European Arrest Warrant: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion provided by Article 1.11 of the Treaty of Amsterdam to take part in the adoption of the following proposed measure:

a proposal for a Council framework decision on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between member states,

a copy of which proposed measure was laid before Dáil Éireann on 11 December, 2001.

I am grateful that the House has been able to create space in a busy Dáil schedule to facilitate debate on this important motion.

Every Member and every citizen we represent knows that the appalling atrocities committed in the United States on 11 September last have shocked the world into the realisation that internationally organised terrorism threatens us all. Before our eyes, we saw the evil of terrorism strike with devastating effect at the heart of the most powerful nation on earth. The impact of this shock has been enormous. Those who suffered most are obviously the families and friends of the dead and injured, many of them Irish or with Irish connections. Apart from that, global business confidence has been shaken, international travel has been significantly curtailed and a war is being waged in Afghanistan as a direct consequence of the 11 September attack.

Another direct outfall of the attacks has been a substantial acceleration in the evolution and development of proposals to counter international terrorism. The main purpose of today's debate is to enable the House to debate two such proposals which have emerged in the recent past at EU level. Before discussing the proposal, it is appropriate that I say something about the pace and the range of activity taking place within the European Union justice and home affairs area, commonly referred to as the third pillar area.

The reality is that in recent times, the pace of third pillar activity has greatly exceeded activity levels in the first and second pillars. Respected independent experts have commented on this. In a recent article dealing with the area of freedom, security and justice, for example, Professor Monar of the Sussex University Institute has stated that:

The European Union has now entered the new millennium with a new major political project which future historians may well regard as another of these defining ventures: the creation of the "area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ)".

Laid down in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, it occupies the same rank as a fundamental treaty objective as, for instance, the implementation of a common foreign and security policy, the single market and economic and monetary union. Politically, its longer term significance could be even greater than that of these earlier important projects because it is all about delivering a range of essential public goods to the citizens of the European Union. These include key issues of internal security and access to justice, areas which have historically played a central role in legitimising the build-up of public authorities and the creation of the modern state and which – much more so than, for instance, foreign and security policy matters – are of direct concern to citizens.

He goes on to state that:

There is no other example in the history of European integration of a policy-making area which made its way as quickly and comprehensively to the centre of the treaties and to the top of the EU's policy-making agenda. Ten years ago – at the beginning of the 1990s – what was then called justice and home affairs did not even exist as a policy-making area within the scope of the treaties, and the limited co-operation between the member states, which had been building up since the mid-1970s, took place in a range of poorly co-ordinated intergovernmental groups which lacked adequate institutional structures, legal instru ments and objectives. Today, after the Amsterdam reforms, the additional impetus given by the 1999 Tampere European Council, and a broad range of legislation adopted or in preparation, policy-making in justice and home affairs has not only become a fundamental treaty objective but also one of the most dynamic and expansionist areas of EU development in terms of generating new policy initiatives, institutional structures and its impact on European and national actors.

The events of 11 September, have added further impetus to the evolution and development of EU third pillar proposals. This, not surprisingly, imposes quite considerable pressure at both official and ministerial levels for countries such as ours with limited resources. We must maintain pace with our EU partners, many of whom are much more heavily resourced than we are. Apart from that, there is – and will be – additional pressure on national parliaments in respect of issues requiring parliamentary approval. Time pressures can mean that proposals will be brought to parliaments for approval when negotiations at EU level are either still in train or just barely concluded.

The proposal which is the subject of the motion before the House today has been the subject of discussion – and subject to significant amendment – over the past two months and only came up for decision at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Thursday and Friday last, with the objective of it being agreed at the JHA Council. Although the proposal came up for decision on Thursday and Friday last, there was still a significant level of debate resulting in further important amendments to the text – some made at Ireland's behest – in an effort to secure overall agreement. The result is that the Dáil and Seanad are being asked to debate texts, the latest version of which only became available yesterday.

