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Cablegate: Gov of France Questions Status of Csi Personnel

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Government of France is considering
asking the U.S. to change the current status of U.S. Customs
and Border Protection Container Security Initiative personnel
working at the port of Le Havre. CSI Le Havre personnel
currently hold "administrative and technical" status. The
GOF says that some other EU member states -- not the European
Commission -- are pressing for all EU member state
governments to grant the same level of status to U.S. CSI
personnel in all EU ports -- most likely an "Official
Mission" ("en mission") status with no diplomatic immunity
and few privileges. The request, likely to be repeated in
other EU capitals, calls for a coordinated USG response --
involving all relevant agencies including State and DHS -- to
look at short- and long-term implications of the options
available to the U.S. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Embassy Econ MinCouns, ICE Attache, Embassy HR
representative and econoff met with Foreign Ministry
DAS-equivalent for transportation, infrastructure and energy
policy Jean-Claude Nolla at his request on March 24. Nolla
wanted to discuss informally the question, recently raised in
an EU council committee meeting by other EU member states, of
the status of Customs and Border Protection officials
staffing the Container Security Initiative in various ports
in EU countries. He was joined by two additional Foreign
Ministry officials: Francois Naucodie from the Strategic,
Security and Disarmament Directorate and by Rene Levarey from
the Protocol office.

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3. (SBU) France has already granted Administrative and
Technical (A&T) status to CSI personnel in Le Havre, which
affords them diplomatic immunity from prosecution stemming
from any action taken during the performance of their
official functions as well as other tax and import benefits.
CSI in Marseille is active but its staff has not yet been
declared to the Foreign Ministry for accreditation. Nolla
said that the GOF now had a problem with the A&T status of
the Le Havre personnel for three reasons: 1) CSI team
members were not engaged in diplomatic work and their current
status did not correspond to the reality of the activity they
performed; 2) CSI team members are not physically located at
a diplomatic mission even though they are currently
"attached" to the American Presence Post in Lille (consular
district divisions would more logically put them under the
authority of Embassy Paris, he said); and 3) other EU member
state governments which host CSI teams have raised the CSI
personnel status issue in Brussels and argued that EU member
state governments should grant the same status to all CSI
personnel in EU ports.

4. (SBU) Nolla made it clear that, for the GOF, reason
number three -- the fact that several member states felt
strongly about having a common approach to CSI personnel
status and were revisiting the issue -- was by far the most
pressing rationale for the GOF to raise the issue with the
U.S. at this time. He acknowledged that the GOF was in an
uncomfortable position vis-a-vis the U.S. having already
granted A&T status to Le Havre personnel yet now, under
pressure from other EU member states, questioning whether
that was the right decision. Nolla said the Commission was
not involved in this issue and that the UK, the Netherlands
and Germany were pushing hardest for a common approach to the
status question even though the Netherlands had also already
given CSI personnel at Rotterdam A&T status.

5. (SBU) On the positive side, Nolla stressed that the GOF
was in no way calling into question the CSI project itself or
its mission with French Customs to prevent weapons of mass
destruction from being secreted into maritime shipping
containers. He said the GOF remained committed to the
CBP/French Customs bilateral Declaration of Principles that
set out the operation of the CSI program in France.

6. (SBU) Nolla explained that the GOF planned to further
discuss and coordinate with its EU partners, and suggested
that in the meantime, the U.S. consider "Official Mission"
status (in French, "En Mission") for CSI personnel. While EU
member states were not officially proposing "Official
Mission" status at this time, he said, Nolla made it clear
that it may be an acceptable alternative as it better
reflected what CSI team members actually did. He said that
the GOF's eventual decision on the matter would be in
coordination with its EU partners in an effort to harmonize
the status of CSI personnel in all affected countries.

7. (SBU) In any case, the status of current CSI staff
members in country would not change, Nolla said, and any
future GOF decision to alter the status would only be applied
to new CSI arrivals. He suggested we meet again to discuss
the issue in about two weeks after Embassy had consulted with
8. (SBU) Embassy personnel were mostly in listening mode but
pointed out that Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy,
in addition to France, all have granted the same A&T status
to CSI personnel. We also said that CSI Le Havre, although
under APP Lille for proximity purposes, operated under the
direction of the U.S. Ambassador in Paris. We agreed to
maintain contact and respond after discussing the issue with
relevant USG agencies.

9. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: The Embassy anticipates that the
question of status of CSI personnel will be raised in all EU
member states that host CSI programs. The U.S. will likely
need a coordinated interagency review of the short- and
long-term implications of our options. Further, since CBP
offers CSI as a reciprocal program and invites participant
countries to send customs officers to major U.S. ports to
target outgoing maritime container cargo, Washington agencies
may wish to prepare for the possibility of EU countries
requesting not only program reciprocity, but also reciprocity
of status in the treatment of their customs officers in U.S.
ports. So far, the GOF has not raised the issue of
reciprocity of status for any French Customs officials
eventually assigned to U.S. ports, and we are not aware that
the GOF is considering a reciprocal program at this time.

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