Le Parlement européen reçoit Janet Napolitano, secrétaire d'Etat à la sécurité intérieure. Une explication franche, mais apaisée.
mise en ligne :09 11 2009 ( NEA say… n° 76 )
Le Parlement européen reçoit Janet Napolitano, secrétaire d'Etat à la sécurité intérieure. Une explication franche, mais apaisée.
La réciprocité est la formule utilisée par beaucoup d'intervenants pour progresser dans les sujets de controverse entre l'UE et les Etats-Unis sur les questions de libertés civiles comme la protection des données et les exemptions de visa, le PNR, c'est ce que les députés ont estimé lors de la réunion avec la secrétaire d'Etat à la Sécurité intérieure, Janet Napolitano, le 6 novembre dernier. Concernant le centre de détention de Guantanamo Bay, Mme Napolitano a dit clairement que "Guantanamo a servi davantage comme outil de recrutement qu'autre chose".
Ce fut « business as usual », où chacun a déroulé le rituel bien connu des dossiers marquants de la relation Etats-Unis/ Union européenne. Deux remarques à souligner venant des deux co-présidents de la réunion : Elmar Brok a clairement fait remarquer que l'impression en Europe est que la politique américaine à l'égard de l'Europe est de diviser pour mieux régner et cela ne sert l'intérêt de personne. De son côté Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar a souligné qu'une des priorités de la future présidence espagnole est d'obtenir une déclaration politique commune contre le terrorisme.
Le Président de la commission des Libertés civiles, de la Justice et des affaires intérieures Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (S-D, ES) a rappelé qu'avec l'entrée en vigueur du traité de Lisbonne, le Parlement européen aura "beaucoup plus de pouvoirs que par le passé" et pourra pratiquer la diplomatie parlementaire sur des dossiers auparavant limités à la coopération intergouvernementale.
"Il y a de nombreuses attentes de notre part vis à vis de l'administration Obama" a déclaré Carlos Coelho (PPE, PT), président de la commission temporaire du PE sur les activités de la CIA en Europe. Il a appelé la secrétaire d'Etat à "lever l'interdiction d'accès aux documents relatifs aux négociations" intergouvernementales. Il a estimé que la réciprocité devrait guider le dialogue transatlantique. Thème repris par plusieurs intervenants
Autre thème important, l'exemptions de visa.Elmar Brok (PPE, DE), Président de la délégation du Parlement aux relations avec les Etats-Unis, a déclaré qu'il est "de notre devoir de discuter avec le Congrès américain dans le cadre du dialogue transatlantique" sur des questions comme l'exemption de visa. Il a souligné le besoin de faire se rencontrer les rapporteurs des deux parties sur les dossiers abordés pendant la réunion. Sur l'exemption de visa, Janet Napolitano a estimé que "cela doit être évalué au cas par cas (...) les exemptions de visa sont très importantes, mais certains, au Congrès, pensent qu'elles représentent une lacune dans le système de sécurité américain". Autant dire , ce thème restera sensible et les Etats-Unis, ne veulent connaître que les Etats et continueront à ignorer d'autres identités telle que l'Union européenne.
Données des passagers aériens (PNR),"Pourrait-on en arriver à une situation ou l'on pourrait renégocier l'accord PNR ?" a demandé Sophie in't Veld (ADLE, NL). "Nous avons urgemment besoin d'informations sur les résultats des politiques anti-terroristes", a-t-elle ajouté. Mentionnant ses vacances aux Etats-Unis et la mesure américaine visant à taxer les voyageurs exemptés de visa, elle a demandé : "Devrai-je laisser dix dollars et dix empreintes digitales" la prochaine fois ? Cet argent sert à la promotion du tourisme et des voyages (...), l'objectif est d'aider les touristes", a répondu Mme Napolitano. Sur le PNR, la Secrétaire d'Etat a indiqué qu'elle "serait heureuse d'avoir une discussion commune sur le sujet et de fixer une date (...) la révision du PNR est un travail que nous devons entreprendre ensemble".
Guantanamo. Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) s'est interrogée sur la fermeture de Guantanamo, et demandé à l'administration US de publier l'information relative à la participation d'Etats membres de l'UE aux restitutions extraordinaires. Concernant le centre de détention de Guantanamo Bay, Mme Napolitano a estimé que "Guantanamo a servi davantage comme outil de recrutement qu'autre chose". La secrétaire d'Etat a été discrète sur les intentions et muette sur le fait que les européens ont plutôt traîné les pieds pour aider Obama, elle a cependant remercié ceux qui avaient fait un effort….
Rui Tavares (GUE/NGL, PT), faisant référence à la date de fermeture de Guantanamo fixée au 22 janvier, a estimé que "ce serait une déception si cette date n'était pas respectée".
