Thursday, 21 January 2010
Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security: Motion
That Seanad Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption of the following proposed measure:
a proposal for a Council Decision on setting up the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security,
a copy of which was laid before Seanad Éireann on 14th December, 2009.".
John Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context
The opening up of the EU Internal Market in the 1990s and the other developments which increased the permeability of internal borders posed a number of problems for the European Union and its member states, not least of which was the fact that organised criminal structures set about exploiting these developments. Subsequent events led to the realisation that terrorists could exploit this greater openness. The imperative in these circumstances of protection of the citizens of the Union by creating an area of free movement with a high level of security for those citizens required that law enforcement and judicial authorities should improve their co-operation. There have since been numerous initiatives to increase the level of effectiveness of co-operation. I mention the creation of Eurojust, with its function of improving co-operation in ensuring effective prosecutions, and the European arrest warrant as just two examples. Side by side with these have been important developments in information sharing, especially between law enforcement authorities, as a means of increasing the effectiveness of actions against organised crime and terrorism.
The member states of the European Union face common challenges across the range of areas related to internal security. There is a need to adopt common strategies and co-ordinated EU action to be in a position to meet these challenges more effectively. One such measure which arises from the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty on 1 December 2009 is the setting up of the Standing Committee on operational cooperation on internal security, which committee is established by Article 71 of the Lisbon treaty. The purpose of the standing committee which will be known by the French language acronym, COSI, is to ensure operational co-operation on internal security is promoted and strengthened within the Union. The committee will also facilitate the co-ordination of the actions taken by the relevant authorities of the member states in this area. Senators should be aware that the reference to "internal security" covers a range of issues related to public security and safety, covering actions against crime of all sorts, border management, customs co-operation and civil crisis management such as for natural or man-made disasters.
Co-operation in the field of justice and home affairs has become an increasingly important feature of the EU landscape. The creation of an area of freedom, security and justice is a treaty objective of the European Union. This objective has been the over-arching focus in the justice and home affairs field, involving activities covering free movement, asylum and immigration policies and the management of the Union's external borders. Close co-operation has also been developed between the national police, judicial and customs authorities in the ongoing fight against crime. A wide range of initiatives have been undertaken and are ongoing at EU level across the spectrum of policy areas relevant to internal security. There is ongoing interaction at operational level between the relevant authorities and services in the member states which allows for increased and more effective cross-border action and also for the development and sharing of best practice.
Many legal instruments in the field of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters have been adopted at EU level, including measures to combat terrorism, trafficking in persons, child pornography, drug trafficking and money laundering. In addition, Europol and Eurojust have been established in order to support and improve co-operation between the member states in combating these serious crimes. EU member states are also developing common approaches to the challenges of better managing migration flows into the European Union. Minimum standards and procedures are being set for asylum seekers. A European pact on immigration and asylum was adopted in 2008, setting out the principles behind a number of EU laws, with the aim of organising legal immigration in order that it takes better account of the priorities and needs of each member state.
More effective control of the European Union's external borders is also a priority objective in order to tackle illegal immigration. The FRONTEX agency was set up in 2005 to enhance practical co-operation between the member states in developing better external border security. Another important goal is the creation of partnerships with countries of origin and transit for illegal immigration. The aim will be to seek to improve the poor living conditions which may act as a "push" factor in these countries.
Customs services in the Union play an essential role in the fight against international drug-trafficking and related crimes. The EU drugs strategy, in dealing with illicit drug trafficking and supply side enforcement measures, focuses on reducing money laundering, the diversion of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of illegal drugs and effective co-operation between customs, police and prosecuting authorities in the fight against drug trafficking. International co-operation between the various enforcement agencies charged with combating drug trafficking is absolutely essential, given the cross-border nature of these activities. Ireland's Customs Service plays a full part in contributing to the protection of the European space, in co-operation with its counterparts in other member states.
The co-ordination of civil protection actions among member states in responding to possible man-made or natural disasters is another very important aspect of co-operation at EU level. A notable area of recent activity in this field has been the agreement of an action plan to enhance chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security in the European Union. The action plan is aimed at supporting the ongoing efforts of member states to provide an improved framework for co-ordinated action between all those involved.
This proposed Council decision sets out the tasks to be assigned to the new committee. Its primary purpose, in accordance with the treaty, is to facilitate, promote and strengthen co-ordination of operational actions of the member states' authorities in the field of internal security, principally as regards police, customs and border protection. It will also cover, where appropriate, judicial co-operation in criminal matters relevant to this.
