RAPID REACTION MECHANISM FOR FUNDING NON-COMBAT
OPERATIONS IN CRISES
Draft Regulation creating the Rapid Reaction Facility.
Draft Regulation creating a Rapid Reaction Mechanism.
||Article 308 EC; unanimity; consultation
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 12 February 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (28 June 2000)
|To be discussed in Council:
||26 February 2001|
||Legally and politically important
8.1 The Helsinki European Council agreed
an action plan on non-military crisis management.
"In order to be able to respond more rapidly
and more effectively to emerging crisis situations, the Union
needs to strengthen the responsiveness and efficiency of its resources
and tools, as well as their synergy".
8.2 One of a number of specific actions
in the plan was that:
"Rapid financing mechanisms, such as the creation
by the Commission of a Rapid Reaction Fund, should be set up to
allow the acceleration of the provision of finance to support
EU activities, to contribute to operations run by other international
organisations, and to fund NGO
activities, as appropriate".
8.3 This draft Regulation responds by setting
up a financing facility which will allow for rapid access to funds,
in situations of emerging or actual crisis, without having to
go through the usual procedures for expenditure under the main
external spending Regulations.
8.4 On 28 June 2000, when we considered
this draft of the Regulation, we did not clear it, and we stated
that it was relevant to the debate in European Standing Committee
B on Financial Assistance for the Western Balkans and the Commission's
Preliminary Draft Budget for 2001, which we recommended in the
8.5 In our conclusions, we asked the Minister
to comment in greater detail on a number of concerns which he
said that the Government had with the proposal. We also asked
him to keep us informed of discussions on the proposal, which
were just beginning, so that we were not faced with a request
to clear the Regulation at short notice.
8.6 In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 12
February, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (Mr Keith Vaz) tells us that the draft Regulation has been
"extensively recast", that the Government's earlier
concerns no longer apply and that the proposal, which it supports,
is expected to go to the General Affairs Council on 26 February.
"The Explanatory Memorandum of 15 June 2000,
entitled 'Rapid Reaction Facility', discussed the concerns the
UK government had with the regulation as it stood: notably the
appropriateness of the legal base chosen; the implications of
possible overlap between Community and CFSP action and the effect
on institutional relations between Council and Commission; the
relationship between this proposal and existing Pillar 1 instruments;
and the effect on commitments within Category 4 of the Community
budget. We also sought further information on what the policy
scope of that mechanism should be, bearing in mind its potential
relationship to both the Common Foreign and Security Policy and
to other existing Community instruments such as the European Community
Humanitarian Office (ECHO).
"Subsequent negotiations have removed these
concerns. The regulation has been extensively recast. The UK negotiated
to ensure that the redrafted regulation would facilitate speedy
disbursement of EU financing under existing Community regulations
and programmes in response to real or emerging crises. Thus it
would be clearly limited to Pillar 1 activity, complementing rather
than duplicating Community and CFSP action. The redrafted regulation
makes clear that the regulation will not include finance from
ECHO, but that the Commission can decide whether it is appropriate
to combine action under this regulation with ECHO action. As we,
and others, have negotiated language that protects the UK's position
on competence, and as the Rapid Reaction Mechanism is limited
to Pillar 1 activity, there is no longer an issue over the legal
base; Article 308 is the correct base for a Pillar 1 regulation
with global coverage.
"The new draft is welcome. It supports the UK's
commitment to improve the EC's response to crisis situations.
However, we continue to make clear that the EC should look at
how to make its organisation, as well as its financial disbursement,
more flexible in such situations".
8.7 On the financial implications, the Minister
says that so far the only figure agreed is 30 million euros for
2001. It is proposed that thereafter the figure would be 40 million
euros per annum, although the Budget Committee could change these
figures. At the moment this would give an approximate UK contribution
of £3.6 million in 2001 and £4.7 million in 2002 and
8.8 The Minister has given us very little
time to consider this proposal, but we are able to confirm, from
the unofficial text which he has provided, that the Rapid Reaction
Mechanism is now limited to Pillar 1 activity, and note his assurance
that the earlier considerations which he lists no longer give
cause for concern.
8.9 We now clear the document, but ask
the Minister, in future, to respect our requests when we ask him
for information and for time to consider draft legislation. At
least some forewarning at official level is preferable to receipt
of an unexpected Explanatory Memorandum after our deadline, but
a letter at an earlier stage from the Minister, updating us, was
what we were expecting to receive.
19 Presidency Conclusions - Helsinki, 10 and 11 December
1999, Annex 2 to Annex IV (SN 300/99 Annexes page 27). Back
8795/00, (12334) - ; HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (28
June 2000) and (21337) -; HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 2
(28 June 2000) and Official Report, European Standing Committee
B, 12 July 2000. Back