EU: France has proposed setting up European “police stations” in tourist areas staffed by officers from all over the EU.
It also wants to create an Erasmus programme for police officers to train abroad and to create more opportunities for officers to go on secondment to other EU police forces, according to French interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie.
“Citizens do not have a positive vision of Europe as it’s being built; they think it is being built in a far-away manner that doesn’t answer their day-to-day needs,” Ms Alliot-Marie said when asked about how to respond to Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.
The French proposal would enable gardaí to be located for short periods in tourist areas popular with Irish holidaymakers.
It would also enable police from other EU states to travel to Ireland to provide their citizens with policing services during holiday periods or sports events.
“These would not be monstrous mega police stations, but rather offices where people from a foreign country can come and be assisted when they have something nasty happen to them – if they’ve been attacked or had their pockets picked – and where they will be well looked after,” said Ms Alliot-Marie, noting that pilot projects had taken place during some sports events.
Czech interior minister Ivan Langer said the Czech Republic had already provided 10 police officers to help its citizens in Croatian resorts and suggested the idea could help French tourists in Prague. “We have an excellent beer in the Czech Republic, so you drink quite a lot . . . If you are French, I can imagine it’s pleasant to meet a French policeman who speaks your language and who will assist you and bring you to your hotel,” he told journalists.
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said he would consider any proposal put forward by the French and tease out the issues with his EU colleagues.
He said the idea had some merit given the “horrendous problems” some Irish embassies had to deal with during holiday periods.
Mr Ahern said gardaí already travelled abroad to liaise with their counterparts when Irish sports teams played matches in other EU states. But he said there could be issues with the type of powers visiting officers would have if they came to Ireland.
Meanwhile, Mr Ahern said he supported the broad thrust of the European pact on immigration and asylum tabled by the French presidency of the EU.
“This sends a strong signal that 27 countries can move together on the issue . . . while respecting each country’s own competence,” he said after a meeting with other EU interior ministers in Cannes.
He denied the pact would create a “fortress Europe”, describing it as a genuine move to co-ordinate policies. He said he had pointed out that Ireland was not in the Schengen free-travel zone and might not be in a position to implement all aspects of the pact. But he said Ireland would study it closely and should be able to sign it.