Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Joan Ryan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office to the Chairman

  The first JHA Council of the Finnish Presidency is taking place on 24 July. Baroness Ashton was intending to table a written statement in line with standard practice on Friday, however, due to the Parliamentary non-sitting day on Friday she will be unable to do so before Monday. I therefore felt it would be useful for you to see an advance copy of the statement, which I enclose.

20 July 2006

Annex A

  Baroness Ashton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs.

  My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Nationality, Citizenship and Immigration (Joan Ryan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

  The Justice and Home Affairs Council will be held today, 24 July 2006, in Brussels. I am attending on behalf of the Home Office. I thought it would be useful if I were to outline the main issues I expect to be discussed.

  The Council will take an initial presentation by the Commission on the Hague programme review. There will also be discussion of migration issues and, in the Mixed Committee format, the second generation Schengen Information System. On the first of these, the commission will present four Communications: the future direction of the Hague Programme which includes a proposed use of Article 42 TEU (the passerelle clause); reviewing the implementation of the Hague Programme to date the scorecard); options for better evaluation of the impact of EU policies in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA); and a legislative proposal based on Article 67(2) TEC adapting the provisions of the European Court of Justice under Title IV (immigration, asylum and civil law matters). The Presidency has indicated that they will focus on procedure and handling and is not looking for substantive discussion on these items at this Council. Detailed discussion, including in relating to the more controversial aspects, such as the possible use of Article 42 TEU (the passarelle clause) and Article 67(2) TEC (adapting the remit of the ECJ in Title IV) will take place later in the year, including at the September Informal JHA Council in Finland. Those aspects aside, the GOvernments initial view is to welcome the focus on implementation and more effective evaluation contained in the Communications.

  There will be information items on the EU preparations for the UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the report on the outcome of the Euro African Ministerial Conference on migration and development held in Rabat on 10-11 July 2006. The Government welcomes the adoption of the EU common position at the General Affairs and External Relations Council last week, 13 July; we will continue to feed into preparations for the UN High Level Dialogues on International Migration and Development, which takes place in September. There will also be a presentation by the Commissionand Frontex (EU Border Agency) on the situation in the Mediterranean and Africa. We expect there to be a focus on the continuing influx of illegal immigrants to the Canaries and Malta. The UK strongly supports EU joint operational activity in the Mediterranean and has offered technical assitance to the Spanish and Maltese authorities.

  There will be discussion on the management of migration flows; specifically on the two Commission Communications on: a policy plan for legal migration; and a common policy on illegal immigration. The Presidency will be seeking a first exchange of views on both items. The UK will be encouraging solutions of sharing best practicve and establishing common principles, while advising against inflexible, detailed prescription, especially in the form of legislative measures on labour access. The Government is fully committed to tackling the problem of illegal immigration of third country nationals and notes with interest the Commission's Communication; we will examine concrete proposals for measures when they are tabled in due course.

  In the mixed committee format the Presidency will be hoping to agree a general approach on the key outstanding issues in the three legal instruments establishing SIS II—a Regulation covering immigration aspects, a Council Decision covering law enforcement aspects and a Regulation covering access by vehicle registration authorities—with a view to reaching a First Reading deal with the European Parliament in September. Thie is the last opportunity to resolve the major outstanding issues within the Council before the expected EP vote in September. The UK will not participate in the Regulation covering immigration but will participate in the other two legal instruments.

  Two further presentations by the Commission are expected in the margins of the meeting. These are on (i) a proposal for a regulation setting up the powers and the financing of teams of national border control experts of Member States (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) to provide joint EU technical and operational assistance at the external EU Border, co-ordinated by Frontex and (ii) a proposal for a community code on visas—a Schengen measure in which the UK will not participate. Although the UK will not participate in the first proposal, we support the concept of nominated experts deployed at short notice to respond to emergencies to help enhance the security of the EU external border, but will wish to look carefully at the detail.

  Finally there is likely to be a lunch time presentation by Commissioner Franco Frattini on the issue of CIA rendition flights.

Letter from Joan Ryan MP to the Chairman

  I thought that it would be useful if I were to write to you about the JHA Council on 24 July, since it is not possible for me to make a written statement to the House due to the timing of recess.

  The Finnish presidency opened the Council with the list of A points which were approved.

  Commissioner Frattini introduced the package of Communications on the Hague Programme Review with the stated purpose of stimulating debate and to suggest ways of improving performance in the area of freedom, security and justice. He said that lessons drawn by the Commission from the first two years of the Hague Programme were that there was a need for more practical results, that decision making had been slow especially in the area of police and criminal justice co-operation and that increased involvement of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice would bring more democratic legitimacy. The Presidency said that these Communications would provide the basis for debate at the JHA Informal in September. Discussions were also expected to continue at the October and December JHA Councils.

  The Presidency welcomed the EU's common position on the UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development as agreed by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 17 July. The Commission welcomed the EU contribution to the UN High-level dialogue and emphasised the link between migration and development. The Presidency also welcomed the successful Rabat conference as an important contribution to the global approach to migration that would inform future initiatives. The Commission underlined the need for the EU to deliver the concrete actions in the Rabat plan. There was a general recognition amongst Member States that the conference was a success and underlined their commitment to the Global Approach to migration. A number of Member States called for an EU common integrated policy on migration in favour of competing, individual, national approaches. FRONTEX (the EU Border Agency) presented an update on its activities, which were welcomed by the Commission.

  There were presentations from the Commission on the Policy Plan on Legal Migration and Policy priorities in the fight against illegal immigration. On legal migration the Commission would bring forward in future, proposals on highly-skilled and seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees and remunerated trainees. There were nine strands to the Communication on future priorities on illegal immigration of which three key themes were: an integrated technological approach to border management, the fight against human trafficking and tackling illegal employment.

  There was discussion about the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) legal instruments. There is expected to be a delay in technical implementation until December 2007/January 2008. There were some concerns about the political impact of delays in lifting the borders and some Member States urged for greater efforts to be made to meet the original deadline. The Presidency underlined the urgency of reaching agreement on the legal instruments as soon as possible. A number of outstanding issues will be sent back to experts to consider over August.

  The Commission presented a draft regulation for the establishment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams. This aims to provide a mechanism to allow teams of Schengen States' border guards to be deployed by Frontex to reinforce controls and surveillance of areas of the EU external border experiencing particular illegal migration pressures. It would also provide a limited set of executive powers which border guards might exercise when working on the territory of another Member State during other EU joint operations. The Commission expressed its hope that the measure might be adopted by the end of the year.

  The Commission presented a draft regulation for a Community Code on Visas, which would consolidate the Common Consular Instructions and the existing sources of legislation governing Schengen visas. The Commission also referred to its earlier proposal on Common Application Centres which sought Member States' participation in pilot projects for such centres.

  The Presidency presented a consultation on initiating negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Moldova. The Council agreed to the Presidency's approach, asking the Commission to start consultations with Member States and to assess the current situation, with a view to preparing possible proposals for mandates to be brought forward.

  Finally there was a lunch discussion on the situation in Lebanon: internally displaced persons. There was a call for solidarity in supporting the third country nationals arriving in Cyprus and a request to make aircraft available to repatriate EU citizens.

7 August 2006

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