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EU plans police exchange scheme

German police in Muelheim, 29 Nov 09
The EU wants police forces to learn more about their neighbours

The EU plans student-style exchanges for European police and judges in a new five-year blueprint to improve justice co-operation in the 27-nation bloc.

EU leaders are expected to approve the so-called Stockholm Programme at a summit in Brussels next week.

The funding arrangements and other details are yet to be worked out.

"We need more of a common understanding of other systems," said Swedish Justice Ministry spokesman Martin Valfridsson, adding that the UK would participate.

He told the BBC that "we can't achieve it unless there is more contact between law enforcement agencies on a day-to-day basis".

The plan, spearheaded by Sweden as current holder of the EU presidency, would still respect the independence of judges, he stressed.

"We can't force judges to go abroad, but we will offer - and the member states would pay."

Parliament's new muscle

The blueprint calls on the European Commission to draw up a detailed scheme to make the training and exchanges a reality.

MEPs debate justice issues

It would build on the justice co-operation that already exists, such as the European Arrest Warrant, which has replaced extradition procedures between EU member states.

The European Parliament is preparing to play a big role in the Stockholm Programme negotiations, because the Lisbon Treaty puts MEPs on an equal footing with EU governments in the area of justice and home affairs.

The latest draft of the programme says: "It is essential to step up training on EU-related issues and make it systematically accessible for all professions involved in... freedom, security and justice."

"This will include judges, prosecutors, judicial staff, police and customs officers and border guards."

The plan was criticised by Timothy Kirkhope MEP, leader of the UK Conservatives in Europe.

Speaking on the BBC programme The Record Europe, he said the plan lacked focus, and "the Conservatives have a problem with the whole question of a single area of freedom and justice in Europe".

"Do we really need a European academy to train our judges?" he asked.

A Dutch liberal MEP, Sophie in t'Veld, said the parliament's new powers of co-decision under Lisbon would mean "we'll fight criminals in a much more efficient way", because justice ministers would no longer be able to ignore MEPs' views.



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