(EU) EP/RIGHT OF ASYLUM: Parliament against transfer of executing powers from Commission's Eurodac system to Council - Several MEPs continue to oppose the system, considering that it "criminalises" asylum-seekers

Brussels, 21/09/2000 (Agence Europe) - The European Parliament has been consulted for the fourth time on the drat regulation concerning the creation of the Eurodac system to collect and compare fingerprints of asylum-seekers and certain other foreigners, i.e., the database that has to facilitate implementation of the Dublin Convention of 15 Jun 1990, which allows to determine which Member State is responsible for examining requests for asylum presented in a country of the European Union. Parliament had again to vote as, as is stressed in the report presented by the OVP member, Hubert Pirker, whereas plenary had already issued its opinion on 18 November 1999, since then the provisions relating to the executing powers have been modified by the Concil to such an extent that it is not a question of a "simple adaptation" of the previous text, but a "radical change": the new text provides for no longer handing the executing powers in this field to the Commission but to the Council. Following its rapporteur, Parliament rejected this modification and adopted an amendment calling for the executing powers to be handed to the European Commission.

In addition, by following its rapporteur who stated that it had to stick to dealing with the "comitology" aspect and not initiate the debate on other aspects of the regulation, Parliament rejected two amendments that it had adopted last November but that had been rejected by both the Council and the Commission (and which, contrary to Mr. Pirker's wishes, had been taken back on board by the Committee on Freedoms when voting on the report, that it had adopted by 20 in favour, 16 against and 3 abstentions). These amendments provided for: - the age from which fingerprints could be taken be raised from 14 to 18; - its being compulsory that fingerprints be erased as soon as the asylum-seeker had secured the status of refugee, another legal status or a right to remain.

Eurodac is an instrument we need, said Mr. Pirker during the debate, qualifying the Council's attitude as "totally incomprehensible", which in December, modified the text to withdraw the executing powers from the Commission. This is contrary to Article 202 which, at a general level, allocates the executing powers to the Commission, and this also limits the democratic role of Parliament, the rapporteur emphasised. Several MEPs stressed the need to preserve Parliament's rights in this tricky area, including Sarah Ludford, British Liberal Democrat, whereas Ms. Boumediene-Thiery (French, Green Group) placed emphasis on the amendments adopted in November, stating in particular that the fact of taking the fingerprints of fourteen-year-olds was contrary to all international conventions, and especially those on the rights of children. Let us not be a "weather-vane Assembly", let us confirm our vote of November, she exclaimed. Going further, Mr. Krivine (United Left) stated: this debate is "rigged", as, "we are being asked to amend a system the our group rejects", and is a "criminalisation and repression of immigrants and those persecuted in the world". The Eurodac" affair is exemplary, exclaimed Mr. Dell'Alba, for his part, member of the Bonino list, accusing the Council of having wanted the Dublin convention even before there had been a genuine European immigration policy, and of having gone even further with this "repressive" system, "killer-of-liberty" that is a "political, legal and humanitarian monstrosity".

On the question of "comitology", the Commission does not agree with the Council, said Antonio Vitorino, noting that, in this affair, the Commission had made a series of undertakings vis-à-vis Parliament, in particular that of exercising itself the executing powers, under the democratic control of Parliament. We need a right of asylum policy at European level, and the Commission has already begun working on the mandate provided by the Tampere Summit, he exclaimed, citing the preparation of a draft directive on minimum provisions in matters of asylum procedures.