Select Committee on European Scrutiny Fourth Report





COM(00) 303

Draft Directive on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof.
Legal base: Article 63 EC; consultation; unanimity
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 21 December 2000
Previous Committee Report: HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 5 (15 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council: March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


  3.1  This draft Directive is concerned with the establishment of an EU temporary protection regime in the event of a 'mass influx of displaced persons' and a mechanism for sharing the physical and financial burden of such a regime among the Member States. It has proved very difficult to negotiate in the past, but, as we reported when we considered the current version in November, there is now a better prospect for progress. Nevertheless, we did not clear the proposal, since we wished to see the Government's response to the NGO submissions forwarded by our sister Committee in the House of Lords, and to know more about the outcome of negotiations.

The Minister's letter

  3.2  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) has now replied to Lord Tordoff, enclosing a copy of UNCHR's[7] comments on the proposal. She begins by stating the Government's reasons for deciding to opt in to the negotiation of the draft Directive.

  3.3  She then turns to what she considers to be the general theme of the NGO submissions — the concern that Member States might use the Directive to avoid their international obligations. She emphasises that the draft text specifically safeguards against such actions, citing Article 3 which states that temporary protection is an exceptional measure, not a means of derogating from the Geneva Convention. She adds:

"You ask for my comments on the compatibility of the proposal with the international human rights and refugee law. For the reasons stated above, we are satisfied that the proposal, if adopted in its current form, would not conflict with our other international obligations. UNCHR's position supports that view."

  3.4  The Minister explains why she considers that a Directive in this area is necessary, despite the fact that the Geneva Convention does not rule out the possibility of group determinations. She reiterates the need for some amendment to the text in order to incorporate within the scope of the Directive an evacuation into European Union territory, following a "mass influx" elsewhere (the Kosovo situation). She also repeats the Government's concern about the situation of those who, having been granted temporary protection in one Member State, seek entry to another, suggesting that this could undermine the principle of solidarity among Member States. Adequate rules for family reunification (not currently addressed satisfactorily within the Directive) might, she considers, avoid significant secondary migration within the EU.

  3.5  Finally, the Minister addresses our sister Committee's concern that UK participation in this measure might constrain the Government in international fora. She does not consider that there is a conflict, saying:

"On the contrary, I believe that our position at the heart of the development of a common European asylum policy considerably enhances our ability to make an impact on the wider international stage."


  3.6  We welcome the Minister's assurance about the compatibility of this proposal with international human rights and refugee law. However, we note that our sister Committee in the House of Lords has identified a number of concerns in the non-governmental organisations' submissions which the Minister has not addressed in her response. These relate to the proposal that an explicit statement about non-refoulement[8] should be included in the text; the concern that the suspension of access to the asylum procedure until the end of the temporary protection regime might become the norm; the proposal that measures which may prevent access should be temporarily suspended; and the need for minimum standards or procedures for those who do not wish to return voluntarily at the end of the regime. We seek the Minister's comments on these matters.

  3.7  We agree with our sister Committee that the Minister does not fully address the question of external competence, and ask to see her analysis of the situation. A similar issue has recently arisen in connection with the Brussels Convention[9], where the United Kingdom's involvement in the measure has inhibited its ability to pursue an autonomous policy in the relevant international fora.

  3.8  In addition, we note that the Minister considers further work to be needed on the issues in paragraph 3.4 above. We ask to be kept in touch with progress.

  3.9  We understand that the Swedish Presidency hopes that the measure will be adopted within the next six months. While we support the proposal and the United Kingdom's participation in it, in principle, and do not wish to hold up progress, we also wish to be confident that all the issues raised above have been fully considered. We will therefore keep the document under scrutiny until we hear from the Minister again.




COM(00) 529

Draft Council Regulation on the animal health requirements applicable to non-commercial movement of pet animals.


