European Union Agency for Asylum: Council ready to start negotiations with Parliament
On 20 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) endorsed, on behalf of the Council a mandate for negotiations on the regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum. On the basis of this mandate, the presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament.
"To tackle irregular migration and to improve the management of the asylum systems requires action on various fronts. This includes the transformation of the EASO into a proper EU Agency for Asylum. Today, the Council is taking an important step in that direction, as we have an agreement on the main building blocks of the agency. Our objective is to ensure that it can support the member states in implementing the Common European Asylum System and provide technical and operational assistance." Robert Kaliňák, Minister for the Interior of Slovakia and President of the Council
EU Ambassadors endorsed the text of the mandate ('partial general approach') on the understanding that the parts relating to other files of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) reform will be revisited once there is agreement on them.
The proposal for a European Union Agency for Asylum aims to improve the implementation and functioning of the CEAS by building on the work of the current European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
The new regulation will further develop EASO into a fully-fledged Agency responsible for facilitating the functioning of the CEAS, for ensuring convergence in the assessment of applications for international protection across the Union, and for providing operational and technical assistance to Member States.
Capital markets union: Council confirms deal on prospectus rules
On 20 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee approved, on behalf of the Council, an agreement with the European Parliament on prospectuses for the issuing and offering of securities.
This regulation will help companies gain access to European capital markets by reducing some of the administrative formalities. Our aim is to reinforce the role of market-based finance, alongside bank finance, in the European economy.Peter Kažimír, Slovak minister for finance and president of the Council
The draft regulation is aimed at lowering one of the main regulatory hurdles that companies face when issuing equity and debt securities. Replacing directive 2003/71/EC, it is intended to simplify administrative obligations related to the publication of prospectuses in a manner that still ensures that investors are well informed.
The proposal is a key element of the EU's plan to develop a fully functioning capital markets union by the end of 2019. It will also help improve thebusiness environment in line with the EU's 'investment plan for Europe'.
Control of firearms: Council confirms agreement with the European Parliament
On 20 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed, on behalf of the Council, the agreement reached with the European Parliament on the proposal for a directive on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, which reviews and completes existing directive 91/477/EEC.
"Current European laws on firearms have been in place since 1991 and in the aftermath of the series of terrorist attacks in Europe, the need to address shortcomings in existing legislation has become ever more urgent " said Robert Kaliňák, Minister for the Interior of Slovakia and President of the Council. "This agreement provides for tighter controls which will help prevent the acquisition of firearms by terrorist and criminal organisations" Robert Kaliňák, Minister for the Interior of Slovakia and President of the Council
The amendments which address risks for public safety and security focus on:
Enhanced traceability of firearms
The revision strengthens the rules on marking of firearms, by providing, among other things, for a new obligation to also mark all their essential components. This harmonization of the rules for the marking of firearms and establishing the mutual recognition of marks among Member States will improve the traceability of firearms used in criminal activities, including those which have been assembled from components acquired separately.
In turn, this information also has to be recorded in national data-filing systems. For this to happen, member states will now have to ensure that dealers and brokers register any transaction with firearms by electronic means and without any undue delay.
Measures on deactivation and reactivation or conversion of firearms
The rules for deactivation of firearms have been strengthened, especially by providing for the classification of deactivated firearms under the so-called category C, that is, firearms subject to declaration. Until now, deactivated firearms have not been subject to the requirements set by the directive.
Moreover, the revision includes a new category of salute and acoustic weapons. These are live firearms that have been converted to blank firing ones, for example, for use in theatres or television. These weapons were so far not included in the scope of the directive, and so they posed a serious risk for security: in the absence of more stringent national provisions, such firearms could be purchased freely. Given that their reconversion to live ones was often possible with limited efforts, this posed a risk. For example, such firearms have been used in the Paris terrorist attacks. The new wording of the directive ensures that these weapons remain registered under the same category as the firearm from which they have been converted.
Banning civilian use of the most dangerous semi-automatic firearms
Besides strengthening the rules for their acquisition, some dangerous semi-automatic firearms have now been added to category A and thus prohibited for civilian use. This is the case of short semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 20 rounds and long semi-automatic firearms with loading devices over 10 rounds. Similarly, long firearms that can be easily concealed, for example by means of a folding or telescopic stock, will now also be prohibited.
Stricter rules for the acquisition and possession of the most dangerous firearms
The most dangerous firearms of category A can only be acquired and possessed on the basis of an exemption granted by the relevant member state. The rules for granting such exemptions have now been significantly strengthened. Possible grounds, such as national defence or protection of critical infrastructures, are now set out in a limitative list and the exemption may only be granted where this is not contrary to public security or public order.
When a firearm of category A is required for a sports-shooting discipline, it can only be acquired under strict rules relating among other things to proven practice recognised by an official shooting sport federation.
Concurrently provision of article 7 para 4a gives the possibility to confirm authorisations for semi-automatic firearms (new point 6, 7 or 8 of category A) legally acquired and registered before this directive will come in force.
Improving the exchange of relevant information between member states
A new provision has been added, according to which the Commission shall provide for a delegated act to set up a common system for Member States for systematic exchange of information by electronic means which strengthening the data collection system and examining the interoperability between information systems created at national level.. This information will concern the authorisations granted for the transfer of firearms to another member state and information with regard to refusals to grant authorisations to acquire and possess firearms.
The directive sets out minimum rules and does not prevent member states from adopting and applying stricter rules.
Now that the agreement has been confirmed by the Permanent Representatives Committee, on behalf of the Council, the directive will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and to the Council for adoption. The Council will inform the Parliament formally via the usual letter, with a view to reaching an agreement at first reading
Visas: Council confirms agreement on visa liberalisation for Georgia
On 20 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed, on behalf of the Council, the agreement reached on 13 December with the European Parliament on visa liberalisation for Georgia.
The agreement provides for visa-free travel for EU citizens when travelling to the territory of Georgia and for citizens of this country when travelling to the EU, for a period of stay of 90 days in any 180-day period.
The institutions take the view that the entry into force of visa liberalisation for Georgia should be at the same time as the entry into force of the new "suspension mechanism".
"The Council has demonstrated its strong commitment to visa-free travel for Georgian citizens, taking into account Georgia's hard work. The Presidency believes that the path of credible reforms is the right one and should be encouraged. It was the recent upgrade of the suspension mechanism that allowed us to inject a new momentum into talks on visa liberalisation with countries fulfilling all criteria. At the same time, this upgrade will help ensure that those criteria will continue to be met."Robert Kaliňák, Minister for the Interior of Slovakia and President of the Council.
Now that the agreement has been confirmed by the Permanent Representatives Committee, on behalf of the Council, the regulation will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and to the Council for adoption.