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European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 23 October 2013

24 October 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary 23 October 2013

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Eurojust
The House of Commons agreed on Tuesday 22 October to the Committee’s proposal that a Reasoned Opinion should be sent to the Presidents of the European institutions on the grounds that the Draft Regulation establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is not in compliance with the principle of subsidiarity.  A further debate on the floor of the House on the EPPO proposal, this time on whether the UK should or should not opt into it, is scheduled for Tuesday 29 October. The House will also be debating whether or not to opt into the related Eurojust instrument.  The Committee reports this week the latest Ministerial correspondence on both documents, in time for the opt-in debate.


Reform of the EU’s Staff Regulations
This draft Regulation seeks to amend the conditions of employment for the approximately 55,000 officials and other agents employed by more than 50 institutions and agencies in the EU and in third countries.  We have kept it under scrutiny for some time, not least because of the very substantial amounts of money involved - €61.6 billion will be spent on implementing these Regulations over the next five years.  Unfortunately, the Minister now tells us that the UK Government has failed to meet its negotiating objectives and a hurried political agreement was reached in COREPER earlier in the year.  The Committee recommends the document for debate in European Committee because of its financial and political significance; we also ask for the final version of the proposal to be deposited with a further Government Explanatory Memorandum.


Regulation of new psychoactive substances
The Commission has proposed this Draft Regulation and Directive aiming to strengthen the control of new psychoactive substances (also referred to as ‘legal highs’) and the application of criminal sanctions. The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum raises many legal and policy questions about the proposal but, disappointingly, it does not provide an assessment of the subsidiarity implications. Nonetheless, having reviewed the proposal we conclude that the Commission has failed to produce sufficient evidence of disruption to legitimate trade, or displacement of the harmful effects of new psychoactive substances, to warrant market intervention on the scale envisaged or the imposition of additional constraints on Member States’ freedom of action.  We therefore recommend that the House agrees a Reasoned Opinion, the draft text of which is Annexed to our Report.

 

EU-Ukraine
These Council Decisions cover the signature, provisional application and conclusion of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.  We have had the first draft Decisions under scrutiny since July, and have now received further information from the Government.  This is a highly important and controversial agreement, with major implications for enlargement policy and EU-Russia relations.  We therefore recommend it for debate in European Committee before the Foreign Affairs Council on 19 November which will decide whether or not to adopt the Decisions.


EU Regulatory Fitness and Evaluation of EU legislation
These two Commission Communications respectively summarise the progress made to date in achieving regulatory reform and set out a strategy to bring the Commission’s system for evaluations up to date with recent developments in EU Smart Regulation policy, and in particular the Regulatory Fitness ("REFIT") programme.  The Government has engaged extensively with the Commission on better regulation issues in recent months, and has pressed for a reduction in unnecessary regulatory burdens, especially for SMEs.  It welcomes much of the content of both Communications, while expressing regret that there is no comprehensive  timetable for some of the reforms.  Given the importance of these issues we recommend both Communications for a joint debate in European Committee.


Other documents reported
We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: EU Regulatory Fitness; Evaluation of EU legislation; Financial audits;
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Restrictions against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus; CSDP Mission in Niger; EU-Georgia; 
  • HM Treasury: Financial services: money market funds; EU General Budget; Customs: illicit trade in tobacco products; 
  • International Development: Instrument for Pre-Accession; European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps; 
  • Transport:  Safety standards for fishermen; Inland waterway transport;


The report will be provided on the Committee’s publications webpage.

The Committee’s Eighteenth Report has now been published, covering EU General Budget for 2013; EU merger control; The Telecoms Single Market and Broadband in the EU; EU-US trade dispute over beef imports; EU forest strategy; Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea; EU-Kosovo cooperation; Relations between the EU and OCTs; Financial services: central securities depositaries and securities settlement;  European Anti-Fraud Office; Financial assistance for non-eurozone member states; Banking Union: Single Supervisory Mechanism; Mutual financial assistance for non-eurozone Member States; Multiannual Financial Framework; Vehicle registration.

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