Pledge to free up UK jails sees just 17 EU prisoners sent home to serve time

prison door

Just 17 foreign criminals have been sent home to serve their sentences under a treaty that was intended to clear Britain’s jails of mainland European offenders.

Ministers had hoped to deport thousands of offenders under a European Union treaty that would see convicts serve their sentences in their home countries. But in more than two years of operation, just 17 European criminals have been removed.

The number of criminals from the rest of the EU has risen markedly under the Coalition, despite David Cameron promising to “personally intervene” to have them sent home in greater numbers.

The EU Prisoner Transfer Agreement was signed by Britain and 17 other member states and came into force in December 2011.

Since then three Belgians, a Latvian, a Maltese and 12 Dutch prisoners have been sent home. Ten were guilty of drugs offences, three of sexual offences, one for causing death by dangerous driving and one for a stabbing.

At the same time, 10 British citizens have been transferred from other EU states, meaning overall the scheme has opened up just seven extra prison spaces.

There are 10,695 foreign prisoners in British jails, costing around £370  million a year.

That is a modest fall of around 500 since the Coalition came to power, despite a pledge by Mr Cameron to do “everything in my power” to get them removed, including raising the issue with other foreign leaders. In the same period, the number of European prisoners has increased from 3,670 to 4,700.

Poles make up the largest group, with 938 in prison in December 2013, up from 650 in September 2010 – meaning they have overtaken Jamaicans as the largest group of foreign nationals in British jails.

They are followed by Irish prisoners (up from 680 to 779), Romanians (up from 381 to 547) and Lithuanians (from 384 to 502).

However, Poland and Ireland were granted an opt-out from the scheme by the last Labour government.

Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice minister who uncovered the figures, said the failure to implement the agreement presented an “enormous drain on stretched budgets”.

“Back in 2010 David Cameron said he would personally intervene to make sure thousands of foreign criminals would be sent back to their home countries to serve their prison sentences. Yet, four years on and still only a handful have been repatriated. The Prime Minister must, as a matter of urgency, roll up his sleeves and make sure the EU repatriation scheme is working properly and that all of the nation states are signed up to it, if the number of foreign criminals in our jails is to be cut.”

Jeremy Wright, the prisons minister, admitted the number of prisoners sent home “remains low”, but said the agreement was at “an early stage”. He said nearly 2,000 foreign offenders were deported last year before their prison sentence had finished.

“Whereas this government has begun to reduce the foreign national population in prison since 2010, between 1997 and 2010 the number of foreign nationals in our prisons more than doubled.”


This post first appeared in thEUnit Digest, Monday 14th April

Google pays EU fine for Street View breaches

google street view car

Google paid a $1.37 million fine in Italy after the local regulator found its Street View cars drove incognito across the country, violating the privacy of citizens caught on camera without their knowledge.

It’s Google’s largest penalty yet after a series of clashes with data privacy regulators across the 28-nation European Union. Street View cars have also triggered fines for collecting data from unrestricted wireless connections to gather people’s personal communications.

The owner of the world’s biggest Internet search engine, which had about $60 billion in cash at the end of last year, already took steps to make its Street View cars more easily identifiable and to alert people that the mapping service’s cars plan to pass through their neighbourhood, the Italian regulator said Friday.

Google cars “roamed the streets of Italy without being perfectly recognizable,” so people didn’t have the opportunity to “decide whether or not they want to be omitted from these captured images,” Italy’s data privacy regulator said. The “illegally collected data was destined for a large database of particular importance.”

The Italian penalty “relates to an old case that dates back to 2010,” said Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google. “We complied with everything” the authority “required of us at the time.”

The Italian fine surpasses a December penalty by Spanish regulators over Google’s collection of personal information on its users without in many cases explaining what data it collected and what it used it for.

France’s data watchdog made Google pay 100,000 euros in 2011 for Street View privacy lapses. The Hamburg privacy regulator last year fined Google 145,000 euros for collecting wireless-network data from 2008 to 2010.

The EU is seeking to empower national agencies to go beyond current penalties that are more symbolic than punitive for global companies such as Google.

Lawmakers are weighing proposals paving the way for fines of as much as 100 million euros or 5 percent of yearly global sales for privacy violations.

This post first appeared in thEEunit Digest, Monday 7th April

EU’s first earth observation satellite put into orbit

sentinel 1a

The European Union’s Earth observation satellite was put into orbit on Friday after a successful launch from Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana.

The successful launch of Sentinel 1A, the first satellite dedicated to EU’s Earth observation program – Copernicus, was described by the European Commission as a significant achievement, not just for the Copernicus program, but also for European Space Policy and the involvement of the European Union in space activities.

