have to get the mechanism to work. Check it out:

    “If the Heads of State or Government, acting on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission, and after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament, declare that a serious and persistent breach of the EU’s underlying principles has occurred, the Council may, acting by a qualified majority, suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the EU Treaty and EC Treaty to the Member State in question, including voting rights in the Council.”

    Look at that carefully. You need

    — a proposal by 1/3 of Europe’s Prime Ministers OR a majority of the Commission; and then

    — a majority in the EU Parliament; and then also,

    — a majority in the Council.

    This is just so obviously not going to happen.

    This looks like politics of gesture, and — at first glance — rather clumsy gesture at that.

    Doug M.

  2. Because, gosh, that whole business of suspending Austria over Haider’s participation in the national government worked out so very well…

  3. Exactly.

    I think you’d need something like Yugoslavia-level horrors for this mechanism to come into play. There are just too many ways to block it.

    Doug M.

  4. Actually, I don’t think it is that inconceivable at all, provided there is clear evidence of misconduct by the member state in question (which may require more than just allowing the CIA to do whatever it is it does). Note that at the time of the infamous “sanctions” against Austria because of Haider, this Treaty article still required unanimity in the Council… (I suppose the country targeted then would not vote, otherwise the outcome becomes even more predictable, but still…). This Treaty article (article 7 TEU) was changed in Nice, and QMV seems reasonably achievable. At the time, member states succeeded in achieving unity on Austria too after all – and the country had not yet even done anything.
    BTW, this is not to say that the “sanctions” on Austria were a good idea at the time, precisely because nothing had happened then and has happened since. Which is also why the “sanctions” (which boiled down to EU ministers refusing to shake hands in public with an Austrian minister) proved to be untenable, why article 7 did not serve as the legal basis of the “sanctions”, and why the Commission and the European Parliament never supported the “sanctions” imposed by the member state governments.

  5. the signal I mentioned is about something larger as you may read in today’s FAZ: Schon bisher waren ganz konkrete Konflikte zwischen diesen Auffassungen nicht ausgeschlossen. Wie ist die Lage des KSK-Soldaten der Bundeswehr in Afghanistan, der Seite an Seite mit den Amerikanern kämpft, einen Gefangenen macht und aufgefordert wird, ihn zur Weiterleitung nach Guantanamo abzugeben? Er darf nach dem deutschen Wehrstrafrecht keinen Befehl befolgen, der eine Straftat bedeuten würde.

  6. Actually, I don’t think it is that inconceivable at all, provided there is clear evidence of misconduct

    Well, that’s a big hurdle right there.

    But it’s far from the only one.

    [of Haider]

    the Commission and the European Parliament never supported the “sanctions” imposed by the member state governments.

    My point.

    For this to work, you have to get broad consensus among most members AND a majority in Parliament AND a majority in the Council.

    That’s really quite hard. And for an affair like this — where a number of countries would be on Poland’s side, either quietly or openly — it looks impossible.

    Eulogist, I’ll bet 100 of my Euros against 10 of yours that nothing happens within the next 12 months. If either the Parliament or the Council pass a resolution to strip Poland (or any other member) of voting rights, I’ll take that as a loss, whether or not any other body concurs.

    Bet?

    Doug M.

  7. “Eulogist, I’ll bet 100 of my Euros against 10 of yours that nothing happens within the next 12 months”

    I more or less agree with you on this Doug (M), but isn’t the main point going to be on how this affects *future* behaviour (or any currently ongoing activity), rather than retrieving the past.

    My guess is that this issue will continue, if only for the reason that the Council needs to send a clear message that there are unacceptable levels of behaviour.

    Otoh, if it is one day established that torture (or worse) took places in any of these institutions (if they are proved to exist/to have existed) then if the states are signatrees to the relevant convention then the decision level politicians (up to head of state, this was the importance of the Pinochet decision) could have difficulties moving round the EU, if indeed they don’t have problems within the legal system of their own states first.

    I think what citizens need now is information and investigation. In this sense, even if Franco Frattini’s threat is a hollow one, it is an important one.

    Incidentally I’m not sure the comparison with Haider is an appropriate one, since this would have meant a head-on clash with the expressed will of a member state electorate. In this case the activities have taken place without the knowledge or consent of the relevant voters.

    Of course, if Poland did decide to re-introduce the death penalty, then this would be nearer the Haider case.

  8. Hehe 🙂

    I did say: provided there is clear evidence of misconduct by the member state in question (which may require more than just allowing the CIA to do whatever it is it does), so I am entitled to wait for such evidence to appear until I accept, right?

    My point on Haider was that then there had been no misconduct by Austria and still all member states (except of course Austria itself) supported the “sanctions”. So despite the qualms caused afterwards by this case, if there would be clear evidence of clear misconduct now, and with article 7 changed in the meantime from unanimity to QMV, I still think acting on article 7 is “not inconceivable”.

  9. Doug’s right. Poland isn’t going to be chucked out of the EU, and nor is any other member.

    Suspension is only a serious possibility if a country does something seriously bad like abolishing elections or murdering their political opponents.