The committee will not, however, be involved in conducting operations; these will, of course, remain within the remit of member states. This is consistent with the mandate set down in Article 71 of the Lisbon treaty to promote and strengthen operational co-operation.
Furthermore, COSI will not have a legislative role. In accordance with the Lisbon treaty arrangements, legislation will be considered by the various Council working parties and will go from them to the Committee of Permanent Representatives and then to the Council for final adoption.
It will be for each member state to decide on the appropriate representatives to attend meetings. This will depend to some extent on the subject before the committee for discussion.
The committee will also have the function of evaluating the efficiency of operational co-operation, identifying possible shortcomings or failures and adopting recommendations to address them. This is a key aspect in ensuring that the actions which are taken can be properly targeted and that resources can be deployed to the best effect. In addition, COSI will help to ensure consistency of action by Eurojust, Europol and Frontex, which will be invited to attend meetings of COSI as observers.
The committee will submit reports at regular intervals to the Council on its activities. The Council will keep national parliaments and the European Parliament informed of the proceedings of the committee.
Copies of the proposal were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 14 December 2009. This Council decision is a measure pursuant to Title V of Part III of the Lisbon treaty and it is, therefore, a measure to which Ireland may opt in under Protocol 21. Protocol 21 to the Lisbon treaty provides that Ireland may opt to take part in the adoption and application of measures which are proposed in regard to the areas of freedom, security and justice. In order for Ireland to exercise that opt-in, prior approval of the Oireachtas in accordance with Article 29.4.7° of the Constitution is required. With the approval of the Oireachtas, this will be the first measure under the Lisbon treaty to which Ireland will opt in in accordance with Protocol 21.
Senators will appreciate that the EU has an important role to play in bringing together the actions of member states aimed at promoting and ensuring the internal security of the European space. By the same token, Ireland has an important contribution to make to those efforts, in co-operation with our fellow EU member states. Ireland's participation in COSI will enable us to play a full role in developing the necessary co-ordinated action among EU member states to contribute to a more secure future for all of the Union's citizens. I commend the motion to the Seanad.
It is strange that we are having a debate on establishing a committee in the European Union. The reason for doing so seems so self-evident. As the Minister of State said, the European Union has an important role to play in bringing together the actions of member states in this area aimed at promoting and ensuring internal security and police co-operation. The reason we are doing this is because Ireland has chosen to have available to it the facility to opt out of these types of provisions unless it opts in.
I appreciate that, under pressure, the Government committed to a review of the opt-out from the area of policing and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. However, it is regrettable that we must take a positive decision to opt in to these types of decisions given the extent of gangland crime and criminality in this jurisdiction. Irrespective of whether drug dealing or human trafficking is involved, there is always a cross-border element. It is self-evident that Ireland, perhaps more than any other member state, needs the co-operation of the Union in combating these forms of crime.
It is a self-evident proposition that there should be co-ordination at EU level of the forces of law and order, including policing and customs organisations. This is provided for in Article 71 of the Lisbon treaty. It does not undermine in any respect the competence of member states and their responsibility in the area of internal security. It is to ensure co-ordination at EU level in the areas of policing, customs and judicial co-operation.
The process began with the Maastricht treaty and the Amsterdam treaty, which was drawn up under the Irish Presidency. The concept of co-operation accelerated from that period. Mr. John Bruton, who was then chairman of the Council of Ministers, made the tackling of crime within the Union a priority for the Union. Since then, there has been an acceleration of the work of member states with regard to co-operation on policing, customs and the protection of borders.
There are already a number of bodies established in this area, including Eurojust, Europol and Frontex, and they are all working very well. COSI is very important to ensure co-operation among the different bodies. It is important that the Government does not just participate as of form but that it identifies what it wants to achieve from this committee and others established at EU level. It should have its own agenda and identify how the Union and other member states can assist in combating cross-border crime of the most serious kind. Passive co-operation will not get us very far.
Ireland has serious problems, particularly with its coastline being used for the smuggling of illegal drugs and because it is a gateway to the rest of Europe. We can create an incentive for other member states to assist us in combating this illegal activity. When opting in with respect to the committee, with which I fully agree, it is imperative that the Government sets out an agenda.
The name of the committee, COSI, is somewhat unfortunate.
It involves reconfiguration of existing committees at Council level. It is important that the Minister set out his agenda and that we establish what we want to prioritise through co-operation with other member states at EU level. I fully support the choice to opt in to this decision. We should participate fully on the committee.
