Memorandum from the Secretary of State
for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
PROSPECTS FOR THE EUROPEAN
COUNCIL, LAEKEN, 14-15 DECEMBER 2001
1. We expect the main issues for Laeken
to include: Afghanistan and follow up to the events of 11 September;
Western Balkans; the Future of Europe; EU Enlargement; European
Defence; Justice and Home Affairs; Social Issues; Better Regulation;
Services of General Economic Interest; Euro Notes and Coins; Tax;
Galileo; and the Sites of European Agencies.
2. The focus of discussion of Afghanistan
will depend on developments on the ground and in the political
process aimed at establishing a new and broadly based Afghan government.
The Government's broad objective at Laeken will be reaffirmation
of the EU's support for the efforts of the United Nations Secretary
General and his Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi to devise
political arrangements for the future of Afghanistan acceptable
to all the people of Afghanistan, including through the provision
of humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance to underpin
a post-Taliban political settlement.
3. The European Council will take stock
of progress on developing relations with the other countries in
the region. The Government believes that more active engagement
by the European Union with the countries of Central Asia, Pakistan,
India and Iran has an important role to play in strengthening
wider regional stability.
4. On internal EU action against terrorism,
we will want the European Council to focus in particular on four
(i) approval of a common European arrest
warrant, a common definition of terrorist offences, and a framework
agreement on freezing of assets and on evidence;
(ii) increased co-operation between the operational
services responsible for fighting terrorism;
(iii) the speedy ratification by all member
States of the UN Convention for the Suppression of Financing of
Terrorism and commitment to strengthen national legislation against
the financing of terrorism; and
(iv) approval without delay of Commission
proposals to improve air transport security.
5. Heads of State and Government are likely
to welcome progress towards peace and stability in the Balkans,
particularly the consolidation of democracy and reform in Croatia
and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). We hope they will
reaffirm support for the EU's policy framework for the regionthe
Stabilisation and Association Process. Countries of the region
have been offered the incentive of EU membership in return for
democratic reforms and better regional co-operation. Tailored
Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) provide a path
towards EU membership and are backed up by practical help through
technical assistance and trade liberalisation. Croatia signed
its SAA in October 2001, following Macedonia in April. Negotiations
on an SAA for Albaniaand perhaps the FRYshould start
6. Depending on events on the ground, the
most likely subject for discussion at Laeken under this agenda
item is Macedonia. There has recently been better news, with adoption
of constitutional changes in line with the August 2001 Framework
Agreement (secured with extensive EU involvement). It remains
unclear whether the Agreement will produce long-term stability,
but the risk of civil war has, for now, been averted.
7. The European Council may also discuss
the FRY. The government in Belgrade supports European integration,
but there are serious internal problems, notably separatist pressures
in Montenegro, which may lead to another referendum, and in Kosovo,
following the 17 November elections. Our policy on both issues
is to push for dialogue between those concerned, and to discourage
unilateral actionsparticularly as regards a possible referendum
on independence for Montenegro.
8. Discussion of other international issues
will depend on events in the interim. The European Council is
likely to address developments in the Middle East Peace Process.
It is also likely to welcome the successful outcomes to the negotiations
in Marrakech from 29 October to 10 November on climate change
and at Doha from 9 to 14 November on an agreement to launch a
new WTO Round of trade liberalisation talks.
9. At Nice, EU leaders called for agreement
at the Laeken European Council on "appropriate initiatives"
to continue the debate on the Future of Europe leading up to the
next Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in 2004.
10. Member States are already debating the
issue at national level. The General Affairs Council and the Ghent
Informal European Council agreed that a Convention involving Member
States' national Parliamentarians and MEPs would be the best mechanism
to take forward collective debate on how best to prepare for the
11. Final decisions on the composition and
mandate for the Convention will be taken at Laeken. We want the
European Council to agree a mandate which asks fundamental questions
about the future of the EU but which does so in a way which allows
full and open discussion of all possible solutions to the challenges
the EU faces, and addresses the concerns of EU citizens. We want
the Convention's report to present a range of options.
12. Some questions are already settled:
the Convention will comprise one
Government representative and two parliamentarians from each member
state; 16 MEPs; and one representative of the college of Commissioners;
candidate states will participate
the President of the Convention will
head a Praesidium representing each of the main groups in the
Convention to direct its work; and
the President will produce a report
to the IGC which records the options discussed in the Convention.