Système Entrée-sortie . Un point douloureux qui roque à l'avenir de prendre de l'importance. Pour s'en convaincre il suffit de prendre connaissance de l'article du Washington Post du 7 novembre.
Sarah Ludford (ADLE, UK) s'est pour sa part interrogée sur le projet américain de mécanisme de contrôle des sorties et souhaité que les études et conclusions sur ce projet soient partagées, une proposition de la Commission européenne pour un système européen similaire devant être étudiée l'année prochaine.
Profilage : éviter de stigmatiser des communautés, un point qui traditionnellement est hypersensible pour les eurodéputés. Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) s'est inquiété des conséquences du profilage des données personnelles, à cause duquel "certains groupes ont l'impression d'être tous des suspects potentiels, notamment les citoyens musulmans". Face à cela, "nous devons tendre la main à certaines communautés" a répondu Mme Napolitano. "Nous avons tous des lois contre de tels profils et nous devons être prudents" a-t-elle déclaré. Jan-Philipp Albrecht (Greens/EFA, DE) a demandé qu'une évaluation indépendante soit réalisée "afin d'éviter que l'on touche le fond" en matière de protection des données.
Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Exchange of views with Ms Janet Napolitano, United States Secretary of Homeland Security concerning the future transatlantic relations in the Freedom, Security and Justice area (co-chaired with the European Parliaments' EU-US Delegation)
Transcript of the exchange of views on 6 November 2009
11.00 - 12.00, Brussels
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Welcome to the European Parliament and this extraordinary meeting of the LIBE Committee, the Committee in charge of Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the EU - US delegation of the European Parliament which is chaired by honourable Elmar Brok who is also here co-chairing this joint session.
We are all aware that we are facing a unique opportunity for enhancing the transatlantic dialogue with the active participation of the European Parliament more than ever. This newly elected Parliament is facing change. The Lisbon Treaty is finally coming into force on December 1st which means that this Parliament is going to be stronger than ever. This Parliament is going to have full speed in deploying Parliamentary diplomacy. This Parliament is going to be decisive while deciding on legislative measures which have been so far refrained to the (inaudible) governmental cooperation of the 3rd pillar. This parliament is therefore going to be decisive on fundamental rights, citizenship, external borders, migration, asylum, judicial cooperation, both civil and criminal, fight against crime, illicit trafficking, drug, money laundering and of course all forms of violent crime and terrorism. The threats are real and we are ready and committed to this point and to cooperate so we are happy that this new situation of the European Parliament, this welcoming, the United States, the Obama Administration which has just made one year in office and particularly the important Home Security Department which is headed by Secretary Napolitano. She knows well the state of play regarding the recent visit of the European Parliament delegation to the United States. We were there with the occasion of the signature of an important package of agreements, notably, a bilateral agreement between the European Union and United States on mutual legal assistance and a bilateral agreement on extradition. She also recently attended in Madrid an important international conference on data protection which was committed to striking a new balance between liberty, privacy and security, which is a priority for all of us in the European Parliament.
Many of these issues have been recurrently debated in the LIBE Committee when specific or special dossiers such as PNR or SWIFT have been under discussion here, so she is fully aware that this is a very active Committee. This is a very important occasion and she is willing to engage in an active dialogue starting now, so I am sure that this hour will be an extremely fruitful opportunity to show our readiness to cooperate and engage in this active dialogue on the basis of mutual trust, respect, determination and of course of reciprocity. So please, Secretary Napolitano, be most welcome and the floor is yours.
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Thank you very much and thank you for the opportunity to be with you during this extraordinary session. I appreciate the time and the scheduling for the opportunity to have a dialogue. We approach this relationship on behalf of the Obama Administration with the feeling that we share joint values where privacy and security are concerned and we look forward to working with you to reaching a joint EU wide agreement on how we share information and protect data. We approach this out of a feeling of joint cooperation particularly in matters of crime and terrorism, which unfortunately know no international boundaries and which are part of the threat environment in which we exist and will continue to exist. So our job is to work together to minimise the risk that harm actually ever occurs and we approach this out of a felling of mutual respect. We come to these issues, we come into this room from different histories, different cultures, different legal traditions but common goals. How we ultimately reach those goals is the test for our abilities today and in the future weeks and months ahead. Therefore, I look forward to the session today and the opportunity for dialogue and to answer questions about some of the matters that are before us. So thank you Mr Chairman for this opportunity and for this session.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
So, we will get right to the point. There are some asking for the floor so, Mr Carlo Coelho please.
Thank you Mr Chairman.
