Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 475-479)

Mrs Laura Yli-Vakkuri

28 NOVEMBER 2006

  Q475  Chairman:Welcome. I think a glass of water is a rather poor response to the excellent hospitality which I enjoyed from your government at COSAC in Helsinki last week. We were very well treated and got rather more than a glass of water.

  Mrs Yli-Vakkuri: This is fine for now.

  Q476  Chairman: Mrs Yli-Vakkuri, welcome and thank you very much indeed for coming to give evidence to us. Just for the record, this meeting is on the record. If at any point you want to go off the record you are entirely welcome. In due course you will be sent a transcript of your evidence and you are very free to make corrections and amendments, but if on reading the transcript anything else occurs to you that would be useful to us you are very welcome to send it to us. For the record, again, this is our Committee's scrutiny on Schengen II, SIS Mark II. Thank you for coming to give evidence to us from your very important and crucial position as Chair of the Schengen Acquis Working Party, if I am correct.

  Mrs Yli-Vakkuri: Yes.

  Q477  Chairman: Would the Finnish Presidency have preferred the Commission to submit an impact assessment for its SIS proposals?

  Mrs Yli-Vakkuri: I was prepared to say something about myself, my Lord Chairman, I do not know if you know who I am.

  Q478  Chairman: I beg your pardon, please do.

  Mrs Yli-Vakkuri: Other than I am the Chairman of the Schengen Acquis Working Party.

  Q479  Chairman: I am so sorry, that was very impolite of me.

  Mrs Yli-Vakkuri: No, no. Just for the record, I come from the Ministry of the Interior of Finland, the Unit for International Security Affairs. This time around—this is the second Finnish Presidency—I have chaired two working groups, the Schengen Acquis and the Schengen Evaluation Working Party which deals with Schengen enlargement issues. The last time around in 1999 I also chaired the Schengen Acquis Working Group. As to the SIS II legal instruments, I am a lawyer so I can say that as a lawyer it was indeed a privilege to be involved in this negotiation process within the Council and the European Parliament because we are talking about an important information system. Even on a global scale it is a huge system. Now we have reached political agreement on this issue and we are waiting for the formal entry into force of these instruments because the linguist lawyer process still takes a few weeks, if not more, and there are still some parliamentary reservations pending concerning in particular the third pillar instrument in this package. You went straight to the first question of the questions that were sent to me. Yes, normally, ideally, of course, legislative instruments should be accompanied by an impact assessment. That would be preferable in normal cases. In this case it was not that necessary because it had been decided already in 2001, if I remember correctly, that there was a need to develop a second generation Schengen Information System. The decision had been taken then by the Council so it was for the Commission to implement that decision. The Schengen Information System has been in use for ten years now so the Member States know how it works. These SIS II proposals did not change the fundamental issues in that system, we are just developing them further. Ideally, yes, but maybe it was not absolutely necessary in this case.

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