I support the motion. It is beyond question that we should be co-operating in many areas throughout Europe, none more so than security and the prevention of crime throughout the entire Union. This could apply to activities such as terrorism, the importation of drugs and the trafficking of human beings and goods.
Ireland, particularly the south-west coast, is used as a gateway for the illegal importation of drugs. In the past two years, we had the two largest drug seizures. One incident, in which a boat sank off Mizen Head, involved an act of God and was a stroke of luck for the Customs and Excise, Garda and Naval Service. The amount of drugs involved - well over €500 million - was frightening. Thankfully, those arrested are in prison, with some of them serving very long sentences. Others who escaped from this jurisdiction have been arrested in the United Kingdom where they will face trial on this and other matters.
Some 12 months after the event it was still hard to believe the audacity, arrogance and daring of those who were prepared to use Ireland as a gateway to Europe for drug smuggling. Even then, however, a further significant attempt to smuggle drugs was detected. Through co-operation between European agencies, the yacht in question was tracked from South America until it entered Irish waters. In this case there was no act of God; it was a predetermined, well planned co-operation by European agencies, the Garda, Customs and the Naval Service. The Naval Service apprehended the yacht 170 miles south west of Mizen Head and brought it to Castletownbere. Again, the quantity of drugs seized was substantial, valued at over €500 million. In the space of 12 months attempts had been made to bring €1 billion worth of high quality cocaine through south-west Cork for transhipment to the United Kngdom and mainland Europe. I understand the yacht in the last case was not meant to land in Ireland but in Cornwall or Wales, which highlights how much of a success story it was of co-operation between various European agencies. Recently a vessel from outside Europe was seized in County Louth carrying a large quantity of cigarettes. Again, the county was used as a point of entry. I believe significant amounts of drugs have been landed along the west Cork coast for transhipment to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe, which shows the need for co-operation.
It is also proper and correct that there is co-operation between various European agencies in preventing human trafficking and pornography. As a small island-state on the periphery of Europe, Ireland on its own does not have the capacity to tackle widespread crime such as the spread of pornography, terrorism, drug, cigarette or human trafficking. It relies on international co-operation. Anything that can be done by Ireland to improve overall security in Europe is important. The European Union has seen its borders fall and customs traps disappear. In this regard, the motion is proper, particularly since the European Union already knows how much our farmers grow, how much is included in the set-aside scheme and what fishermen are catching with the eye in the sky. The improving of security and the stamping out of drug trafficking and terrorism through European co-operation are essential.
With regard to my distinguished colleague and friend, Senator O'Donovan, he is unduly optimistic when he speaks about the stamping out of drug trafficking. It is simply not going to happen. He was able to refer to two notable successes, on which I compliment those involved in these good examples of detection. However, even at the time the authorities acknowledged what had been seized was only between 5% and 10% of the drugs that passed through the country. This shows the scale of the problem. We might as well throw our hats at it. We will have to become adult and look at the drugs problem realistically. That is, however, a debate for another day. The motion will not conquer the problem, as everyone well knows from the figures.
In the case of cigarette smuggling, there is much hypocrisy on the part of the cigarette companies which are using the issue to oppose increases in cigarette prices. The major cigarette companies have been convicted of actively co-operating with smuggling activities. Again, that is a debate for another day, as I want to concentrate on the aspect of free movement around Europe.
The reason I raise this matter is largely selfish. At the beginning of this month I came back from Cyprus through Gatwick Airport. I followed all the signs for the international flight connections terminal, along winding corridors until I came to a box with a telephone. Normally, there is a courtesy bus for international flight connections every 15 minutes between specific hours. However, outside of these hours - which I was - I had to request one by using the aforementioned courtesy telephone.
Duly I telephoned for the bus and the voice on the other end asked me, "Where to?" I said, "I am going to Dublin but I do not want to take the bus the whole way as I would like to get on an aeroplane." The voice on the other end said, "You can't mate." I asked, "Why not?" He replied that it was a domestic flight, to which I said, "What interesting news? I have been away for a couple of weeks. When did they make the announcement?" He asked, "What announcement?" I replied, "That we have rejoined the British Empire. Her Majesty is a wonderful woman and it will be so nice to be back part of this great family." The man said, "I do not know what you are talking about," to which I said, "When I left Dublin two weeks ago, it was the capital city of an independent republic within the European Union. Now, apparently, we have gone back in under the skirts of the British Empire. Can you, please, give me some more information?" He said, "Hump off. This is to do with the Schengen arrangement."
