European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 30 October 2013

31 October 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary:  30 October 2013

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

European aid to the most deprived
In December 2012, the Committee reported on a draft Regulation to establish a Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, which sought to introduce, at an EU level, a mandatory scheme for the distribution of food and basic consumer goods.  The Committee shared the Government’s concerns that this breached the principle of subsidiarity (as the objective could be better achieved at a national level) and so recommended that the House debate and adopt a Reasoned Opinion.  Across the EU, the number of Reasoned Opinions did not reach the threshold that would require the Commission to reconsider the proposal. We have now been told by the Minister that a Presidency compromise text has been agreed and informal discussions are underway with the European Parliament.  We ask to be kept informed of the details of any prospective First Reading agreement.

EU Passenger Name Records (PNR) Agreement with Canada
These draft Council Decisions authorise the EU to sign and conclude a PNR Agreement with Canada which would set out a more comprehensive framework for PNR transfers.  As a justice and home affairs measure, they are subject to the UK’s JHA opt-in.  In our initial Report on the proposals, we asked the Minister what factors would determine whether the UK opted in or out of the Agreement.  The Committee drew attention to the striking differences between this Agreement and those between the EU and Australia and the US, respectively, with regard to the provisions on data retention and on the processing of sensitive data; we asked the Minister to explain them.  We now Report the Minister’s response but continue to hold the documents under scrutiny pending further information on the opt-in before its deadline of 26 November.

Adjustment of Direct Farm Payments for 2013
The EU’s annual budget must comply with the MFF and Council Regulation (EC) No. 73/2009 enables adjustments to be made to expenditure on of the Common Agricultural Policy if it appears the ceiling will be exceeded.  Earlier in the year, the Commission put forward a draft Regulation, which was debated in European Committee in June, and would have reduced direct farm payments.  However, as the European Parliament and Council were unable to adopt it by the deadline of 30 June, the Commission adopted an Implementing Regulation proposing a slightly smaller reduction and dropping the exemption threshold from €5,000 to €2,000. The Commission has subsequently put forward this draft Council Regulation, based on new information. The reduction in the payment rate would now be 2.45% but threshold of €2,000 would be retained.  The Government is satisfied with the reduction and is prepared to compromise on the threshold of €2,000, although it would prefer there be no exemption. Although the original proposal was debated, we report this update to the House because of the impact on the UK and the administrative implications for paying agencies.


The EU and Korea
In our Report of 11 September, we scrutinised a Draft Council Decision on an EU-Korea Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation.  At that time we acknowledged the political and economic significance of the Agreement but considered that there were outstanding legal questions to be resolved around the absence of a JHA legal base to cover the obligation to conclude a readmission agreement.  We reiterated our often-stated opinion that the Government cannot assert an opt-in in the absence of a Title V legal base in the proposal.  The revised proposal which we are now reporting splits the Decision on conclusion of the Agreement into two — one that covers the JHA content and has the relevant legal base, the other, the remaining content.  We welcome the decision and the clear the documents from scrutiny.

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

  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management; Nagoya Protocol: sharing of benefits from genetic sources;
  • Health: Health-enhancing physical activity;
  • HM Revenue and Customs: Union Customs Code;
  • HM Treasury: financial management; financial services: benchmarks; financial services: insurance and reinsurance;
  • International Development: Financing EU external action;
  • Transport: Inland waterways: vessel standards. 

The Committee’s report will be published during the week beginning 4 November 2013.

The Committee’s Nineteenth Report has been published, covering EU Regulatory Fitness; Evaluation of EU legislation; Financial audits; Restrictions against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus; CSDP Mission in Niger; EU-Georgia; EU-Ukraine; Reform of the EU’s Staff Regulations; Financial services: money market funds; EU General Budget; Customs: illicit trade in tobacco products; Instrument for Pre-Accession; European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps; Safety standards for fishermen; Inland waterway transport; Regulation of new psychoactive substances; European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Eurojust.

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