My point in outlining the time pressures involved is not to suggest that Ireland is somehow being hard done by in having to deal with these matters at short notice – many of our EU partners have the same difficulties – but that third pillar business is progressing, and is likely to progress, in a way that will require us to look afresh at how we can conduct business efficiently and effectively at EU level, while facilitating the necessary level of oversight and scrutiny by the Houses of the Oireachtas. Agreement at the JHA Council proved elusive last week in the European arrest warrant but it is necessary, for reasons I shall outline when I come to the detail of the proposal, that the Taoiseach should be able to join the other EU heads of state or government this week in signalling his agreement to the European arrest warrant, on the basis that the prior agreement of the Houses of the Oireachtas has been secured.

As to why this proposal, and the motion on combating terrorism which is to be debated later today, came before the House, Deputies will be aware of the provisions of Article 29.4.6 of the Constitution which reads:

The State may exercise the options or discretions provided by or under Articles 1.11, 2.5 and 2.15 of the Treaty referred to in subsection 5º of this section and the second and fourth Protocols set out in the said Treaty, but any such exercise shall be subject to the prior approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

This provision was inserted largely on the basis of concerns which had been expressed by the Labour Party. The understandable concern of the Labour Party in proposing the constitutional provision was that, in respect of certain matters on which the State could exercise an option or discretion, the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas should precede any ministerial agreement. Deputies will be aware that several matters have come before the Houses of the Oireachtas under Article 29.4.6 dealing with asylum and immigration matters and civil law matters.

It has not been the understanding that matters needed to be brought before the Houses where the relevant Treaty provision referred to actions that fall to be taken by the EU Council of Ministers – as distinct from actions taken on the basis that they fall within the "options or discretions" open to the State. The practice, in relation to proposals for framework decisions, for example, which fall to be decided by the JHA Council and involve the approximation of laws, is to seek the advice of the Attorney General as to whether any constitutional issues arise. If a constitutional impediment is identified, the practice is to seek to have the offending provision removed as a pre-condition to ministerial agreement.

This procedure not only has the advantage of efficiency in dealing with JHA Council business, but of ensuring that constitutional issues are identified and addressed before there is any agreement. Consistent with this approach, our EU partners, once they understood our constitutional difficulties, were invariably prepared to be accommodating in meeting those difficulties. Our partners have been accommodating also in relation to this proposal. Several provisions in the original draft proposal for a European arrest warrant gave rise to concern on constitutional grounds, but important adjustments have been made, so that all but one of these have now been fully addressed.

I will return to the one remaining issue on which a question might be raised as to constitutionality and I shall commend to the House the proposals as they now stand. The point I make here is that by virtue of the fact that important constitutional issues arose in respect of one of the draft framework decisions now before the House, the Government has decided, having taken the advice of the Attorney General that, while it has not been the norm to refer proposals for Council framework decisions to the Houses of the Oireachtas, the better course would be to bring all proposals for framework decisions before the Houses.

The European Council meeting in Tampere in October 1999 asked the Commission to bring forward a proposal for an arrest warrant. The Commission tabled its proposal in the aftermath of the events of 11 September this year. We discussed the proposed framework decision at the Joint Committee on European Affairs some weeks ago. There has been intensive negotiation since then and the text I have laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas represents what is likely to be the final shape of the decision. Some 14 of the member states, including Ireland, were able to indicate broad agreement on the proposals contained in the present text when the Justice and Home Affairs Council met on Thursday and Friday of last week. I understand that, following further direct bilateral contacts between the remaining member state and the Presidency, the remaining member state is now also in a position to agree to the proposal as currently framed.

The proposal for a European arrest warrant has at its core the concept of mutual recognition and respect for the judicial processes of the member states of the EU. Based on those concepts, the proposal seeks to simplify procedures to ensure a more efficient system of justice throughout the union. Towards that end, it is proposed to replace among the member states the existing extradition arrangements based on the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition with a simplified surrender procedure. In essence, it replaces the interstate aspects of extradition with an inter-court system. It is important to emphasise that the European arrest warrant applies between EU member states only and that existing arrangements with non-EU states will continue to apply.

Ireland accepted the need to review current systems in light of the new and devastating threat from international terrorism. However, it was also concerned to ensure that the basic safeguards to protect the individual's rights and liberties were adequately protected. A proper balance needed to be found between the need to protect society at large while retaining the long established safeguards that have been a feature of extradition law heretofore. We have achieved that balance. The general rule set out in the framework decision provides that an arrest warrant may issue in respect of offences with a maximum penalty of at least one year in prison. However, in the case of an offence on a positive list which carries a maximum penalty of at least three years imprisonment, the dual criminality requirement will not apply. The positive list contains 32 of the most serious offences. These include hijacking, terrorism, murder, laundering the proceeds of crime, child pornography, firearms and explosives offences, illicit trafficking in drugs and radioactive materials, and, given our recent sad experiences, it will allow us to deal more effectively with illicit trafficking in human beings.

