The Telegraph has an alarming report on the evocatively named Stockholm Programme, the EU Commission's five year plan to do to the whole of Europe what New Labour has been doing to Britain for the past decade:
Jacques Barrot, the European justice and security commissioner, yesterday publicly declared that the aim was to "develop a domestic security strategy for the EU", once regarded as a strictly national "home affairs" area of policy.
"National frontiers should no longer restrict our activities," he said.
Tony Bunyan, of the European Civil Liberties Network, describes the programme - due to be finalised in the second half of this year - as a "digital tsunami" which will create an EU ID card register, internet surveillance systems, satellite surveillance, automated exit-entry border systems operated by machines reading biometrics and risk profiling systems. He's quoted as saying, "In five or 10 years time when we have the surveillance and database state people will look back and ask, 'what were you doing in 2009 to stop this happening?'".
Says the report:
Civil liberties groups are particularly concerned over "convergence" proposals to herald standardise European police surveillance techniques and to create "tool-pools" of common data gathering systems to be operated at the EU level.
Under the plans the scope of information available to law enforcement agencies and "public security organisations" would be extended from the sharing of existing DNA and fingerprint databases, kept and stored for new digital generation ID cards, to include CCTV video footage and material gathered from internet surveillance.
The Lisbon treaty provides for "a secretive new Standing Committee for Internal Security, known as COSI, to co-ordinate policy between national forces and EU organisations", the paper explains, quoting a Brussels security source as claiming that "the British and some others will not like it as it moves policy to the EU". This implies that the Stockholm Programme is something that Europe is doing to an unwilling Britain - but of course the British government has long been in the forefront of pushing for such measures. Indeed, it has been most convenient for ministers to be able to claim, when promoting schemes such as ID cards or the mass retention of communications data, that they are merely bringing Britain into line with the rest of Europe.
To judge from the press release issued by the Commission itself, creating a single EU "domestic" space is at the heart of the Stockholm process. Among other things, it aims to remove the need for domestic courts to ratify - even formally - the decisions of courts in another EU state, so that, for example, an order made by a Bulgarian court against a British citizen living in the UK would automatically be implemented by the British authorities. The programme's architects also intend immigration policy to be decided for Europe as a whole rather than by individual states, with countries being handed quotas for the numbers of both economic immigrants and asylum seekers they must accept, and the legal status they are to be accorded. This is presented as increasing "solidarity" among the various peoples of Europe.
In its own statement (pdf) issued in April, the European Civil Liberties Network draws attention to what it calls the EU's "dangerously authoritarian turn". Here's an extract:
The EU is at the centre of a paradigm shift with regard to the way that Europe and the world beyond will be policed. This is the result of a number inter-related historical trends, including the gradual blurring of the boundaries between police and military action and those between internal and external security, the widespread deployment of surveillance technologies and the development of the security-industrial complex, the economic motor for these developments.
We are now witnessing the political ‘securitisation’ of a whole host of complex policy issues, from food and energy supply to complex social and environmental phenomena such as climate change and migration. The result is an increasingly security-militarist approach to protracted social and economic problems. At times of heightened global insecurity, the danger is that the rule of law becomes secondary to the objective of threat neutralisation.
The timing of all this is intriguing. The Telegraph's source admitted that "some of things we want to do will only be realistic with the Lisbon Treaty in place, so we need that too." David Cameron has of course promised a referendum on the treaty - but if the Irish can be prevailed upon to vote for it in the autumn the whole question will become academic. The paper also reports that the centre-right European People's Party, from which the Tories are in the process of disaffiliating, is "at war" with them over the issue.
Joseph Daul, the chairman of EEP, the MEP for Strasbourg and a close ally of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, has said the European Parliament's number one priority must be defeating Conservative opposition to the Lisbon Treaty.
"Even though the Conservatives have left, we will work to make sure the Lisbon Treaty comes into force at the end of the year. We regret all demagoguery and populism. We will do this even if David Cameron threatens a referendum," he said.
Wilfred Martens, the EPP president and former Belgian prime minister, implied that other EU governments are pressuring Gordon Brown to hold off an early election, before a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in October. "It could be rather awkward if we had a snap election in Britain with a referendum as one of the issues," he said.
Tory spokesman Mark Francois is quoted as saying that "the EPP are entitled to their view, but so are the British people", but such a naive view of democracy cuts no ice with the "European diplomat" who sums the matter up quite plainly. "No one wants an election in Britain, not because of any special affection for Gordon Brown but because an early election would threaten the Lisbon Treaty," he says. "That cannot happen".
No, indeed it cannot. So presumably it won't. Europe has spoken.