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Justice and Home Affairs Council

Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2010

The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 25 and 26 February 2010 in Brussels. My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach 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 by agreeing the text on the internal security strategy which was discussed at the January Informal Council in Toledo. The Government support the internal security strategy as currently drafted, in particular the reference to an EU organised crime strategy.

The presidency will then update Ministers on plans to establish the Standing Committee on operational co-operation on internal security—COSI—setting out its legal basis and outlining the next steps for the committee. The Government have supported the creation of COSI and look forward to its first meeting.

The Council will have an orientation debate on a proposal for a European pact against drug trafficking designed to co-ordinate member state activity in this field. The pact focuses on three thematic areas; the “cocaine route” from Latin America via West Africa to Europe; the “heroin route” through Turkey and the Western Balkans; and money-laundering. The Government support this proposal which is in line with UK objectives on drug trafficking.

The presidency will update Ministers on EU-US relations following its high level meeting with US officials in January, which focused on data protection, child protection and terrorism.

There will also be a discussion for Interior Ministers on what the next steps should be for the EU-US agreement on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data for the purposes of the terrorist tracking finance programme—the so-called SWIFT agreement—following the European Parliament’s decision to reject the Council decision intended to conclude it.

After lunch, the presidency will update the Mixed Committee, with non-EU Schengen states, on the results of the evaluation of the first milestone test of the second-generation Schengen information system—SIS II —which took place at the end of January. The Government support the need for a thorough evaluation of the first milestone test and will seek to ensure that the remaining milestone tests are conducted in a timely fashion.

The Council will then discuss the official Canadian response to the Commission’s October 2009 report which criticised the Canadian Government for its decision to re-introduce visas for Czech nationals. The Government have maintained a neutral position so far and will continue to urge a proportionate solution to this issue, either resolved bilaterally or brokered by the Commission.

The presidency will present a draft instrument establishing a European agency for the management of operational co-operation at the external borders of the member states of the European Union—Frontex. The Government will consider the draft regulation carefully as soon as it is published.

Finally, the Mixed Committee will discuss the ongoing issue of illegal migration on the southern border of the European Union. The Government recognise the significance of these flows and support strong, strategic and evidence-based EU collaboration on this issue through co-operation with countries of origin and transit, and practical action at, and beyond, the EU’s borders, including a strong focus on returns.

On the second day of the Council meeting, there will be a state-of-play report on the negotiations that have been taking place about a proposed directive on the European protection order. Ministers will then be given the opportunity to comment. This is a member state initiative, presented by the Spanish presidency, and it is designed to assist victims who have obtained a protection order in one member state who subsequently move to another.

The presidency will then provide Justice Ministers with information about the state of play of the negotiations on the proposed directive on interpretation and translation. This proposal was negotiated as a framework decision under the Swedish presidency and reached political agreement at the October JFIA Council. However, it lapsed when the Lisbon treaty came into force, and so has had to be retabled as a directive under the new treaty. The Government support this proposal.

There will be a presentation and debate on EU accession to the European convention of human rights. The Government fully support EU accession to the European convention on human rights, which will close the gap in judicial protection of fundamental rights in the EU by ensuring that the EU institutions, as well as the member states when implementing EU law, will clearly be subject to the convention.

The Council will be asked to agree a Council resolution proposing the creation of an updated model agreement to help in the establishment of, and participation in, joint investigation teams—JITs. The Government fully support this updated-model agreement which is based on practical experience and good practice.

In addition to the agenda items, Commissioner Viviane Reding will deliver a presentation of her work.