European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 9 October 2013

10 October 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary:  9 October 2013

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

EU Support for policing in Afghanistan
This Joint Staff Working Document, prepared by the Commission and the European External Action Service, initiates the debate that the Council has said that it would hold in the second half of 2013 on the role of the EU in Afghanistan in the coming years.  Negotiations in Brussels on renewing the EUPOL mandate for the period after 2014 are ongoing, with the UK pushing for a decision by the end of 2013. The Government continues to believe that EUPOL remains a strong and effective mechanism for delivering specialist leadership training and mentoring of the Afghan police and has a key role after 2014, but other Member States have argued that there remain too many unknowns for the EU to make a decision about post-2014 activity.  The Committee retains the document under scrutiny and asks the Minister to clarify what the next stages of discussion at EU level will be, and the implications for parliamentary scrutiny.

Financial services: payment services
This draft Directive, draft Regulation and Commission Report present a package of proposals intended to enhance competition and transparency in the payments industry across the EU, and ensure that the level of consumer protection is sufficient and harmonised.  The draft Directive would regulate interchange fees (fees set by the card network and paid by the merchant’s bank to the customer’s bank for the acceptance of card-based transactions) within the EU and would introduce a cap on the level of interchange fee.  The Government is still considering the detail of the proposal; we ask to be updated as its thinking develops and keep the documents under scrutiny.

Financial management
The Commission is required to report annually on protection of the EU’s financial interests and on the fight against fraud, a shared responsibility between the Commission and Member States.  This Report covers 2012 and includes particular examination on new measures taken by Member States to implement their obligations in the area of agricultural policy.  As is customary, we recommend this important document for debate in European Committee, given that fraud against the EU’s financial interests remains a significant concern.

Invasive alien species
The Commission has put forward this draft Regulation to propose measures to address the introduction and spread of invasive alien species, and to limit the damage they cause.  The species, which must not be native to any Member State, will be placed on a list of a maximum of 50 such species to be agreed after the Regulation comes into force.  Member States will be required to establish Action Plans to identify and address pathways for the introduction of alien species, surveillance systems, border checks and early detection systems.  They will also be required to undertake rapid eradication measures for species of Union concern which arrive within their territory; management measures for those species which are not suitable for eradication; and proportionate measures to restore ecosystems which have been damaged. The Government supports the general principles of the proposal, but takes the view that a number of aspects of the proposal are unclear.  The Committee asks for clarification and holds the document under scrutiny.

Package and assisted travel arrangements
With this Communication and draft Directive the Commission proposes revisions to EU legislation governing the protection available to buyers of package holidays.  The existing Directive dates from 1990 and since then the structure of the travel market has been transformed.  The new draft Directive aims to modernise and clarify the scope of the protection available to travellers by bringing within its scope different forms of on-line and assisted travel arrangements.  The Government recognises the need for change, and intends to consult on whether the Commission has reached acceptable conclusions on where the Directive will apply, and the implications for the UK’s ATOL scheme.  Pending the outcome of these consultations the Committee is holding the documents under scrutiny.

EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
This Council Decision was originally cleared on 17 July, with further information requested.  It authorises conclusion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Indonesia.  When we last reported we welcomed the decision to split the Council Decision to conclude the Agreement into two Decisions – one covering JHA provisions (a readmission provision), to which the UK’s opt-in applied; the other concerning non-JHA measures.  We thought this approach provided for greater legal certainty about the UK’s participation in JHA measures in international agreements, something we have called for since early in this Parliament.  But we noted that the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum was silent on the Government’s approach to the opt-in, so we asked the Minister to explain both the reasons for this oversight and the policy considerations which led the Government to decide to opt out of the readmission provision.  The Minister’s reply is disappointing and does not contain the detail or explanation we would expect; we ask for a further reply.


Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Business, Innovation and Skills: Global navigation satellite systems; Posting of Workers; Euratom funding of the ITER project; 
  • Cabinet Office: Building Open ICT Systems; Electronic procurement invoicing in public procurement;
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office:  EU Cooperation with Egypt in the Field of Governance; EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa;  Restrictive measures against Zimbabwe;
  • Home Office: Repeal of an EU funding instrument to enhance protection against terrorism and other security-related incidents;
  • International Development: the EU/ACP Partnership Agreement; EU development assistance in 2012; Action Plan for Resilience in crisis prone countries; 
  • Justice: Brussels I Regulation and the Unified Patent Court; 
  • Office for National Statistics: Statistics; 
  • Transport: Single European Sky: air traffic management; Emission reductions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

The Committee’s report will be issued on the publications page of the Committee's website.

The Committee’s Thirteenth and Fourteenth Reports – covering all documents considered during the September sitting – have now been published.

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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