I too for my part would like to welcome Secretary Napolitano. It's a great pleasure and indeed a privilege to meet with you today. It is important to hear what you have to say and I also think it is important for you to listen to us because I obviously think that dialogue is base on reciprocity. I want to be candid with you. Our expectations of your Administration are very high. Regrettably the relationship between the United States and Europe were perhaps not at their best during the previous Administration. We had certain difficulties with Bush Administration, they were discussed here in the Parliament. We had the SWIFT case, PNR - the way that was managed, the division of Europe into 'Old Europe' and 'New Europe', if one can recall what Mr Rumsfeld said and differentiation between European countries in terms of the granting of visa's to enter the United States, then there were of course the illegal activities of the CIA which led to the establishment of a committee of (inaudible) and then of course the whole issue of Guantanamo. The European Parliament and the European Council called for the closure of Guantanamo and we were extremely pleased when President Obama took precisely this decision and he also said something which was dear to our hearts and that was to return to the United States its being a moral reference point, an America which respects the rule of law and the fundamental principles, that is to say a country that does not break the law in the name of fighting against crime.
We have shared values says Secretary Napolitano. We all believe in the rule of law, the respect of human rights, we believe in international law. Now, I have two specific questions to put to you. First of all, access to documents and the whole issue of transparency. In the past when there have been negotiations between the European Union and the United States, the Council of the European Union did not allow this Parliament to have access to documents on the grounds that they weren't allowing this as that was the desire of the American authorities. I hope that the Obama Administration will not act in the same way as the Bush Administration. That is to say, please do not deny us access to official documents that are submitted to Council. Now, on the signature of the agreements in Washington, as I see it this is a step forward so Madame Secretary, perhaps you could tell us how we could help you in strengthening the relationship between the United States and Europe and how we could work on the practical implementation of these agreements, thank you.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Not surprisingly there are a high number of members wishing to take the floor so I beg you please to refrain to a time limit of, let's say two minutes, so we can make the best of it.
Agustín Díaz De Mera García-Consuegra
Thank you Chairman and I would also like to thank you, Madame Secretary, Mrs Napolitano, for agreeing to appear in a meeting with these two delegations from Committees of the European Parliament. I would very much like to endorse what our Chairman said in his introduction, I fully agree with his statements. If you work to the East and we look to the West, we actually find ourselves in the same place, now that is a metaphor but it does reflect reality and the fact that we need to find a common ground were we understand each other on both sides of the Atlantic.
I have a couple of questions that I would like to raise which are of concern to us. I know one doesn't fall within your remit directly but is worrying none-the-less and that is the (inaudible) Law. The Congress of the United States with a Democratic majority has just adopted the $10 law, $10 dollars to be paid by all European visitors visiting the United States. I think reciprocity would be reasonable here because there are 40 million United States visitors that visit the territory of the European Union every year. What do you think about that?
Secondly and on a more positive note Madame Secretary, on immigration, traditionally you have been a country receiving immigrants, welcoming immigrants as has Europe. You've shown an interest in community legislation, so could we think perhaps about instituting a framework for cooperation and exchange of experience in issues such as managing migratory flows, asylum, integration or border controls. My friend Carlos referred briefly to the question of visas but why are you negotiating and not recognising the European policy on visas? Why are you negotiating with each member state of the European Union, penalising to a certain extent states such as Poland and Bulgaria, rejecting more than 17% or 20% of requests for visas that you receive?
Thank you again Madam Secretary for agreeing to be here and thank you for your patience.
Mr Chairman, Madame Secretary, I think we share a little bit in common I suppose. I used to be the Immigration Minister in the United Kingdom and my son who lives and is a veterinary surgeon in Peoria, near Phoenix, allows me to be in your very beautiful state of Arizona on a number of occasions. I just want to ask you two specific points relating to, and of course your responsibilities are primarily the controls and the safety and security of the citizens of the United States but it seems to me that there is a problem which applies to all of us who are trying to deal issues like counter-terrorism and that is that it is all too easy for us to end up with a profiling situation where certain groups, certain religious groups maybe, have got a problem. They feel very much, and it is the same in Europe as it is in America, they feel very much as if they are all, if you like, suspect because of the behaviour of extremists or radicals. That is the case with our Muslim population in particular, who are in the vast majority law abiding and good citizens but who unfortunately have to pay a price for the behaviour of the extreme Jihadi radicals. Now it isn't just about Muslims that I am talking, it is about this whole question of how we can effectively exchange information between Europe and America which is not, in it's very basis, prejudicial against very large sectors of society. How do we deal with that and how do you become more selective in relation to that, in dealing with this very serious question of counter-terrorism.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Thank you, Mrs Ludford.
Baroness Sarah Ludford
Thank you very much Chairman and I join colleagues in very much welcoming the Secretary's attendance here and also in valuing very strongly transatlantic security relationship but like others, I want that to be a security and justice relationship and I think that is very much a cross-party concern in this Parliament.