What is the impact of this internal security arrangement on the Schengen Agreement, particularly as there are non-EU countries such as Switzerland in the Schengen area? After visiting Geneva recently, my colleague Senator O'Toole told me this morning that one would be driven blind trying to find where to go at Geneva Airport because of the arrangements for arrivals from the non-Schengen area. The easiest solution would be to go out through one door, miss the maze of tunnels, technically enter France, another Schengen country, and then come back into Switzerland. It is absolutely insane. As an Irish citizen I object to not being allowed to use international flight connections. It is supposed to be about security but I have already passed through security in another EU member state. How many times do we have to do it just because we are Irish?
Some years ago a close friend of mine, before he obtained Irish citizenship, was here on asylum papers, all perfectly legal. He went on holiday to Barcelona and had to go through Heathrow Airport. On the way back he was interrogated, taken aside and humiliated by the authorities there. He was sent back to Barcelona because they thought he was trying to get into the European Union illegally. He had to pay for an extra couple of nights in Barcelona and his return flight. There was no redress. As a result, a black mark was put against his name on a computer. Some years later, coming back from a holiday he had shared with me, he was stopped again at Heathrow Airport and interrogated. As he is a Kurdish national, he is slightly darker than most home-grown Irish people. When the officer had the impertinence to ask him how a person like him had obtained Irish citizenship, he responded by asking how his companion, who was as black as the ace of spades, had been able to become a policeman in Britain. This type of practice is absolutely intolerable and should be cleared up. Britain is supposed to be a friendly country. It is outrageous that we are prevented from using international flight connections. Are we a separate nation or not? Why should the Schengen Agreement be used as a defence in regard to movement between the two islands when we have been already adequately cleared by security?
I raised this issue with the British ambassador's predecessor some years ago. While our exchange by way of letter was cordial he denied that what I stated was happening. I took photographs of the relevant signage at Heathrow. I have, not in black and white but in full panavision technicolor, photographs of what they are doing. We have the power to decide whether we want to be represented on these committees.
Thank you. I ask the Minister of State to ensure, if we are going to be part of this, this issue is taken into account and that our representatives are briefed on it in order that they can untangle it. I am sure many of my colleagues will agree that being forced in some of the airports in London, when one is forced to land in Britain, to go outside the airport and then re-enter and go through passport and customs control and so on again is not what one expects as part of an integrated Europe in the 21st century.
I welcome the Minister of State and the opportunity to discuss this motion on a new Council standing committee on internal security, COSI. The shift within the provisions of the Lisbon treaty to a much more genuinely European or Community approach to justice and home affairs, as opposed to the more traditional inter-governmental approach, was supported and welcomed by the Green Party. Under the Lisbon treaty new areas, including short stay visas, residence permits, legal immigration, judicial co-operation in criminal matters, Eurojust, Europol and non-operational police co-operation, are moving from unanimity to a process of co-decision with the European Parliament all of which is positive and must be welcomed. However, there is a danger that in welcoming this move towards a more Community based approach we will become somewhat uncritical of the extent to which, in creating some of these new European structures, the same standards of democratic accountability and scrutiny are not available to us or to citizens of the European Union. As national parliamentarians, whether members of Government or the Opposition, we have a responsibility to monitor these developments, to highlight any concerns we have about them and to try to have them addressed.
I regret only 45 minutes has been provided for the debate on this motion. As the Minister of State is required to open and close the debate, this leaves little time for representatives of all political parties to make statements on this important body, the structure of which will have serious implications for internal security policy within the European Union. I believe 45 minutes is a short time within which we must discuss the establishment and remit of the committee.
Under protocol 21 of the Lisbon treaty, Ireland has discretion to opt-in, in so far as it sees fit, to the communitarian approach to justice and home affairs, which is to be welcomed. We have provided ourselves with much flexibility in this regard. I note the incoming Spanish Presidency has stated it will give priority to the development of internal security strategy which will come within the remit of the new committee. It is important that Ireland is from the outset a member of the new structure when the Spanish Presidency is developing policy in the area of internal security. We are told the main objective of COSI will be to facilitate, promote and strengthen co-ordination of the operational actions between EU member states in the field of internal security, including police and customs co-operation, external border protection and judicial co-operation in criminal matters relevant to operational co-operation in the field of internal security. We are told also that the committee will regularly report on its activities to the Council and shall keep the European and national parliaments informed.
