Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report

Letter from an official at the Department for International Development to the Clerk of the Committee


I am writing to let you know the outcome of the European Union Development Council which took place on 31 May. Due to the election, the Secretary of State for International Development was not able to attend. In her absence, the UK was represented by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, UK Representative to the EU.

The Swedish Presidency proposed a new format for this Council, comprising two substantive discussions, one in the morning focusing on the effectiveness of EC development aid and one in the afternoon focusing on conflict and development. The Presidency hoped that this format would facilitate substantive debate on the key issues.

The new format was only partly successful. Interventions were longer and less focused than hoped. Nevertheless, debate did focus on the key issues and from a UK point of view the key messages were given to the Commission. During the morning discussion on effectiveness, for example, the UK, supported by other Member States, gave support for measures taken to improve the effectiveness of EC aid but called strongly for increased poverty focus, clear indicators of performance, more effective collaboration with other donors and coherence between development objectives and other EC policies. Importantly there was agreement between the Commission and Council that the annual report, combined with an annual update of the Commission's internal Action Programme, would be used to report on progress against such indicators. DFID will continue to work to ensure such progress is made.

The afternoon discussion on conflict produced a consensus that the EU must make better use of the existing instruments available to it to prevent conflict and it must improve co-ordination with other organisations, such as the UN, without creating additional bureaucracy. It was agreed that development adds a vital longer-term perspective to analysis of conflict. The importance of building national capacity to prevent and resolve conflict was also emphasised.

The pre-Council dinner was addressed by Gro-Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the WHO. Discussion at the dinner focused on the Global AIDS and Health Fund. At France's initiative the Council and Commission adopted a Joint Declaration on the Fund which strongly welcomed the initiative and committed both parties to exploring how best to develop it further.

Important Council Conclusions on Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development; Election Monitoring; Building an Effective Partnership between the EC and the UN; and the Follow up to EC Development Policy were adopted. A resolution on a Commission working document on integrating environmental considerations into development policy was passed. Presidency conclusions on the Effectiveness of EC aid and Conflict Prevention were agreed.

Due to the late issue of a number of these documents and the dissolution of Parliament due to the election, the UK agreed these Conclusions and Resolutions prior to gaining scrutiny clearance. None of the documents have legal or far-reaching financial implications and they outline positions which are in line with our existing policies. The Secretary of State wrote to the Leaders of both Houses of Parliament prior to the Council to explain that this would be necessary.

A copy of the full Council Conclusions can be viewed at under Council, Development Council, 2352.Council-Development 31-05-2001.

I am writing in similar terms to the Clerk of the International Development Committee and am copying this letter to Les Saunders, Cabinet Office European Secretariat. The Secretary of State has written to the Chair of the House of Lords European Union Committee.

6 July 2001

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Prepared 30 July 2001