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British Home Secretary Jack Straw’s efforts to coordinate action with his counterparts in Belgium and the Netherlands against soccer hooligans have encountered serious obstacles from domestic forces. The British Parliament has given him the authority to impound the passports of British citizens convicted of hooligan offences, but this seems only to scratch the surface of the problem as seen by the European interior ministers. What they really want is the ability to exercise this power against anyone suspected as being involved in such activities, convicted or not. Examples of previous football events in Europe have shown that action against suspected hooligans is a very blunt weapon. Often it is exercised in ’round-up’ operations in city centres, bars and similar places, against anyone identified as being a supporter of a particular club or national team. Expulsion from the country typically follows a brief period of detention and a perfunctory appearance before a local magistrate’s court. Simple enough maybe; but what happens when the people concerned have large chunks of European Union law on their side to plead for their right to be in the country? The fact is that English football supporters who have travelled to Belgium and the Netherlands during the European Cup are encompassed in this activity by EU rights to freedom of movement for the purpose of receiving services in another member state. The position with regard to services are set out in Chapter 3, Article 49 et seq of the EC Treaty. Council Directive 73/148/EEC at Article 4.2 sets out the obligation of the member states to recognise the ‘right of residence for persons providing and receiving services …. or equal duration with the period the services are provided.’ The European Court of Justice has considered the scope of services to be included within the range of Community law on a number of occasions, most notably in the case of Cowan, following the earlier case of Luisi and Carbonne, the Court found that EU citizens entering another member state to receive services as tourists where within the definition of services. In Commission v. Spain, the Court ruled that visits to museums also fell within this range. Football supporters, using hotels, campsites, restaurants, bars, and paying for admission to football matches must be within any definition of service recipients who can rely on the benefits of Community law as the basis for their movement across frontiers. OBLIGATION DEROGATION Are there circumstances where Community law will permit the member states to derogate from their obligations to afford the right of free of movement and residence to European Union service recipients? Yes, and Council Directive 73/148 advises that this might happen on grounds justified by ‘public policy, public security or public health.’ Surely a member state would therefore have a public policy or public security justification for either refusing admission to, or expelling a suspected soccer hooligan? Not necessarily. In a commentary on treaty provisions which potentially limit free movement rights John Handoll has described Community law as placing a ‘tight straitjacket’ on member state discretion. Public policy and security grounds may only be invoked on the basis of individual behaviour, rather than the actions of a group, and on the basis of substantial action endangering a real public interest. The round-up approach to policing, in which people are arrested and expelled merely for being in that place at that time, is likely to place the public authorities well in breach of its obligations to secure the right of freedom of movement for football supporting service recipients. Everyone is bound to hope that the 2000 European Cup finishes peacefully and successfully. Under the terms of European Community law, it seems clear that football supporters travelling to the host countries are also entitled to expect that their rights as European Union citizens will be fully respected, and not disregarded by the arbitrary exercise of police powers. Don Flynn is the European project coordinator for the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants.

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