European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 04 September 2013

05 September 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary:  4 September 2013

The Committee considered a large batch of documents this week in its first meeting since the summer recess.

Tobacco Products Directive
The Committee held an oral evidence session with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, Anna Soubry MP, in July on the scrutiny override connected with this Directive.  This week we review further information supplied by the Department of Health in the light of the evidence session, and recommend the Draft Directive for debate in European Committee C.  We ask the Minister to provide a summary of the key changes to the Directive sought by the European Parliament, and the Government’s position on them, before that debate takes place.    

We report on two documents relating to the EU response to the Syrian crisis.  The first — a Joint Commission/High Representative Communication — reviews the conflict and its consequences both in Syria and neighbouring countries and describes a number of areas in which the EU should focus its efforts.  The second — a Council Regulation implementing already-agreed changes to the EU’s restrictive measures against the Assad regime — was kept under scrutiny in July pending further information.  We conclude that the Communication should be debated on the floor of the House.

Banking Union
This Draft Regulation is proposed by the Commission to establish, as the second pillar of the Banking Union, uniform rules and a uniform procedure for the resolution of credit institutions and certain investment firms (ie mechanisms to wind down such institutions, if they are failing, in an orderly way) in the framework of a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) and a Single Bank Resolution Fund.  The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum reiterates that the UK will not participate in any aspect of the Banking Union, including the SRM.  It raises a number of issues about the potential implications of the measure for non-participating Member States and some legal concerns.  We share these concerns and ask for Minister for further information about a number of aspects of the proposal.  Meanwhile it remains under scrutiny.

Defence policy
This Commission Communication proposes a number of high-level actions to improve the competitiveness of the European defence, technological and industrial base (EDTIB).  It is the Commission’s contribution to the defence industry element of the December 2013 European Council discussion of defence.  Subject to the Council discussion, the Commission intends to create a detailed roadmap with concrete actions and timelines, in conjunction with the European Defence Agency and the European External Action Service.  Some of the proposals cause the Government concern; calls for a strategic approach covering all aspects of military and non-military security and a wider political debate on the implementation of relevant provisions of the Lisbon Treaty are indeed potentially controversial.  We ask for a formal Opinion on the Communication from the Defence Committee, retaining it under scrutiny.


EU Passenger Name Record Agreement with Canada
These two draft Council Decisions authorise the signature and conclusion by the EU of an Agreement for the transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to Canada.  The PNR measure relating to the USA was the subject of a debate in January 2012 and was contentious in particular because of the long PNR data retention period (15 years).  The content of this proposed Agreement is similar but with some striking differences, for example the data retention period is only five years.  The Committee holds the draft Decisions under scrutiny and asks the Minister to explain the anomalies.

Data Protection
The Committee continues to monitor the negotiations on this Regulation and Directive, which were previously the subject of an Opinion from the Justice Committee.  Due to strong opposition from the UK and other Member States the Irish Presidency was unable to seek the intended partial general approach on the Regulation at the June JHA Council.  The Minister now reports that the negotiations on the Directive have proceeded at a slower pace than on the Regulation; that a vote in the European Parliament is expected on both proposals in the autumn; that a great deal of further work will be needed on all the issues raised by the Google litigation (not only the “right to be forgotten” but also the definitions of “data controller” and “data processor”); and that, as regards the US internet surveillance allegations, EU law on data protection does not extend to national security.  We ask the Minister to keep us informed of further developments and retain both documents under scrutiny.


Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: EU Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport – “Erasmus for All”; Collective redress; EU research and development programmes; Horizon 2020; the global dimension of European higher education; Euratom Fusion Research Programme; Regulatory needs of SMEs; Competition Policy 2012; the European Regional Development Fund; Global navigation satellite systems; EU Structural and Cohesion Fund Programmes;
  • Cabinet Office: Strengthening the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism; 
  • Communities and Local Government: National Roma integration strategies; 
  • Culture, Media and Sport: Return of objects unlawfully removed from a Member State; 
  • Defence: EU Satellite Centre;
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia; EU Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point and EU Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories; European neighbourhood Policy Action Plan between the EU and Morocco; Resources for EU decentralised agencies; Instrument for Stability; Comitology; EU relations with Fiji; European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan between the EU and Lebanon; EU Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the EU and Hezbollah; Commons Foreign and Security Policy; European External Action Service;
  • Home Office: Reforming Europol; Establishing a new Schengen evaluation mechanism; Trafficking in Firearms; Development and Migration; 
  • HM Treasury: EU General Budget 2013; Multiannual Financial Frame work 2014-20; Financial management; Financing the EU economy; European Globalisation Adjustment Fund; Protecting the EU’s Financial Interests; Draft Budget 2014; 
  • International Development: EU support for democratic governance; Resilience: learning from food security crises; 
  • Justice: EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; Protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law; Accession by Malta and Austria to the Hague Service Convention; 
  • Office for National Statistics: Statistics; 
  • Transport: Civil aviation: passenger protection; Single European Sky; Moveable assets; Safety of fishing vessels; Carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport; 
  • Work and Pensions: European Globalisation Adjustment Fund; EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation; Youth unemployment.

The Committee’s report will be published later in the month.

The Committee’s Twelfth Report has now been published, covering Draft budget 2014; Action Plan for the Steel Industry; Financial services:  bank accounts; Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy; Application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; Award of concession contracts; public procurement; Protection against ionising radiation; safety of nuclear installations; Management of expenditure on agri-food health measures; Food and Agriculture Organisation; EU enlargement: Serbia and Kosovo; EU-Ukraine; CSDP Mission in Niger; EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation agreement; Entry and residence of third country nationals; Customs: tobacco smuggling and other illicit trade; General Budget; Statistics; Moveable assets; intelligent transport systems; road safety : eCall; Co-operation between public employment services.

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