Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fifth Report





Proposal by the Federal Republic of Germany for the adoption of a Council Resolution on Member States' obligation to transmit information on illegal immigration and facilitator networks in connection with participation in the CIREFI early warning system.
Legal base: Articles 63(3)(b) and 66 EC; consultation; unanimity
Deposited in Parliament: 19 December 2000
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 9 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21516) 10017/00: HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 24 (15 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  4.1  This proposal builds on the French Presidency's Action Plan to improve the control of immigration,[11] which we cleared in November. That document found that insufficient use was being made of the voluntary early warning system (EWS) which had been set up, under the German Presidency, as part of CIREFI (the Centre for Information, Discussion and Exchange on the crossing of frontiers and immigration). EWS was intended to provide for the immediate transmission of information on illegal immigration and facilitator networks.

The document

  4.2  The current proposal aims to make the exchange of information compulsory. It lists the information that is to be exchanged, and requires Member States to take any necessary measures, and inform other States about these. It states that the information will relate to non-personal data.

  4.3  Candidate states for EU accession, together with Iceland and Norway, may take part in the EWS under certain conditions, "on an informal basis"(paragraph 7).

  4.4  Paragraph 10 provides for the transmitted information "to be centralised and annotated by the General Secretariat of the Council in close collaboration with the Presidency".

The Government's view

  4.5  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) tells us that the Government supports initiatives to improve the early warning system, to which it is committed. However, it would wish to see a more fundamental review of the system before it could agree to making it compulsory.

  4.6  In that context, the Minister points out that, although the proposal has a formal legal base and purports to impose obligations on Member States, it is described as a Resolution. If, as seems more logical, it were to be recast as a Decision, the Government would have to decide whether or not to exercise its opt-in (under the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland).

  4.7  The Minister also tells us that her officials are considering whether Ministerial authorisation under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 is needed to enable the UK to participate fully in the EWS, whether under the current voluntary scheme or the proposed compulsory version.


  4.8  In its present form, this is a confusing proposal. As the Minister points out, although it is framed as a non-binding Resolution it appears to impose obligations and requirements on Member States. Moreover, although the subject matter of the Resolution falls within Community competence, there is no mention of the Commission and no role apparently envisaged for it. Nor is it clear how the non-European Union States can be involved "on an informal basis". In relation to the United Kingdom, the Minister does not explain why authorisation under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 may be necessary.

  4.9  We therefore ask the Minister:

1  why no role for the Commission is identified in the proposal, and whether she is content with the omission;

2  what she considers is meant by the possibility of participation by the candidate countries and Iceland and Norway "on an informal basis"; and

3  why Ministerial authorisation under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 may be necessary.

  4.10  We will hold the document under scrutiny until we have the Minister's response, and until we know more about the final form of the proposal and any consequential United Kingdom decision about participation.

11  (21516) 10017/00; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

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