Thursday, 26 February 2004

Questions (79, 80)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

76 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the outcome of talks at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 19 February 2004 in Brussels regarding the proposed establishment of a European intelligence agency as a European counterpart to the CIA; and the Government’s position as represented at the meeting. [6381/04]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

81 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 19 February 2004 in Brussels, particularly with respect to the status of plans for moving forward with the common migration and asylum policies; the Government’s position on the way in which these policies should be shaped; the developments the Government anticipates in advance of the next Council meeting on 31 March 2004; and if these policies will in fact be concluded during the Irish Presidency of the EU. [6380/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 81 together.

I chaired the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs, JHA, Council in Brussels on 19 February 2004. The Council discussed a range of issues and significant progress was made on a number of agenda items.

The issues discussed included, in the context of the development of common asylum policies, the proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards on procedures in member states for granting and withdrawing refugee status, the procedures directive, and the proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection, the qualifications directive .

There was an orientation debate on the procedures directive. The objective of this proposal is, inter alia, to establish minimum procedures in member states for examining applications for asylum. The main focus of the debate was on the appeals element of the proposed directive. In light of the debate, the Presidency will bring forward further proposals with a view to reaching an agreement by the 1 May 2004 deadline set by the Amsterdam treaty. There was also a discussion on the qualifications directive. The purpose of this proposal is to provide a framework for an international protection regime based on existing international and community obligations and the current practice of member states. The intention is that both proposals will be further examined at the March JHA Council when the Presidency hopes that progress can be made with a view to reaching agreement by the 1 May 2004 deadline set by the Amsterdam treaty.

The Council also provided an opportunity for the Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Javier Solana, to make a presentation on the European security strategy, A Secure Europe in a Better World. Austria, in the context of that discussion, also put forward a number of ideas as to how the European security strategy might be implemented including,inter alia, a proposal for the establishment of a European intelligence agency. The Presidency undertook to reflect further on how the JHA Council could best contribute to the development of the ESS in keeping with the mandate given to the Irish Presidency by the European Council to take forward work on the strategy.

Progress was made on a number of other items at the Council, including agreement on a Council regulation on establishing a programme for financial and technical assistance to third countries in the area of migration and asylum; a Council recommendation concerning a security handbook concerning co-operation between member states for the purpose of preventing terrorist acts at the Olympic Games and other comparable sporting events; Council conclusions arising from the Three Year Report of the European Police College, CEPOL, and the development of the visa information system, VIS; two important outstanding questions in the context of the ongoing negotiations recognition to confiscation orders; and the establishment of a Friends of the Presidency Group for the purpose of drawing up a report on organised crime originating in the western Balkans.

There was also a discussion on the implementation of the European arrest warrant and a presentation by the Commission on its proposal for a Council regulation on the standards for the security features and biometrics in EU citizens' passports. This proposal will now be examined in the relevant Council framework.