Anger at plans for EU wide police force with powers to snoop on Britons
2008-08-07 0:00

By Tamara Cohen |

Vast amounts of personal data on British citizens will be sent abroad, under advancing plans for a European-wide police force.

EU ministers have also called for top-secret intelligence to be pooled between the 27 member states - and shared with US authorities.

National police forces would be integrated, and a European-wide police force or 'gendarmerie' set up to fight crime across national borders.

They say the controversial proposals for an 'Euro-atlantic area of cooperation' would help control terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration.

But critics fear exchanging volumes of intelligence material would be detrimental to Britain's security.

The 53-page report was drafted by ministers from six member states - Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

A blueprint for security policy over the next five years, it took 18 months to prepare and has already been sent to all EU heads of government.

It argues that European police forces and intelligence services should be far more closely integrated, and 'coordinated' from Brussels.

The plans do not rule out foreign police officers being allowed to patrol British streets.

Such a pact, which would be finalised by 2014 at the latest, would see personal shared with a raft of EU agencies such as Europol and Eurojust.

All members states would share intelligence with European anti-terror centres and develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft.

The report also calls for a bigger role for Sitcen, the Joint Situation Centre, a shadowy intelligence body based in Brussels.

It says anti-terrorism can only work if 'maximum information flow between [EU] member states is guaranteed. Relevant security-related information should be available to all security authorities in the member states.'

Baroness Scotland, the UK attorney general, had observer status within the cabal, known as the Future Group, to assess the implications for Britain.

The report states the EU cannot beat terrorism without a full partnership with Washington, where privacy laws are far more lenient.

The ministers concede sharing espionage would be a 'considerable challenge' from a privacy point of view.

A wholesale exchange of data would need the European Commission and the US authorities to iron out changes to their privacy laws by next year.

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to MEPs pressing Brussels to reject US pressure to share information.

It stated the US is 'a country that, in privacy terms, is all but lawless. US privacy laws are weak and offer little protection to citizens and virtually none to non-citizens.'

Proposal for a federal police force were detailed in European Commission budget documents in May, but this is the first time ministers have called for intelligence to be shared with the USA.

The US is also demanding EU countries sign up for rigid security measures on transatlantic flights and supply personal information about passengers.

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