Legal base: Article 37 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 16 January 2001
Previous consideration: HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 12 (1 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council: Following receipt of European Parliament opinion
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information awaited


  4.1  According to the Commission, measures need to be adopted at Community level to ensure that the animal health rules applicable to the non-commercial movement of pet animals in the Member States are consistent, but previous attempts at harmonisation have come to grief over the widely divergent ways in which the problem of rabies has been approached. However, as a result of vaccination campaigns over the last decade, aimed at fox populations in regions where rabies was endemic, the number of cases in dogs and cats dropped from 499 in 1991 to five in 1998. This enabled countries such as the UK and Sweden, which had previously insisted on quarantine, to accept an alternative system of electronic identification and vaccination (backed up by a blood test) for animals imported from Member States, and ultimately certain third countries, where rabies does not exist or is under control.

The current proposal

  4.2  These considerations led the Commission to put forward in September 2000 a proposal for a Community-wide Regulation applicable to pet animals (defined as those not intended for trade), which it says is based largely on the UK approach to Member States "historically free of rabies". Different rules would apply according to the type of animal and its country of origin, as follows.

  4.3  In the case of dogs and cats:

  • movement between Member States or from designated third countries would have to be accompanied by a certificate issued by an authorised veterinarian to the effect that the animal was identified by a clearly readable tattoo or electronic identification system, and had been given an inactivated rabies vaccine between one month and a year prior to importation. A number of third countries are designated, but the proposal appears to envisage the addition of other, as yet unspecified, countries;

  • the UK, Ireland and Sweden may also require certification that such animals have undergone a satisfactory blood test six months before entry; and, subject to the view of the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC), this last condition may also be imposed by other Member States if it is justified by the rabies situation in the exporting country;

  • however, the UK, Ireland and Sweden may waive any requirement relating to rabies for movements between each other or from the third countries listed in the proposal; and

  • animals from third countries not listed would have to meet all three conditions provided for (that is, identification, vaccination and blood test), though, where they are imported directly into the UK, Ireland or Sweden, the authorities there may require them to be subject to quarantine.

Any additional requirements applying to cats and dogs would be adopted by the SVC.

  4.4  In the case of other species listed in the Directive (spiders, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters):

  • there would be no animal health requirements in respect of movements between Member States or the third countries covered by the Directive; and

  • imports of these species from other third countries, and the certification to accompany them, would be determined by the SVC.

  4.5  In the case of all other species, namely those not specifically referred to in the Directive, the necessary requirements would be laid down by the SVC.

  4.6  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 17 October 2000, the Minister of State (Lords) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman) said that the Government believes the proposal would reduce the risk of rabies being imported into the Community from third countries; that it therefore accepts the need for harmonised Community rules; and that it welcomes the proposal. She added that it also welcomes the derogations proposed for the UK, Ireland and Sweden, under which the measures currently in force in this country under the Pet Travel Scheme as regards dogs and cats arriving from western Europe can be maintained, and dogs, cats and other mammals arriving from third countries which are not rabies-free may continue to be quarantined on arrival in the UK. However, the Minister also said that the Government has some practical concerns about the detailed provisions of the proposal relating to the use of tattoos as well as microchips to identify cats and dogs; the position of animals from the candidate countries of central and eastern Europe, where there is a higher incidence of rabies than within the Community; and the treatment of ferrets (which, although carnivores for which no rabies vaccine and no blood test are available, would not be subject to the Directive).

  4.7  In the conclusion to our Report of 1 November 2000, we noted the Government's view that a harmonised scheme such as this will reduce the risk of rabies being imported into the Community from third countries. However, we also noted that the Government had a number of concerns about what was proposed, and we said that, before considering this document further, we would like to know whether and how those concerns will be met. In addition, we outlined in paragraph 12.10 of our report a number of points of our own on which we asked the Government to comment.

Minister's letter of 16 January 2001

  4.8  In her letter of 16 January 2001, the Minister says that there have not yet been any discussions on the proposal in the Council, and that the Government has thus not been able so far to express its concerns over tattoos, animals from central and eastern Europe, and ferrets. She is, however, confident that the UK's arguments have the force of realism and good science behind them, and "would hope" that it should be possible to persuade the Commission to accept their validity.