I particularly wanted to ask you about the exit component of the US visit and we understand that the decision will taken by you quite soon on whether you will go ahead with this exit scheme. I understand that maybe the issue is whether it is cost effective but I am only relying on the press. If you were by any chance to decide not to go ahead with that, first of all I hope it might be possible to share your conclusions with the European Union because it is envisaged that the European Commission will be putting forward a proposal for an entry-exit system in Europe early next year and clearly we have been following with interest the discussions in the US and I think we need to follow the conclusions as well and the underlying basis.
Secondly, this is more the justice side if you like, our understanding was that this legislation, though I am a bit unclear I must admit on exactly where we are on the legislation which linked visa waiver to the exit scheme. If the exit scheme was not to go ahead where does that leave the prospects of visa waiver for the countries, it's technically five at the moment -although I know we hope for one to be dealt with soon - where would that leave them in terms of the chance of visa waiver, where does it leave it on the visa refusal rate and where does it leave the position of Congress as regards that insistence?
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Thank you and now our last question for our first round.
Carmen Romero López
Thank you Mr Chairman, I too would like to welcome Mrs Napolitano here to the European Parliament. I would like to dwell on an issue that has already been raised by Mr Kirkhope. International terrorism as a phenomenon has changed the standard parameters of the way we might act, in the past terror was used perhaps individually by countries but that is different now. As we see it, the attack on the Twin Towers completely changed the way in which the United States acted. The problem arises when you use preventive methods such as preventive war. Preventive methods can provide guarantees but they can also be problematic and that's perhaps what we would like to focus on. I am not just talking about SWIFT, which we have discussed in the European Parliament but for instance, on all issues pertaining to data protection. As I see it, if there aren't clear objectives, measures can become disproportionate and thus not be efficient, not achieve their aim. If methods such as those that have been mentioned, profiling, can provide certain guarantees but not always be as efficient as they might be or has been claimed. In Spain we have a degree of experience in the fight against terrorism and as such, I can assure you that you can fight terrorism whilst providing guarantees and protecting rights, preventive measures can be taken but they don't have to be used disproportionately, so those are our concerns and we'd like information to be shared on the basis of these principles in the future.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Back to Secretary Napolitano for a first round of comments and reactions.
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Thank you for the very thoughtful questions and let me begin by the framework that I tried to establish with my opening comments which is that we approach this relationship out of mutual respect and joint values and we understand and appreciate, I think some of the differences, and appreciate the opportunity to work through them.
With respect to access to official documents and transparency, the Obama Administration has, as a central value, transparency and so I would hope that, if there were some problems with access to official documents to the Parliament, that that can be and will be cured. How we work to implement the principles last week is I think a key question because it is important that we move from principles to agreement and I would appreciate hearing your suggestions on the way forward but I can say on behalf of the Obama Administration that we would like to move forward with as much speed as possible. These issues have been well vented over the last years. I think there is a fairly good, mutual understanding of what needs to occur so we would look forward to your recommendations on how we move from the 16 principles to an actual agreement.
With respect to the $10 dollar law know as ESTA, that has been included in the Appropriations bill that has passed both Houses and I anticipate that the President will sign that. Unlike many of your countries, the United States does not have a way to- or a separate agency to- promote tourism and travel and so the goal of this is to use that to actually fund and to help tourists and travellers who wish to come to the United States. It doesn't in that way go into, say, the general fund of the United States, it's really specifically limited to assist tourism and travel. So in that respect, I think that it is not only reasonable but in these days of reduced budgets, government budgets, it is the way to fund that. With respect to whether reciprocity is reasonable, I will simply say that reciprocity is always a value to be respected.
With respect to immigration, I believe, and now I speak as someone who not only as the Secretary of Homeland Security but who was the Governor of one of our large border states, Arizona. I was the Attorney General which is the elected state prosecutor for the state of Arizona and the United States Attorney for Arizona which is the Chief Federal Prosecutor. So I have a great deal of experience in border and border and management, migration and all of the issues that are implicated there with respect to a border area and I do think that putting together a group to exchange best practices, that sort of thing, would be welcomed and I think would be very useful for both of us and should you wish to suggest that we would be delighted to not only participate but to add whatever wisdom that we have.
With respect to the issue of profiling, in particular with respect to religious profiling. W e all have laws against such profiling and against such discrimination and so we have to be very careful as we do our law enforcement efforts, that we don't succumb to profiling. We have now, for example with respect to the exchange of passenger data, many different ways of looking at that data that really eliminates the risk that profiling is going on but that we are actually focused on those for whom we have derogatory information, information that is credible, that suggests that an individual has been associated with a terrorist organisation, a criminal organisation and the like and I think there, not only is data important but the way we use the data, the technology, the algorithms that are applied make a great deal of difference. The other thing that is so important I think is for us all to be reaching out to different communities, particularly those who may feel themselves under siege because of, for example, the actions of the Jihadist. So we have, actually within the Homeland Security Department in the United States, a Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Directorate whose function it is to not only ensure that we are not succumbing to profiling but also to be reaching out in ways to different communities who are in the United States.
