FECL 29 (November 1994):

NORDIC POLICE FEDERATION UNEASY ABOUT EUROPOL

 

The Federation of Nordic police unions, NPF, is concerned about the development of Europol. As a general rule, police and internal security cooperation within the EU is carried on mainly by senior officials outside sufficient political debate and accountability, it says in a statement of the organisation.

Scandinavian policemen appear to have little understanding for the inclination to secrecy among EU-member state governments.

 

Nordiska Polisförbundet (NPF), the Nordic Police Federation, is made up of police unions and associations in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland.

Referring to European police cooperation, NPF states: "A common observation in the Nordic countries concerned is that this work is carried on mainly on a civil servant level without sufficient political debate and discussion. NPF

notes this with disquiet and urges for political commitment in these important issues".

"So called low-intensity threats - terrorism, drug trafficking, economic crime and other forms of organised crime - have gained in security-political significance. At the same time, the traditional military scenario of threats has changed. There are therefore reasons to believe that police will gradually obtain an ever increasing role as a symbol for the security and control interests of the states".

"NPF supports increased police cooperation. However, cooperation has to take place under politically accepted forms and must be based on the national police's sovereignty on its own territory".

NPF also point at the "differences among various European police forces as well as among the judicial and penal law systems. Several EU-member states, for instance, have police organisations that actually are military structures. There are strong variations too regarding police powers, means of coercion in penal law and policemen's qualification and training. Against this background we are disquieted about what long term effects increased police cooperation might have on what we define as a Nordic police role".

 

Exaggerated 'compensatory measures' threat to open society

The abolition of internal border controls will not lead to dramatic changes, NPF stresses.

"In the North, long and vast borderlines have always compromised an overall border control. Moreover, the Nordic countries are open societies with a deliberately low level of control".

NPF is supportive of all efforts to develop effective alternatives to present border controls but believes that this work should be pursued "with circumspection rather than hurriedly". The statement notes a certain trend in Europe that "compensatory measures tend to become more rigid than earlier."

"While border controls are a general form of control accepted by citizens, it is, for the time being, unknown how the public views control measures of a corresponding type carried out inside the borders of a country".

 

No enthusiasm for Schengen and Europol

NPF is opposed to "foreign - national or supra-national - police bodies being given operational power in the Nordic countries". This statement clearly hints at the Schengen provisions allowing cross-border police operations and at the - mainly German - strive for a Europol with operational powers. NPF "calls on the Nordic governments to reject any idea of extending Europol's competencies and present role as an organ of information and intelligence to a supra-national police organisation with operational activities and with powers over the whole territory of the EU".

On the whole, Nordic policemen appear to show little enthusiasm for Europol, as the following comments show:

"The creation of EDU/Europol in 1991 was not preceded by any closer examination neither of the real need for a European police organisation nor on what precise role and task such an organisation shall have. Nor have any thoughts been given to questions of fundamental importance about the principles and forms of democratic steering and control. NPF assumes that the convention that is now being drawn up clarify these questions".

 

European secrecy versus Scandinavian transparency

The Scandinavian police unions have, however, not been able to examine the draft convention on Europol. "We have not got hold of the draft convention yet", says Gunnar Andersson, the Swedish secretary of NPF. "We do not obtain our information from official sources, we get it from Swedish and foreign contact persons".

Thus, although Swedish senior officials and politicians are already participating as observers in the EU's police cooperation at all levels, this work is still kept secret from the Swedish police union.

Sören clerton is the Swedish National Police Board's representative in the K4-sub-group responsible of the setting up of Europol. He has, of course, a copy of the draft convention. Despite far reaching "freedom of information" provisions in the Swedish constitution providing for broad public access to official documents (see FECL No.15, p.6), Mr. clerton does not hand out copies of the draft. The official is acting in compliance with the Swedish "secrecy law" that list the few exceptions to the principle of general public access. Among other things, documents may be kept secret for 40 years, whenever it "is not certain that the information can be released without this interfering with Sweden's international relations or harming the country in another way". Ever since the country's political leadership intensified its cooperation with the EC/EU in the late 80s, this particular provision of the secrecy law has been used extensively.

On one issue - cross-border police operations, however, the national police authorities and the police union seem to agree. "That foreign police should be allowed, for instance, to pursue a criminal across the Swedish border and act hear - so called hot pursuit - that's psychologically sensitive", Sören clerton admits. "We are close to the Danish view that the country's own police should handle such matters". According to clerton, the idea of an operational Europol-force was "dropped from the agenda since over a year".

 

Birgitta Öjersson (freelance journalist)

 

Source: Nordiska Polisförbundet: Statement following the NPF's conference "Europe: a chance or a risk?", 30/31.8.94