Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


UNIFORM FORMATS FOR VISAS AND RESIDENCE PERMITS


(22291)
7633/01
COM(01) 157

(i)
Draft Council Regulation amending Regulation 1683/95 laying down a uniform format for visas.

(ii)
Draft Council Regulation on a uniform format for forms for affixing the visa issued by Member States to persons holding travel documents which are not recognised by the Member State drawing up the form.

(iii)
Draft Council Regulation laying down a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals.


Legal base: (i) and (ii) Article 62(2)(b)(iii) EC; consultation; qualified majority of the participating States
(iii) Article 63(3) EC; consultation; unanimity of the participating States
Document originated: 23 March 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 26 March 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 10 April 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EMs of 30 April 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

The document

9.1  This document contains three proposals, all concerned with harmonising the security standards of travel documents. The then Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) provided two Explanatory Memoranda — one relating to proposals (i) and (ii); the second to proposal (iii). We follow her lead in reporting on the first two proposals together, and the third separately.

Proposals (i) and (ii) and the Government's views

9.2  The then Minister informs us about the rationale for these draft Regulations as follows:

    "Following incorporation of the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union, the Commission considers it necessary to:

    "(1)  adopt additional measures, in order to improve security of the common format visa; and

    "(2)  harmonise the loose-leaf form for affixing a visa issued to an individual who holds a travel document which is not recognised by the Member State in question.

    "These forms are not harmonised. They are open to forgery and abuse."

9.3  She tells us that both draft Regulations would provide implementation powers for the Commission's Uniform Format Visa Comitology Committee to develop improved technical standards for the uniform formats. Both sets of standards would contain specifications to deter forgery and theft (including conditions for storage) and rules for filling in the requisite forms.

9.4  The then Minister says that the Government is considering its position in relation to both these proposals, in accordance with the Protocol on the position of the UK and Ireland now annexed to the EC Treaty and the Treaty of European Union. Neither raises any new policy considerations: the first amends an existing Regulation; the second would require the use of a uniform format sheet similar to one already used by the UK.

9.5  If the UK were to opt in to the measures, it would have to conform to any security standards adopted in accordance with the procedures laid down in Article 5 of the 1999 Council Decision on the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission.[12] There would also be financial implications, but no accurate assessment of these is possible at this stage.

Proposal (iii) and the Government's view

9.6  This draft Regulation proposes a uniform format for residence permits for third-country nationals. (It builds on a Joint Action of 1997[13] which pre-dates the change in our terms of reference allowing us to scrutinise third-pillar proposals. The UK is due to implement this Joint Action by the end of 2002.)

9.7  Like proposals (i) and (ii), this draft Regulation provides implementation powers for the Commission's Uniform Format Visa Comitology Committee to develop improved technical standards, including specifications to deter forgery and theft (including conditions for storage) and rules for filling in the requisite forms.

9.8  The then Minister explains that, although the new Regulation would enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal, it would not become fully effective until the new technical standards had been developed. Member States would be required to implement the new Uniform Residence Permit within a year of the adoption of these new standards. Once implemented, the new Regulation would replace the existing Joint Action in the Member State concerned.

9.9  The then Minister tells us that there is a lack of clarity as to whether this draft Regulation is a Schengen development measure: the Regulation itself states (in Recital 10) that it is a development of the Schengen acquis; the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum says that it is not. The Government will probe the matter during negotiations.

9.10  The then Minister informs us that, as with proposals (i) and (ii), the Government is considering its position in relation to this measure, in accordance with the Protocol on the position of the UK and Ireland now annexed to the EC Treaty and the Treaty of European Union. If the UK were to opt in to the measure, it would have to conform to any security standards adopted in accordance with the procedures laid down in Article 5 of the 1999 Council Decision on the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission. There would also be financial implications, but no accurate assessment of these is possible at this stage.

Timetable

9.11  The Minister tells us that all the proposals are being discussed in the EU Visa Working Group. No clear timetable for adoption has been set.

Conclusion

9.12  These draft Regulations are clearly in the early stages of negotiation. We ask to be kept informed of progress, especially in relation to the Government's decision about whether to opt in to any or all of the proposals. We also wish to know the outcome of discussions about whether proposal (iii) is considered to be a development of the Schengen acquis. Meanwhile, we will keep the document under scrutiny.



12  Decision 1999/468/EC. Back

13  Joint Action 97/11/JHA. Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 July 2001