COSI will be responsible for evaluating the general direction and efficiency of operational co-operation and will also have the responsibility of identifying possible shortcomings and adopting recommendations to address them. COSI, with the Political and Security Committee, will be mandated to assist the Council to implement the solidarity clause which provides that the EU shall be able to mobilise all the instruments at its disposal to help a member state that is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster, which is an important power. It is important that Ireland, because of its unique position as a neutral state within the European Union, ensures that the implementation of the solidarity clause is worked out in a manner that is acceptable to us and the values which underpin our neutrality.
I have a number of concerns to which I hope the Minister of State can respond. Several interested parties have raised with me the composition of COSI. Will the committee merely be advised by agencies such as security and intelligence agencies like Britain's MI5? In other words, will these bodies be members of the committee or will the committee merely be advised by them? Perhaps the Minister of State will respond to that issue. On the European and national parliaments being kept informed of the proceedings of this committee, will the level of information provided to the parliaments make meaningful scrutiny possible? As far as I am aware no provisions have been set out in terms of scrutiny and accountability. Can the Minister of State assure us that there will be public access to its proceedings and documents? My third concern relates to the concept of internal security. Members will be aware that this concept is much wider than policing, judicial co-operation and immigration. It encompasses all matters relating to the maintenance of law and public order and to civil and military capabilities. Obviously there is concern in regard to the incredibly strong link that will be required between internal security within the EU and external security. Can the Minister of State offer any reassurances with regard to the definition of that concept and the remit of the committee as a result?
I join other speakers in welcoming the Minister of State to the House and the opportunity to debate this motion. However, to be against an organisation called COSI seems like being against motherhood and apple pie. I do not believe anyone could speak too critically of an organisation called COSI, a particularly strange and perhaps inappropriate acronym which conjures up images of cosy cartels and all sorts of other matters.
On behalf of the Labour Party, I support the opt-in to this committee. Clearly all of us support the concept of increased co-operation among judicial authorities and law enforcement bodies across the EU. It is important that there is effective co-operation to protect citizens, in particular given the types of criminal justice issues that have a transnational dimension. Senator O'Donovan referred to a number of these, including drug and human trafficking and so on. I note the remit of this committee is broad. Senator de Búrca mentioned that the definition of internal security covers matters beyond those clearcut transnational crimes such as drug and human trafficking. It covers border management, customs co-operation and civil crisis management, which are areas well beyond the remit of criminal justice. It seems sensible that we would have a standing committee of this type overseeing co-operation in terms of natural disasters. I am thinking in this regard of disasters such as the earthquake in Italy and the need for us to co-ordinate responses from across the EU.
As Senator de Búrca stated, it is important we are not uncritical and do not take too cosy a consensual approach to standing committees of this nature and that we scrutinise them in our contributions during debates in this House. We must be mindful that this is part of a long project by the EU seeking greater co-operation in criminal justice matters and in justice matters more broadly. I recall getting funding in 1997-98 from the EU under the then Grotius project, which was a project aimed at ensuring greater judicial co-operation, where we looked at differences in the conduct of rape trials across different member states with a view to improving procedures for victims of rape. The interesting aspect was to note the differences in approach between the criminal justice system in Ireland and in England and the criminal justice system in place in the other member states.
Of course this distinction between our adversarial system and the inquisitorial model used in other member states has thrown up difficulties for Ireland in signing up to measures like this that are designed to ensure greater co-operation among member states. There has always been a caution here, and rightly so, that we must be careful about signing up to measures that will dilute our own standards of criminal justice or dilute in some way our constitutional guarantee of due process.
I am mindful also of a word of warning issued by one of the pre-eminent legal academics on this island on criminal procedure, Professor Dermot Walsh from Limerick, who wrote a comprehensive review of the law on the European arrest warrant earlier this year. The European arrest warrant was also somewhat controversial, and is now in place since we passed an Act in 2003 to implement the European arrest warrant model, but it replaced a long-standing set of procedures around extradition. Professor Walsh, in writing about this and reviewing the operation of the European arrest warrant in Ireland, asks whether the European arrest warrant will result in individuals being surrendered for prosecution for offences which would not have been prosecuted in the surrendering state, and whether it will result in co-operative forum shopping among police and prosecutors to enhance the prospects of a conviction. His concern is that Irish citizens are being surrendered to other member states to be prosecuted there through a criminal process which may fall below established Irish constitutional norms in some respects. That is a word of caution from a leading academic who has done the best review I have seen of the European arrest warrant. It is useful to bear those sort of comments in mind when we examine this standing committee model.
