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Justice and Home Affairs Pre-Council Statement

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017

The EU Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers will meet on 12 and 13 October in Luxembourg. The Minister of State for Immigration, and I will represent the UK for Justice day. The Home Secretary will represent the UK for Interior day.

Justice day (12 October) will begin with the adoption of the Council Regulation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). No discussion is expected. We have always been clear that the UK will never participate in an EPPO.

This will be followed by a policy debate on the proposed Regulation on mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. The focus of the discussion is expected to be on whether the scope of the legislation applies to such orders issued within the framework of criminal proceedings or criminal matters. Such a debate would have no specific impact on the UK’s position and so we would not need to intervene. The UK is supportive of improved co-operation in this area and has opted into this measure.

Ministers will also discuss the proposed Regulation on the exchange of information on third country nationals and as regards the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). The UK supports the inclusion of third country nationals on ECRIS, including fingerprint exchange. The focus of this debate will be on the threshold for the seriousness of the crime above which fingerprints should be taken, and whether dual nationals should be included in the centralised identification system (ECRIS-TCN). The Immigration Minister will support a low fingerprint threshold, as well as the inclusion of dual nationals in ECRIS-TCN.

The next item will be an exchange of views with the Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, which will cover the agency’s 2017 fundamental rights report and a range of fundamental rights issues. The Council will then adopt the draft Council conclusions following the EU’s annual report on the application of the EU charter on fundamental rights in 2016. The UK is content to support the Council conclusions.

There will be a working lunch discussion on the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This discussion will be an exchange of views on readiness for implementation. The GDPR will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018.

In the afternoon, Interior and Justice Ministers will meet for a joint session. This will include a Commission update and discussion on criminal justice in cyberspace where the presidency will update member states on the progress of ongoing discussions around e-evidence and encryption. The UK is supportive of work in these areas and has been engaged in technical discussions. The UK is keen to ensure that any proposals do not jeopardise the existing good cooperation with service providers.

Finally on Justice day, as part of the presidency’s mid-term review of the JHA strategic guidelines, Ministers will be asked for their views on where progress has been made and where there are outstanding policy priorities. The Immigration Minister will highlight the UK’s ongoing policy priorities, including data retention for law enforcement purposes and improving the interoperability of EU systems.

Interior day (13 October) will begin with a discussion on reform of the Schengen Borders Code to change the rules applicable to the temporary reintroduction of border controls at internal borders. As the UK is not a part of the Schengen internal border free zone, the Home Secretary will not intervene on this item.

Interior day will continue with a discussion on counter-terrorism. There will be a presentation by the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG). The CTG will report their assessment of the threat, update on recent capability developments and feedback on work to improve co-operation with the law enforcement community. The Home Secretary is likely to intervene in support of recent of the recent developments of the group.

The Council will conclude with a working lunch at which Ministers will exchange views on the state of play of the migration crisis. The presidency will focus the debate on the resettlement of refugees. In line with the request of the European Commission, the UK will submit a revised resettlement pledge by 31 October 2017.