The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime Prevention (James Brokenshire): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke and I attended the Justice and Home Affairs Informal Council on 15 and 16 July in Brussels.
Discussions on the Interior day centred on two themes: how to reach a common European Asylum System by 2012 and crime prevention.
During the first session, the Presidency posed a couple of questions asking whether priority should be given to the negotiations on the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations and Qualification and Long-term Residence Directives while allowing additional time to consider the appropriate way forward on the Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives and whether Ministers supported the inclusion of a temporary suspension clause in the Dublin Regulation for countries under pressure.
I underlined that asylum required an international response and that the UK had taken in the highest number of individuals in Europe last year. However the UK did not believe the Directives resolved the challenges facing Member States: they increased the rights of asylum seekers, at the expense of providing protection quickly for those in need and return for those who were not in need. I underlined the need for practical cooperation to
build the capacity of Member States’ asylum systems including via the European Asylum System Office and Frontex. On Dublin I said that the UK remained very sceptical of a suspension mechanism, which would address the symptoms not the cause of the problems and risked making them worse.
During the second session, the Presidency posed a number of questions on crime prevention calling for implementation of the EU Internal Security Strategy to focus on practical cooperation and prevention, identification of a methodology for prioritising threats and identified two areas where work might begin on firearms trafficking and itinerant groups.
I welcomed the Presidency priority given to the Internal Security Strategy and the Commission’s analysis of the link between organised crime and local crime, particularly efforts to tackle illegal firearms but on itinerant groups would want more information on how they were to be defined. I noted the role of Passenger Name Records in fighting organised crime and expressed disappointment at the Commission’s recent information that the Directive would not be published until next year. Other delegations also called
on the Commission to bring forward plans to publish an EU Passenger Name Records Directive.
Discussions on the Justice day centred on the role of Eurojust and the launch of the EJustice portal. The Justice Secretary stated that the UK valued Eurojust and felt that the EU should wait until the Eurojust Council Decision had been fully implemented and evaluated before looking to legislate in this area again. The Justice Secretary reinforced the UK’s position that it would not be participating in the European Public Prosecutor Office.
The European e-Justice portal was launched by the Belgian Justice Minister with Commissioner Reding. The portal is a website that functions as a point of access to a range of information on justice matters across the EU. This first release of the portal concentrates on the provision of information - for example how the legal systems in each Member State work and links to websites of most relevant interest to citizens and lawyers.
Date: Thu Jul 22 15:25:31 BST 2010