Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twentieth Report



Joint report to the General Affairs Council by the Secretary General/High
Representative and the Commission: The Effectiveness of Common Strategies.

Legal base:
Document originated:23 January 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 23 January 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 11 February 2002
Department:Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 20 February 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
Discussed in Council: General Affairs Council on 28 January 2002
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared

  21.1  Common Strategies are designed to provide a policy framework that will maintain continuity over successive Presidencies. Each Presidency submits a work-plan in order to demonstrate how it will implement the Common Strategy.

  21.2  The February 2001 General Affairs Council (GAC) agreed guidelines aimed at improving the effectiveness of existing and future Common Strategies. It set out four basic principles:

"—  Common Strategies should be expected to bring clear added value, identified in advance, including the improvement of coherence and co-ordination of external policies, both bilateral and multilateral;

  • Common Strategies should be more focussed on clearly identified issues and themes. They should cover specific, well defined and verifiable policy objectives. The SG/HR and the Commission should play central roles in this regard;

  • Common Strategies should aim at enhancing the coherent use of all appropriate means and resources available to the Union, the Community and the Member States including subsequent implementation through Common Positions and Joint Actions adopted by QMV[53];

  • progress in the implementation of verifiable objectives should be measured regularly and necessary adjustments should be made. Within its overall responsibility, the Council will in particular ensure a close monitoring of the implementation, including an annual review in January, drawing on the contributions of the SG/HR and the Commission, both of whom should play an active role in the implementation."

  21.3  On 23 January 2002, the Secretary General/High Representative (SG/HR) and the Commission published a joint report on the effectiveness of Common Strategies, which was endorsed by the 28 January GAC.

  21.4  The report covers:

    "the implementation of the current Common Strategies notably as regards their added value, their recourse to QMV, and their contribution to the increased coherence of EU policies. It also explores the steps that should be taken to improve the implementation and development of Common Strategies in the future".

  21.5  There are three Common Strategies, covering Russia[54], the Ukraine[55] and the Mediterranean[56].

  21.6  The report reviews 2001 and concludes that:

  • "visible, but limited" progress has been made on implementation;

  • overall consistency and continuity has clearly improved, due to enhanced co-ordination of the work plans drawn up by the Swedish, Belgian and Spanish Presidencies;

  • there has been a greater concentration on a smaller number of priority areas; and

  • inter-pillar cohesion has been strengthened.

  21.7  However, some deficiencies remain. The strategies:

  • have been used as tools of public diplomacy, rather than as internal policy instruments;

  • are too broad in scope; and

  • are little more than an inventory of existing policies and the value they add is limited.

  21.8  Furthermore:

  • it has not been possible to measure progress in ensuring and improving coherence between actions taken by the EU and those taken by Member States;

  • the Common Strategies have not led to CFSP decision-making by QMV. Only one of the 20 Joint Actions adopted in 2001 refers to a Common Strategy, and it was adopted by unanimity.

  21.9  The report points out that, at the same time, the EU has made considerable progress in developing its foreign policy, its crisis management and its conflict rehabilitation capabilities in areas not covered by Common Strategies, such as the Western Balkans, the fight against terrorism and the Middle East.

  21.10  The third section of the report sets out how the existing Common Strategies could be improved. It recommends that;

  • the work plans should be replaced by multi-presidency works plans to improve continuity and to prioritise and limit new policy issues. Areas for agreement by QMV could be identified;

  • a fundamental review of the Common Strategy with Russia should start soon.

  21.11  The report comments that when the existing Common Strategies have been "overhauled" and lessons learnt, the EU will be in a position to consider whether Common Strategies would be appropriate in other areas. It says they:

    "will be more credible if used to develop a limited specific foreign policy objective, with the priorities and value-added identified in advance and the necessary budgetary and policy means linked directly with it. Moreover, any Common Strategy should be focussed on operational aspects and give practical value by introducing the possibility of QMV decisions in an area up to now exclusively governed by unanimity".

The Government's view

  21.12  The Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) says that the Government welcomes the report and adds:

    "We consider that the EU continues to carry out a large amount of successful activities under the Common Strategies. However, we recognise that the Common Strategies themselves need further improvement to be effective. The UK supports efforts to do this. The report helpfully suggests ways to make Common Strategies a more useful tool. The General Affairs Council on 28 January endorsed the report and welcomed the commitment by Solana and Patten to work together on the future of the instrument."


  21.13  We agree with the Minister's comments. The Common Strategies could be made more effective, but they have been useful in bringing together the, sometimes disparate, policies of the Member States towards the area concerned. Some, such as the Common Mediterranean Strategy, have possibly been too ambitious in attempting to cover such a wide area and there may be a case for a closer focus by dividing the area, treating the Middle East separately. Some have proved elusive. The Common Strategy on the Balkans has yet to see the light of day.

  21.14  We now clear this document but ask the Government to keep us informed of developments and to deposit the annual review which the February 2001 General Affairs Council called on the Council to produce.

53  Qualified majority voting. Back

54  (20084) 7073/3/99; see HC 34-xxi (1998-99), paragraph 17 (26 May 1999). Back

55  (20727) - ; see HC 23-iv (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (15 December 1999). Back

56  (21271) - ; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 31 (15 November 2000). Back

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