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European Union

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to her statements in Prospects for the European Union in 2006 (Cm 6896), what discussions she and colleagues have held with the Finnish presidency on (a) the place of freedom, security and justice in the treaties, (b) the use of passarelle clauses and (c) changes to the decision-making procedures in this policy area; what assessment she has made of the likelihood of the Finnish Government bringing forward proposals in this area during their presidency; and if she will make a statement. (90004)

There have been a number of discussions with the Finnish presidency, both formal and informal, of EU co-operation in the field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). Among the issues being discussed is the proposed use of the Article 42 Treaty on European Union (TEU) passerelle clause, which provides for the Council to decide, under unanimity, to transfer elements of the field of JHA from the third pillar (TEU) to the first pillar (Treaty on European Community). One consequence of the use of the passerelle could be the application of qualified majority voting to some parts of EU police and judicial co-operation.

The Commission proposed the use of the passerelle in its Communication “Implementing the Hague Programme: the Way Forward”, and the Finnish Government are taking forward discussion of the proposal during their presidency. Most recently, the passerelle was discussed by EU Interior and Justice Ministries at the JHA Informal Council in Tampere on 20-22 September, and the JHA Council of 5-6 October. A broad exchange of views took place. It is as yet unclear whether the Finnish presidency will bring forward formal proposals in this area during their presidency. We will keep Parliament informed of developments in this area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to her statement in Prospects for the European Union in 2006 (Cm 6896), in what ways the common agricultural policy was simplified (a) during the UK presidency and (b) as a result of decisions made during the UK presidency; what changes to the common fisheries policy have been made in response to the UK's views; and if she will make a statement. (90005)

The UK was instrumental in getting agreement at the December 2006 Agriculture Council for the Commission’s communication on the simplification and better regulation for the common agricultural policy. It sets out a strategy for reducing administrative burdens in the agriculture sector. Agreement was reached on the simplification objective and the Commission was asked to produce an action plan with options to measure administrative burdens and targets for reduction by the end of 2006. The draft action plan was discussed at an international conference of stakeholders on 3 and 4 October.

Progress continues to be made on the simplification of the common fisheries policy. The Commission, in response to UK concerns, has recently produced a strategy paper giving an early indication of its thinking on the appropriate catch limits and related measures for 2007. Additionally, it has asked the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea to consider providing scientific input much earlier in the process. We welcome these developments but look forward to seeing further streamlining of arrangements in the future.