  4.9  The Minister then addresses in turn each of the questions we had put in our previous report. The first was whether the Government is satisfied that the list of species subject to the Regulation is wide enough, and that adequate arrangements exist to safeguard against the risk of importing rabies through commercial movements of pets (and indeed other animals). She says that the proposal applies to all non-commercial movement of pet animals, and thus covers "all possible species, whether or not specifically referred to later in the text". She adds that the commercial movement of species usually considered to be pets is already covered by separate Community provisions, and that consequently the proposal may, if anything, be too wide by covering species, such as farm livestock, subject to animal legislation. The UK will, therefore, be seeking in the Council to ensure that none of the proposed provisions counteract or interfere with the operation of any existing provision. At the same time, the Minister also makes the point that, although provision is made for requirements to be laid down subsequently for the intra-Community movement of animals not currently listed, there seems to be no such provision for comparable third country imports. The UK will be seeking to establish whether this is an accidental omission or not.

  4.10  Our second point was that the addition to the list of those countries considered rabies-free appeared to be a decision for the Council rather than the Commission, and we asked for confirmation that this was so, and that we would be informed in good time of any such proposal. The Minister says that, were any country to be added to the list, the Commission would seek the opinion of the SVC, and that, if this is supported by the SVC, the Commission may adopt it; if not, the proposal has to be submitted to the Council and the European Parliament informed. The Council then has three months to take a decision by qualified majority, failing which the Commission may implement the proposed measure. She adds that this procedure is commonplace in amending agricultural provisions, and is acceptable to the Government.

  4.11  Thirdly, we said that, although the proposal would allow the UK to continue to require quarantine for animals entering directly from third countries not free of rabies, it was not clear what would be the position if such animals entered after having first spent some time in another Member State: for example, would it still be possible to impose quarantine, or would the rules applicable to intra-Community trade then apply? The Minister says that she is not convinced that the proposal does provide the necessary assurances against increasing the risk of importing rabies, the implication being that animals entering the UK from a third country via another Member State may not be quarantined. She adds that this does not give the UK the necessary protection, and that she will therefore seek to have the text amended to meet this point.

  4.12  Our final question was that it appeared that decisions on the conditions to apply to species not currently covered, and on any additional requirements applying to those which are covered, would be taken by the Standing Veterinary Committee, and not by the Council. If that is so, we asked whether the Government would be content with such an arrangement. The Minister says that, as with the addition of rabies-free countries dealt with in paragraph 4.10 above, the delegation of technical decisions of this kind to technical experts in the SVC allows the Council to concentrate, as she believes it should, on the strategic oversight of policy. The UK is thus content with this approach.

  4.13  The Minister concludes by stressing that, although the draft proposal is "not perfect", it does offer the opportunity to put rabies control on a Community-wide footing, and so decrease the risk of importing the disease into mainland Europe (and hence into the UK) by requiring Member States to adopt many of the provisions of the Pet Travel Scheme. She adds that it would also (subject to the caveat about animals from third countries entering via other Member States) protect the Pet Travel Scheme as it operates here.


  4.14  We are grateful to the Minister for her very full response to the questions we asked in our previous Report. However, as she herself points out, this is an important proposal, and, before taking a final view on it, we would like her to let us know of any developments on those points over which uncertainties still remain. These include the Government's own concerns (paragraph 4.8 above), the provisions regarding the subsequent extension of detailed requirements for animals imported from third countries (paragraph 4.9 above), and the position of animals imported from third countries via another Member State (paragraph 4.11 above). In the meantime, we are not clearing the document.




COM(00) 639

Draft Council Directive modifying Council Directive 94/25/EC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to recreational craft.


Legal base: Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 12 October 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 13 October 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 31 October 2000
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 14 November 2000
Previous consideration: None
To be discussed in Council: 8 March 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information awaited


  5.1  Council Directive 94/25/EC[10] lays down design and construction standards for recreational craft, ranging from small dinghies of 2.5 metre hull length to 24 metre vessels. It was originally adopted as part of the drive towards the creation of the Single Market, but a number of Member States have since introduced national measures to control exhaust and noise emissions from such craft. According to the Commission, these steps have generally been regarded as a reasonable means of addressing the human health and environmental implications of such emissions, but they have also given rise to concern that they might constitute an obstacle to free trade. As a consequence, the Commission has now put forward proposals which harmonise within the Community provisions on exhaust and noise emissions from engines intended to be installed on recreational craft.

