Justice and Home Affairs Council

Home Department written statement – made at on 2 April 2009.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (also in the Home Office), Home Office, Minister of State (also in the Home Office), HM Treasury

The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council will be held in Luxembourg on 6 April 2009. My noble Friend Lord Bach, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the Scottish Minister for Community Safety (Fergus Ewing) and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues will be discussed at the Council:

Justice Ministers will be asked to reach a general approach on the draft framework decision on the prevention and settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction. This instrument is intended to promote dialogue and closer co-operation between member states' competent authorities with a view to preventing double jeopardy situations.

The Commission will present a proposal to amend the 2003 Council framework decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The revised proposal aims to tackle the challenges to the criminal law across Europe posed by the speed of change of internet related child abuse, and issues around the management of sex offenders who travel to commit offences. The UK supports work on combating the sexual exploitation of children including the distribution of images of child sexual abuse, and measures that further enable member states to tackle sex offenders who cross borders.

The Commission will present a proposal to amend a 2002 framework decision on combating human trafficking. The original framework decision introduced an obligation on member states to have in their national laws some common minimum offences and penalties for this conduct. The Commission's proposal will revise and update that framework decision and will need to be negotiated at working group level before it can be presented to the JHA Council for agreement. To be fully effective this instrument will need to achieve the right balance between prevention, enforcement and victim care.

The presidency will inform Justice Ministers about the conclusions of a conference that took place in Prague on 17 and 18 March on the standing of vulnerable victims in criminal proceedings.

The Council will revisit the discussion on the appointment of the new Europol director since an agreement was not reached at the last Council.

The presidency will seek political agreement on the directive for a single application procedure for third-country nationals. The proposed directive comprises two parts. The first would prescribe a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a member state. The second part would prescribe a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a member state. The UK has not opted into the draft directive.

There will be a presentation to update the Council on the European security research and innovation forum by Mr Dragutin Mate, the chairman of ESRIF and former Interior Minister of Slovenia. ESRIF is currently completing a report that is intended to chart the EU's security research and innovation requirements over the next 10 to 20 years. The UK supports the objectives of ESRIF and the production of its final report.

During the Mixed Committee with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein, Ministers will be asked to report on progress in implementing the second generation of the Schengen information system (SIS II), in the light of the Council conclusions adopted at the last Council which identified the need to resolve problems in the central system. The UK remains of the view that we need a decision in June on the future of SIS II. The Council is also expected to adopt conclusions on the development of the SIRENE bureaux. These are not relevant to the UK since they concern arrangements for the operation of the current Schengen information system, to which the UK is not a party.

The presidency will present to the Mixed Committee the current state of play on the implementation of the regulation establishing the visa information system (VIS). The UK does not participate in that regulation.

Lastly, the presidency is expected to congratulate Switzerland on the successful completion of its air borders evaluation allowing it to lift checks on persons at its air borders on 29 March 2009.

Under AOB in the main Council session, there will be a presentation by the Commission on the state of negotiations relating to the EC re-admission agreement with Morocco. The UK welcomes progress made by the Commission but wants to see these efforts taken forward, especially in view of the time that the mandate has been opened. There will also be a report on the state of play in relation to ratification of the EU-US extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements. The Commission will provide Justice Ministers with an overview of the EU funds available to support e-justice. Finally, information will be provided on the visit between VP Commissioner Barrot and Czech Minister of Interior Langer to the US.