europa algemeen

The Amsterdam Treaty, june 1997

Knocking at the gate, june 1997

europa landen


Rumania, preselection for the European Fortress

France, Human rights for 'sans-papiers'

Belgie, "He who keeps silent now must fear everything" Ratko Zamir


Rammelen aan de poort

Knocking at the gate

A week after the Euro summit in Amsterdam again black limousines drove onto the courtyard of the Dutch Bank. With substantially less decorum the government leaders of aspiring member-states of the European Union - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Slovenia - were received by prime-minister Kok to be informed about the outcomes of the Summit.

For them there were not 5,000 police officers, who had already taken up their boring jobs in the provinces again, after their hallucinatory experiences in the Capital of Criminalisation.

New member-states

The revision of the Treaty of Maastricht was mostly in the framework of the extension of the European Union with countries from Middle- and Eastern Europe. The aspiring members -the so-called 'associated countries' - are crammed for their entry. The associated countries will have to comply with the European regulations for the internal market before they can call themselves member-state of the European Union.
Less well-known is that the associated countries are also examined on the terrain of Justice and Internal Affairs, which also includes the asylum- and immigration-policy. This unfamiliarity is mostly the consequence of the secrecy with which the European Justice- and Police-policy is formed. The two most important structures in which this policy is shaped, Schengen and the so-called 'Third Column of Maastricht' , which is governed by the European Council of Justice and Internal Affairs (The JBZ-Council), operate in a democratic and judicial void.
The European Parliament, nor a national parliament, nor a national or European judge can effectively exercise influence or control on the policy. Combined with a near pathological strive for secrecy, it makes the bodies to an ideal playground for civil servants and politicians who are not keen on too large an involvement of the citizen with Europe. In the Dutch Lawyers Magazine, a magazine for critically inclined legal experts and lawyers, the JBZ-Council was recently compared to a Politbureau.

The Russians are coming !

The preoccupation of the European member-states with the immigrationpolicy of their neighbours in the East, dates from the changes in the Eastern Block. While the average West-european television viewer looked tenderly at the immense stream of Trabants pulling up to the Berlin showrooms of prosperity and luxury, there was a totally different feeling, behind closed doors, in the rooms where the Schengen negotiators met. The civil servants had just finished five years of tough negotiations about the execution of the Schengen agreement, that had seen the light in 1985. In this agreement it was concluded to open the internal borders between the Schengen countries to create a room where capital, goods, services and people could move freely. During the negotiations the emphasis had been on the so-called 'compensating regulations' which were thought necessary "for protection of security and prevention of illegal immigration", as is stated in article 17 of the Schengen agreement. Just when the negotiators had thought to have concluded their work with an excellent set of regulations: visa obligations, stricter control on foreigners and curtailing right of asylum, the stream of Trabants crossed their plans.
The Schengen states saw themselves confronted with an unprotected Eastern border where, only just before, hardened VOPO's stopped short every illusions about flight or migration to the West. Not only 20 million (impoverished) Eastern Germans entered unexpectedly Schengen territory. In their wake Hungarians, Rumanians and Yugoslavs were expected to find their way to the West through the GDR.
But above all the threatening arrival of Russians brought concern. Now they were not units of the Red Army, armed to their teeth, but impoverished souls who could finally leave their country, something that, ironically, the Western countries had demanded for centuries. According to the more pessimistic scenarios about ten million Russians were packing for a single trip to Europe.

A new Wall

The drastically redrawn map of Europe has caused a great deal of headbreaking trouble for a number of judicial workgroups ever since. The velvet revolutions of the Eastern european middle class led to a period of great instability. A quaint combination of new political parties, Western companies, speculators, mafia and nationalistic separatist movements filled the power vacuum that the communist rulers left behind. The forced introduction of the market economy and shock-therapies, well known from the Third World, delivered by the international financial institutions led to poverty, unemployment and general uncertainty. The exodus of Albanians to Italy and the civil war in Yugoslavia confirmed the instability in the new Europe. The European member-states reacted in first instance with the closing of the borders. The Oder-Neisse river between Poland and Germany is a symbol for the new division which is drawn in Europe. Waiting times of 4 hours (persons and cars) to up to 20 hours (for trucks) are a daily routine at the borderpost Frankfurt an der Oder. It is also there that a daily cat and mouse game is played between people illegally crossing the border and the Bundes Grenzschutz, who guard the border with high-tech- warmth-cameras, helicopters, patrol boats, dogs and mobile patrols.
The factual walls of the Fortress Europe were provided with a firm legislative basis. In 1992 The EG-ministers of Justice decided upon the introduction of the principle of 'safe countries' and 'safe third countries'. Asylum-seekers who came from a, in European eyes, 'safe country', or had stayed in a 'safe third country', are no longer allowed to the asylumprocedure. On this list the Middle- and East-european countries were immediately placed.
The possibility to apply for asylum in Western Europe was thus closed with one stroke of the pen. More important was that asylum-seekers who tried to reach the West through Eastern Europe could be sent straight back. They were travelling through a 'safe country', so had to apply for asylum there. In this way a 'cordon sanitaire' was created, in which the Middle- and Eastern European countries function as bufferstates against immigration to Western Europe.

