Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twentieth Report


EUROPEAN NETWORK FOR THE PROTECTION OF PUBLIC FIGURES


(23174)
5361/02

Initiative of the Kingdom of Spain setting up a European network for the
protection of public figures.


Legal base:Articles 29, 30(1) and 34(2)(c) EU; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: 11 February 2002
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 26 February 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: June 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


The document

  11.1  This is a new Presidency proposal for a Council Decision to address the threat of assassination and attacks on dignitaries visiting Member States by setting up a network of contact points within national police departments. The network would meet regularly under the chairmanship of the contact point from the Member State holding the Presidency. The candidate countries, the Commission and Europol could each designate a contact point to join the network. The objectives of the network would be to exchange information, personnel and experience and to determine appropriate levels of support for visiting dignitaries.

The Government's view

  11.2  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr Bob Ainsworth) tells us that, although the Government broadly agrees with the aims of the proposal, it has a number of reservations. He lists these as follows:

    "—  We would reserve the right of the Member State visited to determine the level of support provided according to the threat posed to the individual in that country;

    "—  'Police departments' should also include other civil authorities charged with responsibility for the protection of public figures. 'Public Figures/dignitaries' [should]...include the Royal Family;

    "—  Article 3(d)...would give the Network a remit in relation to approximating rules and regulations in the Member States. This is a matter for negotiation in the framework of the Council of the European Union, and could not be delegated to a subsidiary body such as the network. We would therefore seek to remove or clarify this provision;

    "—  We would not support visiting officials being accompanied by armed officials from their own country as this is against current practice."

  11.3  The Minister tells us that the Presidency hopes that this draft Decision will be agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in June.

Conclusion

  11.4  We note the Minister's somewhat cautious welcome for this proposal, and support his reservations. In particular, we are not prepared to clear the document until we know whether the Government has succeeded in removing or clarifying Article 3 (d) which would give the Network a remit in relation to approximating rules and regulations in the Member States, and in ensuring that visiting officials will not be accompanied by armed officials from their own country.

  11.5  We ask the Minister to inform us of the progress of negotiations on these two points in particular in good time before the June Council. Meanwhile, we keep the document under scrutiny.



 
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