With respect to the exit component of US visit, that is currently under review. There is a decision paper that is on it's way to my desk, it hasn't made it's way there but we expect a decision by the end of the year and as you know, or may not know, but the legislation on visa-waiver is linked to that exit programme and if one does not occur, visa-waiver becomes barred. So this is of keen interest and will be something, I think, where we have to be clearly communicating over the next few months. Let me pause a moment on visa-waiver as it was raised in your questions. You are members of a Parliament so I think I can share with you that visa waivers are very, very important as part of our relationship country to country but there are a significant number of United States Congress who do not accept visa-waiver at all as a concept and believe it is a big gap in the security system of the United States and so we must be very careful as we approach visa-waiver issues because we always run the possibility that the entire programme would be subjected to a legislative challenge at that time. I only raise that because I think that as members of a Parliament, you can appreciate the expression 'be careful what one asks for'.
With respect to Representative Romero López and the issue about disproportionate response to terrorism, I think that goes to our responsibility to reach the balance and to understand that security should not come at the price of liberty and President Obama was very clear about that in his inaugural address when he took office, that we are not going to achieve our security at the price of the values on which the United States is based and which the countries represented here are based. Reaching that balance of course, requires objective evaluation of what is before us, it requires communication such as that which we are engaged in today, it requires perspective and it requires really the ability to use our best judgement with the information that we have to move forward. That is what we are working to attain here and in the Homeland Security Department in the United States.
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Thank you, now back to the floor and I remind all of the members of the time limit, maximum of two minutes. Co-chairman Mr Brok will be given the floor.
Thank you very much, I would like to ask you to be even shorter than two minutes because we still have 10 speakers and I think it would be nice to give all of them the chance to give all of them the floor. Therefore, I would like to ask you to have short questions and remarks.
Thank you very much and your presence is very much appreciated. I will be swift and short. Coming back to the ESTA and the $10 issue, I appreciate your remarks and I understand that the current administration does have some other priorities like health care etc but still it is a bit odd to us to promote travel and tourism and then say welcome to the US, we tax you up on arrival. It's a kind of awkward situation and I really would hope that the US Administration would support us a bit on this issue because it will not be limited to the $10, there will be an additional fee so we might end up with a $15, $20 dollars and I think it's a bit of an awkward situation. Coming back to the issues raised by my colleague, Baroness Ludford, on exit related to the visa-waiver programme, I think that clear communication is going to be key in the coming months, we have fought for a long time on the enlargement of the visa-waiver, while it is indeed in the law linked to the realisation of the exit components, and so I am really very eager to get some more detailed news on the progress made in the coming weeks.
I am sure that my colleague, Sophie In't Veld will raise PNR but the only issue I want to stress is that could we please establish a date for joint review as soon as possible. We have the Lisbon Treaty coming into force soon, we have a new role of this House and I think that a joint review would be the least thing we could do to accommodate a new debate on this very issue, thank you.
Welcome to Brussels, welcome to Europe. We are very happy that you are here. I think what we need to remember is that we have heard from President Obama that the fight against terrorism is just as important as defending civil liberties. Now of course, at the moment unfortunately, when we speak to your colleagues and in particular in Homeland Security but also with some Democrat members of Congress, sometimes, the measures which are currently being proposed are even harder and stricter than they were under the previous Administration and that, for us, is a contradiction that we, in the European Parliament just can't accept and we really do need you to help us clarify, now this applies to the visa waiver, it also applies to the $10 dollar rule, it applies to the SWIFT negotiations, where we really have to insist on our European values, that European date protection laws and European civil liberties also need to be taken into account and implemented in these agreements with the United States and I would be grateful for some clarification there.
Secretary Napolitano, welcome, I would like to a ask you what is your assessment about the way European governments are cooperating with President Obama in his endeavours to close Guantanamo and I would like to take advantage of what you said that transparency is a crucial value for the Obama administration, why haven't the secret prisons that were admitted by President Bush, been disclosed by the Obama Administration so far? Its not just Guantanamo which was an extensive prison, it's about the secret prisons. I think that this is important and I suggest that by disclosing that and by disclosing the European responsibilities connivance with the Bush Administration in the operation of the extraordinary renditions programme, you will indeed elicit more cooperation on the part of the European governments to do what they have to do, which is crucial not just because it's about human rights but it's because it's essential for the effectiveness of our common fight against terrorism by denying the terrorists a narrative for recruitment and a narrative for revenge.
