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The constitution proposes a big increase in EU police powers. Article III-276 will enable the EU to extend Europol's 'structure, operation, field of action and tasks'.

This covers the collection and storage of information relating to European citizens and 'investigative and operational action'. Human Rights group Statewatch has expressed concern at the prospect of Europol - whose officers are immune from criminal prosecution - being granted enhanced powers.

Under Article III-274 the Constitution will also enable the EU to establish the office of a 'European Public Prosecutor' that 'shall exercise the functions of prosecutor in the competent courts of the Member States .' in relation to'serious offences affecting more than one Member State and of offences against the Union's financial interests'.

Bizarrely, Article II-112 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights gives the EU the right to restrict all the rights listed elsewhere in the Charter. "Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by the law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms... limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet the objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others", it says.

Because of the insertion of this article, it is not clear which, if any, of the 'rights and freedoms' contained in the Charter would be legally protected as a consequence of the document being passed into law. Immunity for EU officials While the Constitution extends the scope of the EU to limit the civil liberties of ordinary EU citizens, Article III-434 grants Commission employees, MEPs and others legal immunities from criminal prosecution.

The Protocol of the Privileges and Immunities of the European Community, Chapter V, Article 12 states that: "In the territory of each member state and whatever their nationality, officials and other servants of the Communities shall: (a) ... be immune from legal proceedings in respect of acts performed by them in their official capacity, including their words spoken or written.

They shall continue to enjoy this immunity after they have ceased to hold office". Such moves would hand huge powers to EU officials as well as making it harder to investigate issues such as fraud, which is already endemic with the EU bureaucracy.


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