European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 11 September 2013

12 September 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary:  11 September 2013

In the second week of the September sitting the Committee considered the following documents:

Eurojust, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
This interlinked set of proposals are the subject of a separate Committee Report.  Taken together they amount to far-reaching reform of key aspects of EU criminal law measures.  The Government’s non-participation in the EPPO was indicated as part of the Coalition Agreement; it is yet to announce its decision on Eurojust (although it has announced that it will seek to rejoin the current Eurojust measures as part of the ‘2014 decision’).   The Committee notes the fact that the Government has offered an opt-in debate on the floor of the House on Eurojust and the EPPO, and makes specific recommendations relating to the relevance of the OLAF proposals to that debate. We also recommend that the House agrees to submit a Reasoned Opinion to the European Institutions on the EPPO proposal, on the grounds that it does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity.

EU Accession to the ECHR
This draft Council Decision has already been the subject of a lengthy scrutiny process and over the last six months there has been an exchange of correspondence between the Committee and the Ministry of Justice about the negotiations.  The latest development is that the Commission has referred the “provisionally agreed Accession Agreement” to the ECJ for an opinion on the Agreement’s compatibility with the EU Treaties.  Member states are able to intervene in the process; the Minister confirms that the UK intends to do so and has asked the Committee for its comments.  We set out our concerns both about the Agreement and regarding what we see as a premature approach by the Commission to the ECJ, given that a set of Internal Rules have not yet been produced.  The document remains under scrutiny.

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
The aim of this proposal is to replace the EU’s Food Distribution Programme with the new Fund.  The draft Regulation has been held by the Committee under scrutiny since December 2012 and was the subject of a Reasoned Opinion, the Committee sharing the Government’s concern that there was an insufficient justification for EU action.  We report a letter from the Minister for Employment updating us on negotiations and responding to two issues we raised about consultation with stakeholders and the administrative and cost burdens associated with implementing the Fund.  We are keeping the draft Regulation under scrutiny pending further information on the compromise text which the Presidency is expected to produce later in September.

A decent life for all: ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future
This Commission Communication sets out the Commission’s view on the international post-2015 development agenda.  It brings together the debate about what international framework should succeed the Millennium Development Goals and the process to establish new Sustainable Development Goals arising from the Rio+20.  We recommend that it should be debated in European Committee after the forthcoming UN High Level Event to enable interested Members to hear from, and question, the Ministers about the Event’s outcome. We note that another document we report on (but retain under scrutiny) – on Financing post-2015 development - will also be relevant to that debate.

Relations between the EU and Overseas Countries and Territories
This draft Council Decision succeeds a previous measure and aims to provide a framework for the promotion of the OCTs’ economic and social development and to establish close economic relations between them and the EU as a whole.  The Government’s position is to work with the Commission, Territory Governments and other Member States to ensure that the final text is in the best interest of the UK’s overseas territories.  We recommend that the document is debated in European Committee as soon as possible after the conference recess, to enable the Minister to outline the outcome of the negotiations properly to the many Members interested in the Overseas Territories, and for them to question him about the final shape of this important Council Decision, prior to its formal adoption. 

Flight time limitations
We received this week a response from the Transport Select Committee to our request for a formal Opinion on significant Commission proposals relating to flight time limitations, which regulate the number of hours that pilots and crew work in order to prevent fatigue.  We welcome the Committee’s quick response to our request and, given the outstanding concerns which have been raised by and with that Committee, we refer the document for debate in a European Committee.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Damages in competition law; EU research and development programmes; Horizon 2020: public-private partnerships; European Social Fund; 
  • Culture, Media and Sport: Creative Europe Programme; 
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Shipments of waste; 
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Restrictive measures against the regime in Burma/Myanmar; EU-Korea Framework Agreement; 
  • HMRC: Customs: illicit trade in tobacco products; 
  • HM Treasury: Financial services : long term investment funds; EU Solidarity Fund; Financial services: central securities depositaries;
  • International Development: Financing EU external action; European Year of Development; 
  • Office for National Statistics: Statistics; 
  • Transport: Fuel quality; Intra-EU shipping.

The Committee’s report will be published on its website.

The Committee’s Thirteenth Report covers the Tobacco Products Directive; Syria; Banking Union; Defence policy; EU Passenger Name Record Agreement with Canada; Data Protection; 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; Strengthening the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism; National Roma integration strategies; Return of objects unlawfully removed from a Member State; EU Satellite Centre; 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; Reforming Europol; Establishing a new Schengen evaluation mechanism; Trafficking in Firearms; Development and Migration; 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; EU support for democratic governance; Resilience: learning from food security crises; 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; Statistics; Civil aviation: passenger protection; Single European Sky; Moveable assets; Safety of fishing vessels; Carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport; European Globalisation Adjustment Fund; EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation; Youth unemployment.

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