From the London Times:
“Brussels unveiled detailed proposals yesterday that would for the first time create a body of pan-European criminal law and force member states to punish citizens who transgress it. The European Commission listed seven offences that it insisted should become European crimes immediately, including computer hacking, corporate fraud, people-trafficking and marine pollution. The ruling means that for the first time in legal history, a British government and Parliament will no longer have the sovereign right to decide what constitutes a crime and what the punishment should be…The Commission suggested several other offences, including racial discrimination and intellectual property theft, which could become European crimes in the future. It will also set out the level of penalty, such as length of prison sentence, that would apply to each crime. The announcement is strongly opposed by Britain and many other member states. The Commission is using powers granted by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, the EU’s supreme court, and governments fear that there is little they can do to prevent it. The court ruled that the EU had the right to require member states to create criminal offences, and could dictate the length of prison sentences.”
The Court is, of course, an institution of the EU, so it’s no surprise that it has ruled in the way that it has.
Would-be purchasers of the Brooklyn Bridge will, however, have been reassured by these comforting words from Brussels:
“We do not want to have criminal penalties everywhere,” a senior official said. “We do not want to criminalise all EU law. We only want it when it is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of EU law.”
More skeptical sorts will notice that future areas in which the EU might decide to use these powers includes punishing “incitement to racial hatred”, a very vague term that can be (and already is in a number of EU countries) used to damp down inconvenient speech of a type that bears very little resemblance to the ‘incitement’ to which the Times is referring.