Documents considered by the Committee on 12 September 2018 Contents

34International measures on safety and security at football matches

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Document details

Proposal for a Council Decision authorising Member States to become party to the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events (CETS no 218)

Legal base

Articles 87(1), 218(6)(a)(v) and 218(8) TFEU, QMV

Department

Home Office

Document Number

(39689), 8577/18, COM(18) 247

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

34.1The proposed Council Decision would authorise Member States to become parties to a new Council of Europe Convention on the safety and security of international football matches.355 Parts of the Convention overlap with existing EU measures requiring Member States to establish national football information points to share information and facilitate cooperation between police forces on football matches with an international dimension.356 Although the EU cannot itself become a party to the Convention, the Commission considers that the EU has exclusive external competence over these parts of the Convention and that EU Member States can only sign and ratify the Convention if authorised to do so by the EU. It has proposed a Council Decision authorising Member States to become parties to the Convention “in respect of those parts falling under the exclusive competence of the Union”.357

34.2As the proposed Decision cites a Title V (justice and home affairs) legal base—Article 87(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on cross-border police cooperation—the Government considers that it is subject to the UK’s Title V opt-in Protocol, meaning that it will only apply to the UK if the Government decides to opt in. By contrast, an introductory recital to the proposal states that the UK is bound to take part in the Council Decision (and so cannot rely on its Title V opt-in Protocol to decide not to participate) as the UK participates in the existing measures on which the EU’s claim to exclusive external competence is based.358

34.3In In his letter of 3 July 2018, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service (Mr Nick Hurd) confirmed that the Commission and Council consider the UK to be automatically bound by the proposed Council Decision since the UK participates in the underlying EU legislation on which the EU’s claim to exclusive external competence is founded. He recognised that the proposal was unlikely to be amended to include a recital reflecting the Government’s view and said that the Government would therefore lay a minute statement on the adoption of the proposed Council Decision “clarifying that the UK’s JHA opt-in Protocol applies”.

34.4The Minister accepted that the EU had exclusive external competence “insofar as the Convention relates to relations between EU Member States’ NFIPs” but said that this did not extend to “relations between EU Member States’ NFIPs and non-EU contracting parties’ NFIPs”. He continued:

“However, given the existence of some exclusive external competence in relation to Article 11, if the Government were to choose not to opt in, the UK would not be able to become a party to the Convention in our own right, given we are bound by the EU’s exclusive external competence in this area. This will be one of the issues the Government considers when taking its opt-in decision.”

34.5In our Report agreed on 11 July, we questioned whether the EU’s external competence was limited in the way the Minister suggested, as well as his view that the UK would not be able to become a party to the Convention in its own right if the Government were to decide not to opt into the proposed Council Decision. We noted that this seemed to defeat the purpose of the Government’s opt-in policy which seeks to preserve the UK’s right to assert that it is not bound by the EU’s exclusive external competence in justice and home affairs matters unless the UK chooses to opt in. As the Minister indicated that the UK was likely to ratify the Convention during 2019 and had also told us that the UK would be unable to become a party to the Convention in its own right unless the Government decided to opt into the proposed Council Decision, we inferred that this must be its intention.

34.6In his letter of 16 August 2018, the Minister confirms that the Government has decided to opt in. He reiterates the Government’s position that the EU’s exclusive external competence is limited to those parts of the Convention which govern cooperation between national football information points established in EU Member States, as this is the point at which the Convention intersects with internal EU rules. He continues:

“As a Member State, the UK cannot enter into international obligations in an area covered by exclusive external EU competence, where that competence binds the UK (as is the case here), unless first authorised by the Council. In the event that the Government decides not to opt in to the Council Decision, the authority that Decision will provide will not apply to the UK. In such a situation, the UK could not therefore become a party to the Convention without breaching its obligations under the Treaties.”

Our Conclusions

34.7As we observed in our earlier Report, if the UK’s ability to become a party to the Convention in its own right is contingent on opting into a Council Decision authorising it to do so, there would seem to be no practical or legal benefit in maintaining that the Government’s Title V (justice and home affairs) opt-in Protocol applies in cases where the Government accepts that the EU has exclusive external competence, however limited. A decision not to opt in would constrain the UK more than a decision to opt in, by preventing the UK from participating in an international convention in its own right—the opposite of what the Government must have intended in asserting that the Title V opt-in Protocol applies in these circumstances.

34.8In earlier correspondence, the Minister told us that the Government would “lay a minute statement on adoption of the measure clarifying that the UK’s JHA opt-in Protocol applies”.359 We are content to clear the proposed Decision from scrutiny but expect the Minister to provide us with a copy of the UK’s minute statement at the earliest opportunity. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Full details of the documents

Proposal for a Council Decision authorising Member States to become party, in the interest of the European Union, to the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events (CETS no 218): (39689), 8577/18, COM(18) 247.

Background

34.9The purpose of the Council of Europe Convention is to “ensure that football and other sports events provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment for all individuals through the implementation of an integrated approach on safety, security and service at sports events by a plurality of actors working in a partnership amid an ethos of co-operation”. It requires contracting parties to:

34.10The Convention also includes measures to prevent and punish acts of violence and misbehaviour, such as stadium bans, sanctions procedures in the country where the offence is committed or in the offender’s country of residence or citizenship, or restrictions on travelling abroad to football events. The designation of a national football information point within the police force (NFIP) of each country participating in the Convention is intended to “step up” international police co-operation by facilitating exchanges of information and personal data in connection with international football matches.360

34.11EU law requires EU Member States have a national football information point to act as “the direct, central contact point for exchanging relevant information and for facilitating international police cooperation in connection with football matches with an international dimension”.361 The main tasks of the information points are to:

34.12In addition, the EU Football Handbook (last updated in 2016) contains detailed guidance on international police cooperation, the exchange of police information and the role and tasks of national football information points.362

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-fifth Report HC 301–xxxiv (2017–19), chapter 6 (11 July 2018) and Thirtieth Report HC 301–xxix (2017–19), chapter 15 (6 June 2018).


355 See the European Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events which was opened for signature in July 2016.

356 See Council Decision 2002/348/JHA concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension, as amended by Council Decision2007/412/JHA. The UK participates in both Council Decisions. See also the Commission’s competence analysis on pp 3–4 of its explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Council Decision.

357 Article 1 of the proposed Council Decision.

358 See recital (7) of the proposed Council Decision.

359 See the Minister’s letter of 3 July 2018 to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee.

360 See the description of the Convention on the Council of Europe’s Treaty Office website.

361 See Article 1(3) of Council Decision 2002/348/JHA.

362 See Council Resolution 2016 C 444/01 concerning an updated handbook with recommendations for international police cooperation and measures to prevent and control violence and disturbances in connection with football matches with an international dimension, in which at least one Member State is involved (“EU Football Handbook”).




Published: 18 September 2018