Sentinel 1A is the first satellite of the first of six families of dedicated satellite missions, which will be launched between 2014 and 2021.

Copernicus will ensure the regular observation and monitoring of Earth sub-systems, the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces, and will provide reliable, validated and guaranteed information in support of a broad range of environmental and security applications and decisions.

European Commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship, AntonioTajani said Sentinel 1A’s “brand new eyes will observe our living Earth as never before and these eyes will be European!” “The data provided by this satellite will enable considerable progress in improving maritime security, climate change monitoring and providing support in emergency and crisis situations. Multiplying, in this way, the benefits that European citizens will reap from our space programs,” he added.

This post appeared in thEUnit Digest, Monday 7th April

Britain must quit the EU to win back its self-confidence, says Lord Lawson

nigel lawson

Quitting the European Union will allow Britain to win back the self-confidence it lost after Margaret Thatcher quit as Prime Minister, Lord Lawson has said.

Lord Lawson of Blaby suggested that Britain was hanging onto its EU membership as a form of comfort blanket, and would prosper by being able to stand alone in the world, outside the EU.

The Tories have pledged a referendum by 2017 if they win next year’s general election, while Labour has suggested it might hold one under certain conditions.

Speaking at a private dinner organised by the Institute for Economic Affairs, Lord Lawson – who as Nigel Lawson was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983 to 1989 – said: “We do need a revival of self-confidence. In 1979 we inherited a country that lacks self-confidence.

“One of the most important things that a Thatcher government did was change the mood of the nation to give it back its confidence. This clutching hold of the EU is a sign of a lack of national self-confidence – which is not healthy.”

Lord Lawson chaired the £82,000 Brexit prize, organised by the Institute for Economic Affairs, which looked at the opportunities for Britain if the UK left the EU. It was won by Iain Mansfield, a foreign office diplomat, who entered in a personal capacity.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has hinted that he is likely to fight for the UK to remain part of a reformed EU if changes have been made ahead of any referendum.

Mr Cameron has previously warned that quitting the EU would leave Britain with the same status as Norway – trading with the EU but no influence of how it is run.

But Lord Lawson said these comparisons were wrong-headed. He pointed out that the Norwegian and Swiss economies were not doing badly and had benefited from being outside the EU.

Britain was well placed because it was a large country which would see its influence grown as its population rises for the next 15 years.

In contrast’s the populations in Germany and in France are forecast to fall and remain static respectively over the same period.

Last month, writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron said: “If I am Prime Minister after the election, I will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in Europe, and then ask the British people: do you wish to stay in the EU on this basis, or leave?

“I will hold that referendum before the end of 2017, and respect the decision.”

This article first appeared in thEUnit Digest, Tuesday 22nd April

Rules on lorries means Britain loses more ‘clout’ from EU membership

Edward Spalton

THE BBC Today programme reported that the EU parliament would shortly vote to introduce new regulations for lorries to have improved rear view mirrors and windows, designed to remove blind spots and improve the driver’s field of view.

This report was true, but also highly misleading. These regulations were not drawn up by the EU but by a superior interational body called UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe). That is where the real decisions are made. The EU institutions and parliament merely do as they are told.

UNECE consults with member countries in formulating regulations, but Britain has no voice there. The EU decides on a “common position” before going to the consultation. So the EU actually keeps Britain off the “top table” where the critical decisions are made. Regulations cover increasing aspects of our lives and the EU is merely the local enforcer.

Like Britain, Scandinavian countries frequently have different standards from those of the big, mainland European countries. So they are disregarded too. But they have a friend to speak up for them. Denmark and Sweden frequently ask Norway to make their case. Little Norway has a voice where it counts. As an EU member Great Britain does not. Neither do Denmark and Sweden.

Britain gains no “clout” at the negotiating table from its EU membership but rather loses it entirely.

Edward Spalton

This article appeared in the Derby Telegraph, 28th April

€816m Rome’s budget deficit

Rome came within days of bankruptcy last month, after parliament threw out a bill that would have injected fresh funding to reduce its €816m (£671m) budget deficit.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi approved a last-minute emergency decree that bailed out the beleaguered city. It saw the transfer of €570m (£468m) to the city council, enabling it to pay municipal workers and ensure services such as rubbish collection and public transport. Rome has been bailed out by the central Italian government every year since 2008. Mayor Ignzio Marino said: “Rome has wasted money for decades. I don’t want to spend another euro that is not budgeted.”