9. We expect the themes identified by Laeken
Union objectives and policies;
-demarcation of powers between the
Union and its Member States;
the Union's capability to decide
and conduct its policies; and
simplification and presentation of
15. The Convention will be launched during
the Spanish Presidency in the first half of 2002, and is likely
to continue until the spring or early summer of 2003.
16. Heads of Government are likely to welcome
the progress made in the accession negotiations during the Belgian
Presidency. The Presidency has so far reached agreement on EU
positions for all but one of the chapters allocated to their Presidency
under the "road map" for negotiations endorsed at Nice.
We hope to agree positions on the remaining chapter, Transport,
before Laeken. The EU has also continued to make progress in closing
chapters with candidates. All but Poland have now accepted the
EU position on Free Movement of Persons. And the ten candidates
with target accession dates of 2004 or earlier have all closed
at least 18 chapters. This means that four of the candidates which
began negotiations in 2000 (Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta)
have now caught up with those which began in 1998.
17. The Commission's 13 November Enlargement
Strategy Paper and its annual reports on the candidates' progress
will set the backdrop for discussion. The strategy paper confirms
that the Gothenburg timetable for accession remains on track:
ending negotiations with the first candidates by the end of 2002
so they can join before the 2004 European Parliament elections.
The Commission will propose membership of the first wave in next
year's reports. The strategy paper also concludes that there is
enough money in the 2000-06 Financial Perspective to finance an
enlargement of up to 10 candidates within the ceilings agreed
at Berlin. The UK welcomes these conclusions, although we will
continue to press for more detail about the financing assumptions.
The Prime Minister was the first EU leader to call for the first
candidates to join the EU before the next European Parliament
18. Heads of State and Government may welcome
the Commission's increased emphasis on the candidate countries'
performance in implementing and enforcing the acquis. The Commission's
strategy paper sets out plans to enhance its monitoring of implementation
through increased use of peer review involving existing Member
States, and monitoring to continue between the signature of accession
treaties and their ratification. The UK supports the view that
effective implementation will play an important role in the remainder
of the accession process. And we endorse the priority areas identified
by the Commission: protection of EU citizens through border security,
consumer protection, food safety, environmental safety, health
and safety in the workplace, and transport safety; effective implementation
of the Single Market; and transparent management of Community
funds. The Commission strategy paper earmarks
250 million to help the candidates to build institutional
capacity. The UK also continues to work closely with the candidates,
both through EU programmes and bilaterally, to support the administrative
and judicial reforms that underpin effective implementation.
19. On Cyprus, we would like the Council
conclusions to reflect the messages of the Commission's annual
progress report, in particular, the clear statement that the provisions
of a settlement can be accommodated within Cyprus's accession
arrangements. As the Helsinki European Council concluded, a political
settlement would facilitate Cyprus's accession; it cannot be a
precondition for it.
20. The Commission's report on Turkey welcomes
recent constitutional reforms, but emphasises the importance of
their full implementation. It concludes that Turkey does not yet
meet the political criteria for membership and that, confronted
with two financial crises, has been unable to make further progress
towards achieving a "functioning market economy". However,
the report proposes that the pre-accession strategy for Turkey
should move into a more intense phase, with detailed scrutiny
of Turkey's legislation. We agree.
21. The European Council should adopt a
Presidency report on the European Security and Defence Policy
(ESDP). In line with the mandate given at Nice (December 2000)
and reinforced at the Special European Council in the wake of
11 September (Brussels, 21 September), the report should state
that the EU already has a limited capacity to act in civilian
and military crisis management. The EU will be in a position to
take on increasingly demanding operations as the assets and capabilities
at its disposal increase. The UK would support this assessment:
it is realistic, and signals the need for further progress to
enhance European military capabilities.
22. The Presidency report will also note
efforts, in particular by the United Kingdom, to finalise an agreement
between NATO and the EU on assured access to NATO planning and
presumed access to NATO capabilities and common assets for EU-led
23. The Laeken Council will welcome the
declaration issued at the 19 November Capabilities Improvement
Conference. The Conference noted EU Member States' on-going commitment
to meet the Headline Goal targets. Progress has been made in the
past 12 months to close some capability shortfalls. Member States
have agreed an action plan to close the remainder. The UK remains
the leading proponent of practical steps to enhance military capability
24. On Civilian Crisis Management, the Laeken
Council will endorse the declaration issued at the 19 November
Police Capabilities Commitment Conference. The Conference noted
that the EU had met the Feira target (agreed in June 2000) of
having 5,000 police officers available by 2003 for deployment
on peacekeeping operations of international organisations (and
for 1,000 to be available for deployment within 30 days) and welcomed
the progress on the Police Action Plan (adopted at Gothenburg
in June 2001).
