Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  During the 21 November Evidence Session, the Secretary of State promised to provide the Committee with further information on the following topics:


As the Prime Minister said in Warsaw in October, the Government wants to see the new Member States participating in the European Parliamentary elections in 2004. This is an ambitious, but realistic, target.

  The Committee asked for further information on the legal position if accession took place at a time that was less convenient from an EP point of view. There are three possible scenarios:

1.  Joining the EP during a session

  None of the enlargement rounds since the first direct elections in 1979 has coincided with an EP election. In each case, the new member states initially nominated their EP members from their national parliaments and held their own individual direct election as soon as practicable thereafter. The members elected on those occasions served until the next elections for the EP as a whole.

2.  Taking a seat before accession

  There is no precedent for an applicant to take seats in the European Parliament prior to accession. To do so would conflict with Article 189 TEC, which provides that the European Parliament "shall consist of representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community". It would also be unprecedented for applicants to participate in elections to the European parliament prior to accession.

3.  Participation in elections before accession

  Although there is no precedent for participation in an EP election prior to accession, it is in theory conceivable that this could take place, but only if the applicant(s) and all the existing member states agreed. It is possible that they might be willing to do so, for example, if a Treaty of Accession had been signed which provided for accession to take place very shortly after the elections. In that situation, it might theoretically be possible for the state(s) concerned to hold "shadow" elections in June 2004, with the members then elected only taking their seats after accession, rather than holding a separate election at a later date. But this is uncharted territory, and it would clearly be highly desirable for accession to have been completed before the 2004 elections.


  The Secretary of State also promised a note on the Commission's proposal to provide duty and quota free access to EU markets for products from least Developed Countries (LDCs).

  Nevertheless, we recognise the importance of the EU's sugar regime to certain sugar producers and refiners. We agree, therefore, that the EU will need to consider carefully the potential impact of this proposal, for example, in the Caribbean. We have already made it clear to the Commission and our EU partners that their views, and those of other interested parties, must be taken into account. At this stage it is not possible to predict when the proposal will be adopted.


  Finally, I can confirm that, as the Secretary of State suggested to the Committee, the UK would not accept direct taxation becoming part of competence of the Community. At present, Article 93 applies to indirect taxes alone and is further restricted to areas "necessary to ensure the establishment and functioning of the internal market". There is no express competence on direct taxation, although there is nothing to stop Member States agreeing Directives unanimously on direct taxes, should they wish to do so, under Article 84.

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