The Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council under the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU took place on 23 and 24 January 2020 in Zagreb.
I represented the UK on Justice Day. My colleague right hon Friend the Minister for Security, attended the meeting for interior day.
Justice day began with a discussion on the future of EU justice and home affairs in the fields of freedom, security and justice, with a focus on the following justice policies: fundamental rights and the rule of law; civil judicial co-operation; judicial training and criminal justice.
Over lunch, Ministers considered the role of the European judicial network in civil and commercial matters, recognising its importance in facilitating judicial co-operation.
Ministers then discussed judicial training. I provided an overview of judicial training in the UK, including the independent role of the judiciary in assessing the required learning and development. I highlighted that our approach to providing training for the judiciary is in accordance with the separation of powers, in that training is under the control of the judiciary and not the Government.
The first agenda item of interior day discussed the future of EU justice and home affairs activity, focusing on the home affairs area. The Minister for Security intervened to highlight issues relating to end-to-end encryption, drawing attention to the open letter to Facebook from the Home Secretary.
The Minister for Security also encouraged member states to ensure that the voice of their law enforcement agencies and interior Ministries was heard during discussions on the EU’s negotiating mandate for a future internal security agreement with the UK.
Interior Ministers then discussed implementation of legislation on the interoperability of EU JHA databases.
Over lunch, Ministers discussed tackling organised immigration crime in the western Balkans, including a proposal to create a regional western Balkans system similar to the Eurodac database (which stores fingerprint and biometric data of asylum applicants).
The afternoon session focused on implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard agency, which the UK does not participate in.