In the case of offences on the positive list, a warrant may issue based on the definition of the offence in the law of the requesting state. As I have indicated, the dual criminality test will no longer apply to offences on the positive list where there is a maximum penalty of at least three years. That is to say, it will no longer be necessary for the court in the requested country to consider whether the offence on which the warrant is based is an offence in both the requesting and the requested State. However, given the seriousness of the offences listed, it is highly improbable that we could be faced with a situation—

Minister, you have just two minutes remaining.

Since I do not think a huge number of Deputies will participate, I suggest that we extend the Minister's time by ten minutes.

Unfortunately, it is one of these debates in which the Chair does not have much discretion because one hour has been allotted for the debate – 15 minutes each to the Minister, Deputy Shatter and Deputy Howlin, ten minutes to Deputy O'Malley and five minutes to the Minister to reply. Unfortunately, we have to stay within the hour because other business has been ordered.

I am grateful to Deputy Howlin for his offer.

As I stated, it is highly improbable that we could be faced with a situation where we would be surrendering someone for conduct which, if it occurred in Ireland, would not be a serious offence here too. The decision, as now presented, contains many safeguards. I was especially concerned that a person who had been surrendered should not be subject to investigative detention.

Article 2 is the fundamental part of the proposed directive as it defines its scope. While the arrest warrant will apply to offences punishable by a minimum of 12 months in the issuing state, there is also set out what has been referred to as a positive list of major offences. The list contains 32 such offences. A major offence is one which attracts a penalty of at least three years imprisonment. In the case of these major offences, the offences shall be as defined in the law of the requesting member state but the crucial point is that the court in the requested member state shall not apply the dual criminality test in such cases. This is a departure from current practice but, as I have indicated, we are very likely to find in practice that offences of the kind listed are, in fact, serious offences in all civilised societies. The dual criminality test will continue to apply to all offences other than those major ones to which I have referred.

I referred earlier to one aspect of the proposed framework decision where a question might be raised as to its implications, constitutionally, for Ireland. The issue arises in the context of the positive list to which I have just referred and the proposal that dual criminality should not apply where a person is sought for an offence on the positive list attracting a term of imprisonment of at least three years in the requesting state. The reliance on the definition of the offence in the law of the requesting state only without any means of establishing the position in the law of the requested state in relation to the same set of events or circumstances, has the effect of ousting the dual criminality test for any such offence. The Attorney General has advised that, in the absence of Dáil and Seanad approval pursuant to Article 29.4.6º of the Constitution, an Irish court would be as likely as not to make a finding of unconstitutionality in such circumstances. Article 29.4.6º gives the appropriate constitutional protection against that risk, although even in the absence of Article 29.4.6º, it would still constitute merely a risk, albeit a substantial one, since there is no conclusive case law on the point.

I understand my time has elapsed so I will just recommend the draft decision to the House. It is a balanced and measured response on the part of the member states of the European Union to a shocking and entirely unprecedented attack on world peace and stability. It provides a comprehensive set of safeguards for any individual subject to an arrest warrant while providing society at large with a new and effective means of dealing with a most serious threat to the well-being of our democratic systems.

Fine Gael supports the motion but I would like to raise a number of matters with the Minister. I start from the same position as the Minister. The reality of the threat posed by international terrorism, if it was ever a mystery, was brought home in extraordinary and horrific circumstances by the events that took place on 11 September last. It is important in the context of this State and the European Union that there is a uniform policy and approach to the threat posed by international terrorism and that we advance the project started with the Amsterdam Treaty, the creation of an area of freedom, security and justice, in the context of what I refer to as the third pillar activities in relation to the treaties.

