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EU (Qualified Majority Voting)

Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when officials in her Department first became aware of EU Commission proposals to extend qualified majority voting over police and judicial affairs. (82307)

[holding answer 4 July 2006]: The possibility of extending qualified majority voting to police and judicial affairs was provided for in the Amsterdam and Nice treaties. Article 42 of the treaty on European Union (TEU)—the passerelle—allows for areas governed by title VI (third pillar) to be transferred to title IV (first pillar) by unanimous Council decision. It is likely, although not inevitable, that this would mean a move to qualified majority voting and co-decision, which is the norm in the first pillar.

The European Commission’s plans to put forward proposals for exploiting Article 42 TEU and changing the decision-making arrangements in the field of police and judicial affairs were raised, in general terms, in its communication “A Citizens’ Agenda: Delivering Results for Europe” on 10 May 2006. In this communication, the Commission announced its intention to

“present an initiative to improve decision taking and accountability in areas such as police and judicial co-operation and legal migration, using the possibilities under the existing Treaties”.

The Commission’s formal proposals for changing the decision-making procedure for the area of Justice and Home Affairs were not published until 28 June.

The Finnish presidency has also announced its intention to explore the possibility of using the article 42 passerelle to improve the decision-making process. In its “Preliminary Agenda for Finland’s Presidency of the EU” of 24 May, the presidency said that the review of the Hague Programme

“could include…achieving more effective decision-making on police and criminal law (the “passerelle”)”.