25. The current work programme on Justice
and Home Affairs in the EU was set by the 1999 European Council
at Tampere, which set the EU the task of creating by 2004 an "area
of freedom, security and justice". The Tampere conclusions
called for a full European Council debate on progress in December
2001. The Government hopes that Laeken will re-affirm that all
Member States share the political will to implement the Tampere
conclusions, and that Heads of State and Government mean to deliver
what they signed up to at Tampere. There have been some notable
achievements in past two years, but we believe that overall progress
has not been fast enough.
26. On judicial cooperation, Tampere stated
clearly that mutual recognition should become the cornerstone
of judicial co-operation in both civil and criminal matters in
the European Union. The United Kingdom attaches the utmost importance
to implementation of mutual recognition in both civil and criminal
matters. The Government hopes that Laeken will approve the abolition
of dual criminality, acknowledge that approximation of criminal
law is not required as a prerequisite for mutual recognition and
resist unnecessary bureaucratic or substantive impediments which
delay mutual recognition. On civil law cooperation, mutual recognition
has the potential to deliver significant practical benefits to
27. In the area of criminal law approximation,
Tampere agreed to work on common definitions and sanctions for
certain types of crime. The Government hopes that Laeken will
take steps to ensure the swift completion of work in the priority
areas agreed at Tampere.
28. As for law enforcement structures, the
Tampere Conclusions envisage a comprehensive set of European Union
law enforcement structures, comprising joint investigative teams,
the European Police Chiefs' operational Task Force, a strengthened
Europol, and Eurojust. We want Laeken to give a fresh impetus
to the development of the Task Force, making it more operational
and accountable to the Council. We want Europol's work to be given
greater priority. It is also vital that the Council Decision to
establish Eurojust is completed before Laeken.
29. Action against drugs is an integral
part of the Tampere agenda. Laeken is an opportunity to set concrete
goals for delivery and action and to set the parameters for the
review of progress on the EU Action Plan against Drugs by the
Council in mid 2002. We want more visible operational activity,
maximising the use of European law enforcement machinery, which
has a real impact in tackling drug trafficking. We also want a
commitment to tough common penalties for serious cases of drug
30. The Government wants Laeken to give
a new push to the work on the development of common asylum and
immigration policies and the fight against human trafficking.
Tampere called for the establishment of a common asylum system.
We want to make real progress on the establishment of common definitions,
minimum standards, and agreed procedures for handling asylum seekers.
31. Finally, we want Laeken to endorse some
essential changes to working methods to ensure that we are equipped
to deliver the rest of the Tampere agenda on time. In particular,
we would welcome more frequent one-day meetings of the Council
with shorter and more focussed agendas, concentrating on key policy
issues, as well as a clearer articulation of the respective roles
of the supporting committees.
32. The Laeken European Council will focus
on a number of the social policy and employment issues that have
featured prominently under the Belgian Presidency. The Belgian
Presidency is keen to approve indicators on Quality in Work at
Laeken as part of the remit agreed by the Stockholm European Council.
Taken together with the Joint Employment Report for 2001 and the
draft Employment Guidelines for 2002, both due to be endorsed
at Laeken, agreement on Quality in Work indicators will represent
further progress towards the Lisbon goal of full employment. The
Government wishes to be satisfied that all of the indicators proposed
genuinely measure quality and will contribute to the goal of creating
more and better jobs.
33. The Lisbon and Stockholm European Councils
also agreed on the need to make a decisive impact against social
exclusion, using an open method of co-ordination, including national
action plans and EU-wide commonly agreed indicators. The Employment
and Social Policy Council on 3 December will consider a limited
number of commonly agreed indicators on social exclusion. The
agreed indicators will pass to Laeken for endorsement. Laeken
will also be asked to endorse a joint Inclusion Report. We support
both these processes. We believe that the Laeken European Council
should represent a milestone in developing a European dimension
to the fight against social exclusion.
