Written statement to Parliament

Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Brussels 12 May 2011: pre-council statement

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This Justice and Home Affairs pre-Council written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons on 11 May 2011 by Theresa May and …

This Justice and Home Affairs pre-Council written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons on 11 May 2011 by Theresa May, and in the House of Lords by Baroness Browning.

The Extraordinary Council will focus on interior issues and is due to be held on 12 May in Brussels. I will represent the United Kingdom. As the agenda stands, the following items will be discussed:

  • The Council will start with an EU Ministerial breakfast with the Director of SITCEN where discussions will focus on the aftermath of the death of Bin Laden and the situation in North Africa.
  • Next the Mixed Committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (non-EU Schengen States), will hold a state of play discussion on the Frontex Regulation. The Regulation builds on an evaluation of the first five years of Frontex’ performance and is intended to extend the remit of Frontex into areas that will allow it to be more operationally effective going forward. The Council has previously called for a first reading agreement of this measure before the end of June. The UK is not a participant in the Frontex Regulation but we are satisfied that the current draft is moving in the right
    direction. The proposal to give Frontex a limited remit to handle personal information will enable closer working with Europol to counter criminality (such as human trafficking and smuggling) at the EU’s external borders.
  • Next under Mixed Committee and as the first item in the Main Council there will be a discussion on the Southern Neighbourhood Region, in light of the Commission Communication on North African Migration issued on 4 May. The Presidency will ask Member States how far they agree with proposals in the Communication, in preparation for further discussion at the June European Council. The UK welcomes the proposals in the Communication for developing effective cooperation on migration issues with North African countries, especially on returns and border security. We are ready to work with the Commission and other Member States to build capacity in those countries by deploying UK experts. We would also like the EU to support more voluntary repatriation of third country nationals from North Africa back to their countries of origin in sub-Saharan Africa. We stand ready to support Member States facing particular pressures, but remain opposed to any large-scale or systematic relocation of migrants within the EU. The Council is also likely to discuss proposals for reforms in Schengen governance, including the system for mutual evaluation and rules for temporary reintroduction of border controls. The UK does not take part in Schengen provisions on border controls, but is supportive of any reforms that combat illegal immigration and strengthen the EU’s
    external borders.
  • Cyprus will also give a presentation on the Ministerial meeting which took place in Nicosia on the 19 April 2011.
  • The Commission will present its evaluation of EU readmission agreements and the Council will have an initial exchange of views on the evaluation. The UK welcomes the Commission evaluation and supports a number of recommendations made in it. The intention is to reach Member State agreement on Council Conclusions on the
    recommendations at the June JHA Council.
  • There will be a lunchtime discussion on asylum, focussing on the Commission’s Communication on North African Migration. The Communication calls for negotiations for a Common European Asylum System to be completed by the 2012 deadline. The Communication also emphasises the Commission’s intention to revise some of its more
    controversial proposals on asylum, and argues that an “emergency clause” be introduced allowing transfers under the Dublin Regulation to be suspended in certain circumstances. The Government supports practical cooperation on asylum in the EU but does not believe that participation in a common asylum policy is right for Britain.We oppose the suspension of transfers under the Dublin Regulation.
  • The Council will receive an update on the situation on Japan at the request of Belgium.
  • Finally the Commission will present their evaluation report on the Data Retention Directive. The evaluation recognises the value of communications data in maintaining security in the EU and the central role that it plays in the fight against serious crime but also signals that changes should be made to the Directive which potentially include
    greater restrictions on the data types that are retained; greater restrictions on access to the data; and greater harmonisation including possibly shortening the periods of mandatory data retention. The UK strongly supports the existing Directive as it provides a valuable basis for retaining data that is critical on an ongoing basis to counter terrorism and serious crime investigations, both in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. We welcome the fact that the evaluation report recognises the value of retained communications data to maintaining security in the EU. We recognise the importance of strong data
    protection but have concerns that some of the changes the Commission are considering would have an adverse impact on UK operational capabilities. We believe that the Data Retention Directive in its current format has sufficient flexibility to allow Member States to transpose the Directive in a way that is compatible with both their own data protection requirements and those of the European Union.

11 May 2011

Date: Wed May 11 13:29:02 BST 2011