The Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to the
LAEKEN EUROPEAN COUNCIL
1. The Presidency of the European Union rotates every
six months between its Member States. The Presidency country chairs
all ministerial council meetings and hosts the majority of them.
Each Presidency culminates in a Council meeting of heads of government
and it has been the practice of successive Foreign Affairs Committees
to hear oral evidence from the Secretary of State for Foreign
and Commonwealth Affairs immediately prior to such summits.
2. From July to December 2001, the EU Presidency
was held by Belgium. The Council meeting took place at Laeken
on 15 December, and this Committee heard oral evidence from the
Secretary of State, Jack Straw, on 5 December. It is that evidence,
together with associated memoranda and correspondence, which is
published with this Report.
3. As part of its ongoing Inquiry into Britain and
the European Union, the Committee will continue to invite oral
evidence from the Secretary of State before each main Council
meeting. We may also, if we think it appropriate, seek evidence
before a "special" Council meeting, as we did before
the Berlin Council of March 1999, which developed policy on EU
enlargement. By so doing, we intend to assist the House with its
scrutiny of EU affairs. Whenever we consider that a matter deserves
particular comment, we will make a substantive Report to the House.