Letter from Lord Grenfell, Chairman of
the European Union Committee and Mr Jimmy Hood MP, Chairman of
the European Scrutiny Committee, to the President of the Council
of the European Union
DRAFT AGREEMENTS BETWEEN THE EU AND THE US
ON MUTUAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE AND EXTRADITION
As you are aware, negotiations have been taking
place for some months between the Union and the United States
aimed at improving and facilitating extradition and mutual legal
assistance between the EU and the US. The proposed Agreements
would supplement existing arrangements between Member States and
The potential significance of the proposed Agreements
is widely acknowledged. Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and
High Representative, recently described them as "important
initiatives" marking "a new level of cooperation with
the United States, one sought by the EU and which will bring added
value over the current bilateral arrangements" ("Leading
the fight against the causes of terror", European Voice
3-9 April 2003). In the same article Mr Solana indicated that
there remain some issues that needed to be clarified further.
You will recall that at February's Justice and
Home Affairs Council the Presidency noted: "If possible,
the Council could conclude the Agreement in May or June, after
having involved the parliaments in an appropriate manner".
Therefore we hope that you will agree that it
is most important that national parliaments should be able to
begin their scrutiny work on these Agreements as soon as possible.
The practical problem is that the documents in question are at
present classified confidential. This inhibits the Parliamentary
The practice of our Parliament is to undertake
scrutiny openly and in full public gaze. We make available copies
of documents freely on request. We hear the views of experts and
interested parties in open session. We publish our correspondence
with Ministers. We prepare Reports which are also published and
may be debated.
We therefore invite you to supply to this Parliament
and to all the parliaments in the Union copies of the draft Agreements
so that they can undertake scrutiny of them "in an appropriate
manner", namely publicly and meaningfully and with sufficient
time to consider the constitutional, legal and political issues
raised by the Agreements.
We also propose that, consistent with the spirit
of the Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments annexed to
the Treaty of Amsterdam, and of the Draft Protocol on National
Parliaments presently being discussed in the Convention on the
Future of Europe, national parliaments be allowed six weeks to
consider the draft Agreements.
Copies of this letter go to Bob Ainsworth MP,
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office; and
to Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative
for Common Foreign and Security Policy. This letter will be published
and will be made available to other national parliaments.
10 April 2003