[Sinn Fein]

9th October 2002

Ó Snodaigh to quiz Justice Minister on EU-US ``secret agreement''

At Sinn Fein's request, the Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, Michael McDowell TD, will attend a meeting of the Select Committee on European Affairs today at 2pm.

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Europe, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD will be questioning the Minister on the draft ``secret agreement'' between the US and EU on judicial cooperation in criminal matters that was first discussed at a meeting of the EU Justice Ministers in Copenhagen on September 13.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``The planned treaty will have major implications for the civil rights and civil liberties of Irish people, and all other citizens of the EU. It will include measures to facilitate extradition, joint undercover police operations, interception of communications, and search and seizure of bank accounts. Despite claims about EU commitments to democracy and transparency, this agreement will be negotiated in secret under Articles 38 and 24 of the Treaty on the European Union. There is no consultation requirement with either European parliaments or national parliaments, much less civil society.

``Given the express concerns of the Irish electorate over the state of democracy, transparency, and accountability in the EU, and given that the EU Council of Ministers has already refused an access to information request made by Statewatch on the grounds that the need for confidentiality outweighs public interest in this case, the onus is now on us to open up this process. For this reason, I will be requesting that the Minister produce a full report on this meeting, and pressing him to indicate Ireland's position both on the draft agreement and the secret process.''

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