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Justice And Home Affairs Council

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the outcome was of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Veria on 28 and 29 March 2003; and what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed. [112134]

At the meeting in Veria on 28–29 March 2003, Ministers discussed current developments in the area of asylum, in particular hearing from Ruud Lubbers, head of the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). I set out the Government's ideas on establishing zones of protection and transit processing centres for refugees outside the EU's borders. Ministers also examined the effectiveness of financial resources available at Community level to take forward the work mandated by the Seville European Council on management of the external EU border and co-operation with third countries on returning illegal immigrants. The Commission also confirmed the arrangements put in place at EU level to cope with the potential influx of refugees from Iraq.John Bruton, Chairman of the JHA Working Group in the Future of Europe Convention, gave details of the proposed JHA Treaty Articles. During the subsequent discussion my noble Friend (Lord Filkin) stressed the importance of ensuring that the new Treaty clearly defined those tasks which were necessary at European Union level and those which were for Member States. At European level, the focus should be on cross-border issues where there would be proper facilitation of mutual recognition. Lord Filkin also noted that the idea of a European Public Prosecutor presented real problems of accountability.Justice Ministers also discussed the Commission's recent Green Paper on procedural safeguards in criminal proceedings. Lord Filkin said that action at EU level should be based on the principles of mutual recognition and subsidiarity and should avoid over-regulation.