Jan Philipp Albrecht
Thank you very much for coming to the European Parliament. I think it is very important that you are here; in particular there are certain questions in the EU where we have a great deal of hope invested in the Obama Administration going back to the (inaudible) rule of state of law and also the principles of freedom. Since September 11th and the Bush Administration was in power, we have seen a culture of anxiety ruling security policy where a number of measures have been taken and I really think it is now very important that we have an independent evaluation and that the European Union works together with the United States to make sure that we don't engage in a race to the bottom with civil liberties nor in data protection but instead we should strive for high standards in both of those areas and we should also return to an absolute principle of the rule of law and respect of civil liberties and human rights. I think we should move away from general and preventative and surveillance of civilians and that needs to be something tangible. There needs to be a proper evaluation and a withdrawal of disproportionate and ineffective measures and I think that this is something which is very much in line with our community values, our basic values of freedom and human rights so I really think there need to be visible changes. You have our full support of course and I think that in Congress you also have a great deal of support.
Try to be shorter. Mr Tavares.
Good morning Madame Secretary and welcome. A year ago exactly I was in Chicago and I still can't forget what I saw. I was amazed that President Obama had been elected. Now, before the Democrats knew that he was going to be the candidate, I knew I wanted to be Chicago to see what happened and I wanted to say that because I sit on the left ranks of the European Parliament and we were extremely concerned with what was happening in the United States, Europeans were very anti-American and now the openness and friendship that we are seeing in the United States and towards the United States I think is a great opportunity and if we can build on that then we would be improving the situation greatly. Having said that, I have a couple of questions that are of concern to me. Firstly, Guantanamo, I don't know if the American administration and the leaders of both continents knew that closing Guantanamo on the 22nd January would lead to the admiration that Europeans feel for President Obama. I know that my country played it's role, it did do everything it could to ensure that Guantanamo was closed and I think that the 22nd of January is a symbolic date and shouldn't be missed.
Secondly, an official of the European Parliament was flying to Mexico and that plane was diverted because he was on a black list of the United States. Now he doesn't know why that was the case and we can't find out why that was the case so perhaps you could say something about the black lists for foreign passengers travelling to the United States and how we could get information about the composition of those lists, thank you.
Thank you Chairman, I would also like to welcome you. I guess I am a first representative of a new EU member state speaking now and I would just like to speak on inequality among EU member states in what concerns the free visa regime with the United States. I come from Latvia and we are now enjoying this regime but don't you think, Mrs Napolitano, that in the future the United States and the European Union will enter into a mutual treaty on visa-free travel regime where the EU is considered, as a whole, part of such a Treaty? Thank you.
Sophie In't Veld
Thank you Chair, I too Ms Napolitano, am very pleased to see you here. Your predecessor, Mr Chertoff, also came to the European Parliament which we much appreciated although we fundamentally disagreed on almost everything. So, I am very pleased that you are here now and we have noticed a couple of very welcome developments under the new administration however, there are still a few concerns which have already partly been voiced by my colleagues. I would first like to ask you about the PNR agreement. I am sure that you are aware of the situation now that the Lisbon Treaty will soon enter into force and the agreement has not been ratified yet. It may well be that we end up in a situation where we have to re-negotiate and I would like to know how you feel about the purpose limitation in particular because a lot has been said about the fight against terrorism but the fact is that passenger data is being used for a wide range of purposes which are completely unrelated to the fight against terrorism.
Secondly, my colleague Albrecht has already raised the issue of joint evaluation of the effectiveness of counter-terrorism policies because I think we urgently need information on the results of the counter-terrorism policies because lets not forget that both in the United States and in Europe, the real problem was (interruption by the co-Chair with a request to keep it short) before 9/11 not so much that there was insufficient data on citizens but there was insufficient cooperation and exchange between agencies and in Europe between the countries and I would like to know if you feel that that has improved. Finally Madame Chair, I spent my summer holidays in the US and I had a very good time there even if I had to leave $10 and 10 finger prints.
Thank you, you have now needed 2.18, I think we can continue that way but because we have to close 12.00 sharp, the Secretary might have no time to answer. Therefore, I think it would be helpful if everyone is not too time-consuming.
Welcome Madame Secretary to the pedantic European Union, I am sure you have much more freedom of speech in the United States. I have just noticed that I have a key ring that has the motto of your late, great President Ronald Reagan, 'trust but verify'. We obviously in the United Kingdom have a great, trusting relationship with your country and long may that continue but as you obviously know that Lisbon will come into being on the 1st December, can I have your assurances that individual countries, obviously the United Kingdom, that will be recognised in it's own right continually and we will not be recognised just as European citizens so when we visit your country it will be United Kingdom, not as European Union citizens.
The other point I would like to make out is that visa applications in London are very difficult to go through, there is a premium rate line which costs people a great deal of money in order to get a visa, could I have your comments on those please.
(Inaudible) preference treatment. Mrs Morvai.