The current proposal

  5.2  In putting its proposal forward, the Commission points out that there are thought to be over 4.6 million pleasure boats within the Community, including over 3.6 million motor boats. It also notes that personal watercraft account for an increasingly large share of the market within certain engine power ranges. Exhaust emissions depend mainly on the type of engine and its rated power, and the Commission identifies three groups of engine — 2-stroke spark ignition; 4-stroke spark ignition; and compression ignition — which it says have completely different emission profiles, and whose level of exhaust emissions also depends upon the boating application. 2-stroke engines in general suffer from high unburned hydrocarbon emissions, and run with fuel-rich mixtures, leading to high carbon monoxide emissions. 4-stroke engines also emit hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, but at lower levels, due to their greater efficiency, whilst the emission components of most concern from compression ignition engines are the nitrogen oxides. The Commission acknowledges that the emissions of these pollutants from recreational craft (ranging from 0.1% to 0.5%) are small compared with those from the other main sources such as road traffic, but it points out that these figures can be misleading, not least because emissions from recreational craft tend to occur at particular times of the year in environmentally sensitive locations.

  5.3  As regards noise, the Commission points to the growing concern about levels generally within the Community and the adverse impact these have on a large number of people. In particular, it says that, because recreational craft are frequently used in areas where peace and quiet are important qualities, their use often causes a noise nuisance, for both humans and sensitive wildlife, especially in the case of the varying pitch produced by personal watercraft.

  5.4  Against this background, the Commission has proposed a range of exhaust emission requirements for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides depending on the type of engine, whilst maximum noise levels related to engine power would also be set. Manufacturers would have to ensure compliance with these requirements, and the proposal sets out conformity assessment procedures, which the Commission says are in line with other Community emissions legislation. In order to reduce the cost of conformity assessment, particularly for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), these procedures would include a "reference boat" concept, so as to avoid boat builders having to test each and every boat/engine. The Commission estimates that the proposals would reduce annual carbon monoxide emissions from spark ignition engines by 42% and those from compression ignition engines by 5.4%, whilst the corresponding figures for hydrocarbon emissions would be 89% and 23.1% respectively. In addition, annual emissions of nitrogen oxides from compression ignition engines would be reduced by 31.2%.

  5.5  The proposal also contains other amendments related to the original design and construction scope of the Directive. These would include:

  • widening the choice for manufacturers in terms of conformity assessment procedures;

  • covering the design and construction of personal watercraft;

  • extending the obligations in the Directive to the person placing the craft on the market, in the absence of the manufacturer or an authorised representative; and

  • clarifying the information to be displayed regarding the maximum recommended load of the craft.

The Government's view

  5.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 14 November 2000, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science at the Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) says that there are strong grounds for adopting these measures in order to prevent the break up of the single market for recreational and personal watercraft. The UK also considers the principle of taking Community action to limit exhaust gas emissions to be reasonable on health grounds, though the Minister suggests that the environmental case for including noise might be weaker. He says it is clear that the proposal is likely to go forward with considerable support from other Member States, and that the UK intends to support it in principle, whilst negotiating to ensure that it does not impose unnecessary costs on industry, and on SMEs in particular. At the same time, the UK will also be pressing the Commission to produce a consolidated text of Directive 94/25/EC, incorporating the suggested amendments, so as to result in more transparent legislation.

  5.7  As regards particular aspects of the proposal, the Minister says that, in dealing with noise emissions, the proposal is likely to impose disproportionate costs on the SME boat builder, because of the continuing need for third party certification. He believes that, in the worst case, this may mean that a traditional boatbuilder not following the same design each time may in effect only produce one model of each "type", so that each individual craft may need to be tested and certified for noise by a third party conformity body. Likewise, although large volume engine manufacturers should be able to cope with the gas emission requirements, smaller volume manufacturers may have problems in absorbing engineering and certification costs.

