Parliament regards ratifying immunity agreements as incompatible with being member of the EU

Agence Europe

By adopting through a very large majority a joint resolution by five political groups (EPP-ED, PES, ELDR, GUE/NGL, Greens/EFA) on the International Criminal Court (ICC), the European Parliament considers that States signatories to the Rome Statute cannot subscribe to immunity agreements without misunderstanding their obligations. It hopes that the governments and parliaments of EU Member states will refrain from any agreement harming the sound application of the Rome Statute, considering ratification of such agreements as incompatible with being a member of the EU. Parliament makes the same request of countries candidates for EU accession, EU associate countries in the framework of Euro-Mediterranean partnership, member countries of Mercosur, the Andean Pact, countries of the San José process, countries concerned by the stabilisation and association process, as well as ACP states or states signatories of the Statute. It urges the parliaments of Romania, Israel, Tajikistan, East Timor, Honduras, India, Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Dominican Republic not to ratify agreements their governments have signed with the United States. Parliament also urges all Signatory States to ratify the Rome Statute and asks, notably, the Czech Republic, which currently chairs the UN General Assembly, and Lithuania and Malta, to do so extremely urgently so as to prevent an delay in the current EU accession process.
Parliament says it is convinced that EU Member states and candidate states must act as one in the creation of the ICC so that it can face up to its commitments and manage to conserve its independence, its impartiality and its integrity. To that end, they should, notably: - participate in enhancing the political dialogue with the United States to persuade it to change its attitude; - contribute to increased financial support for the ICC; - adopt a common approach to the appointment of judges, prosecutors and staff of the ICC. Parliament also urges Member states, candidate states and all other countries associated with the EU by different agreements to make an analysis of the legal implications of Security Council Resolution 1422 and calls for vigorous action against the renewal of this resolution in July 2003. Stressing the heavy involvement of the United States in peacekeeping operations, Parliament considers that the credibility of the EU position vis-à-vis the United States could be enhanced through the acceptance of a proportional contribution in these operations.
During the debate, Wednesday afternoon, Council President Per Stig Moeller acknowledged that the United States' proposal "in its current form, is not compatible with our obligations to the Court", while adding that, given the importance of transatlantic relations, "to purely and simply reject this proposal would not be a solution either". Legal experts of the Danish Presidency met their American counterparts yesterday, said Moeller. (See EUROPE of 12 September, p.10, over talks between experts). European commissioner Chris Patten recalled that "Between 1995 and 2001, our European Initiative for Democracy and Human rights financed nearly EUR 7 million in projects to support the broadest possible ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute", and that "for 2002-2003 we have earmarked EUR 6 million". The President of the EPP-ED Group, Hans-Gert Poettering called in particular on candidate countries not to take a stance before the EU had agreed on its own common position on the ICC. The President of the Liberal Group, Graham Watson, sent out a cry of alarm: "we are undermining the ICC before it has even begun work". Thunder is threatening, and the Council Presidency should "bring Member states back together under the same umbrella", he insisted, while acknowledging that, in a period of instability like the present, it is understandable that the EU wants to avoid any break with the United States. But any agreement with Washington must be accepted by all member states and respect the Rome Statute, he stressed. For German Social-Democrat Jannis Sakellariou, the demand of the Bush Administration is unacceptable as any exception would open the path to an "a la carte jurisdiction", and it is regrettable that twelve States should so far have given in to American pressure. Stressing that many countries have still not answered the appeal, Italian Radical Gianfranco Dell'Alba considers that the EU make great efforts for them to ratify the Rome Statute and that the Court may effectively become a universal jurisdiction.