The motion before us concerning the directive to provide a common arrest warrant has as its sister or brother proposal the provisions with which we will deal later regarding common offences of terrorism. In the context of tackling these areas and providing for greater uniformity in the European Union, we must ensure we maintain a proper balance between allowing the member states of the European Union to operate in an efficient manner in counteracting the threats posed by terrorists and international criminal gangs while preserving the rights and freedoms which are part and parcel of our constitutional democracy. On occasions, there is a risk that measures brought forward to protect democracy may undermine the very democracy one seeks to protect. I do not believe that is the case with either of the two pro posals we will address but it is important the House considers these issues and deals with them in a cautious, careful and considered manner.

The Minister set out very clearly the time frame difficulties that arise in progressing proposals of this nature. The protections provided under Article 29.4.6º of the Constitution are of particular importance. One of the lessons that should have been learned by the failure of the Nice referendum was that the European Union, its institutions and measures put in place by it are, for too many people, seen to be distant from their every day lives. There is a lack of information and understanding of what is taking place. In the context of the national parliaments of the European Union – this Parliament is not unique in this – there has been a serious democratic deficit for far too long. If I have any complaint to make about what we are doing today – it may not be the fault of the Minister – it is that it is far too rushed. It is important that measures which are needed are put in place but the proposal for a common European Union arrest warrant is one which has been around for some time. It is only the fall-out from the appalling atrocities of 11 September that has resulted in it being given a new dynamic and movement being made by the European Union member states to finalise a proposal that can be put in place.

The Minister referred to the time pressures involved in progressing this and other issues in the future. There is a need for Governments across the European Union, acting as Councils of Ministers and in the context of meetings of prime ministers and heads of state, to look at what new procedures of a functional nature can be put in place to ensure that when a proposal such as this is being progressed, debates in the national parliaments or in the relevant committee of each EU state's national parliament take place far earlier than that which is taking place now so that one can have a more considered debate. Deputy Howlin and myself, representing the main Opposition parties, were presented with two very complex European Union proposals at around five o'clock yesterday evening. We were given some background information but we were given very limited time to have them vetted and to take a detailed and considered view of any difficulties or defects that may arise.

Effectively, what is presented to us is afait accompli because we have been told this has been agreed by 14 of the 15 member states. It seems the member state the Minister did not name – Italy – which was creating difficulties is now on board for the framework we now have. There is a better way to deal with the democratic deficit and our parliamentary business. It is in the interests of the constitutional and civil rights of people who reside in this State that we take a more considered and timely approach. I hope that when there is a future proposal of this nature, it will be discussed at an earlier point in time so that if we get to the point at which we are now, many of the proposals being taken on board, which have been around for some time, will have been digested previously and considered by this House. If there are amendments to those proposals when a regulation or directive is being finalised, those amendments should be the main issues focused on.

In the context of dual criminality, the Minister has raised issues pertaining to the Constitution and the uncertainties that arise in that respect. I have nothing to add to what the Minister says about the legal position in that regard. I agree with him that the protections of Article 29.4.8 may ensure that constitutional difficulties do not arise. However, I want to address one particular matter. If what is before the House today is not in any way changed in Laeken and is effectively put in place, then a difficulty should not arise. This is based on the assumption that we pass the motion before this House this afternoon. If it emerges that Italy has a continuing difficulty or that any member state that appeared to have no difficulty last week discovers a new one, and if what is before the House this evening is amended before it is completed, there will be a problem regarding the procedure we are adopting. This is because, in the context of exercising the powers that derive under Article 29.4.6, we would be approving something today that may ultimately be considered differently when negotiations are concluded and all the EU member states sign on for the proposal. The Minister may say it will not happen this time, and perhaps it will not, but it could happen next time with regard to some other issue that needs to be addressed by this House. Perhaps the Minister will respond to that particular issue in his reply.

It is important that, in the context of the EU, we have the most efficient system of justice possible. In principle, based on the commitment of EU member states and the European Convention on Human Rights and other substantive protections of human rights, there is no particular reason we should not have a simplified surrender procedure for persons who are engaged in the type of activities to which this particular proposal applies. However, we are radically changing our extradition laws. We are, in this evening's very brief debate, throwing out extradition provisions that have applied between this State and other EU member states for many years and rendering irrelevant substantial numbers of very important decisions delivered by our Supreme Court and High Court. It is unfortunate that we do not have more time to consider the implications of that.

