Select Committee on European Scrutiny Forty-First Report


20. COMMON USE OF LIAISON OFFICERS


(23630)

10507/02


Initiative of the Kingdom of Denmark with a view to adopting a Council Decision on the common use of liaison officers posted abroad by the law enforcement agencies of the Member States.

Legal base:Articles 30 (1)(a)(b)(c), (2)(c) and 34(2)(c)EU; consultation; unanimity
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration:Minister's letter of 29 October 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 152-xxxviii (2001-02), paragraph 14 (16 October 2002)
To be discussed in Council:28-29 November 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared



Background

  20.1  This draft Directive aims to strengthen co-operation between liaison officers posted to third countries and international organisations by the law enforcement agencies of Member States. It builds on, and will replace, Joint Action 96/602/JHA[37] providing for a common framework for the initiatives of the Member States concerning liaison officers. It will also replace Article 47(4) of the Schengen Convention.

  20.2  When we first considered the proposal (in October), we noted that the Government had a number of concerns about it, and decided to keep the document under scrutiny until we knew whether they had been resolved. We also asked for information about the UK's national contact point.

The Minister's letter

  20.3  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) has now written, telling us that the UK has followed up its concerns with EU colleagues, and has secured a number of minor amendments to the text. He says:

"We have clarified that:

  • UK liaison officers will continue to be able to prioritise UK needs above requests from other Member States; and

  • any obligations placed on liaison officers by this decision will not impact negatively on existing informal co-operation arrangements.

"We have also ensured during negotiations that:

  • both the pre-amble and the body of the decision contain the appropriate references to ensure requests to liaison officers should be restricted to serious international crime; and

  • the Presidency and EU colleagues have taken account of similar initiatives such as the CIREFI group's work on establishing a network of immigration liaison officers, to ensure a consistent approach in this decision."

  20.4  Turning to the national contact point, the Minister tells us that he expects it to be based in the first instance in the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) given that NCIS already acts as a central point for information exchange and as a co-ordinating body for a number of overseas liaison posts and is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. NCIS will liaise as necessary with HM Customs and Excise which also controls overseas liaison officers.

  20.5  The Minister confirms that the Presidency intends to seek agreement on this proposal at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 28-29 November.

Conclusion

  20.6  We thank the Minister for his letter, and congratulate him on successful negotiations which have satisfied his earlier concerns about this proposal. We now clear the document.


37  OJ L 268, 19.10.1996, p.2. Back


 
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