  5.8  The Minister also notes that the proposal includes a requirement on the Commission to report within two years of the Directive coming into effect on "in use" compliance testing. He says this is of concern, as it could result in craft being subject to annual tests similar to existing vehicle testing. However, he says that this would not be a trade issue, and that, even if Community action is appropriate, it should not emanate from an Article 95 Directive, but be based on environmental and health grounds. The UK therefore intends to seek the removal of this provision from the proposal.

  5.9  Finally, the Minister says that the Government has consulted interested parties on earlier Commission drafts of the proposal, and that so far the proposals have generally been welcomed, subject to fears that the conformity assessment burden may be too high, particularly on the question of noise. He adds that a Regulatory Impact Assessment will be prepared and submitted as soon as it is available. In the meantime, he points out that industry and the Commission have estimated that the engineering cost of converting one "family" of engines to low emissions might be in the region of £6 million. This, together with conformity assessment costs, could increase the cost of each engine by between 13% and 30%, although these costs would be passed on over 10 years, resulting in an annual retail cost increase of about 3%. Against this, users would benefit by a reduction of around 30% in fuel consumption. Costs would also be incurred for conformity with the noise assessment provisions. However, much will depend on how the "reference boat" concept would work in practice.


  5.10  The application of exhaust and noise emission standards for recreational craft is welcome in principle on health and environmental grounds, and similarly, there appear to be sound Single Market reasons for introducing harmonised standards across the Community. On the other hand, it is also clear that there are a number of unresolved questions, notably on the costs of conformity assessment, and we will await with interest the Regulatory Impact Assessment which the Minister has promised. In the meantime, we are not clearing the document.





COM(00) 700


(21834 - 21836;

21846 - 21852;

21866 - 21868)

13366/00 - 13788/00

Enlargement Strategy Paper: report on progress towards accession by each of the candidate countries.

Regular reports for 2000 from the Commission on progress towards accession by Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Legal base:
Documents originated: 8 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 11 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 29 November 2000 to 7 December 2000
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 5 December 2000
Previous Committee Report: None
Discussed in Council: 4 December 2000
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested

The Enlargement Strategy Paper

  6.1  This document accompanies the third set of regular reports on the progress of each of the candidate countries towards EU membership which are drawn up annually by the Commission. The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) has submitted one Explanatory Memorandum on this document and the progress reports.

  6.2  The strategy paper sets out at some length the historical context, the enlargement process, and the pre-accession strategy, before making some general comments on the progress of the candidate countries in meeting the membership criteria. It then describes the accession negotiations, before recording its formal conclusions.

The Commission's assessment

  6.3  In the 13 individual progress reports, the Commission assesses each candidate country's readiness against the "Copenhagen criteria" agreed at the 1993 European Council. It found that, in general, most candidates have made good progress towards meeting the obligations of EU membership since last year. The progress reports highlight progress in transposing the acquis communautaire (the corpus of EU law) and in economic restructuring. They point up areas, including corruption and public administration reform, which need further work.

  6.4  The Minister has helpfully summarised the main points of the Commission's assessment as follows:

"Political criteria

"All candidate countries, except Turkey, fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria. The overall record in strengthening democratic institutions, in respecting the rule of law and in protecting human rights has improved since last year. But there are a number of problems. Most countries need to combat corruption and to do more to reform or reinforce the judiciary to ensure the respect of the rule of law and the effective enforcement of the acquis. The growing problem of trafficking in women and children calls for vigorous measures. Sustained efforts are required to improve the situation of the Roma. Despite some welcome changes and important positive initiatives in Turkey, the Commission is still concerned about shortcomings as regards respect for human rights and the right of minorities as well as about the constitutional role that the army plays in political life.

"Economic criteria

"Membership requires the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Only Cyprus and Malta meet both economic criteria. Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey meet neither. The other eight candidates all meet the first criterion, but not the second. However, the Commission believe that the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia will be able to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in the near term, and that Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will be able to do so in the medium term. This assumes that they all complete outstanding economic reforms. The Commission also notes that, whereas Bulgaria has clearly made further progress towards meeting both criteria, Romania has not. To meet the economic criteria, Turkey must continue to improve the functioning of its markets and to enhance its competitiveness.

