Letter from the Minister of State at the
Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche MP) to the Chairman of the Committee
(Mr Jimmy Hood MP)
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS COUNCIL, 28-29 MAY
I am writing to report the outcome of the Justice
and Home Affairs Council Meeting on 28-29 May 2001. I represented
the United Kingdom on 28 May, and the Home Secretary represented
the UK on 29 May.
The "A" items on the attached lists
(8944/01 PTS A 27) were adopted, with the exception of points
16, 28, 29, 30 and 34. I am writing separately to the Leaders
of the House of Commons and House of Lords reporting and explaining
our decision to override the parliamentary scrutiny reserve on
some of these items.
THE 2000 CONVENTION
The Council considered the main outstanding
political issues: the abolition of the dual criminality requirement
in relation to requests for search and seizure; and the provision
of banking information. Member States remained divided on abolition
of the dual criminality requirement, and Article 2 of the draft
protocol was therefore deleted. Agreement was reached in relation
to the provision of banking information (Article 5), and Member
States lifted their reservations on related provisions (Article
5a, 5x and 5b). The Council reached provisional agreement on the
draft protocol, subject to scrutiny reserves from two delegations.
The United Kingdom maintained its parliamentary scrutiny reservation.
The Council reached provisional agreement on
and froze all the articles in the framework decision except for
Article 3 (penalties). The United Kingdom retained its parliamentary
scrutiny reservation. The Council discussed the scope for developing
a horizontal approach to the approximation of penalties. Some
Member States proposed an approach whereby the Council would determine
the level of seriousness of certain offences, and Member States
would then determine the appropriate penalty within their national
penalty structure. Some Member States called for a study of national
sentencing practice in the Member States. Other Member States
emphasised that work on a general approach to penalties should
not delay progress on a number of important instruments, including
the framework decision on trafficking in human beings. The Council
asked COREPER to continue work on the level of sanctions for offences
of trafficking in human beings with a view to reaching agreement
at the earliest possible opportunity. The Council asked COREPER
to look further at developing a general approach to penalties.
The Council adopted this Regulation.
The Council agreed a negotiating mandate for
the European Commission on the European Community's position in
negotiations in the Hague Conference.
The Council reached political agreement on the
draft directive. A compromise wording was agreed to simplify the
article on family reunification (Article 15) and make it clear
that family reunification in relation to the extended family was
optional. A Council declaration on solidarity between Member States
in the framework of temporary protection was also agreed. This
records that in indicating its reception capacity under Article
25 of the directive, a Member State indicates its willingness
and readiness to act accordingly.
At the meeting of the Permanent Representative
Committee on 30 May, however, one Member State indicated that
it was not in fact able to accept the text agreed at the Council,
and withdrew from the political agreement.
The Council discussed fundamental issues including
the scope of the family unit for the purposes of reunification,
and time limits relating to qualification for the rights and benefits
of family reunification. The Council was unable to reach agreement
on these issues.
The Council reached provisional agreement on
the draft decision on protection of the Euro against counterfeiting.
The United Kingdom retained its parliamentary scrutiny reservation.
The European Parliament will be reconsulted as a result of the
changes to the initial proposal. It was agreed that Article 5
of the draft decision, on the recognition of previous convictions,
should be removed from the decision and reformatted as a separate
framework decision. The Council also adopted conclusions on Europol's
role in protecting the euro, through the exchange of technical
information as well as strategic and operational data.
FINANCING SIS II
The Council considered whether the Schengen
Information System II, the planned successor to the current database,
should be financed intergovernmentally by contributions from the
Member States in accordance with the gross national product scale,
or from the budget of the European Community. In the absence of
unanimity on the method of funding, the Council concluded that
operational expenditure should be charged to the Community budget
from 2002 in accordance with Article 41(3) of the Treaty on European
Union. The Council also instructed COREPER to ensure the necessary
co-ordination within the Council on the various aspects of the
development of the SIS II.
The Commission presented its proposal to replace
the Convention on the protection of the European Communities'
financial interests of 26 July 1995 and its associated protocols
with a Community directive.
The Commission presented its biannual update
of the scoreboard charting progress on implementation of the Tampere
Belgium presented a proposal for a Resolution
on the creation of national centres and organisations for the
fight against the disappearance and sexual exploitation of children,
which will be negotiated under the future Belgian Presidency.
Greece announced that it intended to bring forward
a legislative proposal to establish a migration observatory, and
that this proposal would be a priority of the future Greek Presidency.
The Council confirmed political agreement on
authorising the director of Europol to sign agreements with Interpol,
Norway and Iceland. The United Kingdom lifted its parliamentary
scrutiny reservation, but another Member State subsequently entered
a parliamentary reservation, preventing formal adoption. This
parliamentary reservation is expected to be removed by 15 June,
in time for formal adoption on 21 June at the Culture Council.
THE 2000 CONVENTION
The Mixed Committee confirmed its agreement
to those aspects of the protocol which constitute a development
of the Schengen acquis.
The Mixed Committee reached political agreement
on these two instruments. The United Kingdom maintained its parliamentary
scrutiny reserve, but the Home Secretary stated that we would
lift it in time for formal adoption. The framework decision provides
that where certain aggravating circumstances apply, the offence
of facilitation will be punishable by custodial sentences with
a maximum of at least eight years, although to preserve the coherence
of national penalty systems, some Member States will apply a maximum
of not less than six years provided that it is among the most
severe maximum sentences available for crimes of comparable seriousness.
A number of Member States including the United Kingdom will make
a declaration stating that they will continue to apply a maximum
penalty of at least ten years for the offences in question. The
directive contains a provision allowing Member States to decide,
by applying its national law and practice, not to impose sanctions
where the aim of the behaviour is to provide humanitarian assistance
to the person concerned.
ARTICLE 26 OF
OF 14 JUNE
1985 (CARRIERS LIABILITY)
The Council reached political agreement on this
directive. The United Kingdom maintained its parliamentary scrutiny
reservation, but again stated that it would lift it in time for
The Mixed Committee noted a Presidency progress
report on measures to combat illegal immigration via the Western
Balkans, including progress on the United Kingdom initiative for
stationing immigration experts in the Western Balkans. The Home
Secretary urged other Member States to match the commitment which
the United Kingdom was making in contributing officers to the
joint teams for Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
I am writing in similar terms to the Chairman
of the Select Committee on the European Union of the House of
Lords, and to the Clerks in both the Commons and the Lords.
6 June 2001