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Mrs Theresa May - Home Office

A meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council will be held on 3-4 December. 3 December will be Justice Day, and my rt hon Friend James Brokenshire MP and my noble Friend Lord Faulks QC, Minister for Civil Justice, will attend. 4 December will be Interior Day, and I will attend on behalf of the UK.

The Justice Day will begin with the Luxembourg Presidency seeking political agreement to the proposed Regulation on promoting the free movement of citizens and businesses by simplifying the acceptance of certain public documents in the EU. This proposal covers the abolition of apostilles for eligible documents, production of multilingual translation aids for certain categories, rationalisation of certified copies and translations and administrative cooperation between Member States through an online system. The proposal is generally supported by the UK as a means of reducing bureaucracy for citizens.

This will be followed by a state of play update by the Presidency on the Directive for the protection of the Unions financial interests, reporting back to Ministers following October Council and subsequent working party meetings. The Presidency proposes that the VAT issue needs to be explored further in order to take the file forward. An agreement in principle has been reached at official level to discuss VAT fraud at a joint Justice/Finance meeting.

There will then be a discussion on the proposed European Public Prosecutors Office (EPPO) where the Presidency will likely seek to agree a partial general approach to the EPPOs competence. The UK will not participate in any EPPO.

The Presidency will also be seeking conclusion to the negotiation of the proposals on Matrimonial Property Regimes and the Property Consequences of Registered Partnerships. The UK has not opted in to either proposal. Negotiations recently resumed following a period of reflection initiated by the Italian Presidency at the end of last year. It is as yet unclear whether the differences between some Member States, in particular regarding the status of same-sex relationships, will be capable of resolution. Given that these proposals must be agreed by unanimity it is possible that one or more Member States might veto one or both of them.

There will then be a short update on the role of judicial cooperation, and particularly Eurojust, in addressing the current migration crisis. This issue was discussed at the October Council, and we do not expect a significant debate at this meeting.

There will then be a general discussion on the Fight against Online Hate Speech, which has been the focus of attention in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and the current refugee movements. We expect the discussion to focus on the value of EU-wide, cross-border collaboration; this includes the need for effective counter-narratives and for internet industry partners to take more responsibility for content hosted on their platforms.

This will be followed by a discussion on the challenges encountered by Member States in obtaining and sharing electronic evidence in criminal investigations and proceedings. We will stress the importance of Member States using the full range of investigative tools to investigate and use of this type of evidence.

Finally, there will be a discussion on data retention. The Presidency wishes to have a detailed discussion following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of Digital Rights Ireland (C-293/12) which invalidated the Data Retention Directive. We will continue to argue that, given the importance of this issue, the consequences of any new legislation in this area must be thought through very carefully before any new proposal is considered.

The Interior Day will begin with a discussion on the Passenger Name Records (PNR) Directive. The Government supports the call made by the 20 November Extraordinary JHA Council for the Directive to be agreed by the end of the year, and for it to include intra-EEA flights within its scope. The Presidency is likely to give a progress report and, if necessary, we will call for a greater focus on meeting the Councils target.

The Council is then expected to confirm political agreement on the new draft Regulation governing Europol, proposed by the Commission in 2013. The UK has not opted in to this proposal, so does not have a vote. The Government will consider whether to apply to opt in post-adoption.

The Council is also expected to confirm political agreement on the draft Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training, voluntary service and au pairing (the Students and Researchers Directive). The UK has not opted in to this Directive so again does not have a vote.

The Council will discuss the proposal for a Regulation establishing a crisis relocation mechanism and the accompanying amendment to the Dublin Regulation. The Governments position on relocation measures is clear: we think they are the wrong response and we will not opt in. The Government is also of the view that amending the Dublin Regulation is unnecessary and risks undermining a vital tool in managing asylum claims within the EU. The fundamental principles underpinning the Dublin Regulation remain sound and the upcoming review should be used as an opportunity to improve the operation of the Regulation.

The Presidency will look to progress negotiations on the draft Directive establishing an EU list of safe third countries. Discussions will focus on which countries should be included in the list and next steps. The Government acknowledges the value of such lists and the UK has successfully operated its own national list for many years. We see no added value to the UK in being part of an EU wide list.

The CT agenda item will commence with a presentation, based on a paper, by the Counter Terrorism Coordinator. The presentation reviews progress made against a European Council Statement of 12 February 2015, on ensuring the security of citizens, preventing radicalisation and safeguarding values, and cooperating with our international partners. The presentation will be followed by a discussion. The UK will welcome agreement of the implementing regulation on firearms deactivation and push for a robust revised firearms directive including a prohibition on high powered semi-automatic weapons. We will also seek to agree in principle burden sharing commitments to improve aviation security standards in priority third countries and assert that a common approach for the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SISII) should be prioritised in order to strengthen the external border of the EU. The UK will welcome support for Europol through the Europol regulation whilst reiterating that information sharing should not encroach on Member State competence in matters of national security. Post Paris there has been increased appetite for meaningful change to the security framework in Europe, as evidenced by ambitious Council Conclusions agreed on 20 November. Against this backdrop we believe our asks will be well received.

The Presidency will present their report on the implementation of the renewed Internal Security Strategy (2015-2019). The report sets out the progress made on the Strategy under their Presidency, which is being led and monitored by the Committee on Internal Security (COSI). This work will continue under the forthcoming Dutch Presidency.

We then expect the discussion to move to the migration situation, where the Presidency wishes to monitor the implementation of existing measures and discuss future action.

We expect this discussion to include an update on the development of hotspots and on the assistance that Member States are providing to Frontex and European Asylum Support Office. It is also likely to build on the conclusions of the 20 November Council that there should be systematic checks at external Schengen borders on all persons including EU citizens. I will reiterate a key message from my interventions at the JHA Councils on 9 November and 20 November in relation to strengthening of the EU external border, where I noted that the EU is seeing an unprecedented interaction between organised crime and migration. I also intend to call again for reciprocal access to key data between Schengen and non-Schengen countries, join others in pressing for the immediate implementation of effective hotspots, and reiterate my support for the long-established principle that asylum seekers should seek protection in the first safe country they reach the keystone of the Dublin system.

Finally, there will be a discussion on the situation in the Schengen area, based on the latest information from the Presidency. The UK does not participate in the border controls elements of Schengen. However, we will follow these discussions closely as there is, in our view, an intrinsic connection between the strength of the external border of the EU and security within the EU, as well as the need to improve the management of the external border given continuing migratory pressures. It is therefore imperative that the EU takes further urgent steps to strengthen the external border.

 


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