Select Committee on European Communities Report


Letter from Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee   I enclose for the information of your committee two papers by the UK Presidency which, in their final form, will be considered by the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council on 19 March. The first is a non-paper on the JHA aspects of enlargement of the European Union. The second deals with openness in the Third Pillar. Neither of these documents falls within the formal criteria for deposit with your committee, but I thought you would nevertheless be interested to see them.

  The first paper, on enlargement, underlines the fact that JHA issues such as illegal immigration and organised crime are central to the ability of the applicant states to participate fully in the European Union, and proposes various ways in which JHA Ministers might make a contribution to the enlargement process, whilst recognising that the General Affairs Council and the Commission have overall responsibility for this process.

  The second paper, on openness, sets out how we are tackling our Presidency objective of making the Union more relevant and more accountable to the ordinary citizen. Although it is sometimes difficult to be totally open about detailed and sensitive negotiations between countries, secrecy can only engender suspicion. We need to be conscious ourselves of the need for accountability as well as encouraging other member states to be as forthcoming as possible. The Treaty of Amsterdam contains some significant provisions in this area, but it is clear that there are a number of practical steps which can be taken to improve transparency of Third Pillar business before ratification of the Treaty.

5 March 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  Thank you very much for your letter of 5 March enclosing two papers prepared by the UK Presidency to be considered by the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 19 March.

  It is very good of you to keep us informed and I shall circulate the papers to Sub-Committee F, who take a particular interest in the subject.

9 March 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office

  Further to my letter of 9 March, I am writing to say that Sub-Committee F considered both papers at their meeting on 18 March and have asked me to write to you concerning the Non-Paper on Enlargement.

  The Sub-Committee would like to know whether any action has been taken to train security agencies in applicant States so as to prepare those States for joining the Union. As you say, JHA issues are central to the ability of applicant States to participate fully in the European Union and it appears to the Sub-Committee that providing suitable training for security agencies might be one practical step which could be taken to help the applicant States.

23 March 1998

Letter from Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Home Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 23 March which asked about the provision of training to security agencies in the applicant countries. Officials here have undertaken a number of detailed enquiries and I am pleased to inform you that I have positive news to report, which is reflected in the full and detailed information set out below.

  I have taken "security agencies" to mean all the law enforcement and security agencies involved in the fight against crime. I fully recognise the importance for applicant countries to receive assistance from EU Member States, both bilaterally and through the European Union itself. A number of European Commission finance programmes exist such as OISIN and FALCONE to help the security agencies in their fight against crime and I am aware that several Member States have run projects involving the applicant states. This closer co-operation is most welcome and should be encouraged.

  Recent finance programmes apart, the UK has actively supported the applicant countries in their efforts to raise standards. Taking each of the security agencies in turn, we can point to encouraging initiatives. Let me start with the Security Service. In the early 1990's the security agencies of several EU Accession countries were given extensive training on the role and functions of a security service in a Parliamentary democracy. In addition, the 1990's also saw a variety of operational training on an ad hoc basis being provided to a number of security services. The CEEs have also received copies of the EU directory on counter terrorism competencies and been invited to a number of seminars and events. I know that the UK Presidency Arms Trafficking seminar run jointly by the Security Service and HM Customs was one such event which was well attended.

  Turning to HM Customs and Excise, the UK participates in a number of centrally driven intiatives or fora. These include:

    (i)   Eurocustoms

    —  The Eurocustoms administration is basically split into PHARE (Central and Eastern Europe) and TACIS (Newly Independent States). A number of training intiatives exist within these programmes, which include measures to improve efficiency at border posts.

    (ii)   Intra-European Organisation of Tax Administrations (IOTA)

    —  IOTA is the recently formed representative body for 10 CEE countries, each of whom are attempting reform and modernisation of their tax administrations as a pre-requisite to potential EU membership. It is funded by European Commission, the World Bank and the Members themselves.

