With French and Dutch voters' recent rejection of the proposed constitutional treaty for the European Union, a number of proposals in the field of Justice and Home Affairs have been watered down or considerably postponed. However, both EU leaders and the general public continue to place high expectations on this specific policy area, which has witnessed a particularly rapid development since the Treaty of Maastricht. The fight against organised crime at EU level is only one aspect among other policies, but it too has been increasingly emphasised over the past few years, even if the first European-wide initiatives against organised crime date back to the seventies.
[...] Stepping up co-operation on matters of organised crime in the European Union stumbles over obstacles due to its particular setting as an international organisation relying upon its member states' law enforcement agencies and good will. Nonetheless, European integration has brought shared practices and a sense of a community of interests, with some commentators and NGOs pointing at a worrying lack of transparency. This raises the question of the legitimacy of this EU approach, which pertains to the very identity of the Union. [...]
[...] Therefore, in the quicksand of national sovereignties, the European Union has adopted an organised crime strategy that relies mostly on intergovernmental co-operation and co- ordination. As this strategy against organised crime is still in the making and as it draws mostly on intergovernmental co-operation in a sensitive area, it is difficult to assess it, especially given the high expectations that have been placed on it. What has been achieved so far? So far, the record of EU's action against organised crime has been mixed, whether one points at encouraging signs or at shortcomings. [...]
[...] In 1991, European leaders gathered in Maastricht decided to launch an ambitious project of political union, with the two intergovernmental pillars of the Justice and Home Affairs and the Common Foreign and Security Policy forming the European Union alongside the community pillar. The Treaty of Maastricht was the response to what was perceived as new and growing security threats and listed organised crime among a series of security matters of common interest on which co-operation was to be encouraged by the nascent European Union. [...]
[...] Legitimacy and identity There is a wide support among EU citizens for action at the EU level against organised crime: according to a 2001 survey, around 70 per cent of them support the idea that policies for the fight against organised crime should be decided jointly by national governments with the European Union. While some people point at a lack of transparency both from the European Union and national governments when it comes to tackling organised criminality, it appears that as in the case of terrorism, Western societies may face an apparent trade off between civil liberties and increased security. [...]
[...] 259-272 Council of the European Union, The prevention and control of organised crime: a European Union strategy for the beginning of the new Millennium, 6611/00, March 2000 Franklin Dehousse, Jordi Garcia Martinez, Fight against crime in the European Union (Royal Institute for International Relations, 2002), www.irri-kiib.be/papers/FIGHTAGAINSTCRIME.pdf Eurobarometer survey, Eurobarometer website, http://europa.eu.int/comm/public_opinion/index_en.htm Christopher Hill, “Closing the capabilities-expectations in John Peterson, Helene Sjursen (eds.), A common foreign policy for Europe? (Routledge, 1998), pp. 18-38 Jörg Monar, dynamics of Justice and Home Affairs”, Journal of Common Market Studies 2001), pp. [...]
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