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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
23 February 2018
Volume 636

Written Statements

Friday 23 February 2018

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitors

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The Council of Europe’s convention on the manipulation of sports competitions seeks to combat the threat of match fixing and protect the integrity of sport. The EU wishes to become a party to the convention and has published two draft Council decisions to conclude the convention, one of which relates to justice and home affairs matters.

The Government have decided not to opt in to the justice and home affairs provision set out in the draft EU Council decision to conclude, on behalf of the EU, the Council of Europe convention on the manipulation of sports competitions with regard to matters related to substantive criminal law and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. This decision cites a title V legal base and therefore the opt-in applies.

The convention requires that EU member states have provisions in place to regulate the act of sports betting and to combat the manipulation of sports competitions in relation to sports betting—including provisions to make those acts criminal offences—and to apply those provisions extraterritorially (which can be derogated).

Only one discussion has taken place on this draft decision, in September 2017, during Estonia’s presidency of the EU Council, with no further negotiations having been scheduled, and with no timetable presented for adoption. The Government placed a scrutiny reservation on this decision at that discussion which remains in place.

A draft EU Council decision with regard to matters related to substantive criminal law and judicial co-operation in criminal matters was published in 2015 for the EU to sign the convention and, at that time, the Government decided to not opt in to the justice and home affairs provision. That decision was also not taken forward for adoption.

While there remains uncertainty as to how the EU might participate in the convention, the Government have taken the decision to maintain their position and not opt in to the justice and home affairs provision in order to preserve the UK’s ability to implement the convention according to national needs, and in particular to preserve the ability to exercise the right of derogation under article 19 of the convention (the extraterritorial application of offences)—preventing the EU from exercising competence on behalf of the UK.

Protecting the integrity of sport is taken seriously by the Government and we view the convention as an important tool in the fight against match fixing. We therefore intend for the UK to become a signatory to the convention later this year.

[HCWS481]

Exiting the European Union

Official Journal of the European Union

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Lord Callanan, Minister of State for Exiting the European Union, has made the following statement:

I confirm that an exemption in accordance with Section 8(5) of the European Union Act 2011 (EU Act 2011) applies to the European Commission’s proposal for a Council regulation amending Regulation (EU) No 216/2013 (COM(2017)87). The proposed regulation refers to the electronic publication of the Official Journal of the European Union.

The purpose of the proposed amendment is to introduce the authentication of a document by an electronic seal. This option is offered by Regulation No 910/2014. This proposed amendment is purely technical and there are no policy implications for the UK. The legislative change is needed as the change in electronic seal alters the legal status in the publication.

The legal base of the proposal is Article 352 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Under Section 8 of the EU Act 2011, decisions under this require an Act of Parliament to approve the measure, unless both Houses agree to a motion that a decision is urgent or an exemption applies.

In this case Section 8(6)(a) of the EU Act 2011 provides an exemption to make provision equivalent to that made by a measure previously adopted under Article 352 TFEU. The proposal is to make a provision equivalent to that made by Council Regulation (EU) No. 216/2013, which was previously adopted under Article 352 TFEU on 7 March 2013. This proposal has the same substance matter. It relates to the electronic authentication of the Official Journal. As such, all that has altered is the specific form the authentication is to take. Therefore this proposal does not require an Act of Parliament for the UK to approve the measure.

[HCWS480]

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council

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My right Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Field) will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 26 February. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini. The meeting will be held in Brussels.

Prior to the FAC there will be an informal meeting, over breakfast, of the European Action Group for the Republic of Moldova with the Foreign Minister of Moldova. The FAC will then discuss Moldova, Venezuela and the middle east peace process (MEPP). There will be a lunch with the Secretary General of the Arab League and some Arab Foreign Ministers.

Moldova

Ministers will have a substantive discussion of the key challenges facing the Republic of Moldova, including its implementation of the association agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), and engagement by the EU and member states. The UK remains fully engaged in the reform process in Moldova, and will focus on the need to encourage the Republic of Moldova to maintain progress in this process.

Venezuela

The FAC will discuss the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, following the announcement that presidential elections will take place on 22 April. The FAC will consider the recent breakdown in political dialogue between the Government and Opposition, what conditions would constitute a credible election, and what more can be done to address the humanitarian situation.

Middle East Peace Process

Ministers will discuss the latest developments in the MEPP ahead of a lunch with the Secretary General of the Arab League and Foreign Ministers from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan to discuss prospects for the MEPP, including long-standing EU support for a negotiated two-state solution.

Council Conclusions

The FAC is expected to adopt conclusions on Burma, Cambodia, Moldova, the Maldives, climate diplomacy and the Special Report on EU Support to the Fight to End Human Trafficking in South and South East Asia.

[HCWS482]

EU Foreign Ministers: Informal Meeting (Gymnich)

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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the biannual informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (known as the Gymnich) on 15-16 February in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Gymnich was hosted by Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zaharieva and was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Discussion centred on Syria, the western Balkans and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

EU Foreign Ministers met Foreign Ministers of the candidate countries over dinner on 15 February and on the morning of 16 February.

The format of the Gymnich is designed to allow EU Foreign Ministers to engage in informal discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to the Foreign Affairs Council (the next of which will be held on 26 February), Ministers do not take formal decisions or agree conclusions at the Gymnich.

Gymnich discussion

Syria

Ministers expressed concern about the security situation. My right hon. Friend spoke about the importance of the Geneva peace talks and maintaining pressure on the Syrian regime.

Western Balkans

Ministers discussed the strategy, recently published by the Commission, and agreed the importance of remaining engaged in the region.

DPRK

Ministers briefly discussed the DPRK. They welcomed renewed engagement between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea while emphasising the importance of maintaining pressure, including through the full implementation of sanctions.

[HCWS483]