The final Justice and Home Affairs Council of the Dutch presidency took place on 9 and 10 June in Luxembourg. The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire) attended the justice day and I attended the interior day.
Justice day (9 June) began with a progress report on the draft directive on the supply of digital content. The proposal aims to advance the growth of cross-border e-commerce in the EU by setting common rules for governing the supply of digital content.
The Council then discussed four files in which the UK does not participate: matrimonial property regimes; registered partnerships; the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO); and the directive on protection of the Union’s financial interests. Ministers agreed general approaches on both matrimonial property regimes and registered partnerships, enabling negotiations with the European Parliament to begin. Ministers secured broad conceptual support on a number of issues relating to the internal functioning of the EPPO, and on the directive on protection of the Union’s financial interests, Ministers did not reach agreement on a number of compromise options. The presidency then presented a progress report on negotiations to extend the European criminal record information system (ECRIS) to third country (non-EU) nationals. The Immigration Minister intervened to support the principles behind the ECRIS proposal and to emphasise the importance of finding a suitable technical solution to data sharing.
Over lunch, the presidency facilitated a discussion on compensating victims of crime, focusing on improving co-operation and sharing best practice. The Commission committed to look at practical steps to support improved co-operation.
After lunch, the presidency sought a steer from Ministers on work to improve criminal justice in cyberspace. The Immigration Minister intervened to agree the importance of tackling cybercrime and to stress that best use should be made of existing tools.
Under any other business, the Commission informed Ministers that a code of conduct to combat hate speech online had been developed with the IT industry and the Commission will present an impact report to Council in December. The presidency also updated Ministers on outcomes from the recent EU-US JHA ministerial meeting on 1 and 2 June. Finally, the incoming Slovakian presidency presented its justice and home affairs priorities. The A points were then adopted.
Interior day (10 June) began with a discussion on the draft weapons directive, which relates to control of the acquisition and possession of weapons. Supported by other member states, I intervened to welcome the progress made, but underlined the potential to go even further in ensuring appropriately high standards of regulation. The presidency concluded that there was support for a general approach and trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament will now begin.
The Council then turned to the presidency’s data sharing road map. The road map contains a number of practical proposals aimed at enhancing data sharing between member states to enhance security and law enforcement, which reflects in particular proposals made by the UK and France. I fully supported the presidency’s prioritisation of this work to enhance internal security across Europe, particularly the sharing of data between Schengen and non-Schengen member states. Several member states supported both my position and the objectives and actions set out in the road map.
The discussion on the fight against terrorism focused on a paper from the European Counter Terrorism Coordinator (EUCTC) which made a number of recommendations to advance work to tackle the terrorist threat. I welcomed the role of the EUCTC in supporting member states in tackling terrorist finance, online radicalisation and firearms, and stressed the clear difference in mandate and competence between the work of Europol and that of the member state-driven Counter Terrorist Group (CTG). The CTG, which has provided a multilateral platform to enhance co-operation between independent European intelligence services, also gave a presentation.
The Council noted a report on the implementation of the renewed internal security strategy and the presidency updated Interior Ministers on the outcomes of the EU-US JHA ministerial meeting on 1 and 2 June, and the outcomes from the high-level meeting on cyber security on 12 and 13 May.
Over lunch, there was a discussion on migration through the central Mediterranean route and the Commission presented its communication on external migration. After lunch, the Council discussed the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March. Supported by the Commission, I intervened to ensure a continued focus in the Council on the effective and full implementation of the statement by leaders.
The Council then discussed proposals concerning the relationship between the Schengen states and Georgia, Ukraine, Kosovo, and Turkey. There was an exchange of views on these proposals and the Council did not agree a general approach on Georgia. The UK does not participate in these measures.
Next on the agenda was the European border and coastguard, where the presidency provided a progress update on negotiations with the European Parliament. The UK does not participate in this measure.
The Commission then presented its proposals to the Council on reform of the common European asylum system. Finally, the incoming Slovakian presidency presented its justice and home affairs priorities to Interior Ministers.