However, I note that while COSI's remit is broad on internal security, it will not be involved in conducting operations or in legislation. Clearly, its functions are limited. It seems to be some sort of oversight committee. Like Senator de Búrca, I think there is a lack of detail so far, for example, in the sort of representatives we will be appointing to the COSI, and I ask the Minister of State to clarify that. I note he stated in his speech it will be up to each member state to decide on the appropriate representatives and it will depend to some extent on the subject matter. Clearly, one would expect different officials to be present if immigration were to be discussed as opposed to something more directly related to criminal justice, but it strikes me that the danger then is that there is a rolling representation on the committee and a lack of continuity. Will there be somebody, presumably in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who will have overall responsibility for the Irish liaison to COSI? That would be useful to know.
There is one other point that is important for us in this House to be clear about, and that is how national parliaments will be kept informed. I am happy to hear that the Council is to keep national parliaments and the European Parliament informed of the proceedings of the committee but I wonder what mechanism will be used. For example, will reports come to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights?
Having raised these issues and concerns, I support the opt-in. It is sensible to have a committee of this type. There is a lack of clarity at present about what it will do in practice but we just need a little more guidance from the Minister of State on that.
I suppose Senator Norris's comments struck a chord with all of us. I thought of the Heathrow experience which all, Irish citizens or not, travelling to Ireland must go through. The Irish departures lounge is like a little colony offshore of the main Heathrow terminal. I do not know whether that can be addressed by COSI. It might fall outside the remit.
John Curran (Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State with special responsibility for Integration and Community, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin Mid West, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context
I thank the Senators for their support on this motion. It has been characteristic of the broad cross-party support for the European Union and it has been one of the positive features of the political landscape of the European Union for many years.
It is unfortunate the acronym COSI is being used. It does not sound forceful or rigorous enough for the work of a committee. It seems a little laid back. I understand why Senators picked up on that point.
Co-operation in the area of justice and home affairs is one of the most important areas of action given that it takes up some of the most fundamental concerns of Europe's citizens such as organised crime, drug trafficking and trafficking of persons. If we are to deal effectively with those, we need that co-operation from all involved.
Senator Regan asked about Ireland participating. The way I would put it, in terms of pursuing our own agenda, is there is no place for us to be passive members on this committee. We need to play an active role, and I believe strongly in that.
Senator O'Donovan reminded us of some of the successes of international co-operation. He referred to the maritime operations in Lisbon where seven European countries, including Ireland, provide maritime analysis, and the seizures that were made off the south coast. While we speak of the success of customs, seizures, etc., I reiterate, because often this is not acknowledged by us, that intelligence from Ireland also results in seizures in other jurisdictions. It is a point worth noting, that the work of our security forces, be it the Garda or Customs and Excise, in gathering intelligence bears fruit in other jurisdictions. International co-operation, as witnessed through what happens from the maritime analysis centre in Lisbon, demonstrates clearly the effectiveness of co-operation.
I sympathise with Senator Norris's trials and tribulations. He raised a number of questions in the area of the Schengen Agreement. I want to put something on the record. He made a specific point which was not about his travels and his woes. It was one of his earlier comments on Senator O'Donovan's contribution. Senator Norris stated that the drug seizures represent only 5% to 10% of the total. There is no shred of evidence to support that. It is a figure that is often thrown out and people involved in security would disagree with it. In fact, UN figures would suggest that 40% is the seizure rate, not 5% to 10%. One way or another, 10% has become a figure that is put about as though it is factual. There is no evidence to support that figure and in many regards it is disingenuous to the real efforts and improvements because, year on year, the security forces are becoming more effective in their detection work.
Senator de Búrca raised a number of issues. First, I note the time for this was short. I apologise for that but it was not of my making. I understand that it was a decision of the House. I would not like it to be said that we came in and rushed it through. I was at the mercy of what the House wanted to do in that regard.
On MI5 or other members who would be on the committee, it is a matter for each of the member states to address what membership would be appropriate. The concept of the internal security is a broader one, covering not only crime and terrorism but also natural disasters. I was asked who would have overall responsibility for this from an Irish point of view. It will reside with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
This committee will report at regular intervals and those reports will make their way to all national parliaments as well as the European Parliament. I thank all Senators who have supported the establishment of this committee despite its somewhat unfortunate name.