Letter from the Minister of State at the
Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) to the Chairman of the Committee
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS COUNCIL: 28-29 MAY 2001
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 list (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
Protocol to the 2000 Convention on Mutual assistance
in Criminal Matters between the Member States of the European
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.
Council Framework Decision on combating trafficking
in human beings
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.
Council Regulation on co-operation between the
courts of the Member States of the European Union on the taking
of evidence in civil and commercial matters
The Council adopted this Regulation.
Council decision on the opening of negotiations
within the framework of the Hague Conference on Private International
Law for a worldwide Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgements
in Civil and Commercial Matters
The Council agreed a negotiating mandate for the
European Commission on the European Community's position in negotiations
in the Hague Conference.
Directive on temporary protection in case of mass
influx of displaced persons in need of international protection
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.
Directive on the right to family reunification
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.
Protection of the euro against counterfeiting
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.
Principles for 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.
Directive on the protection of the Community's
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
Any other business
Belgium presented a proposal for a Resolution on
the creation of national centres and organisations for the flight
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.
Mixed committee with Iceland and Norway
Protocol to the 2000 Convention on Mutual Assistance
in Criminal Matters between Member States of the European Union
The Mixed Committee confirmed its agreement to those
aspects of the protocol which constitute a development of the
Directive defining the facilitation of unauthorised
entry, movement and residence
Council framework decision on the strengthening
of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised
entry and residence
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.
Council directive supplementing the provisions
of Article 26 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement
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 life it in time for formal adoption.
Illegal immigration via the Western Balkans
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