Select Committee on European Scrutiny Third Report



Draft Council Decision on a Joint Action on the establishment of a European Union Satellite Centre.

Legal base: Article 14 EU; unanimity
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 15 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 10 (18 July 2001)
Adopted in Council: 16 July 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


— The Cologne European Council

10.1  The Cologne European Council in June 1999[13] dealt with arrangements for ensuring effective political control and strategic direction of EU-led Petersberg[14] operations. It concluded that the EU would need sources of intelligence and a capacity for analysing situations.

— The Nice European Council

10.2  The Council adopted[15] decisions of principle on the inclusion of the "appropriate functions" of the Western European Union (WEU) in the field of Petersberg tasks.[16] These included the setting up in the form of agencies of a Satellite Centre and an Institute for Security Studies which would incorporate the relevant features of the existing parallel WEU structures.

The draft Decision

10.3  The Decision provides for the adoption of a Joint Action on establishing a European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) to support the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) by strengthening its early warning and crisis monitoring capabilities. The Centre's mission will be to support the Council in its decision-making by providing material resulting from analysis of national and commercial satellite and aerial imagery, as directed by the Secretary-General/High Representative (SGHR). Political control will be exercised by the Political and Security Committee (PSC), which will make recommendations on the Centre's priorities to the SG/HR, who will report, as appropriate, to the PSC.

10.4  The products of the Centre will be distributed to all Member States and to states which have concluded Association Agreements with the Centre "in accordance with modalities to be defined". Capacity permitting, the Centre may undertake tasks for individual Member States, the Commission, and states with Association Agreements, as well as international organisations such as the UN, OSCE and NATO.


10.5  We cleared an unofficial text of the draft Council Conclusions on the incorporation into the EU of certain functions of the Western European Union on 15 November 2000[17] but did not clear this draft Council Decision on a Joint Action on 2 May 2001. We asked the Government for further information and this was provided at official level on 11 May. We considered it on18 July,[18] when we asked the Government to clarify some points of detail.

The Minister's letter

10.6  The Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) recalls that we were broadly content with the proposed Joint Action when we considered it on 2 May on the basis of the Explanatory Memorandum of 27 April from his predecessor, but sought further assurance on the terms of participation in the Centre by non-European allies. This request, he believes, was met in the Department's letter of 11 May. Given our general support for the proposal, and other considerations which he sets out, he decided that the UK should join the consensus in adopting the Joint Action at the General Affairs Council (GAC) on 16 July.

10.7  The Minister comments that the Joint Action adopted at the GAC represents the best possible deal the UK could have secured, in particular on provisions for continued access by non-EU European allies to the Centre. Delaying agreement until then would have risked unravelling agreements which had taken considerable effort to secure and would have sent a negative signal about the UK's and the EU's commitment to establishing an EU Satellite Centre. Moreover, putting off agreement would have created considerable uncertainty amongst staff about their future at the Satellite Centre after 31 December 2001. He comments that continuity of staffing will be essential to ensure smooth transfer and efficient operation of the Centre in its first months under EU management.


10.8  The Minister has explained why he decided to lift the scrutiny reserve on this proposal at the General Affairs Council on 16 July. We would have preferred him to have notified us of his intention to do so in advance of our meeting on 18 July, when we considered the Government's reply to our request for more information. Although he does not provide us with all the detail we sought on this proposal, given that it has now been adopted by the Council and that the main question of the terms of participation by non-EU allies has been covered, we do not intend to pursue these points at this stage.

10.9  We now clear the document.

13  Cologne European Council Presidency Conclusions Annex III, pages 35 and 36 of Press Release. Back

14  See footnote 16 below. Back

15  The Presidency Report on Strengthening the Common European Policy on Security and Defence, adopted at the Nice European Council in December 2000, and debated on the Floor of the House on 19 March 2001; (21826) - ; see HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 3 (29 November 2000). Back

16  These include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peace-keeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. Back

17  (21723) - ; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 42 (15 November 2000). Back

18  (22340) - ; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

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Prepared 12 November 2001