  10. If that happens, the EU is finished anyway. Europe is unified enough that a lone country won’t go rogue. It would be a movement with a wider spread.

    That article if ever seriously used is likely to just hasten the inevitable.

  11. Isn’t Frattini one of Berlusconi’s political toughs? A law-and-Order type?

    If so the significant part of this could be the further distancing of Italy from the Iraq adventure. Or much ado about Italian politics in the runup to the elections next year?

  12. Doug,

    Are we reading two different versions of EU treaties?

    The one I´m reading says about article 7:

    “1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of principles mentioned in Article 6(1), and address appropriate recommendations to that State.”

    http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/treaties/dat/C_2002325EN.000501.html

    Just pointing out that according to this text the European parliament can start the legal procedure too.

    While I agree that it is unlikely that a national government or the EU commission would like to start it, the EU parliament IMO is the “wild card”.

    Assuming there is some kind of proof to the allegations, I think they´ll start the process. It might come to nothing but it will receive publicity in Europe.

  13. The people of France, Germany and the other foundernations would really hate it if Poland is kicked out of the Union *cough*. That is also one of the reasons that it isn’t as unlikely as it sounds.

  14. “Isn’t Frattini one of Berlusconi’s political toughs?”

    Yes, I was wondering about this part. I mean normally this view wouldn’t be associated with the big push towards inceasing transparencv and a strong emphasis on human rights issues. So what is the real agenda here.

    As you indicate, it may be electioneering in Italy. Or there may be other objectives. The Commission is seriously threatening legal action against the governor of the bank of Italy (the Fazio affair). This would technically involve legal proceedings against the Italian government I think. Speaking cynically, they may just be looking for a ‘trade’.

    Again the real target here may not be Poland at all, but Romania, and getting their entry postponed, something which might well have a certain popularity in Italy.

  15. “Again the real target here may not be Poland at all, but Romania, and getting their entry postponed,…”

    Why haven’t they (Poland and Romania), as a future members of the European Community, bought the Eurofighter?

  16. Isn’t the point here that Frattini established the fact that having CIA gulags within EU territory is beyond acceptable?

    I’d take the bet, if the Polish prime minister or president said, “Yes, we have CIA prisons on our territory. Yes, torture is acceptable in the fight against terror.” Etc.

    Now Kwasniewski just said he wasn’t informed about all planes landing and taking off in Poland.

    And if there are CIA prison camps in the EU, they will “disappear”. Because Frattini (and a lot of other EU politicians) took that stand.

    That looks to me the issue. It is about the crime, more than the punishment.

  17. “Eurofighters are not exactly cheap. Poland and Romania are more second hand buyers.”

    Referring to this case, I think that it’s not a question of money but rather a question of how to behave in an “ethical” and “communitarian” landscape.

  18. Isn’t the point here that Frattini established the fact that having CIA gulags within EU territory is beyond acceptable?

    Nope. If the threat would be carried out, then yes. This way, all he does is affirming that you have to preserve deniability. That is not new.

  19. Hi detlef,

    No, I think we’re saying the same thing. Just paraphrased. My original cite was from here, and it’s just rephrasing Article 7 of Maastricht.

    Someone said Parliament is a wild card. Yes, but not in the way you might thing. There’s a broad nationalist streak in Parliament. IMO it’s very very unlikely that such a proposal would ever get out of it. Too many countries have their own dirty laundry.

    France, for instance, probably doesn’t mind seeing uppity Poland rapped on the knuckles. But France’s human rights record is no great shakes — they regularly practice extraordinary rendition, for instance. So I really doubt they’d like to see the precedent of even having such a measure introduced, never mind passed.

    Doug M.

  20. If someone who had suffered in one of these prisons was able to speak out in the media and, perhaps, even bring a case to the couts, wouldn’t this be a better way to shame the hosts of these prisons?

  21. someone who had suffered in one of these prisons was able to speak out in the media

    “Welcome, Mr. X, to prison camp Y in Z, the leading provider of interrogation solutions in this part of Europe. You’ll be issued a stamped certificate of torture upon release”

    How would you provide evidence for an allegation like this? The mistake with the digital cameras will not be repeated. And maybe these people simply “disappear”

  22. Previewing your Comment
    reference eurofighter

    If this question is why nations are not buying it, then what you are really asking is do they want to transfer money to other European nations or do they want an aircraft which has military capability and at what cost.

    You could ask Greece the same question>

    The eurofighter is a great jobs program but for nations which might one day need a combat figther it is still less than the F-16, F-15E or the F-18.

  23. Pancho Villa, it really is a question of money. A Eurofighter is really expensive, even for states like Germany and Britain. It is even the question if Poland and Romania could afford them. And the solution for communitarian reasons is simply to buy the second hand F16’s from Belgium.

    Joe, i guess you are an American cause that is simply not true

  24. And if there are CIA prison camps in the EU, they will “disappear”. Because Frattini (and a lot of other EU politicians) took that stand.

    Ah, the fun of quoting myself!

    So what did ABC news report yesterday?

    Dec. 5, 2005 — Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.

    Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1375123

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