§ Baroness David
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have to sign up to elements of the Schengen Agreement at the forthcoming Justice and Home Affairs Councils; which elements are concerned and what representations they have received on this matter.
§ Lord Hoyle
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made the following statement to the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in Brussels.
Other member states will be interested to know of the intentions of the United Kingdom about our participation in Justice and Home Affairs matters after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, in accordance with Article 4 of the Protocol integrating the Schengen acquis into the framework of the European Union and by the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The United Kingdom is committed to active and effective co-operation in the JHA field. We demonstrated that during our Presidency last year. Our citizens have a common interest in ensuring that effective action is taken to combat international organised crime; we shall continue to play a full role in such European Union level co-operation. We have been playing an active part in preparation for the incorporation of Schengen and for the establishment of the new Free Movement Chapter under Amsterdam. We are also keen to assist in the development of a useful agenda for the special European Council in Tampere later this year.
We have been giving serious thought to the areas of the Schengen acquis and the measures to be adopted 90WA under Title IV in which we would wish to participate once Amsterdam comes into force. The different effects of our various Protocols influences our approach in this respect.
Our starting point is the Protocol on frontier controls, to which all member states agreed at Amsterdam. The United Kingdom Government will maintain its former controls, in line with that political agreement.
Subject to the Amsterdam Protocol, the United Kingdom wishes to approach participation in Schengen and the Free Movement Chapter positively. Indeed we are keen to engage in co-operation in all areas of present and future JHA co-operation which do not conflict with our frontiers control.
We are therefore ready to participate in law enforcement and criminal judicial co-operation derived from the Schengen provisions, including the Schengen Information System. We have been in the forefront of European Union co-ordination in the fight against crime and drugs and we shall maintain that position. We are also interested in developing co-operation with European Union partners on asylum—an European Union-wide phenomonen—and in the civil judicial co-operation measures of the Free Movement Chapter.
Our intention to maintain our frontier controls has implications for our participation in the direct operation of external frontier controls. For similar reasons, enhanced visa co-operation raises difficulty for us. But, within this constraint, we shall seek discussions with European Union colleagues to maximise the scope for mutual operational co-operation in combating illegal immigration, without prejudice to the maintenance of our national immigration controls. We shall also look to participation in immigration policy where it does not conflict with our frontiers-based system of control.
We realise that much detailed discussion with our European Union partners will be necessary in order to pave the way for co-operation in these areas. We shall shortly put forward a formal request for participation.