"Ability to assume membership obligations

"Overall, since the last progress reports, the adoption of legislation for alignment with the acquis has proceeded well in most candidate countries. In contrast, the candidates' capacity to implement and enforce the acquis properly remains inadequate, as progress in setting up and strengthening the institutions required to do this has been uneven. The candidate countries' national authorities need to enhance dialogue with representative institutions to explain the acquis and to facilitate its countrywide adoption and implementation.

"All candidates have continued to align themselves with the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy, in particular by joining the EU's Common Positions. On Economic and Monetary Union, most countries are either in line with the pre-accession EMU acquis communautaire to a large extent, or have made significant progress in their alignment. Substantial efforts to align legislation are presently needed in Romania, Slovakia and Turkey and to a lesser extent in Cyprus."

The Commission's recommendations

  6.5  The Minister draws attention to important recommendations on the future of the enlargement process made in the paper. He describes the key elements of these as:

"—  a detailed timetable for taking forward negotiations over the next three Presidencies (Sweden, Belgium and Spain), so that all issues are addressed with the most advanced countries by June 2002. The Commission's assessment is that it should be possible to conclude negotiations with the more advanced countries in 2002;

"—  ideas on closing chapters 'conditionally' (parking unresolved issues to one side for later consideration), where only one or two issues are outstanding, to maintain momentum;

"—  recommendations for tackling applicant requests for transition periods by categorising them as 'acceptable', 'negotiable', and 'unacceptable';

"—  opening all remaining chapters with the best prepared of the so-called 'Helsinki Six' countries (ie Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia) as soon as possible in 2001; and

"—  maintaining the principle of 'differentiation' (ie each candidate makes progress on its own merits)."

The detailed timetable

  6.6  The first of these key elements refers to a 'road map' which the Commission proposes. It sets this out as follows:

"Priority schedule for the first half of 2001

"In this period, the Union would have as its priority to define common positions, including positions on requests for transitional measures, with a view to closing provisionally the following chapters:

"Free movement of goods

"Free movement of persons

"Freedom to provide services

"Free movement of capital

"Company law

"Culture and audio-visual policy

"Social policy and employment


"External Relations

"Issues of substance to be considered in this period include, for example, co-ordination of social security schemes; recognition of diplomas; land acquisition; pharmaceuticals; freedom of movement for workers; health and safety at work; quality of water; pollution and treatment of waste; preferential trade regimes etc. as well as general questions related to the capacity to implement and enforce the Community acquis.

"Priority schedule for the second half of 2001

"In addition to any element not yet addressed in the previous period, the Union would have as its priority, in this period, to define common positions, including positions on requests for transitional measures, with a view to closing provisionally the following chapters:

"Competition policy

"Transport policy



"Customs union

"Agriculture (in particular veterinary and phytosanitary questions)


"Justice and Home Affairs

"Financial Control

"Issues of substance to be considered in this period include, for example, proper implementation and enforcement of state aid legislation; land transport; maritime safety; internal gas and electricity markets; nuclear safety; Customs Code; VAT; excise duties; food safety; visa policy; Schengen acquis etc. as well as general questions related to the capacity to implement and enforce the Community acquis.

"Priority schedule for the first half of 2002

"In this period, the Union would concentrate on any important questions from other chapters for which solutions have not yet been found and define common positions, including positions on all requests for transitional measures, with a view to closing provisionally the remaining chapters:

"Agriculture (remaining questions)

"Regional policy and structural instruments

"Financial and budgetary provisions


"Other matters"

Transition periods

  6.7  The Commission defines the three categories on page 27 of the document. It notes that:

"By classifying certain requests as 'negotiable', the Commission does not imply that it will recommend their acceptance, in whole or part, but rather that a solution may be found under certain conditions".

The Government's view

  6.8  The Minister comments:

"The progress reports are an important assessment of each candidate's readiness to join the EU. The Commission has in each case provided a thorough and balanced report, which measures each candidate's achievements against the requirements of EU membership.

