This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons on 5 December 2012 by Theresa May.
The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council is due to be held on 6 and 7 December in Brussels. My right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.
The Council will begin in Mixed Committee with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (non-EU Schengen States) where there will be an update on the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). The UK will continue to reiterate its support for the continuation of the current SIS II project. The Commission has committed to deliver the central element of SIS II in early 2013.
The Commission will present its second biannual report on the functioning of Schengen cooperation and the application of the Schengen acquis. The report will form the basis for a political and strategic discussion.
There will be a report by the Presidency on obstacles to effective information exchange, with a particular focus on the use of the Swedish Initiative (on police information) and on Prum (on DNA, vehicle registration and fingerprint data). More widely the Commission is undertaking a piece of work on information exchange and intends to publish a Communication on the European Information Exchange Model (EIXM). The UK believes that this piece of work should be incorporated into the EIXM to give an overall picture of the tools that are available to Member States on information sharing.
Under AOB the Irish delegation will provide the Council with a presentation on its Presidency programme, which is due to start on 1 January.
Over lunch there will be a discussion on EU visa policy based on the recent package of Commission documents on visas and growth, local Schengen cooperation, on reciprocity with third countries and the proposal on the Common Visa List Regulation.
The main Council will start with a ‘state of play’ discussion on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), on which the Presidency is keen to make as much progress as possible by the end of the year. The UK has opted in to the Dublin (III) and EURODAC (II) proposals. Negotiations on these dossiers are progressing well and both are now close to agreement. The UK participates in these measures but has not opted in to the three other Directives which make up the CEAS.
The Council will discuss the annual report on the implementation of the EU Counter-Terrorism (CT) Strategy. Member States have been asked to reflect on EU achievements on counter terrorism over the last six months and consider where efforts should be prioritised over the next six months. This discussion provides a useful opportunity for the UK to set out its priorities and help shape the EU CT agenda. There will also be a presentation of Council Conclusions on Aviation Security. This proposal to extend the threat-risk assessment methodology, developed to underpin the EU in-bound cargo regime, to other areas of EU-led aviation security is welcome. The UK was influential in establishing the EU in-bound cargo regime, which has raised the security bar for all air cargo entering the EU, and supports its wider application.
There will be a joint Justice and Home affairs session on the Thursday afternoon which will start with a mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme. The Presidency will present its own assessment of progress under the Stockholm Programme, the EU’s five year Justice and Home Affairs Work Programme, which was agreed in 2009. The Presidency’s paper will be used as a basis for discussion, providing an opportunity to take stock of JHA work completed in the last three years and discuss priorities for work to be taken forward until the end of the Programme in 2014. Whilst the Government does not agree with the Programme in its entirety, the UK supports stronger action against abuse of free movement rights, closer practical cooperation on migration and asylum, and attaches importance to agreeing the Passenger Name Records Directive.
This will be followed by items on the Data Protection framework. There will be an orientation debate on the Regulation and a state of play update provided on the Directive. The UK is participating in both these measures having decided not to exercise the opt out under the Schengen protocol in relation to the proposed Directive.
The Justice day will begin with the Presidency aiming to agree a general approach on the proposal for a Directive on the confiscation of criminal assets. The Confiscation Directive will create minimum standards for laws on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and the proceeds of crime. The UK is still seeking changes to the text, particularly with regard to the non-conviction based confiscation measure, which creates risks for our domestic civil recovery regime. The UK has not opted in to this Directive.
Dependent on the status of related files progressing through the Economic and Financial Affairs Council the Presidency will seek to gain a general approach on criminal sanctions for insider dealing and market manipulation. The proposal aims to establish minimum EU rules concerning the definition of criminal offences for market abuse. The UK has not opted in to this Directive.
The Presidency will be providing a state of play update on the proposed Directive on the Protection of the financial interests of the EU by criminal law (“the PFI Directive”). The draft Directive would repeal and replace the existing EU Convention and Protocols on Protection of Financial Interests (PFI). The Commission presented the proposed Directive at the October Council.
There will be an orientation debate on the proposals on matrimonial property regimes and the property consequences of registered partnerships. The proposals lay down the rules by which it is decided which courts have jurisdiction to resolve disputes on such matters, the law that should be applied and the mechanism by which decisions from one country are recognised and enforced in another. The UK has not opted in to these proposed Regulations, and has no plans to opt in post-adoption.
The Presidency will also seek to gain a general approach on the proposed Regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters, which was discussed at the October Council. The instrument aims to establish an effective recognition and enforcement process of protective/preventative orders amongst Member States and complements the Directive on the European Protection Order in criminal matters. The UK supports the overall policy aim of the proposal and has opted in to it. The proposal has yet to clear scrutiny in either House.
There will then be an orientation debate on the proposed regulation for the European Account Preservation Order. This proposal aims to establish a self-standing European procedure to freeze the bank accounts of debtors in cross border civil cases with cross-border implications to prevent assets being taken beyond the reach of the courts. The UK did not opt in to this proposal, but is playing a full part in the negotiations with a view to a possible post-adoption opt in.
Under non-legislative activities, the EU Drugs Strategy (2013-2020) will be discussed. The Strategy aims to reduce significantly the demand for and supply of drugs, to promote international cooperation, research, information and evaluation.
The Presidency will also provide a state of play update on the Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. The accession by the EU will mean that the EU and its institutions are directly bound by the Convention. The Government is keen to ensure that the accession agreement is workable and meets the needs of the EU and its Member States as well as the needs of Members of the Council of Europe. The UK welcomes the Presidency’s conclusion that binding Internal Rules on how accession will work in practice must be agreed before the Accession Agreement can be finalised.
There will then be a discussion on e-justice and the work achieved during the second semester of 2012. The aim of European e-Justice is to provide a mechanism to make it easier for national authorities, citizens and businesses to access justice information and services from different Member States using electronic means.
The Irish delegation will then provide the Council with a presentation on their programme for the Presidency, which is due to start in January.
Over lunch, there will be a Ministerial discussion on ‘Three years after the Lisbon Treaty in the criminal justice area’.
Wednesday, 5 December 2012