Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eighth Report


PROTECTION OF THE EURO AGAINST COUNTERFEITING


(21979)
14935/00


Initiative by the Government of the French Republic for a Draft Council Decision on the protection of the euro against counterfeiting


Legal base: Articles 31 and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Document originated:
Forwarded to the Council: 22 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 15 January 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 22 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21553)10847/00: HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 9 (7 February 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

Background

  7.1  In February, we cleared a First Pillar Council Regulation on the protection of the euro against counterfeiting. This draft Decision is a Third Pillar supporting measure, proposed by the French Presidency, complementing the provisions of the Regulation.

The document

  7.2  The draft Decision provides for suspect notes and coins to be subject to expert analysis by the National Analysis Centre (NAC) and the National Coin Analysis Centre (NCAC) — organisations which the Regulation required Member States to establish or designate. It also provides for the results of the analyses to be forwarded to Europol in cases where the investigations relate to the forms of organised crime referred to in Article 2 (1) of the Europol Convention.

  7.3  Article 4 of the proposal requires Member States to communicate information on investigations into forgery of the euro to Europol and to exchange such information with the Provisional Judicial Cooperation Unit, and, once it is established, with Eurojust. Europol and Eurojust are required to provide Member States with the necessary technical assistance.

  7.4  In Article 5, the proposal requires Member States to recognise final sentences handed down in other Member States (in relation to counterfeiting the euro, or, in some circumstances, to counterfeiting generally) for the purpose of establishing habitual criminality.

The Government's view

  7.5  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) reaffirms the Government's commitment to play a full part in the investigation and prevention of crime in relation to the euro, although the UK has not introduced the single currency. She tells us that the NAC already exists in the UK, and the NCAC is being established.

  7.6  The Minister emphasises that the proposal does not create new powers for Europol. She continues:

    "The involvement of Europol and Eurojust is in keeping with the Government's multi-disciplinary approach to law enforcement. However, with regard to Article 4, the Government considers that there should be no obligation for Member States' competent authorities to provide information for Eurojust; rather, information should be provided on a voluntary basis, where Member States believe coordination or cooperation is required, in accordance with Eurojust's objectives. The negotiation of this instrument should be coordinated with the current negotiations on the legal instrument to establish Eurojust to ensure that complementary outcomes are reached."

  7.7  The Minister tells us that the Government is considering whether changes to UK law would be required if Member States were obliged to communicate information to Eurojust.

  7.8  In relation to Article 5, the Minister considers that the phrase 'habitual criminality' needs to be defined. She tells us that, while the Government supports the principle of taking foreign convictions into account for the purposes of sentencing, a reliable EU-wide data-base of criminal records would be needed for a fair and effective system. The Minister reminds us that proposals on recognition of foreign convictions are included in the programme of measures to implement the principle of mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters,[25] which was adopted at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in December. She tells us that the Government is considering whether changes to UK law would be required if Member States were obliged to recognise final sentences handed down in another Member State. More generally, the Government is considering whether Article 30 should be included as part of the legal base of the proposal.

Conclusion

  7.9  We consider that various aspects of this proposal need further work or clarification before we can feel confident in clearing it. In particular:

—  like the Minister, we are concerned that negotiation of this proposal should keep in step with negotiations over the establishment of Eurojust; and

—  we would not wish to see Article 5 agreed without a proper infrastructure in place, and without a clear definition of 'habitual criminality'. In addition, in her Explanatory Memorandum on the programme of measures to implement the principle of mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters, the Minister said that the Government was considering the implications of the European Convention on Human Rights for mutual recognition of final decisions. It would be helpful to know the Government's conclusions on this issue.

  7.10  We ask to be kept informed of the progress of negotiations, particularly on the points above. Meanwhile, we do not clear the document.



25  (21783) 9737/00; see HC 23-xxx (1999-2000), paragraph 7 (22 November 2000). Back


 
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