34. A joint Social Protection Committee/Economic
Policy Committee report on identifying objectives and working
methods in the area of pensions is being prepared for presentation
to the Laeken European Council. This report provides a follow-up
to the Commission communication on pensions discussed by EU social
policy Ministers at Liege in July. The report focusses on identifying
key objectives for pension systems and the most appropriate way
to apply the open method of co-ordination for future work. It
places this work in the context of the conclusions of the Gothenburg
European Council, which agreed that any results will be integrated
into the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines.
35. As requested by the Stockholm Conclusions,
Laeken will consider parameters for the modernisation of Regulation
1408/71, the EU regulation that co-ordinates Member States' social
security schemes. The draft parameters are still under discussion
but are likely to be agreed by the Employment and Social Policy
Council in advance of Laeken. The key areas for discussion are
unemployment benefits and healthcare and the extension of co-ordination
to nationals of third countries, which the Belgian Presidency
has chosen to put on a parallel track. We welcome setting parameters
in this area. We had difficulties with parts of the Commission's
original proposal, particularly over the increased bureaucracy
and costs that some of these proposals would bring. But we believe
it is important to modernise this legislation to make it clear,
simple and user-friendly.
36. Improving the regulatory environment
in the EU is a key priority for the UK. Bad quality or inappropriate
legislation can reduce firms' competitiveness by increasing costs
or distorting markets. The UK strongly supported the Lisbon European
Council's call for a strategy "to simplify the regulatory
environment" to be set out by 2001.
37. A report by the Mandelkern Group on
Better Regulation was presented to the 26 November Internal Market
Council. The UK has been an active participant in the group and
welcomes the report and its conclusions, including the need for
better consultation and full consideration of alternatives to
legislation. We hope this report, together with a strong contribution
from the Commission, will be the basis for discussion at Laeken
on implementing a co-ordinated better regulation strategy.
38. Better regulation is also an important
domestic issue. A recent European Commission survey suggested
the UK had a poor record on reducing the regulatory burden facing
business. We will look carefully at the results of the survey.
But other indicators do not support this conclusion. The UK is
the biggest recipient of inward investment in Europe, by some
distance. And an Arthur Andersen report concluded the UK was the
most lightly regulated of all the major economies.
39. The Nice European Council called on
the Commission to present a report to the Laeken Council on Services
of General Economic Interest (SGEI). The report looks at how EU
rules governing state aids, competition and public procurement
are applied to public services where they are provided by the
40. The UK believes there is a balance to
be struck between the freedom of Member States to deliver public
services as they see fit, and ensuring respect for state aid rules
and the integrity of the Single Market. We do not wish to see
SGEI removed from the state aids and competition regimes. But
there is a need to clarify what counts as state aid. And there
may be a case for tightly drawn block exemptions from the state
aid regime, where it is clear there has been a transparent tendering
41. So the UK welcomes the Commission's
report as a first step in the clarification process, although
we continue to be concerned by their wide interpretation of the
scope of the state aid rules. We will also encourage the Commission
to work up authoritative guidelines on the role of the private
sector in the delivery of services to the public.
42. The Laeken Council will review preparations
for the changeover to euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002.
The Government wants to see the changeover go well.
43. We expect that Laeken will receive a
progress report on the Tax Package. The Council may also receive
updates on discussions regarding VAT invoicing and e-commerce
and the Energy Products Directive.
44. We do not anticipate substantive discussion
of Galileo, the proposed Satellite Navigation System, at Laeken.
Whether it is discussed at all is likely to depend on the outcome
of the 7 December Transport Council. The UK welcomes the Commission's
work on this subject but has raised concerns about the costs,
funding, likely benefits to users, those of Public-Private Partnership,
and aspects of security and project management. The April Transport
Council undertook to reach a decision at its December meeting,
following further cost-benefit analysis from PriceWaterhouse Coopers
(PWC). Finance Ministers will consider the PWC report at ECOFIN
on 4 December.
45. The Presidency is likely to seek an
agreement at Laeken on a number of sites for EU agencies. The
legislative framework for the European Food Authority to start
operation may be agreed by the end of the Presidency, by which
time it would be helpful also to have agreement on a site, to
enable the Authority to start operating in the New Year. We will
support this. The UK has offered to accommodate the Secretariat
of the European Police Training College at Bramshill, where UK
senior police training takes place.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
27 November 2001