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Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sovereignty Over Criminalization in Europe Strikes Familiar Chord With State/Federal Tension in U.S.

From Timesonline.com:  "A landmark legal ruling has handed Brussels the power to create criminal legislation for member states, in what eurosceptics claim is a further erosion of national sovereignty.  The ruling came at the end of a test case between the Commission and 11 EU member states, including Britain, which opposed the idea that the Commission could tell national governments what kind of offences against EU environmental law should be deemed to be criminal offences.  The verdict in the Commission’s favour now opens the door to the EU dictating when breaches of a whole range of agreed EU policies should be treated as criminal.

A Commission statement said: "The judgment concerns particular environmental legislation, but it sets an important precedent for Community law in general".  The head of the Commission’s legal service, Michel Petite, hinted that in future the Commission might not only push member states to apply criminal sanctions, but also to set the scale of sanctions - for instance a penalty of two years in jail to enforce an EU directive.  The leader of Britain’s Tory MEPs Timothy Kirkhope this afternoon gave warning about more sovereignty lost to Brussels in the wake of the court ruling:

"This appears to be a worrying erosion of British sovereignty. Nothwithstanding our support for environmental protection, this is a blow to Britain’s ability to decide things for ourselves.

"I fear the Commission sees this as an opportunity to extend its powers and start interfering in the criminal law of member states. It is a significant transfer of power to the Commission, sanctioned by a court which tends towards the integrationist approach."

"The decision on whether or not to criminalise offences in Britain should be a matter for Britain, not for the EU. We all support penalties against environmental vandals, but this sets an alarming precedent.""  Story. . . [Mark Godsey]

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