Written statement to Parliament

Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Luxembourg 26 and 27 April 2012: pre-council statement

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

This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons on 25 April 2012 by James Brokenshire. The Justice and Home Affairs…

This written ministerial statement was laid in the House of Commons on 25 April 2012 by James Brokenshire.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 26 and 27 April in Luxembourg. My Right Honourable Friend, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke MP) and I intend to 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). The presidency will invite an exchange of views by member states and look to agree the roadmap to ensure coherent EU action on migratory pressures. This item builds on discussions at previous councils, with the presidency presenting its ‘roadmap’ setting out strategic priorities, goals and actions to address current migratory pressures on the EU. The UK supports this work to combat illegal flows across the external border and within the EU, including combating fraud and abuse of free movement by third-country nationals.

Next there will be an update on the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). The UK continues to support the continuation of the current SIS II project. The commission has committed to deliver the central element of SIS II in early 2013.

The main Council will start with a ‘state of play’ report by the presidency on the common European asylum system, which will set out the progress that has been made on the package to date, including the latest on current negotiations. The presidency has been mandated to start negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposals to recast the Reception Conditions Directive and the Dublin III Regulation; some progress has been made in Council discussions the Asylum Procedures Directive, but discussions continue; and the negotiations on the EURODAC Regulation remain on hold due to the majority of delegations supporting the insertion of provisions on access for law enforcement reasons that have not been proposed by the Commission. No discussion is anticipated.

The presidency is seeking to reach a general approach on the EU-PNR Directive. The directive provides a framework for the collection and processing of passenger name record data by member states. The government supports this text, which achieves our primary negotiating objective: provision for data collection from flights within the EU.

The Council will be asked to consider its position on the regulation on the marketing and use of explosives precursors in light of amendments proposed by the European Parliament. The proposal seeks to restrict access by the general public to certain high-strength chemicals that can be used to manufacture home-made explosives. The current draft of the proposal is in line with UK objectives and the government supports presidency efforts to make progress.

Over lunch there will be a discussion on terrorism, including the EU CT coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove. The lunch discussion provides an opportunity to share our current assessment of the threat and provide further reassurance around Olympic security. The Council will also be asked to adopt Council conclusions on de-radicalisation and disengagement from terrorist activities. The Council conclusions affirm that terrorism poses a threat to all States, individuals and communities, and seek to promote the exchange of information and best practice between member states on preventing violent extremism and radicalisation. The UK supports this text.

The Council will also be asked to agree Council conclusions on a renewed global approach to migration and mobility. The existing global approach provides the framework for the EU’s external migration policy. We consider the proposed conclusions to be acceptable, and believe they will lead to a more strategic approach, including a strong focus on enhanced practical cooperation.

There will also be a discussion on readmission agreements, with the aim of unblocking negotiations on the EU readmission agreement with Turkey. The government supports the presidency’s intention to finalise that readmission agreement, and believes that this should occur as part of a broader EU dialogue on partnership with Turkey to address issues across the JHA field, including drugs and terrorism, as well as tackling illegal immigration.

The justice day will begin with a presentation by the Commission of its proposal for a directive on the confiscation of criminal assets, which aims to establish minimum standards in the freezing and confiscation of the proceeds and instrumentalities of crime in the EU. The directive currently includes the inclusion of non-conviction based confiscation powers (which enable the confiscation of the proceeds of crime when criminal conviction is impossible), which is an approach the UK has advocated.

The presidency will seek a partial 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 directive complements the broader framework for tackling market abuse, which is provided for in the accompanying market abuse regulation. The UK has not opted in to this directive.

There will be an orientation debate on certain issues for the proposed regulation on mutual recognition of protection measures in civil matters. This will be the first time that this matter has been discussed at 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.

There will be an exchange of views on certain issues on EU accession to the European Convention of Human Rights. The accession by the EU will mean that the EU and its institutions are directly bound by the convention. This will mean that applicants will be able to bring cases against the EU instead of, or as well as, states which are parties to the convention. The government is keen to ensure that the accession agreement is both workable and achievable, and meets the needs of the EU and its member states as well as the members of the Council of Europe. In particular, the UK is seeking further clarity on what the union’s internal rules for dealing with the EU’s participation in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) should be.

There will also be an update on the implementation of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), a computerised exchange system for criminal convictions between EU countries. The ECRIS implementation date is 27 April. The UK expects to implement ECRIS on time.

Under AOB, the presidency will provide an update on current legislative proposals and Hungary will provide information to the Council on the Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. Hungary are to host this year’s events to commemorate the victims of totalitarian regimes in Europe.

Over lunch, there will be a discussion on ‘justice for growth’, which is the commission’s term for a range of civil law instruments that it considers will contribute to the EU’s growth agenda.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Date: Wed Apr 25 10:56:34 BST 2012