The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 23 October 2009 in Luxembourg. My noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing, and I intend to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed:
The Council, beginning in Mixed Committee with non-EU Schengen states, will receive an update from the presidency on arrangements for the first milestone test for the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). The UK welcomes the update and will press to ensure the test is well-planned and managed in line with the criteria set out in the June JHA Council conclusions.
Next the presidency will present an update on the current state of play on the implementation of the regulation establishing the Visa Information System (VIS). The UK does not participate in that regulation.
Following Mixed Committee, the Commission will present their annual report on visa reciprocity, which is to be published soon. While the UK does not participate in the EU visa regime, we do maintain an interest in all visa issues, notably for full reciprocity with third country nationals. The Council will then exchange views on Canada’s decision to reintroduce visa requirements for all Czech nationals. The UK believes the Commission should continue to engage with the Canadians to broker a solution.
The presidency will seek a general approach on the draft framework decision on accreditation of forensic laboratory activities, which aims to increase mutual trust in DNA and fingerprint data exchanged by requiring a minimum standard of accreditation. The Government fully support the measure, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.
The presidency will then invite the Council to reach a general approach on the proposal for a Council decision to establish the European crime prevention network. This instrument will strengthen the network’s ability to identify exchange and disseminate crime prevention information and actions targeted at traditional, or volume, crime. The UK is a co-sponsor of the initiative and supports the presidency in wishing to secure a general approach.
In the afternoon, Justice Ministers will be asked to adopt a Council resolution on a “roadmap” for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings. The resolution encourages the European Commission to submit proposals, to be considered by the member states, for action to improve criminal procedural law standards across the European Union. The Government hope that this will help to enhance the operation of mutual recognition by increasing trust among member states. The Government fully support the measure, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.
The presidency will seek a general approach on a draft framework decision and an accompanying draft resolution on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. Together they form the first of the measures that are to be proposed on the “roadmap for strengthening procedural rights”. They will ensure that there are common minimum standards with respect to the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. The Government support the measures, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.
The Council will then have a first exchange of views on the proposed framework decision on the transfer of proceedings in criminal matters. This is a member state initiative, which seeks to establish a common legal framework for the transfer of criminal cases between member states where this would improve the efficient and proper administration of justice. This proposal is a priority for the Swedish presidency, where they hope to reach a general approach at the November Council (30 November to 1 December).
The presidency will lead a political discussion on the proposal for a framework decision on combating trafficking of human beings with a view to resolving some of the outstanding issues, for example on jurisdiction for offences. The Government are generally content with the proposed framework decision, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.
Under any other business the Commission will present its review of visa facilitation in the Western Balkans. The UK does not participate in the part of the Schengen acquis that covers visa liberalisation, and will not be lifting visit visa requirements for Western Balkan states when the Schengen zone liberalises its own requirements. The UK remains a strong supporter of the EU enlargement process and the aspirations of West Balkan states for eventual EU membership.