Outer borders

When the countries of Middle- and Eastern Europe will join the European Union, they will become , from a bufferstate, an outer border. This thought has given the many a civil servant the creeps. Will that outer border be guarded properly, they asked themselves with concern. In December 1994 the European government leaders decided that a 'structured dialogue' should take place about immigration-policy. The pensioned English civil servant Anthony Langdon, veteran of the secret civil networks in which was worked at the asylumpolicy in the eighties, was sent to investigate the asylumprocedure in the associated countries. The European Union and the associated countries have "an immediate and shared interest to stand against the pressure of illegal immigration and hard crime that has raised its head as an unwelcome consequence of the liberties of the democratic transitionprocess", concluded Langdon over a year later (4660/96 Confidential CK4 5, Bruxelles 30 January 1996).
Landon proposed to take an exam of every of the associated counties. The countries would have to prove "that they can regulate their external borders against the pressure of unwanted migration and illegal traffic." Langdon also took a lead in the discussion, saying that the priority should lie at fighting illegal immigration networks because "actions against illegal immigration networks are a fight against both illegal immigration and hard crime. " The country reports that Langdon recommended are drawn up in so-called Clearing House CIREFI (Centre for Information, Council and Data-exchange concerning Bordercontrol and Immigration). This clearing house belongs to one of the more secretive bodies of the Third Column of Maastricht. Although CIREFI-documents are confidential, and in the words of the then under-secretary Kosto "should not be given to journalists or be published in any other way", it is possible, ocasionaly and with some perseverance, to obtain some in the Netherlands.


In the report (5335/3/96 REV 3 LIMITE CIREFI 8, Bruxelles 26 April 1996) that the CIREFI made, "an analysis is given about the state of affairs on the terrain of Immigration in each of the associated countries; there is mainly referred to measures taken to fight the excesses of the phenomena."
CIREFI gave the aspiring members an extensive questionnaire. With questions like: "is smuggling foreigners punishable?", "can crown-witnesses be used?", "are employers of illegal foreigners obliged to pay the costs of expulsion?", "can telephonelines be tapped in combating people smuggling?", "are there centralised institutes for expulsion?" and "are there specialised services for document-fraud?"
After studying the answers the CIREFI concludes that establishing "specialised structures for fighting illegal immigration" is of "fundamental importance" and "an absolute necessity". According to the report the Middle- and Eastern European countries mostly want fast access to the databases of the European Union. That means, among others, "involving the associated countries in the functioning and detailed updating of Europol."
A detail that strikes the eye is that the technical and financial assistance that is offered to the aspiring members to straighten out their immigrationpolicy, is financed from the so-called PHARE-programm, instated originally to help the Middle- and Eastern European countries in building their democratic institutions. Combating illegal immigration apparently also complies to that.

Internal Security

For Germany things should be speeded up a bit. Early this year the German CIREFI-delegation proposed to instate a joint clearing house of the European Union and the associated countries "for gathering and evaluating information as a strategic body in which the power lines of an effective policy of combat are periodically discussed and tuned." (5344/1/97 REV 1 LIMITE CIREFI 4, Bruxelles 20 January 1997). "For its own security the EU needs a system that regularly (wat?) at least also contains the Middle- and Eastern European countries as foremost countries of origin and passage of immigrants." There is however a small problem with CIREFI: they lack capacity for analysis. But luckily there is always Europol: "Before everything it is important to obtain insight in the criminal activities of the in Europe border crossing operating gangs of people smugglers, who mostly first start the illegal immigration and of which the elimination will lead to a drastic curtailing of illegal immigration. As a specific instrument Europol presses forward".
Besides the war-like language it is remarkable how the relation between illegal immigration and people smuggling is put: first there are criminal gangs, then illegal immigration arises. While every immigration expert will put the relation the other way round; the restrictive asylumpolicy and strict border control leaves refugees no other choice then using the services of illegal travel agents. That they jumped at the opportunity is nothing else than a somewhat unorthodox interpretation of the concept of free enterprise. But these kinds of nuances are not spent at the builders of the Europe of internal security, as the leaders like to call it nowadays. That tasks are given to Europol, of which the Treaty has not been ratified by any parliament yet, is just as well a minor detail in the light of the enormous threats that the European member-states conceive. It is hardly surprising that there is no check-list in the field of legal protection for asylum-seekers in the aspiring member-states. Are there sufficient reception centres? Are the interpreters trained well? Is there enough legal aid? These questions are not even asked.

Clean swept sideways

The European parliament, that is beginning to get a certain reputation as protector of the liberal and humanitarian traditions of Europe, strongly criticises the policy of the European governments in a report. "Persecution and discrimination, nationalist conflicts, war and civil war, the destruction of conditions of living by environmental destruction and rising poverty in Middle- and Eastern- European countries and the former Sovjet-Union are the main causes of fleeing and immigration of the population" the European Parliament plainly concludes. The policy of the European Union is seen as "not corresponding with the international political values concerning the protection of refugees nor with the principle of free movement on which Eastern Europe has been pressed for decades." Unfortunately though, the European Parliament has no jurisdiction on the policy terrains of Justice and Internal Affairs. When the aspiring members pass their immigration exam the outer borders of Europe will move a bit further to the East. The new member-states will comply with "the high Schengen standard in the field of Migration- and Crime-fighting", like the German government states contently in its yearreport about Schengen. The solution of the refugee problem has not been brought any nearer, but the European sideways are swept clean.
And will the residents of the new member-states be free to go or stay where ever they want in the European Union? No. In the report 'Extension of the European Union' the Dutch government puts down any such hope. "To avoid immigration from the Middle- and Eastern European countries, the free movement of employees will be bound to considerable restrictions", according to the government.
But then again, free movement of people is no longer the issue in the European Union.

Jelle van Buuren