In the context of the particular proposal, I want to refer the Minister to certain matters pertaining thereto so he can reply to them in this very brief debate. Under Article 3, there are provisions that are referred to as grounds for mandatory non-execution. It says the executing judicial authority shall refuse to execute the European arrest warrant in various cases. There are a number of specific cases listed under Article 3.

Will the Minister tell me the position regarding a lapse of time in effecting a prosecution for a particular case? Great difficulties have been experienced in the area of prosecutions for sexual offences which have been brought very many years after alleged acts have taken place. There have been occasions when the Supreme Court has held that it was inappropriate that a prosecution be taken. There have been other occasions when, due to the delays on the part of the prosecuting authorities in processing prosecutions after their initiation, cases were ultimately terminated by way of judicial order. In the context of the proposals before us which apply to a variety of different offences, will the Minister clarify the position where these provisions are sought to be used for offences that may have been committed in another EU member state 15, 20, 25 or 30 years ago? Is there a timeframe barrier with regard to alleged offences invoking this particular procedure?

Could the Minister also clarify who or which court is to exercise the judicial authority because it was not clarified in his speech? Is it the High Court? I am presuming it is from what the Minister said, but it is not clear. If it is the High Court, in the context of the timeframes prescribed under this particular proposal within which arrest warrants issued must be implemented, I am doubtful about its current capacity, particularly if there are cases that are appealed from the High Court to the Supreme Court, to meet the limited timeframes prescribed. Currently, there are three significant vacancies within the High Court – the Minister can correct me if I am wrong. We have a Court and Court Officers Bill which will provide for additional appointments. It has no chance of being enacted for a number of months because the Government has not given it priority and has left it sitting as one of the outstanding items among many to be addressed by this House. We were told only yesterday by a member of the High Court that it is incapable in the next couple of months of processing, within a reasonable time, large numbers of cases that are outstanding, including criminal prosecutions. How will the High Court cope with the additional simplified procedures to be applied under this proposal? What thought has the Minister given to that?

What will the position be with regard to Supreme Court appeals? If a provision is challenged, what priority is the Supreme Court to give to processing any appeal from the High Court? In the context of Article 17 we are told that final decisions on the execution of the European arrest warrant shall be taken with a period of 60 days after the arrest of the required person. What provisions or mechanisms will the Minister put in place to ascertain when this timeframe is or is not being complied with?

If there is a prosecution for a terrorist type offence in this State as a consequence of crime by a group of individuals in this State, and if those individuals are sought by another European member state pursuant to these new procedures, what will the position be? Will the prosecution in this State always get priority? Under these pro visions, it seems that there are circumstances in which, if two or three different member states are seeking to have someone returned or sent back to those states, whoever applied first will get priority.

What is the position in this State if we receive an arrest warrant for someone who is alleged to be responsible for a bombing in England and, some days later, our prosecution authorities institute a prosecution against that individual for raiding banks or murdering people in this State? Can our prosecution authorities have priority or will we be compelled to extradite under the new procedures prescribed here? These questions are important and serious. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient time to tease them out. I hope the Minister will address them in his response.

We have 15 minutes to make a number of general points and, I hope, a few specific points. With regard to the first proposal before us, which relates to the adoption of the European arrest warrant, I will begin like other Members by reflecting on the events of 11 September. Certainly, they have changed our attitudes to issues, many of which were on our agenda in any event. The special Home Affairs Council which was held in Brussels on 20 September sought to bring forward a number of important items that needed to be addressed in any event, in order to create a package. Many of those issues are now speeding rapidly on to our agenda and the agenda of parliaments across the world.

The proposal to bring in a European arrest warrant is not new, nor is it focused exclusively on terrorism. The Schedule shows that it encompasses a number of serious offences, like trafficking in human beings and child pornography. Those have nothing to do with terrorism but should be the subject of arrest warrants throughout the EU in any event. In a way, the shocking events of 11 September have been the catalyst for expediting a number of proposals which probably should have come forward anyway.

In dealing with our firm and absolute desire to provide for the safety and security of the citizens of this State and the EU generally, we need a clear balance between the measures needed for such protection and the personal freedoms and liberties enjoyed by citizens. Those rights have been developed in this jurisdiction and the EU over the past 50 years in particular. I am as satisfied as I can be, given the time I have had to examine these proposals, that the balance is reasonable enough in the two measures we are to debate.

