Select Committee on European Communities Nineteenth Report




18. The aims of the Tampere summit were described by HE Annti Satuli, the Finnish Permanent Representative in Brussels. He said that the conference was to increase the visibility of justice and home affairs issues, and to give them higher priority on the political agenda of the Union. In his view, one of the reasons for holding an extraordinary Special European Council was that Heads of State and Government were not fully satisfied with developments and the pace of work in this area (Q 172). Ms Heidi Kaila, of the Permanent Representation of Finland, said that "we feel European integration has taken the steps from a customs union to the internal market and then the European Monetary Union, and there is one step which is missing, which is a real internal market for justice and home affairs". She hoped that the Tampere summit would give "some political impetus and vision" to the process of building a true area of freedom, security and justice (Q 143). Commissioner Anita Gradin said that, in the short term, the task was "to give tangible meaning to the concept of freedom, security and justice". She hoped that the outcome would not only be a political signal, but also a "white book", containing a programme for action (Q 102).

19. The Home Secretary, The Right Honourable Jack Straw, MP, said that, if Tampere was to achieve the aim of giving greater prominence to justice and home affairs (JHA) issues, it had to make progress on specific topics, such as asylum and immigration (Q 273). He drew some parallels with the 1992 Single Market Programme, but said that the comparison broke down to some extent because "we are not going to achieve the kind of harmonisation and approximation in this area that the 1992 Council led to in economic and monetary areas". He doubted whether the summit would lead to another Inter-Governmental Conference. He hoped, however, that it would lead to "practical progress in terms of improved co-operation at every level between the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the EU and some of the institutions of the EU fundamentally to improve the enforcement of law within the EU and access to it as well" (Q 274).

20. Mr Olaf Reerman, of the German Ministry of the Interior, said that, as a result of the preparatory work by the Finnish and German Presidencies, there was agreement among the Member States that Tampere should not become a "super JHA Council". Technical discussions, therefore, should not be on the agenda. Nor should the aim be to develop a further "shopping list" of projects. He suggested that the outcome might be the adoption of two texts: on the one hand, a political statement, "intended to address the citizens of Europe and to show them that their concerns and interests are taken seriously", and on the other a detailed mandate for the JHA Council. The German Government regarded a coherent EU asylum and migration policy as a priority. This should be an integrated approach, dealing with the root causes of migration as well as its effects (Q 67). According to the Home Office, it would seem that, for the majority of Member States, "the clear priority at Tampere will be properly to address the threats faced by the EU in the field of immigration and asylum." (pp 2-3).


21. Written evidence from the Home Office supported the proposal that the agenda should focus on the three topics listed in paragraph 15. The Government has made three specific contributions to the debate on the Tampere agenda, by putting forward three discussion documents or "non-papers", on youth crime, mutual recognition of judicial decisions, and citizens' access to justice[2]. According to the Home Office, reactions to these papers have been "generally positive" (p 3), but the Government intends to refine these proposals further in conjunction with the other Member States.


22. Mr Peter Edwards, for the Home Office said that it seemed "quite obvious" that the summit would concentrate on asylum and immigration, not least because there was a good deal of current work which would be reaching a conclusion at about the time of the summit. As an example, he gave the work of the high level group on asylum and migration. In view of the United Kingdom's opt-out from the Schengen border control arrangements, Mr Edwards thought that the Government would be cautious in its approach to the discussion, although it would play a constructive part (Q 12).

23. Mr Edwards said that the Kosovo crisis had focused attention on the need for burden-sharing in connection with the reception of refugees. This had proved a "particularly difficult and intractable area … in the past, with very little meeting of minds between all Member States" (Q 12). Mr Reerman, for the German Ministry of the Interior, said that the issue of burden-sharing, or solidarity, was of great importance to his Government. He said that, in "mass-influx situations" such as Kosovo, or Bosnia-Herzegovina, there was a need for clarity over the legal situation of many persons who were not refugees (under the terms of the 1951 Geneva Convention), but who required temporary protection, with the long-term aim being return to their country of origin. Progress had been made under the German Presidency, in accordance with the principle of "double voluntarity", which meant that each Member State would announce how many displaced persons they were prepared to offer protection to, and that no-one in need of protection should be directed to a specific Member State against his will (QQ 89-90).

24. Ms Maria-Teresa Gil-Bazo, for Amnesty International, considered that the temporary protection regime should be exceptional: an initial form of protection, to be implemented only in emergency situations of a sudden and mass influx, as clearly defined in consultation with international bodies including the UNHCR. She expressed Amnesty International's concern that a temporary protection regime should not deprive anyone of the right of access to refugee determination procedures, "to exercise his or her legitimate right to an individual examination of their asylum claim" (Q 241).

