Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office



  1.  The Seville European Council is likely to focus on asylum and immigration and Council reform. Other possible subjects for discussions include EU action against terrorism; ratification of the Nice Treaty; the Convention on the Future of Europe; EU enlargement; sustainable development; a number of economic and social issues, including the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, the tax package, financial services, eEurope, better regulation and advancing ICT in schools; and international developments, particularly India/Pakistan and the Middle East.


  2.  The Prime Minister wrote to the Spanish Prime Minister on 16 May, stressing the political need for Seville to agree:

    —  urgent action to strengthen the EU's borders;

    —  a tougher approach with source countries on returns;

    —  rapid progress on joint returns to Afghanistan;

    —  work on the scope for Community funding to encourage stronger frontiers and an equitable asylum system; and

    —  speedier progress in agreeing key asylum measures.

  3.  We see these measures as a single, coherent package—action to secure borders and improve enforcement is essential if we are to unblock obstacles to agreement on a common EU asylum system. And progress at the EU level may help in our work with the French to resolve the problem of Sangatte.

  4.  There may also be a discussion of legal migration into the EU. Again, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue on an EU-wide basis.

  5.  Seville is also likely to take stock of progress on EU action against terrorism. While much has been achieved in recent months, more is needed on the freezing of terrorist assets and practical counter-terrorist co-operation.


  6.  We hope that agreement can be reached on practical changes to improve the efficiency and transparency of the Council. As agreed at Barcelona, the Presidency has visited EU capitals to follow up Javier Solana's report and has briefed us on its plans, although we have not yet seen the final proposals. We think these are likely to focus on four areas not requiring Treaty change:

    (a)  improving the working practices of the European-Council, to help deliver a more strategic body, including through annual agenda-setting; more focussed and shorter agendas; shorter, more operational conclusions in plain language; and use of QMV for questions which are decided by QMV at sectoral councils;

    (b)  splitting the General Affairs Council into two formations—external and horizontal—in part to improve the preparation of European Councils;

    (c)  openness when legislating on dossiers subject to co-decision;

    (d)  reforming the Presidency system to ensure greater continuity.

  7.  Seville can only agree measures which do not require Treaty change. But it may also agree on a process for handling the next stage of Council reform, in respect of those reforms which require Treaty change at the IGC.


  8.  As agreed at Barcelona, Ireland will seek a declaration to confirm that the Treaty of Nice will not affect its neutrality. We have not yet seen a text, but do not expect to have any difficulties of principle.


  9.  Giscard d'Estaing, the Convention's President, will give a progress report on the Convention's work to date.


  10.  Seville should be a routine Summit on enlargement, principally marking the start of the last stage of negotiations. The Commission will submit a report on the candidates' implementation of their negotiating commitments and the strengthening of their administrations, and the Presidency will submit a progress report on the negotiations. We want Seville to reaffirm the European Council's firm commitment to the enlargement timetable agreed at Laeken, so that negotiations with the best prepared candidates can finish this year, allowing them to participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections.

  11.  The Commission will present its report on an enlargement Communications Strategy, to publicise the benefits of enlargement. We support the Commission's work.

  12.  On Cyprus, we want Seville to reaffirm the EU's support for the continuing UN settlement process; recall the EU's preference to decide at Copenhagen to admit a united island; and reiterate the conclusions of the Helsinki European Council—that a political settlement would facilitate accession, but would not be a pre-condition for it.

  13.  We want Seville to welcome Turkey's progress towards fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria, and to encourage further efforts, in line with the Accession Partnership.


  14.  Seville is the last European Council before the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg (26 August-6 September). We want Seville to agree:

    —  our priorities for the WSSD: improving access to safe drinking water, sanitation, energy services, and coherent management of the oceans, showing that we want to make globalisation work for sustainable development, especially for the poorest, and in particular that sustainable development will benefit from the new WTO negotiations and the commitments made at Monterrey on increased aid;

    —  an external dimension to the EU's own Sustainable Development Strategy, focusing on developing country concerns: access to EU markets, and greater coherence between the EU's internal and external policies.


  15.  We expect Seville to endorse the 2002 Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs) following agreement of the text by an ECOFIN Council on 20 June. We want conclusions from Seville highlighting the need for stronger macroeconomic performance across the EU, and for continued economic reform, to promote more and better jobs, enhance productivity and promote sustainable development.

  16.  Seville will take stock of negotiations on the Tax package launched at the Feira European Council in 2000. We strongly support the package.

  17.  To maintain the momentum in implementing the Financial Services Action Plan, we want Seville to focus on the need to cut costs for firms accessing capital, and to offer consumers and investors more choice and lower prices. The conclusions should also note recent progress by ECOFIN in reaching political agreement on the following elements of the Plan: the Financial Conglomerates, Market Abuse and Supplementary Pension Directives.

  18.  We expect Seville to endorse a new eEurope Action Plan 2005, to follow on from the current eEurope strategy, which comes to an end this year. The Barcelona European Council agreed that the new Action Plan should focus on increasing the availability of broadband technologies by 2005, producing a faster, more interactive and user-friendly Internet. We welcome the new Action Plan, particularly its proposals for using broadband to deliver modern online public services.

  19.  The Commission will submit its Better Regulation Action Plan which Heads requested at Barcelona. It contains the key elements we have been calling for, in particular minimum consultation requirements, and impact assessments for Commission proposals. Better Regulation is an important part of the Lisbon and European Governance agendas. We want Seville to call for the Action Plan's early implementation.

  20.  Education and training. Seville will receive the Commission's feasibility report on the proposal, agreed at Barcelona, to help secondary schools establish ICT twinning links with schools in other member states (an initiative of the Prime Minister and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar). It may be asked to take note of an agreed resolution on lifelong learning.


  21.  The crisis between India and Pakistan and continuing tension in the Middle East will certainly be discussed: the nature of the discussion will depend on events in the interim.

  22.  Seville will receive a report on the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which will give an update of developments on both the military and civilian aspects, and set out the mandate for the Danish Presidency.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

June 2002

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