In keeping that balance, the safeguards under Article 6 of the Treaty of European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are obviously taken into account. I am happy that it is explicit in the framework decision that nothing in the decision would impact on the rights enumerated under the Charter of Fundamental Rights nor the rights to ensure that no European arrest warrant is issued for the purposes of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his race, sex, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, political opinion or sexual orientation or that that person's position may be prejudiced by any of those reasons. I am happy with the co-decision making of the European Parliament and I have contacted the socialist group, which is content that the balance is reasonable enough in this provision.

Having said that, I still want to enforce the general principle because other measures will come before us. I am glad we have a Constitution here which does not allow the absolute freedom to Parliament to act in the way it has, for example, in the United Kingdom, bringing in draconian measures which sometimes limit the personal freedoms of individuals. The thrust of the proposals is encapsulated in the suggestion that we are moving largely from what the Minister categorised as an interstate relationship, a formal extradition relationship between sovereign Governments in an EU context, to an intercourt system. That is much more akin or analogous to the interaction between a federation of States as opposed to sovereign States acting in a Government to Government relationship rather than court to court. I have no objection to that as long as those balances and safeguards are encompassed and I am content they are in this measure. I read the list of scheduled offences the Minister has and I saw that, within the directive, there is the wherewithal for the Council at a later stage to broaden the scope of the offences when there is a unanimous decision of the Council and the assent of the European Parliament. It does not cause me great difficulty to have that openness there but there are issues we must look at in the context of the action of Governments and courts within the European Union. I instance the case of Greece, where a number of UK citizens are subject to judicial proceedings under Greek law. They are being charged with espionage because they photographed a Greek military air display and I am concerned that the standards and norms we expect to be the judicial norm across the EU should apply to all. I do not want to comment on the merits or demerits of this case, though I have the gravest concerns about those charges. It could be an Irish citizen subject to an extradition warrant under this agreement in the future for taking holiday photographs of installations about which a Government like the Government of Greece is sensitive. That would cause me concern and the Minister should address it in his response.

I do not know if, subsequent to the acquiescence of the Italian Government, the draft Council statement has become an actual Council statement but the draft circulated to us last night stated:

The Council states that the framework decision on the fight against terrorism covers acts which are considered by all member states of the European Union as serious infringement of their criminal laws committed by individuals whose objectives constitute a threat to the democratic societies, respecting the rule of law and the civilisation upon which those societies are founded.

This is an extremely important statement because it is simply not good enough to classify as terrorism acts which may be against a Government but which are meant to protect values of civilisation and democracy that are important. Section 2 of the draft Council statement states that it is understood that it:

. . . cannot be construed so as to argue that the conduct of those who have acted in the interests of preserving or restoring these democratic values, as was notably the case in some member states during the Second World War, could now be considered as terrorist acts, nor can it be construed so as to incriminate on terrorist grounds persons exercising their fundamental rights to manifest their opinions, even if in the course of the exercise of such rights they commit offences.

That statement gives me the confidence to support the resolutions before us, as it seeks a balance between the duty of any society to defend itself and its citizens with protecting the rights of citizens to protest and take militant action, if necessary, to ventilate their concerns with particular actions of Government. It should not be an untrammelled right of Government to protect itself at the expense of the civil liberty of every citizen to protest with any legitimate means.

The Minister referred to parliamentary scrutiny and responsibilities under Article 29.4.6 of the Constitution. I welcome his commitment that all framework decisions will now, regardless of the advice of the Attorney General, I presume, be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. I have commented on this in relation to a number of issues and I agree with Deputy Shatter. Despite our acquiescence today, it is not good enough that we got 50 pages through our fax machines last night when we are already busy doing other parliamentary work and that we are expected to make reasonable comment on them today. I am not blaming anyone for that as the time frame was impossible for the Minister also when the draft was not finalised last weekend and texts are still fluid. Regardless of the decision this House will make today, it is technically possible for the text of this directive to be changed as it has not been agreed by Council. I understand that this matter is to go before the Heads of Government at their meeting in Laeken this weekend, so the text could be changed then, despite the fact that we may have passed this motion. It is unlikely, but it is theoretically possible.