    (iii)   Pre-Accession Strategy—Workshops to develop blueprints for Customs in CEE

    —  The Commission recently organised two one week workshops to develop functional "blueprints" from which they will assess progress towards the development of accepted community standards. These workshops included experts from all Member States as well as representatives from partner countries and the Commission. Subjects covered included: anti fraud matters; organisation and management; control; legislation; border operations; revenue collection and accounting; transit and movement of goods; training; customs laboratories; computerisation; trade facilitation, infrastructure and equipment.

    (iv)   Balkan Corridor Needs Analysis

    —  In 1998-99 the FCO propose to fund a UK mission to update the Balkan Corridor Drugs Needs Analysis. The first one was completed in 1996 and a large programme of training (in each country) followed in 1997.

    (v)   Evaluation of PHARE Programme

    —  Price Waterhouse has been contracted by the Commission to conduct an evaluation of PHARE's contribution to Customs Reform in the CEEs.

    (vi)   Development of Intelligence Systems across CEEs

    —  The Commission has issued an invitation to tender for the development of an automated intelligence system (for CEEs) pilot site.

    (vii)   PHARE Equipment Audit

    —  In 1996 4.5m ecu was spent on Customs equipment from the multi customs and drugs programmes in the CEEs.

  Further details of assistance provided by HMCE to individual countries is at Annex A.

  Finally I turn to the police assistance given to the CEEs. You will probably be aware of the bilateral assistance offered by the UK through the Know How fund. This scheme, formerly run by the FCO but now the responsibility of DfID, has seen many UK police forces providing a wide range of assistance to the CEEs in developing their policing techniques. Programmes are drawn up on a yearly basis and are widely appreciated. The European Union is also making great strides in providing assistance. The Police Co-operation Working Group has recently agreed a model training curriculum for the CEEs and this is reproduced at annex B. Each of the training modules will be delivered by a partnership of Member States to each of the CEE's commencing later this year. This training has been specifically designed to raise standards and to assist the CEEs in meeting the requirements of the EU Acquis.

27 May 1998 27 May 1998

Letter from Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  While giving evidence to the Select Committee last week, my predecessor, Doug Henderson, promised to write to you about openness. I understand that the Committee had been concerned about a lack of transparency both in the so-called comitology committees and in the scientific advice on which legislative proposals are based.

  The committee was right to note that the comitology system has in the past been criticised for its lack of transparency. This is an area where we want to see improvements in line with our general policy on openness in the Community.

  As you know, the comitology system is currently being reviewed. Declaration No. 31 to the Amsterdam Treaty called on the Commission to submit a proposal to amend the 1987 Decision on Commission implementing powers. This proposal has now been drawn up and will be discussed in detail by the Council. I also understand that your Sub-Committee E has decided to carry out its own enquiry.

  We have not yet received a formal copy of the proposal from the Council Secretariat. When we do, it will be deposited for scrutiny in the normal way, and should be available when the House returns in October. In the meantime, you may be interested to see a copy we have received informally from the Commission.

  Discussion of the proposal will be an opportunity for us to press for more openness in the comitology system.

  On the separate subject of independent scientific committees, the Committee is right that in the past it has sometimes been difficult to obtain information on the scientific justification for legislative proposals. However, the Commission has made some progress in this area in the last year or so. The Commission has overhauled its independent scientific committees. I am told that details of the committees' structure and membership (recruited through open advertising) are now published (including on the internet), as are the committe agendas and scientific opinions. This is a welcome improvement.

31 July 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Joyce Quin MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  Thank you for your letter of 31 July dealing with the transparency of proceedings in comitology and scientific committees. It is helpful to have this further information and I am pleased to note the Government's commitment to greater transparency.

  As you mention, Sub-Committee E is carrying out an enquiry into the Commission's new comitology proposal and we look forward to receiving shortly the Government's Explanatory Memorandum and the other information already requested by the Committee.

23 September 1998

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