"The Enlargement Strategy Paper is a valuable contribution to debate within the EU on the next steps in the enlargement process. The Government strongly welcomes the Commission's ambitious but realistic recommendations, which offer a real chance of making progress in enlargement. They reflect ideas the UK has been promoting and would be a major step towards achieving the Prime Minister's goal (spelt out in his speech in Warsaw on 6 October) of a 'specific framework leading to an early end of negotiations and to accession'.

"The Government is therefore working for constructive and forward-looking Conclusions language at the Nice European Council that underpin the recommendations in the Commission's proposed strategy. This will help ensure progress in enlargement next year."

  6.9  On the financial implications, the Minister says:

"Average incomes in the new Member States are well below average EU levels. So, it is inevitable that they will receive more from the EU budget than they contribute to it. This means that the UK's net budgetary contribution will increase. The timing, size and terms of accession will determine the size of the increase, though this will be constrained by (i) the Financial Perspective agreed at the Berlin European Council in March 1999 (which set ceilings on enlargement-related spending for the period 2002-06) and (ii) the UK abatement, to which the vast bulk of spending in the new Member States would be subject. The budgetary cost also needs to be seen in the context of the economic benefits of enlargement".

  6.10  The Minister has not commented on the individual progress reports.

  6.11  Giving evidence to this Committee on 10 January, the Minister commented that every candidate country wanted to be in the first wave and some had expressed a desire, in private, to go in with other similar countries. The EU will be ready for enlargement by the end of 2002 and it is then up to the candidates, but he did not believe in forcing the pace. The UK Government did not have a view but he, personally, favoured a situation in which a country would only qualify when it had met the criteria. Dealing with this issue would be an important challenge in the next few months for the Swedish Presidency[11].

  6.12  The Swedish Foreign Minister told the press in Brussels on 15 December that she hoped that, at the Gothenburg Summit in June, the EU would be able to offer the most advanced candidates an official target date[12].


  6.13  The Commission's progress reports are some of the few documents relating to the enlargement process which are submitted for scrutiny. The Commission's recommendations raise a number of questions, on which the Minister has commented in general terms.

  6.14  The Nice European Council endorsed the General Affairs Council Conclusions of 4 December 2000[13] on the strategy proposed by the Commission. As a member of the Council, the Government has confirmed that it accepts the strategy. However, we would be interested in more detailed comments on some of the recommendations. The Minister promised in his Explanatory Memorandum to forward the General Affairs Council report to us. We now ask him to do so, in a letter in which he would draw to our attention any significant points and, at the same time, comment more fully on the documents we consider here, in response to our questions below.

  6.15  Giving evidence on 10 January, the Minister said that the Government did not have a view on whether the candidates should be accepted in groups (the "Big Bang" approach) or in smaller groups or individually (the "regatta" approach). We ask him whether the Government has now reached a view.

  6.16  In his Explanatory Memorandum on these reports, the Minister has not commented on the "road map" proposed by the Commission. We ask him whether the Government agrees with the schedules drawn up by the Commission.

  6.17  We also ask the Minister whether he agrees with the Commission's recommendation that some unresolved issues should be "parked" and whether this would be done in the expectation that these may have to be resolved under pressure in a wider forum, as happened on some of the more contentious issues at Nice. If so, which issues does he expect will have to be dealt with at the level of Heads of State and of Government? Do these include any particular aspects of agriculture, which is widely acknowledged as likely to be a problem area? Recent press reports have quoted the German Chancellor as calling for a "flexible transitional arrangement" to be negotiated with the candidates, during which the free movement of workers from the Central and Eastern European countries would be limited over a 7-year period[14]. Is this likely to be another contentious issue?

  6.18  We ask the Minister to provide us with his response in time for it to be considered by the Committee on 7 February. Meanwhile, the documents are not cleared.




SEC(00) 2077

Draft agreement between the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions establishing an advisory group on standards in public life.
Legal base:
Document originated: 29 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 1 December 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 9 January 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 18 January 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date known
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; awaiting further information on progress


  7.1  On 12 April 2000, we reported on the White Paper and associated Action Plan on reform of the Commission[15]. The Action Plan included a proposal for an agreement between European institutions and bodies for an advisory body on standards in public life.