Thank you. Madame Secretary, I would like to have your concrete answer to the question whether it would be possible to have a joint committee on the evaluation of the fundamental human rights abuses that took place in the United States and in Europe on behalf of the fight against terrorism and what is your message to present governments about this? Why am asking this? Because, for example, in my country a European Union member state (and I still have one and half minutes to speak fortunately) there are 16 political prisoners currently in prison. They all belong to the political opposition and they are in prison now for half a year already under terrorism charges. This is a real disaster; it's a text book case of fundamental human rights abuses. These people obviously have nothing to do with terrorism; they are anti-status quo people that fight against all the injustices that take place in my country and in the world but their right to (inaudible) is fundamentally violated. Their typical situation is that 30/40 special forces, anti-terrorist police go to these people's houses, they search the house without any witness, without any procedural guarantee's, they don't have the right to defence, they don't have any prisoners rights and I would like to inform American citizens, through this opportunity now that they should put pressure on their government to make sure that post-communist European governments don't point their fingers to the United States saying, they can do this so why can't we do our Stalinistic practices of abusing and violating human rights on a mass basis to achieve their political purposes. United Nations citizens were once very proud of their country being free and appreciating human rights; they should now put pressure on a kind of revival of human rights and liberty, thank you.
Last, Mr Saïd El Khadraoui
Saïd El Khadraoui
Thank you very much Mr Chairman, welcome to the European Parliament. I am a member of the Transport Committee and I have two questions I would like to put which relate to transport. Firstly, are we trying to move to a system of one stop security were in the future, airline passengers would only need to be controlled once when they reach a transit airport and need to move on and want to change planes, they won't have subsequent controls. Now, that would need a great many agreements between the US and EU if we were to move towards a common strategy for airport security and also a joint approach and joint timing on things like liquid (inaudible) and that sort of thing. Now, do you share that common goal? Would you also like to see one stop security introduced and how would you like to cooperate with us if that is the case.
Secondly, I would like to move on to freight, cargo. As you know there is a law that has been adopted which provides for that all cargo which arrive in American ports has to be screened 100% and that's impossible to implement and costs a great deal of money and doesn't really have very much effect, in fact it's useless so what's your position on that? Do you think that is something that could be made more flexible so that trade between the US and the EU isn't threatened and so that we do not have to take parallel measures in the EU for US cargo that arrives in Europe? Thank you.
Secretary Janet Napolitano
Well let us go through and let me do my best to summarise my answers to all the very good questions that have been raised in this part of our session together. With respect to the relationship between our exit programme and visa-waiver, we will be communicating and as clearly as possible as I understand how that implicates the relationship with the EU.
With respect to a joint review of PNR, I think we had actually scheduled a joint review for last year and for whatever reason it was cancelled by those who were coming to the US to review but I am pleased to agree to a joint review of the PNR and would be pleased to leave today with a proposed date for such a review and think it would be very helpful and clarify a lot of things that get thought about in terms of PNR because I think once people see how it is used and the limitations on it's use, many concerns are alleviated. So, we would be pleased to re-set a date for a joint review of PNR.
With respect to Mr Strasser's concern about whether the Obama Administration has changed from the previous administration, let me just suggest that President Obama has been very, very clear about being an active partner with the community of Nations, that he understands the global role and the global relationships that attain in today's world but even as we say those as broad principles we need jointly to work through some of these particular issues and some are easy, such as setting a date, and some are not so easy and that means that we have to keep working. One thing I do want to emphasise the importance of is SWIFT and the ability there, with that movement to look at terrorist financing and I hope to have some discussions further on SWIFT today but that is very, very important, we believe to international security as well as the security of all of us actually.
With respect to the closing of Guantanamo, the President's executive order that it be closed remains, is in effect, we are working through individual by individual. Our belief is that Guantanamo has been used more as a recruitment tool than as anything else and that it needs to be closed and the individuals dealt with appropriately. Some of your countries have already agreed to take some of the inmates and for that the United States is grateful and I understand that the State Department is negotiator and speaking with some of the rest about taking some. Some need to be obviously prosecuted in the United States courts and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Mr Albrecht asked the very interesting question, or made the point that we should not race to the bottom where civil liberties are concerned. I agree but I don't think we are doing that, what I think we are doing together is working through how you have effective security. Security that is not disproportionate but is proportionate to risk and is designed to minimise risk whilst at the same time, respecting civil liberties of individuals and that is something that is very important to the United States and very important, I know, to all of you.
The point was made by several of you about the withdrawal of ineffective measures or whether some measures are really unnecessary. There I think all of us are not, we don't do this to be engaged in ineffective measures, right? But it is difficult to measure a negative and that is part of the problems we are going to have to confront. We don't know the extent to which some of the measures have been undertaken for example, on what travellers are required to do before they get on an aeroplane, have actually prevented something from occurring so that needs to be taken into account.