25. Mr Raymond Hall, of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Brussels, said that he hoped that the summit would agree on "a clear political message which distinguishes and disentangles asylum from the migration debate", together with a "principled, rights-based approach to asylum". He criticised the "worrying trend" expressed in a paper prepared by the Austrian Presidency, towards moving back in the direction of asylum at political discretion rather than as a human right (Q 259). He argued that the EU needed to develop a migration policy and a migration mechanism, because if Europe was a "zero-migration zone, … the only entry door which is left is the asylum door, so everybody who wants to get in abuses that door." (Q 261).

26. Mr Hall argued for a much closer integration of asylum issues in foreign policy concerns. He said that asylum issues had, traditionally, been the preserve of ministries of the interior and ministries of justice, which had led to an emphasis on control. It was important that asylum issues should be considered in a broad foreign affairs context, together with human rights and development initiatives. For these reasons, the office of the UNHCR welcomed the establishment of a high level working group to develop action plans directed towards countries or regions producing large numbers of refugees or migrants (Q 263).

27. The Home Office's written evidence expressed concern that the summit should not give the impression that the EU was adopting a defensive "fortress Europe" approach, as far as immigration and asylum were concerned. It said that the Government was considering the possibility of a joint initiative, with France, to propose a strategic approach to common problems experienced by the Member States in the field of illegal immigration, aimed at prevention rather than cure (pp 2-3).


28. Commissioner Gradin said that "the idea of a common space for freedom of movement of people rests on the presumption that all Member States can have confidence in each other's ability to deal effectively with serious organised crime". She described Europol as "the tool to fight organised crime for which we have been waiting for so long." However, effective police co-operation was only part of the solution. Because of the way in which prosecution and judicial systems interacted, too many cross-border criminal investigations were discontinued because it was too complicated to take them further. The fact that definitions of offences differed and that penalties varied substantially between Member States created "almost perfect conditions for organised crime" (Q 102).

29. Mr Reerman said that Europol, which began work on 1 July, was not an independent police force. Its tasks centred on the collection and exchange of data, particularly in relation to cross-border crime, but it did not have operative powers (Q 85). The Home Secretary said that "what we need to do with Europol is to get it going", and only thereafter to consider strengthening its role (QQ 301-302). Mr Reerman suggested other ways in which police co-operation in the EU could be enhanced, particularly by the creation of a European Police Staff College, and by improved exchanges of data (Q 67).


30. The idea of a "European Judicial Area" has been put forward as a solution to the problems citizens of the Union experience in relation to cross-border litigation and as a means to combat more effectively cross-border crime. As regards the former, problems include finding out which judicial authority to approach, the applicable law, what has to be done to enforce rights, and how to obtain legal aid. The concept of a European Judicial Area is still a vague one, and there appear to be wide differences between the Member States as to what it means. Recently, the French Minister of Justice, Mrs Elisabeth Guigou, has been prominent in calling for increased co-operation in this area. Among the suggestions made have been the harmonisation of certain areas of civil law, in both its substantive and procedural aspects, and an extension of the automatic recognition and enforcement of court judgments. Mr Satuli, the Finnish Permanent Representative in Brussels, told us that, in practice, in the area of the civil law, he thought that the likely outcome would be that there would be "a certain degree of harmonisation, and then you use mutual recognition."

31. The Government has proposed, with regard to the criminal law, that the concept of mutual recognition of judicial decisions would be a better way forward than attempting to achieve some measure of harmonisation between the criminal laws of the Member States. Mr Edwards, for the Home Office, said that some harmonisation of particular areas of the criminal law had already taken place. Conventions had been produced in the areas of fraud, corruption and driving disqualification, for example. But "all the experience is that those measures take an enormously long time to bring to any kind of conclusion. If one were to attempt to build on that and to multiply and to replicate all these conventions in new areas, one would be tying up a very great deal of expert effort for many years to come". It was against this background that the United Kingdom had produced a paper on mutual recognition of judicial decisions, which seemed "to offer an easier way forward which will achieve the real benefits that are sought from improved co-operation between Member States in the judicial area, but without running the kind of risks and without having the heavy overheads that an overt programme of harmonisation would have" (Q 3).

32. Mr Edwards said that the Home Office would like to see a multi-annual work programme on mutual recognition established, covering such matters as enforcement of sanctions following criminal convictions; fast-track extradition through mutual recognition of arrest warrants and convictions or a new Euro warrant system; and mutual recognition of orders or warrants concerning assets or evidence (Q 7).

33. Mr Stephen Jakobi, of the Fair Trials Abroad Trust, was critical of a "political drive towards the creation of a European Judicial Area … largely … fuelled by 'law and order' concerns". He considered that there was a danger that fundamental human rights would be ignored, and that to counterbalance this tendency, Tampere should adopt specific measures to protect the rights of defendants. These included the setting of standards for interpretation services; an examination by all Member States of their legal assistance schemes, together with the proper provision and funding of public defender schemes; and the creation of an interstate system of provisional liberty for the supervision of those on remand and awaiting disposal of their case (sometimes referred to as "Eurobail") (pp 15-16).

2   Printed as annexes to the Home Office's written evidence, see pp3-5. Back

previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 1999