Reid hosts controversial EU justice meeting

John Reid is hosting a meeting of European Union home affairs ministers today, to discuss how to improve cooperation on counter-terrorism and organised crime.

The home secretary will meet his counterparts from France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Germany – the so-called G6 – in Stratford-upon-Avon this afternoon.

Although the six member states cannot make any decisions about EU policy, they can agree cross-border cooperation and are likely to discuss how this can be improved to tackle immigration and organised crime.

Terrorism will also be high on the agenda, a Home Office spokesman said, in particular recent attempts by Germany to tackle the use of the internet by suspected terror groups.

Spain and the UK have both been victims of terror attacks in recent years, and the spokesman said the meeting would “focus particularly on how the next terrorism attack can be pre-empted”, as well as on how to challenge extremist ideas.

The G6, which represents three-quarters of the population of the EU, came under fire this summer from peers who said it was too secretive.

A report from the Lords EU committee on foreign affairs warned there was too little scrutiny by parliament or the public of the G6’s conclusions, which concerned highly controversial issues.

Most recently, the six ministers discussed how to share fingerprint data between their security services. The committee said they had given insufficient regard to data protection concerns, but expressed concern at the lack of public knowledge about this.

The peers also accused the G6 of being “extraordinarily patronising” to other members by coming up with plans that are against mainstream EU policy.

However, the Home Office insisted the importance of the G6 should not be overstated, saying it was primarily a discussion group. A spokeswoman noted that a press conference was held after each session and conclusions were published by the host country.