Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Ninth Report





COM(02) 516

Draft Council Decision on the Community position to be adopted on certain proposals submitted to the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Santiago, Chile, 3-15 November 2002.

Legal base:

See paragraph 13.4 below


Document originated:

17 September 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

7 October 2002


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

EM of 16 October 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

17 October 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:




    1. Although the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was changed in 1983 to allow organisations such as the Community to become a party, an insufficient number of parties have ratified this change for it to come into effect, and representation thus still remains with the Member States. However, the Commission takes the view that, since the decisions taken under the Convention affect the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97[63] on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating the trade in them, it is necessary to adopt a Community position on proposals submitted to the Convention. It has therefore sought in this document to establish such a position before the 12th meeting of the Conference of the parties to be held in Santiago from 3-15 November 2000.
    2. The current document

    3. As the document makes clear, there are a large number of agenda items for the Conference, covering strategic and administrative matters, interpretation and implementation of the Convention, and proposals to amend the appendices. According to the Commission, the first group of items does not generally impact on Council Regulation No. 338/97, and the second group, whilst of some technical importance, was unlikely to have a very high public profile.
    4. On the other hand, the Commission regards the amendments to the appendices, dealing with the level of protection afforded to different species, as "certain to prove controversial". It says that not all the documents to be discussed at the Conference were available in sufficient time for it to propose a Common Position, and that outstanding issues will therefore be considered by the Member States during the Conference itself on the basis of further proposals. In the meantime, it has highlighted the following areas:

    • Whales, where Japan has submitted two proposals to downgrade Minke and Brydes whales From Appendix I to Appendix II[64], and there are also resolutions from Mexico and Norway: the Commission says the no decision should be taken which undermines the primacy of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in this area, and that there should be no return to commercial whaling until the IWC deems that the appropriate management controls are in place;

    • Elephants, where Kenya and India are seeking to return all elephant populations to Appendix I, whilst a number of African countries are seeking to establish trading quotas for their populations: the Commission says that the Community should not agree to any resumption of trade in ivory unless it is satisfied that this will not result in an increase in illegal killing of elephants or undermine their conservation, and that it is not satisfied that there is a scientific case for uplifting all elephant populations to Appendix I;

    • Freshwater turtles, where the Commission says that the Community should support proposals put forward by China, jointly with Germany and the United States, to list ten different species, following concerns expressed last year about the unregulated use of these species for human consumption;

    • Commercial fish species, where Australia has put forward a proposal to list Patagonian toothfish in Appendix II, whilst the UK and India/Philippines have similar proposals for basking and whale sharks: the Commission says that the Community should support the second of these proposals, but that existing mechanisms already regulate the trade in Patagonian toothfish;

    • Mahogany and Guaiacum species, where the Commission supports proposals to list these in Appendix II;

    • The Cayman Turtle Farm, where the UK has applied for registration with the CITES Secretariat, in order to allow its shell by-products to be sold as tourist souvenirs

The Government's view

    1. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 16 October 2002, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) indicates that the UK supports the line proposed by the Commission on these various items. He also points out that the decision has no legal base, as the negotiating mandate is to be provided by way of a decision sui generis.[65]
    2. Conclusion

    3. We have no problem with the substance of this proposal, nor with the concept of the Community seeking to establish a common position among the Member States party to the Convention (though we recognise that its ability to do so in advance of the CITES meeting has been constrained by the absence of various documents relating to the meeting). We also understand that the outcome depends, not just on the Community Member States, but on the view taken by the parties to the Convention as a whole. We are therefore clearing the document.


63   OJ No. L 161, 3.3.97, p.1. Back

64   Appendix I species are regarded as the most endangered, and trade in them is prohibited; Appendix II species are regarded as vulnerable, but trade may take place is it is not detrimental to their survival, and items have been lawfully acquired. Back

65  However, the document in the form it was deposited purports to be based on Article 133 EC. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 11 November 2002