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Meeting Summary: 9 April 2014

10 April 2014

The European Scrutiny Committee met on 9 April 2014.

The Committee took oral evidence from George Eustice MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Animal Cloning: the use of Article 352 TFEU. 

It also considered the following documents:

European Semester 2014

The European Semester is an EU-level framework for coordinating and assessing Member States’ structural reforms and fiscal/budgetary policy and for monitoring and addressing macroeconomic imbalances. The Commission Communication on the Annual Growth Survey, the draft Joint Employment Report and the Alert Mechanism Report began the 2014 cycle of the European Semester, by setting the overarching scene; the Committee recommended, in early December 2013, that they be debated in advance of the March 2014 European Council and separately from the more detailed analytical and country specific documents that would follow for the June 2014 European Council.  This week the Committee reports on the second stage of the Semester, the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure which involves a Commission Communication that sets out the findings of In-Depth Reviews into the 16 Member States identified in the 2014 Alert Mechanism as showing signs of potential macroeconomic imbalances, scoring them against a scoreboard of 11 macroeconomic indicators, and a Commission Occasional Paper that sets out the imbalances identified in the UK, the background to them, and an analysis of the risks the UK faces as well as the Commission’s preferred policy responses to them. Noting that the Government has subverted the House’s scrutiny process with its failure to meet the Committee’s intentions of an early general debate, the Committee now recommends that these documents be debated together with those already referred, and the country specific recommendations, when available, and that the debate should take place before the June European Council.

Strategic guidelines for EU Justice and Home Affairs to 2020

We also scrutinise two Communications setting out the Commission’s political priorities for the next set of strategic guidelines for EU justice and home affairs policies until to 2020.  The guidelines are expected to be agreed at the June European Council and will replace the Stockholm programme once it expires at the end of 2014.    Successive justice and home affairs programmes have grown in length and ambition and become increasingly prescriptive, so the Committee welcomes the emphasis in these Communications on consolidation, through the effective implementation of existing EU justice and home affairs laws, and on better monitoring and evaluation of their impact.  The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum provides a helpful commentary on the Communications but gives little indication of the Government's strategic vision for the development of this area over the next five-years.  The Committee invites the Government to do so and recommends that the Communications should be debated on the floor of the House before prorogation in May, so that Members are able to express their views on the content and future direction of EU justice and home affairs policy and inform the contribution to be made by Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, whose final meeting before the June European Council will take place on 5/6 June.   The Committee is also drawing its Report to the attention of the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committees.

Relocation of the European Police College (CEPOL)

In January the Committee reported on this draft Regulation which provides for the European Police College (CEPOL) to be relocated from its current base at Bramshill in Hampshire to Budapest, following the Government’s decision to sell the Bramshill site.   The proposal is subject to the UK’s Title V (justice and home affairs) opt-in and has wider implications for the UK’s block opt-out of pre-Lisbon police and criminal justice measures which will take effect on 1 December 2014.  The Committee accordingly recommended a debate on the opt-in, to take place in time to inform the Government's decision on whether or not to opt in. The opt-in deadline expired on 13 March without the debate having taken place.  The Committee requested an urgent explanation for the delay as well as a response to questions raised in its earlier Report chapters, including how CEPOL’s relocation costs are to be funded.   On 14 March, the Government wrote to inform the Committee that it had decided to opt into the draft Regulation.  In a further letter, the Government explains that the share of CEPOL’s relocation costs to be borne by the UK has not yet been determined.  It attributes the delay in scheduling a debate to “wider business management reasons” and says that the debate has now been scheduled for 30 April, nearly four months after it was first requested.  The Committee makes clear that all opt-in debates are time-critical and serve a vital dual purpose: to enable Parliament to express a view before the Government reaches a definitive position, and to ensure transparency and accountability for opt-in decisions.  It expects the Government to explain, during the debate on 30 April, the business management reasons which prevented it from scheduling a timely debate and seeks an undertaking that the Government will not support the adoption of the draft Regulation until the funding issue has been resolved.     

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Space policy
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Fisheries: total allowable catches for 2014; Fruit and vegetables producer organisations
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Responsible sourcing of minerals originating in conflict-affected and high risk areas; EU-Azerbaijan cooperation; Association Agreement with Georgia; Association Agreement with Moldova; the Cotonou Agreement and Madagascar; CSDP Mission in Niger; the EU and the Horn of Africa; EU-Singapore relations; EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo; HM Revenue & Customs: Customs
  • HM Treasury: European Union Solidarity Fund;
  • Transport: Seafarers.

The Committee’s Forty-sixth Report will be published shortly. The Committee’s Forty-fifth Report has now been published, covering Fuel quality; Restrictive measures against the regime in Myanmar/Burma; Coordination of social security between the EU and Switzerland; Statistics; Restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea; Implementing the Solidarity Clause; The EU and Ukraine: restrictive measures; Network and Information Security; Europe 2020 Strategy; EU training of Malian Armed Forces; and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office “Yellow Card”.

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