The Joint Ministerial Committee on Europe, or JMCe, meets quarterly and provides a forum for the Ministers of the Scottish Government, the UK Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to meet and discuss EU business. The Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf, represents the Scottish Government at these meetings and speaks on behalf of the whole of Scotland on EU matters that have an impact on how we live our lives.
The JMCe is held in advance of European Councils, where Heads of EU Member States meet to discuss key European and international topic. The JMCe agenda is often reflective of the European Council priorities, allowing the constituent parts of the UK the opportunity to put forward their views on issues that will later be discussed on an international platform. Recent items covered by the European Council have been; the financial situation in Greece, irregular migration in the Mediterranean, the situation in the Euro area, Energy Union, the Digital Agenda and External Relations (in particular the relationship between the EU, Russia and Ukraine).
The JMCe chair rotates between the UK Government Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the UK Government Minister for Europe. Other UK Government Ministers are also in attendance depending on the policy portfolios that are covered in the meeting. These meetings are held under confidential conditions in order to act as a free and open forum for exchange of information. The Scottish Government provides the Scottish Parliament with a note of the key points raised by the Minister for Europe and International Development during the committee. Recent reports can be found here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/61900.aspx
Behind the scenes
The JMCe meetings are scheduled for 1 hour, so in order to maximise the time-slot to the best of our ability a considerable amount of preparation at official and Ministerial level is required leading up to these meetings. With 4 governments represented, and a full agenda of items that impact the lives of citizens across the United Kingdom, it is crucial that preparation allows for the core messages to be delivered and any concerns to be addressed. Any routine discussions that can be held in advance or at official level are done so. This allows the JMCe to conduct its main function; a forum to discuss strategic and cross-cutting European issues affecting the UK and devolved administrations.
Ministers are supported by officials who attend a pre-meeting, roughly 4 weeks in advance, to lay the groundwork and scope the agenda items likely to be covered in the European Council. The agenda is agreed between the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive. Communication between administrations is key to moving the agenda forward and can result in the establishment of working groups between governments, where examples of best practice and case studies can be shared to increase the overall quality of UK Government policy. These working groups often run on a longer-term basis, even after the JMCe has concluded, and provide practical and direct platforms for government officials from all 4 administrations to continue working together.
Scottish Government officials are also responsible for following up any points raised during the meeting that may require further correspondence with the UK Government or any of the other devolved administrations. This can range from producing joint papers on specific policy areas to creating joint letters to issue to the European Commission.