With respect to the issue of the diverted plane, I will simply say that we have independently looked at the basis for that diversion and I believe it was appropriately done and I think that is all that I should say in this environment.
With respect to the different situation of visa-waiver between different EU member states, understand that we did, over this last year have visa-waiver for seven additional countries within the EU but under the law that we are charged with implementing, right now we cannot do it EU wide. It has to be country by country, evaluation by evaluation.
With respect to the uses, or the PNR agreement and whether it should be re-negotiated because the data is being used for inappropriate reasons, under the agreement, the data can only be used to ascertain terrorism or serious international crime. That is all that it is being used for. We are limited and should be limited by that agreement but again, as I said earlier, we think a PNR review is something that we should jointly undertake and we are willing to do so.
The question raised about, I think it was Representative Sinclair, that when you visit the United States you don't lose your national identity, even with respect to the EU. I don't think that will happen, I really don't. With respect to the visa applications being too laborious, too expensive, visas are obviously handled by our State Department but obviously we want to have travel and active interaction. We think the more people who come to the US and have some personal experience such as you did in Chicago, it really helps to eliminate mystery or some maybe theories that are thrown out about the United States. So we will communicate those messages to the State Department.
With respect to one stop security for airport travel, I think that is a very interesting idea. I think that right now, that is probably aspirational more than something we can concretely accomplish in the near term but it is an interesting idea to facilitate the movement of persons and to do so with the right balance struck so it is something that I want to be able to take home and think about.
With respect to the 100% cargo screening requirement, I agree with you that it is little value added to security for the expense that it entails. I have already suggested as much to our Congress, indeed I did it at my own confirmation hearing and they still confirmed me. So, we have laid the ground work for re-visiting that issue and really doing what I think we all should be doing on these security measures which is focusing on risk and what are the things that we can and should be doing to minimise risk, realising that we are not going to live in a dome or glass bubble that is totally risk free. So we have to work to minimise risk, do it in a balanced and proportionate way and that goes to many of the measures that we have discussed today but also the cargo screening.
Thank you very much for your introduction and your answers to the questions. You came in an important week to the European Parliament because this week the treaty of Lisbon was ratified, it will come into force on the 1st of December, which means the increase of the competence of the European Union and especially of the European Parliament in home and legal affairs. Therefore it makes sense to deal with this house and because the United States is always a front runner, you have seen it first that (inaudible) so that you came to this place to acknowledge such a development, thank you very much for that. We agree with you that we always have to find a balance between security and personal freedom and here we have different opinions between you and us but also between ourselves, as you have it in Congress. So, it is quite similar and therefore, we have to find the right balance but we may have to make sure that the enemies of liberty should not have a festival because we go too far in the security matter and give up in defending security, personal freedom and here we have to find the right level. Two or three years ago I visited Guantanamo and so I know what I am speaking about. I believe that also the economic question have to be seen and thank you very much about what you have said about scanning. It must also be in an economic sense, proportionate. If you look into security matters in order not to have an impact on trade and then on jobs. I think also it's important with this new development of the Treaty of Lisbon, that the United States handles the European Union as an entity, especially in visa-waiver, it would be good advice and that you came here, I must say that the Obama Administration and especially you as Secretary of Homeland Security, sit in a different (inaudible) ray as your (inaudible) did in the past, where we sometimes had the feeling that the policy of divide (inaudible) was followed, which does not lead to results anywhere and has no progress for anyone. I would also like to make the remark that a lot of questions that we have seen, the problems, it is not just a question with the administration, it is also a different opinion of the Congress and therefore I think it's our task in this transatlantic dialogue in relations between committees concerned, to develop this dialogue between the European Parliament and Congress and have, on that level, a debate, which could also be helpful for administrations if we all together come to common points of view. This proposal which was mentioned today to have a seminar on visa-waiver and data protection, might (inaudible) be frankly a good idea, to come into such a situation and also what we want to develop with our friends in Congress in December is that we find more ways to bring the rapporteurs of committees of the European Parliament and of the Spokesperson of certain questions in Congress together, that we have in the pre-legislative situation, an exchange of views between Parliamentarians in order to avoid legislation in home and legal affairs but also in economic questions and so on, in financial legislation after G20, (inaudible) if we go in different directions all of us have to pay the costs afterwards. Thank you very much Secretary, that you took this opportunity and helped us to develop this way.
Disclaimer: This transcript does not constitute an authentic record of the proceedings.
- Halte aux idées reçues en matière d’immigration !
Elections législatives du 30 novembre en Moldavie :compte rendu de la réunion de la Commission AFET du Parlement européen en association avec la Délégation de la commission de la coopération parlementaire UE/Moldavie