UK may lift veto on police matters
The UK has indicated it is ready to lift its veto right on EU police and judicial co-operation to help the fight against cross-border crime, signalling a possible u-turn from its traditional reluctance to hand over powers to Brussels.
A UK government official announced on Thursday (4 May) that the government was looking into the matter, and was keeping an open mind, and would judge each proposal on its merits, according to the Financial Times.
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"It's a concept in which we are interested and there could be some advantages," he said.
The UK has traditionally been reluctant to give up decision making and veto powers to Brussels, and has a special clause which allows it to "opt out" of European police and justice decisions.
The latest polls show, however, that better crime fighting and anti-terrorism action is at the top of EU citizens' wish lists, which could make it easier for the British government to present the idea to its parliament.
Late last month, the French government tabled new proposals to break the EU's constitutional deadlock, pleading for an end to national vetoes in this area.
Paris suggested that EU member states make use of the so-called "passerelle" or "bridging" clauses in the current EU treaty, which allow the shifting of policy areas from unanimous decision-making to majority voting, effectively eliminating the national veto.
But any such shift requires a unanimous vote by member states making the plan difficult to implement.
The French proposals have been supported by the next holder of the EU rotating presidency, Finland, with prime minister Matti Vanhanen saying the switch to majority voting in areas of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters is allowed under the EU's Amsterdam treaty.
Mr Vanhanen denied that the bid represents "cherry picking" from the EU's constitutional treaty, rejected last year by French and Dutch voters.
"It is about showing people that the European Union is working effectively," Mr Vanhanen was quoted as saying in the FT.
Terrorism triggers new decision-making
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Centre in New York, and the terrorist bombings in Madrid and London, Brussels has speeded up cross country measures to make European action more effective in combating terrorism and organised crime.
Justice commissioner Franco Frattini last week praised recent decision-making in which Brussels had been able to surpass individual member states' complaints with a simple majority support from the rest.
He mentioned a heavily disputed EU data retention law that requires member states to store internet and telephone data for police use, which was approved despite Ireland and Slovakia being against it.