This House should adopt the procedure used in the Danish Parliament and in other legislatures. We should be able to discuss draft framework decisions in committees of the House and the relevant Minister should take advice from those involved, including members of the committee and external groups invited to contribute. The opinions of groups like the new Human Rights Commission and the Irish Council of Civil Liberties should be valued. There is not much use in allowing such groups to contribute or make submissions subsequent to the enactment of the decisions.

The Dáil can vote against these proposals today but Parliament is not entitled to amend them as they have been agreed by 14 of the 15 member states and they have been formally supported by Ireland at the Council of Ministers. I commend the Minister for the line he took at the meeting and many useful changes were made as a result of his actions and those of the Attorney General who, I understand, took a particular interest in this matter. I regret the fact that the involvement of the Oireachtas in parliamentary scrutiny, as a matter of general principle, is not taken seriously. I hope we can do better in the future.

I am very conscious of time as I know other Deputies wish to contribute, so I will conclude by saying that I think a reasonable balance has been struck as regards the European arrest warrant. I have set out my stall of concerns, but I have no difficulty indicating the Labour Party's support for this motion.

I welcome this motion on the draft framework decision on the European arrest warrant and I am glad that the matter is being debated in this House. Like many other speakers, however, I regret that we have been given only 60 minutes to discuss an issue of fundamental importance, although I appreciate the difficulties of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his Department. Great work has been done in recent months to bring the draft framework decision to its present state. I agree with the amendments that were made in Brussels recently, at Ireland's suggestion. Ireland and the United Kingdom do not share the tradition of detention for the purposes of investigation which is found in the criminal legal systems of other countries . It would be very difficult to marry the system we employ with that used by many European countries, so it is better that it will not apply. I am not criticising the manner in which these matters are conducted in other countries, however, as we may need to adopt similar provisions in the fullness of time.

An extensive list of offences to which this directive will apply is found in paragraph 2 of article 2. Some of the offences need to be a little more clearly defined, as some of them hardly warrant the use of a European arrest warrant. While arson can be a serious offence, there has to be a limit of its scale below which the rigours of this framework will not apply. If someone burns a bale of hay, for example, it is doubtful if the European arrest warrant should be issued. I do not know what is envisaged in the document as regards swindling as such a crime does not exist in Irish law. A multitude of misdemeanours could be covered under such a heading. I doubt, however, if the guardians of the European justice system should be concerned with those who practise the art of the three card trick at point-to-point meetings.

There is a further statement on swindling in an annex to this document.

I am afraid I did not get that far as I only received the document from the Department of Foreign Affairs at about nine o'clock last night. I could not get it anywhere else. It is difficult, at this busy time of year, to read and assimilate large documents such as this one, and it has been impossible to receive advice on the issues involved.

Another section of the document refers to the crime of "the facilitation of unauthorised entry and residence". I do not know what that means and I am unsure how one could facilitate unauthorised residence. It reminds me of a favourite old Act of mine, the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Act, 1971, about which we do not hear much now but which caused great consternation in this House at the time.

The significance of this framework decision is that it effectively replaces virtually our entire system of extradition—

Within the EU.

—beginning with the Extradition Act, 1965, which was based on a 1957 Council of Europe convention. I think it is true to say that the provisions of the framework decision will replace most of the extradition legislation of members of the Council of Europe. In the case of Ireland, the 1965 Act as amended by at least three or four Acts since then, will be replaced. The only arrangements that will not be affected are the extradition treaties we have with the United States and Australia, the only countries outside Europe with which we have arrangements. Our relationship with European countries will vastly change if we approve this framework directive which, in effect, repeals the 1965 and subsequent Acts. It does not repeal them overnight, however, as the new system does not have to come into effect until 1 January 2004, which allows just over two years for the Irish Government to prepare legislation.

Looking at the rather empty and passionless Chamber for this motion, I recall the days when extradition Bills, which were minor in comparison with this motion, were before the House for days, weeks or months. Members argued that the legislation would lead to the most appalling breaches of human rights and that the world would virtually come to a halt if the legislation was passed. One of the amazing by-products of the events of 11 September is that those who sometimes show concern for terrorists, among others, are much less vocal than they were.

