From: THE LORD GRENFELL
Chairman of the Select Committeeon the European Union
JIMMY HOOD MP
Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee
HOUSE OF LORDS
HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW 1
Tel: 020 7219 6083
Fax: 020 7219 6715
10 April 2003
Draft Agreements between the EU and the US on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition
As you are aware, negotiations have been taking place for some months between the Union and the United States aimed at improving and facilitating extradition and mutual legal assistance between the EU and the US. The proposed Agreements would supplement existing arrangements between Member States and the US.
The potential significance of the proposed Agreements is widely acknowledged. Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative, recently described them as "important initiatives" marking "a new level of cooperation with the United States, one sought by the EU and which will bring added value over the current bilateral arrangements" ("Leading the fight against the causes of terror", European Voice 3-9 April 2003). In the same article Mr Solana indicated that there remain some issues that needed to be clarified further.
You wil1 recall that at February's Justice and Home Affairs Council the Presidency noted: "If possible, the Council could conclude the Agreement in May or June, after having involved the parliaments in an appropriate manner".
Therefore we hope that you will agree that it is most important that national parliaments should be able to begin their scrutiny work on these Agreements as soon as possible. The practical problem is that the documents in question are at present classified confidential. This inhibits the Parliamentary scrutiny process.
The practice of our Parliament is to undertake scrutiny openly and in full public gaze. We make available copies of documents freely on request. We hear the views of experts and interested parties in open session. We publish our correspondence with Ministers. We prepare Reports which are also published and may be debated.
We therefore invite you to supply to this Parliament and to all the parliaments in the Union copies of the draft Agreements so that they can undertake scrutiny of them "in an appropriate manner", namely publicly and meaningfully and with sufficient time to consider the constitutional, legal and political issues raised by the Agreements.
We also propose that, consistent with the spirit of the Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam, and of the Draft Protocol on National Parliaments presently being discussed in the Convention on the Future of Europe, national parliaments be allowed six weeks to consider the draft Agreements.
Copies of this letter go to Bob Ainsworth MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office; and to Javier Solana, the Secretary-General and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. This letter will be published and will be made available to other national parliaments.
Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Union
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
Jimmy Hood MP
European Scrutiny Committee
House of Commons
London SW1P 3JA
The Council of the European Union
Rue de la loi 175