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European Maritime Safety Agency

Volume 616: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2016

The Government welcome the efforts of the Commission to address the ongoing migration crisis, but have decided not to opt in to the JHA content in the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending regulation (EC) No. 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).

The proposal—which has now been adopted—forms part of a wider package of measures by the Commission to ensure the protection of the EU’s external borders.

The Commission has taken the view that the challenges which have arisen from the recent migratory crisis cannot be adequately dealt with by member states acting in an uncoordinated manner and that integrated border management should be a shared responsibility of a new European Border and Coast Guard into which national authorities with coastguard and border control responsibilities, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) can provide additional resources and contribute to better, more effective co-ordination and co-operation.

The core tasks of EMSA currently deliver a high, uniform and effective level of maritime safety and prevention of pollution within the EU, achieved by ensuring a consistent application of EU maritime law.

The amendments to the EMSA founding regulation will have the effect of immediately expanding EMSA’s role and responsibilities beyond its current core tasks of managing maritime pollution and safety. It will formally establish co-operation for the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal offences by enabling EMSA to make available information with other national authorities with coastguard and border control responsibilities, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, which is currently accessible through ship reporting and other information exchange systems.

Such co-operation is indirect—EMSA itself will have no role to play in the exchange or analysis of such information between the agencies—and there is little practical or operational benefit for the UK from this measure. The Government maintain that the effect of the measure amounts to an obligation that falls within the scope of the JHA section of the treaties and is, therefore, subject to the UK’s JHA opt-in. It is on that basis that the Government have decided not to opt in.