Among the list of crimes in article 2 of this directive is "motor vehicle crime", which needs to be defined properly. I am a little nervous when I encounter such vague terms as in this case it may mean that the European arrest warrant could be used to capture someone without motor taxation or someone who drove at a speed in excess of the speed limit. I know the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, will probably tell us that the warrant will not be used in such circumstances, but there is nothing to stop it from being used, depending on how the directive is fleshed out in the years to come. I am quite happy to take such matters on faith, however, as the approach of the Minister, his Department and the European Union seems to be appropriate.

It is interesting that the Minister's speech referred to an academic commentator who believes that recent progress in what we call the third pillar has been amazing. The progress is amazing and commendable. It is a major development for the EU that we are no longer primarily an economic community and that the Union is dealing as best it can, and with some success, with problems which arise for its citizens with regard to fundamental personal matters such as their safety and protection from terrorism and terrorists. We should mark this framework as a major step along that road. The thanks of all citizens are due to the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers and their officials who have successfully and rapidly negotiated, discussed and amended this draft in the past number of months.

I welcome the news in the Minister's speech, of which I was not aware, that Italy has withdrawn its reservation, veto or whatever one wishes to call it regarding this matter and that, in common with the other 14 member states, it will be able to go along with the framework. However, I would wish to see this framework come back to the House in its final form. Will the Minister outline whether this will be done by motion or through legislation which would have to be introduced? The House should get an opportunity to debate the framework decision when finalised and to do so in more detail and with more notice than was available on this occasion.

I call on the Minister to conclude the debate.

(Dublin West): Is there not one minute available to comment on this measure?

No, the Chair is obliged to put the question at 5.17 p.m. It is now 5.12 p.m. and the Minister has five minutes to reply to the debate.

It is difficult to offer a view when one does not have an opportunity to speak.

At the start of the debate I made the point about the time limit. That is the order of the House.

(Dublin West): I protest against rushing this motion through the Dáil without time for proper scrutiny. I am opposed to the motion.

The Deputy has made his point.

I am also opposed to the proposal and protest against the absence of an opportunity to utter my views on it.

An order of the House of this day decided that the debate would last for one hour.

As regards a point made by Deputy Shatter, if the proposed framework decision changes we would have to come back to the House. Approval can only apply to the information which is currently available. A minor linguistic change at the summit would not require us to come back to the House, but we would have to do so if there was a substantive change.

The issue of the lapse of time is dealt with in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union which refers to the Union respecting fundamental rights. As regards the High Court, time limits are not prescriptive. Additional judges are required for the High Court and the Government will deal with this matter shortly. There are vacancies and the courts are experiencing difficulties. We will try to fill the vacancies as soon as possible.

Article 19.1 deals with the issue of priority. Article 26.1 deals with the issue of how far back it goes. The commencement date is 2004. Deputy Howlin referred to the fact that we have not been able to discuss this issue properly in the House. I agree that the timeframe is short, which causes difficulties for contributors. We had the opportunity to discuss the framework decision at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs some weeks ago, but I am aware that neither of the main spokespersons are members of that committee and did not have occasion to attend the meeting. We held a brief discussion on the matter at the request of Deputy John Bruton.

Deputy O'Malley inquired as to whether there is a draft directive on unauthorised entry. There is such a directive. The Deputy also inquired about the definition. I was concerned during the negotiations about the absence of sufficient definitions of certain offences which could lead to constitutional difficulties for us in the context of dual criminality. Therefore, after protracted negotiations the Council agreed that we would have definitions regarding certain offences including racism and xenophobia, sabotage and racketeering and extortion. We asked that swindling for this purpose be also defined and this proposal was agreed to. Indicators will be provided in terms of the definition of these offences.

In that context, we also put forward the case that investigative detention, to which Deputy O'Malley also referred, would not be tolerated. In the interests of greater certainty and clarity it was agreed that Ireland would be allowed a declaration to this effect, and that is contained in the agreement.

We also had reservations regarding specialty. Our arguments were successful in this regard as they were concerning a number of other matters.

The Minister's time is concluded.

I thank the Attorney General and Mr. Cole and his staff in the Department for their work on this issue since 11 September.

As it is now 5.17 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an Order of the Dáil of this day: "That the motion is hereby agreed to."

Question put.

Will the Deputies who are claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Gormley, Sargent, Ó Caoláin, Joe Higgins and Healy rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Question declared carried.