EUROPEAN SUB COMMITTEE MEETING
17 January 2002
Kingsley Napley Solicitors
Present: Elspeth Guild
Maria Muriel Sanchez
Nicola reported that the Dublin II, Labour Migration and Students Scoreboards had all now gone out. There was no response yet. All scoreboards are posted on the ILPA website under "submissions".
Nicola is seeking help on the Refugee scoreboard and will approach Agnes Horowitz at Oxford who may be able to assist.
The Students scoreboard will be finalised by Steve, Nick will provide comments by the end of the week. Jan wants to have a meeting ILPA on this.
Steve and Helen reported back on their meeting with the Commission on the Citizen’s rights scoreboard. A separate report was provided to the meeting which Steve and Helen presented. The meeting was attended by Mr Brun, the Head of Unit at the Commission. They indicated that they were concerned that the proposal would never be agreed in its current format and that member states had grave reservations about widening the definition of family members. A further meeting may be organised over the next few weeks.
Helen sent the scoreboard to the European Parliaments Rapporteur (Ana Palacio). She has had a response and there is a willingness to meet in the next few weeks. No report has been prepared by the EP Committee dealing with the proposal and there was a chance to present ILPA's views on this to them before the report is produced.
There may also be other EP Committees producing reports which deal with the Citizen's Rights Proposals such as the Internal Market Committee and Steve and Helen will try and find out which committees these are and provide with them ILPA's response.
With regard to the Commission's Communication on Illegals Ryzard is producing a draft response to the Communication. Nicola will approach the clerk to the House of Lords Sub Committee F and ask them if they are going to look at the communication. She will suggest that they should and we can give evidence.
On the CEEC Association Agreements the Home Office Policy have not yet been publicised. Nick is preparing a draft letter to go to Clinton Neild to Policy to ask for their clear guidance on overstayers, illegal entrance, back log cases and how these will be dealt with. Clinton Neild has indicated that the Home Office are justified in removing all those who have applied who are over stayers or illegal unless they are "not removable". Nick assumes that this means that only those who benefit under existing Home Office concessions (14 years, children with 7 years residence etc) will be able to remain.
Nick's view is that those who applied before the Home Office policy became clear, (possibly up to Mike O'Brien's letter of 14 April 1998 to the Aire Centre clarifying the Home Office policy) should have their cases looked at compassionately, as there was a legitimate expectation when their applications were made that they would be regularised as others had been prior to them. In addition, there were concerns about whether the merits of each case should be looked, including issues such as the effective destruction of existing businesses, the prejudice of having to wait 5 years for an application to be considered and the impact on local economies (employment of British nationals etc) would have where the Home Office were insisting on removal. Nick was also very keen to get the Home Office's guidance on Barkoci type cases where people had applied on entry and the Home Office's view on those who applied on entry on first arrival. In one particular instance, the BCU had suggested that a non visa national who needed to travel but who could not get their application prioritised by the BCU could simply arrive back at the port of entry and submit an application at the port (although they did add a caveat that this issue was currently under review). There seems to be a recognition that this may be a possibly and Nick will push this with the Home Office.
Also on the CEEC judgments, the Court will look at the non discrimination clause in the case of Pockrewicz-Meyer on 29 January. The AG's opinion was very positive and stated that the non discrimination clause was directly effective in the same way as provisions in respect of EC national workers. It is hoped that the Court will follow this opinion.
Nick is chasing the Home Office for guidance on Savas which is due out this month
On the Labour Migration proposal, Don thought that the Irish may have opted into the proposal at the end of December. Nicola will ask IND about this when she has a meeting with them on 22 January 2001.
Don reported back on the TUC Conference and the handbook published jointly by TUC and JCWI. Don encouraged members to approach the TUC to obtain a copy of the handbook. Don also reported back on his meeting with ETUC - they were adamant that they were opposed to the admission of migrants in principle and wished to follow a quotas model.
The Sub-Committee took the opportunity to review its work so far on the Community's proposals under Title IV and of the strategy which was agreed upon and begun with the publication of ILPA/MPG's Amsterdam Proposal. The policy of seeking to influence the Commission in its proposal had been remarkably successful. The Amsterdam proposals were widely used as a reference tool by those in the Commission responsible for drafting and various members of the sub-committee had been able to make presentations to the Commission before publication of a number of proposals. In addition, the numerous scoreboards were produced had been widely circulated and there had been very positive responses to the comments made in the scoreboards from many quarters.
We are now reaching the end of the first stage of the first 5 year period under Amsterdam - the Commission have all but completed its proposals on immigration and asylum and those are now out for discussion by the EP and adoption by the Council. However, there were significant doubts about the likely progress which the Community would make on adopting these measures or being able to agree any of the proposals. In addition, there were concerns about the Council's actions, particularly in its recent unilateral adoption of the member state's proposals without specific reference to the EP.
The problems which were identified were that at present we had little or no influence or response from the Council and in particular in COREPER II and representatives sitting on Council working groups. There is an additional problem of getting the message across to civil society as well.
