European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 21 May 2013

21 May 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 21 May 2013

Reforming Europol – important proposals to be the subject of an opt-in debate

The Committee reports this week on a Draft Regulation which would merge the functions of Europol and the European Police College (CEPOL) within a single EU Agency for Law Enforcement Co-operation and Training, and change the arrangements for parliamentary scrutiny of the new Agency’s activities and budget.  The Minister recognises that these measures are likely to be of strong interest to Parliament and has therefore offered a debate on the Floor of the House on a motion setting out the Government’s recommended approach to the opt-in.  The Committee analyses the proposals, accepts the Minister’s offer of an opt-in debate, raises concerns about a number of aspects of the Regulation and asks the Home Affairs Committee for an Opinion.  We also report on a related Commission Communication on European law enforcement training.

Disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by companies

We also report on a Draft Directive which would require companies to provide more information in their annual reports on non-financial matters and board diversity.  The Commission is proposing that where a company has more than 500 employees, and either a balance sheet in excess of €20 million or a net turnover of more than € 40 million, its annual report should include a non-financial statement containing information relating to environmental, social and employee matters, human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters, with certain exceptions.  There is also a proposed requirement for listed companies to include information on their diversity policy.  The draft Directive is being held under scrutiny pending further information from the Government about the outcome of stakeholder consultations and the costs and benefits of the proposed approach.

EU enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy

Reports relating to EU enlargement and the EU’s wider neighbourhood are covered this week.  The first Commission Report lays the ground for discussion at the 25 June General Affairs Council on the possibility of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia opening accession negotiations, and Kosovo opening negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The second set of documents includes individual progress reports for those countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), as well as a Joint Communication “Working towards a stronger partnership”. Both sets of proposals are cleared, although further information is requested from the Minister about certain aspects of the enlargement negotiations.

Data protection regulation in the EU

This draft Regulation and Directive have been held under scrutiny since March 2012 and were the subject of an Opinion from the Justice Committee last year.  The Committee has now been told that a partial general approach may be sought by the Irish Presidency on the first four chapters of the proposed Regulation at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in early June.  We share the Government’s misgivings about any premature agreement of a partial general approach, given the complexity of these proposals, and also ask the Minister to consider whether the latest redraft is sufficiently different to the original proposal to warrant it being deposited with us for fresh scrutiny.

Horizon 2020: First reading agreement in prospect

Horizon 2020 is the umbrella term for a package of measures establishing the legal framework and budget for EU expenditure on research and innovation for the period 2014-20.  EU-level research and innovation programmes are important for industry, academia and research organisations in the UK, so we have followed these proposals closely and kept them under scrutiny since January 2012.  The Presidency is keen to secure a First Reading agreement on most of the elements of the package by the end of June, and the Minister – who expects there to be scope for a satisfactory compromise deal – has asked the Committee to clear the proposals from scrutiny, a request we have agreed to.

EUBAM Libya  - local capacity

Following our report earlier in the month about steps to establish an Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya), we now clear the document, having received a comprehensive reply from the Minister demonstrating local operational-level commitment.

Deploying high-speed electronic communication networks – Reasoned Opinion considered in European Committee

The draft Reasoned Opinion reported last week was debated in European Committee on Monday 20 May and is to be considered (without debate) on the floor of the House on 21 May, in order to meet the Reasoned Opinion deadline of the end of the month.  The Committee has received letters supportive of its conclusions from the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the National Assembly for Wales and the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: EUPOL Afghanistan; the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo; and Restrictive measures against Zimbabwe.
  • Department for Transport: a draft Regulation on the sound levels of motor vehicles.
  • Cabinet Office: a draft Directive on the re-use of Public Sector Information.
  • HM Treasury:  a Green Paper on Financing of the EU economy; and the 2013 General Budget.
  • Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: a Commission Communication and draft Decision on Space Policy;  a Commission Communication and draft Regulation on EU trade defence instruments; a Directive on Regulating collecting societies; a draft Council Regulation on the Application of EU State aid rules; a draft Directive on the Posting of workers and a draft Regulation and Directive on Reforms to the EU’s trade mark regime.
  • Department of Health: the Health for Growth Programme 2014-20.
  • Department for International Development: a Commission Communication and Council Decision on Financing EU external action; and a Council Decision on Somalia and the Cotonou Agreement.
  • Home Office: a draft Council Decision on trafficking in firearms.
  • Ministry of Justice: a Directive on the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law.
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: a Council Decision relating to the International Organisation for Vine and Wine; and a Commission Communication on the Strategy for adaptation to climate change.

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

Image: iStockphoto

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