Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Letter from the Foreign Secretary to Donald Anderson MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee

  At the evidence session before the Committee on 13 March about the prospects for the Barcelona European Council, I offered to provide a note on the proposals made by Javier Solana in a paper on reforming the Council for enlargement.

  It is in everyone's interests to reform the Council. Institutions designed for six are already under strain with fifteen members. The next enlargement will create an EU of up to 25. Reform is needed to ensure the Council does not lose its effectiveness in providing strategic direction and democratic accountability in the EU.

  The Convention on the Future of Europe will, of course, consider reform of the Council. Some measures such as changing the system of six-monthly rotating Presidencies, would require Treaty change in the 2004 IGC. They will therefore be discussed in the Convention.

  But there are practical steps to improve the efficiency of the Council which do not require Treaty change and could therefore be made before the Convention finishes its work. It was agreed at Barcelona that the Presidency will take forward Solana's proposals and consult Member States bilaterally between now and the Seville European Council with a view to taking decisions then. The attached paper sets out the UK response to Solana's proposals on these. I hope the Committee will find it helpful.

Jack Straw

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