The document

  7.2  The Commission has now published a proposal setting out the terms of a draft Agreement for such a group. The proposed parties to the Agreement would be the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

  7.3  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 18 January 2001, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) summarises the proposal as follows:

"The Commission's recommendations for the Agreement on the Advisory Group on Standards in Public Life include:

"—  a remit for providing advice on general principles of professional ethics following a request from one of the institutions or bodies party to the Agreement. The advice of the Group shall not concern matters relating to named or identifiable individuals.

"—  a membership of five persons appointed by common agreement of the parties. Appointment would require independence, impeccable record of professional behaviour and knowledge of the existing legal framework and the working methods of the institutions and bodies party to the Agreement. Appropriate geographical and gender balance shall be sought, and appointments shall be for three years, renewable once.

"—  a proposal that all costs involved are to be covered jointly by the European bodies which are parties to the Agreement.

"—  in terms of staffing the Commission would make available one-half of an A grade official to manage the operation. It is not clear whether the other institutions and bodies are also expected to contribute human resources.

"—  all of the group's opinions would be published"

  7.4  Each of the institutions and bodies party to the Agreement will need to approve the terms of it.

The Government view

  7.5  The Minister says that:

"The Government broadly welcomes plans for an Advisory Group on Standards in Public Life as being in line with the ongoing programme of Commission Reform, wider reform of the European institutions and bodies and the maintenance of high standards of probity in public life. The Government supports the establishment of a purely advisory body that is focused on institutions rather than individuals. The Government recalls that the domestic Committee on Standards in Public Life similarly is an advisory body that makes recommendations as necessary on changes to arrangements to ensure the highest standards of probity.

"The Government intends to consult the Committee on Standards in Public Life to ensure that its experience is used to good effect in setting up this body.

"The Government notes that the advisory group will not have any powers in relation to national parliamentarians or officials. However, the Government considers that in addition to having issues referred to it by the institutions and bodies who are party to the agreement the group should have the ability to provide advice pro-actively if the need arises or to establish a baseline of propriety. The Government also believes that all posts on the advisory group should be filled by open and fair competition to ensure that appointments are made on the basis of appointment on merit through fair and open competition. This would also ensure that the group will have credibility.

"Other issues that need further examination are arrangements for transparency and ensuring that the group has sufficient resources. The Government will discuss the proposal in more depth with the Commission".

"The costs will be borne by the European institutions and bodies which sign the agreement. There will be no impact on UK public expenditure".


  7.6  We are glad to see this proposal. It follows on the proposal adopted last year for a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour for Commission staff. We support the Government's view that the Advisory Group should be able to provide advice pro-actively, rather than to do so only if requested by one of the parties. This would, for example, open up the possibility of the Group deciding to report on an issue drawn to its attention by one of the national parliaments. We support the Government also in the other points it makes about the method of appointment and adequacy of resources. We are glad to see that the Government intends to consult the UK's Committee on Standards in Public Life. Bearing in mind the complexities necessarily involved in advising at a European level on these matters, and the diversity of institutions involved, we wonder whether five members will give sufficient breath of experience. We invite the Government to discuss that aspect in its consultations with the Committee on Standards in Public Life. We have no questions to raise but, in view of the importance of the development and the amendments the Government would like to see, will leave the document uncleared at this stage. We invite the Minister to keep us in touch with its progress.

7  UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Back

8  The prohibition of expulsion or return to a country where the life or freedom of the individual would be threatened. Back

9  (21778) -; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 25 (15 November 2000). Back

10   OJ No. L 164, 30.6.94, p.15. Back

11  Minutes of Evidence (10 January 2001) IGC 2000, HC 119. Back

12  Uniting Europe: No. 127, 26 December 2000, p.3. Back

13  Complete picture of the enlargement process (General Affairs Council Conclusions) 13970/1/00 REV 1) Annex VI to the Presidency Conclusions, - Nice 7-8 and 9 December 2000. Back

14  Uniting Europe: No. 127, 26 December 2000. Back

15  (21070) 6302/00 and (21071) 6302/00; see HC 23-xiv (1999-2000), paragraph 8. Back

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