Further, the role of scoreboards was also discussed and their effectiveness of getting our message across both in terms of criticism and of publicising problems with Community proposals more widely.
In addition, the Tampere conclusions which had been used by the Commission to justify seeking equal treatment for third country nationals and upholding the Geneva Convention could in possibly provide a precedent for using presidency conclusions as a basis of finding a way forward.
The issues we need to look at are:-
Nicola started by commenting that the Committee worked extremely hard and congratulated everyone for their very hard work in the past year. Whether the sub-committee is too critical or not in its scoreboards, ILPA's position always has to be one of principle-the scoreboard had clear principles. Most of the Commission proposals had been scoreboarded and commented on and we now needed to look at how we can use the scoreboards in the future and get civil society to engage in the process.
Don's view was that the reason we had made such an impact to date was because we had been able to influence the Commission. However, when we moved beyond that to try and influence the European Council, we should recall that they were representing national interests. They were confronted with the reality of government policy and many of the proposals and the comments we have made in our scoreboards would not down go well ( for example, the family union proposal in Germany) at national level.
With regard to the European Parliament , the group discussed the importance on focussing on the EP during the next phase of the EU legislative process. The group assessed its current contacts with current MEPs. Don was very keen to organise a seminar to the European Parliament reviewing all the proposed states and putting forward ILPA's view.
The current MEPs who were on side on these issues were:
Nick, Don and Nicola would try and contact their respective MEPs to try and see whether we could get a meeting organised for March
As far as civil society is concerned we have done extremely well, the example is the European Parliaments economic and social affairs committee who in some cases have even been ahead of ILPA. Don's view was that what we next needed to do was to offer to assist people in a network across the EU to engage with their national governments and help them in their lobbying. It may be that we need to identify the key countries which will move the agenda forward over the next few years and use the scoreboards to target those countries and to assist NGOs to seek to influence the debate nationally.
It was extremely important to identify the council working groups and to obtain council agendas and in particular COREPER agendas. Steve was aware that in May 1999 there was a list of all the working groups and its members and there are also committees on immigration and asylum. Don and Nicola will ask to see if they can find out who is on them. When Helen and Steve next go to the European Parliament, they will also ask who is responsible for these issues in the council.
Elspeth reported back on the names of two Council members:
· Martino Cossu (migration ).
· Guillermo TRONCOSO (asylum)
The sub-committee then went on to look at influencing the debate in the UK.
The House of Lords Sub-Committee have scrutinised many of the Commission's proposals and communications and have produced excellent reports. Nick, Don, Nicola and Steve amongst others have appeared before the Committee on behalf of ILPA and JCWI and Elspeth has appeared as an individual expert.
There was concern, however, about whether or not there was a possibility of getting the Commons Committees interest. Alison had attended a Chatham House meeting with 50 MPs who were interested in issues relating to immigration. There were also lists of MPs attending at Wilton Park. We therefore need to obtain a list of any MPs who are interested in this area.
Don also stated that we need to prepare something that was much more digestible for an audience of MPs rather than forwarding scoreboards. Don suggested something of about 2,000 words. Elspeth was aware that Justice was currently preparing a paper which was aimed particularly at MPs and we would contact Justice to see what their role was.
It was also important to assess what we would need to do now in approaching the Commission, the Parliament and the Council on each of the proposals currently out.
Steve would prepare a schedule of the "road map" for each of the proposals and details of when we needed to intervene and make further submissions or have meetings and with whom. The schedule would set out when the EP's reports are due to be out, when these matters will be debated in Parliament and so on.
We also needed to obtain a list of all of the Rapporteurs in the EP's Committees that were looking at these issues so they could all be targeted at the same time.
It was also important to look at national implementation and what is happening on the proposals where the UK has opted in such as carrier sanctions, expulsions and Eurodac.
There was a discussion about the role of the Convention Group which seem to be one of the ideas which the Spanish Presidency was pushing. We need to be able to address that body and in particular to look at seeking to influencing it in making sure that the charter had a legal validity as the constitutional basis of the EU, which was currently unsatisfactory because the charter was not incorporated. Steve would prepare a memo of the main points that we might want to make to the Convention which will be ready for the next meeting.
There seemed to be a welcomed backlash from the government against the anti terrorism crowd. It was important that the anti terrorism lobby was not given legitimacy.
One of our main concerns was the UK government’s seeming intention to get away from the absolute obligations contained in Article 3 ECHR. Apparently there is Home Office paper which seeks to follow the “exclusion before inclusion” in view of Article 3 and to support arguments that Article 3 is not absolute. The Canadian Supreme Court recently made some comments in its decision in Suresh that in exceptional circumstances, Article 3 did not provide absolute protection. These comments may be in the white paper and we will need to look at it.
With regard to the presidency it was important to note that Spain was chairing council meetings and was effectively responsible for the redrafts. We would need to try to get on board with the Spanish Presidency people inside the Council.
The role of civil society also needed to be considered further as well as the press which will be further considered at our next meeting.
Next Meeting: Tuesday 26 February at 6:30pm at
Kingsley Napley, 14 St Johns Lane, London EC1