Richard North, 14/08/2004  

It seems that Louis Michel is not the only commissioner-designate to be sounding off – without even waiting for the EU parliament to confirm his appointment.

Also in the megaphone league is Rocco Buttiglione, Italy’s commissioner-designate, who has been handed the justice, freedom and security portfolio. Unabashed by his country’s own inadequacies, not least its overcrowded prisons, he has told Turin's La Stampa newspaper that his first priority is to establish a unit to co-ordinate anti-terrorism policies on the continent and a European border police force to tackle illegal immigration.

In particular, he is "thinking of a more efficient use of European secret services" through this unit. "It could be created under the authority of my commission office. But it would be more appropriate to insert it into the still embryonic structure created for European defence."

Buttiglione also wants a common EU policy on illegal immigration and a "European border police." This is in line with the policy of the so-called Group of Five (comprising Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – the EU’s five largest member states), which met in Sheffield in July – a meeting hosted by Blunkett - where they decided on a KGB-like force to guard the EU’s external borders.

Not content with his La Stampa interview, however, the garrulous Buttiglione also told La Repubblica that he supported the idea of setting up holding centres for would-be immigrants in countries of transit, such as Libya, where would-be immigrants could be vetted and those who did not have the right to enter Europe could be "discouraged".

He has also decided that he also will give "a general priority" to making "European" justice function with greater speed and certainty, stating that "there is an urgent need to bring both the civil and the penal laws of the various member countries closer."

It seems that we have a worthy successor to Prodi in Buttiglione. Although not president, and from the right of Italian politics, it seems he suffers equally from "foot in mouth" disease and will provide plenty of material for Eurosceptics for years to come.

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