Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report


IMPLEMENTING RULES FOR THE EURODAC REGULATION


(22754)
14879/00

Draft Council Regulation laying down certain rules to implement Council Regulation (EC) 2725/2000 concerning the establishment of "Eurodac" for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of the Dublin Convention.


Legal base: Article 22 of the Eurodac Regulation; — ; unanimity (see below)
Deposited in Parliament: 16 October 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 29 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21391) 8417/00: HC 23-xxvii (1999-2000), paragraph 14 (25 October 2000)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

18.1  The Eurodac Regulation, which was adopted in December 2000, establishes a computerised database to allow comparison of the fingerprints of asylum seekers and of certain categories of illegal immigrants across the EU, in order to determine which Member State is responsible for examining asylum applications. The Regulation is designed to assist in the application of the Dublin Convention, which provides criteria and mechanisms for ensuring that an asylum claim is heard only once within the EU.

18.2  When the previous Committee cleared the Eurodac Regulation[51] (after a lengthy scrutiny process), it was pleased to note the then Minister's assurance that any implementing rules adopted under the Regulation would be submitted to parliamentary scrutiny.

The document and the Government's views

18.3  The deposited document was circulated to the Asylum Working Party on 21 December 2000. In her Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Angela Eagle) tells us that proposed amendments have been made to the draft Regulation, but that no official text has yet been received. She attaches an unofficial text which reflects the proposed changes.

18.4  The Minister also explains the somewhat complicated voting procedures. She says:

    "Article 22 of the Eurodac Regulation itself states that the Council shall adopt, acting by the majority laid down in Article 205(2) of the Treaty the implementing provisions necessary for laying down the procedures referred to in Article 4(7) for the collection, transmission and comparison of fingerprints, for the blocking of data referred to in Article 12(1) concerning recognised refugees and for drawing up the statistics referred to in Article 12(2) concerning applications for asylum made by persons recognised and admitted as refugees in another Member State. But, in cases where these implementing provisions have implications for the operational expenditure borne by Member States, the Council shall act unanimously.

    "In these particular circumstances, given the need to develop electronic data bases and communications networks at national level, voting will be by unanimity as there will be financial implications for some Member States."

18.5  In relation to the Implementing Rules themselves, the Minister comments as follows:

    "The Implementing Rules provide the detailed technical and operational guidance to Member States to establish viable communications with the Central Unit [the unit responsible for operating the central database]. This includes the means by which Member States will identify the categories of data, as determined in the Eurodac Regulation itself, to be transmitted to the Central Unit. The Implementing Rules mainly concern the functions, requirements and obligations of the Central Unit itself. This includes carrying out the fingerprint comparisons themselves, the transmission of results back to Member States and the setting of a 24 hour time limit for this to be done by the Central Unit. Quality checks and the ability of the Central Unit to seek re-transmission of data to an appropriate standard are covered. The ability of the Central Unit to distinguish and block data on persons recognised as refugees under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention is also included. Reference is also made to the need to produce statistics for the report on the incidence of persons who have lodged an application for asylum in a Member State after having been recognised and admitted as refugees in another Member State, as required by the Eurodac Regulation."

18.6  The Minister tells us that the proposed changes to the text clarify the role of the Central Unit in terms of quality control, setting high levels of accuracy, and the development of operational procedures, and put more emphasis on the need to establish appropriate technical requirements for the transmission of data between Member States and the Central Unit.

18.7  The Minister reports that, in March 2001, the Commission announced that the contract to install the Eurodac Central Unit had been awarded to Bull (Belgium) S.A. and Cogent Systems. She also tells us:

    "The Commission recommends the secure communication link known as TESTA is used by Member States to communicate with the Central Unit. TESTA provides an electronic telecommunications infrastructure for European administrations. TESTA is a project to provide 'Trans European Services for Telematics between Administrations' with the core function of facilitating secure communication between sites connected within the EuroDomain. The EuroDomain is both separate and protected from the public Internet. It is accessed through a number of specific, identified EuroGates in national locations in Member States and candidate countries.

    "TESTA is part of the IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) Community Programme to promote the application of information technology and the exchange of information between European Administrations. The Council of Ministers and European Parliament adopted this programme on 12 July 1999 (Decision 1719/1999/EC). The UK is already participating in the wider TESTA programme."

18.8  Finally, the Minister turns to the timetable for the measure. She says:

    "EURODAC can only become operational from the date when all Member States have made the necessary technical arrangements and can communicate effectively with the Central Unit. The adoption of this Regulation laying down Implementing Rules is key to the practical development of the system and the ability of Member States to communicate with the Central Unit. The Rules may now be placed before Council for a rapid decision to enable Member States to continue their technical developments. For this reason the Parliamentary Committees are respectfully requested to consider the Implementing Rules as a matter of priority."

Conclusion

18.9  The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum, although helpful in several respects, does not make it clear why there is now an urgency to agree the implementing rules when they have apparently been under discussion for nearly a year.

18.10  Although we agree that the amendments in the unofficial text are clearer and more specific than the original text, we still think the wording could have been sharper. As it stands, the document gives most of the responsibility for determining quality standards as well as quality control in this sensitive area to the central unit. We urge the Minister to ensure that its work is closely monitored.

18.11  We clear the document.


51  (21391) 8417/00: see headnote to this paragraph. Back


 
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Prepared 14 November 2001