Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

7.  Memorandum submitted by the Home Office

  1.  With increasing movement of people, goods and money, cooperation with EU countries is necessary to enhance efforts to fight terrorism, tackle crime, manage migration flows and improve access to justice. At a multilateral level within the EU this work is covered by the Hague Programme and its associated action plan. They are supplemented by the Counter-terrorism Strategy and Action Plan and Drugs and Human Trafficking action plans.

  2.  The UK believes that these plans provide a comprehensive framework for the EU Member States at multilateral level. The key priorities within that framework are vigorous implementation of agreed measures and a focus, in future, on practical measures with added value and benefit to citizens. The following outlines the priorities that the UK believes should be focused on over the next two to three years.


  3.  Attacks against European and other nations demonstrate the need to enhance the response to international terrorism including at EU level. Within the counter-terrorism strategy we aim to focus on:

    —  Delivery of the radicalisation and recruitment strategy.

    —  Use of the Situation Centre's threat assessments in policy making and providing Europol and Eurojust with information.

    —  Implementation of the 2005 peer evaluations on national CT arrangements.

    —  Using EU resources to build capacity in priority third countries.

    —  Working towards an EU Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection.

    —  Embedding EU crisis coordination arrangements including exercises.


  4.  Organised crime, including the smuggling or trafficking of drugs and people, is big business. We want to see intelligence-led operations and cross border prosecutions by groups of Member States. The EU should implement agreed measures and develop the framework in such a way that respects the diversity of legal systems. We aim to focus on:

    —  Utilisation of the annual Organised Crime Threat Assessment by Europol.

    —  Enhancing the exchange of information that law-enforcement agencies need to fight crime.

    —  Implementation of the European action plan to tackle human trafficking.

    —  Improvement in prisoner transfer agreements within the EU.

    —  Enhancing judicial cooperation through Mutual Recognition and support to Eurojust.

    —  Continued implementation of the EU drugs Action Plan including through support to third countries such as Afghanistan.

    —  Practical measures, as opposed to legislation, in the field of criminal procedural law.


  5.  Cross-border migration is growing rapidly, driven in part by the opening of labour markets, increased ease of international travel, displacement of populations outside the EU and disparities in opportunities. We aim to focus on:

    —  Strengthening the EU's borders through supporting Frontex, promoting use of technology at the borders, continuing to improve travel document security and issuance, and addressing migration by sea.

    —  Enhancing protection by working in close partnership with countries of origin and transit, including capacity building and pilot Regional Protection Programmes.

    —  Implementing actions agreed in Global Approaches to Migration in particular in working with Africa, particularly on transit migration, and migration and development.

    —  Improving returns through EU readmission agreements, operational cooperation and promoting the wider use of voluntary return programmes.

    —  Enhancing practical co-operation in the EU on asylum, integration and the exchange of immigration intelligence and information and statistics.


  6.  In each of the areas the EU needs to work effectively outside its borders. By coordinating our efforts abroad we should be able to deliver better results with third countries. We are therefore supporting the Commission and Presidency in working with third countries on key JHA priorities, focussing on the implementation of the EU JHA External Relations Strategy.

  7.  The Commission Report on Bulgarian and Romanian accession was published on 26 September. We welcome the report, which confirms an accession date of 1 January 2007. The Government has long championed enlargement. We also welcome the Commission's proposal to establish a mechanism to monitor progress in reform of judiciary and in the fight against corruption and organised crime. This will help ensure our key objective: maintaining the momentum for reform post accession.

  8.  As the Government announced on 26 September, the approach to labour market access for Bulgaria and Romania will be gradual. Details will be provided to Parliament by the end of October of the transitional controls that will be put in place.


  9.  The Finnish Presidency is taking forward the mid-term review of the Hague Programme as called for at the time of its adoption. The Commission has recently published four communications as a contribution to that debate. The UK particularly welcomes the proposals for evaluation and monitoring which could help ensure better evaluation of the existing measures and that future measures are only brought forward when they clearly add value and are required.

  10.  The Commission's view is that the decision making process within the area of Freedom, Security and Justice encounters regular blockages. The Commission believes that such difficulties are as a result of the present decision making process and in particular the use of unanimity rather than Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in the areas of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters.

  11.  The Commission expresses its willingness to bring forward proposals under the Article 42 TEU passerelle and Article 67(2) TEC bridging clauses as a way of streamlining decision making procedures and addressing the delimitation between the first and third pillars.

  12.  These issues featured prominently in the negotiations on the Justice and Home Affairs aspects of the draft Constitutional Treaty, where the UK identified a number of substantive concerns, including the potential impact on national security, the extension of external competence and the need for safeguards such as the emergency brake. These concerns remain as valid now as they were then.

12 October 2006

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