Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex II


  1.  With a view to improving the functioning of the Council in the run-up to enlargement, the European Council has adopted the following conclusions, which will be reflected to the extent necessary by the relevant amendments to the Council's Rules of Procedure, to be made by 31 July 2002.


  2.  The current General Affairs Council configuration shall from now on be called the "General Affairs and External Relations Council". In order best to organise proceedings with regard to the two main areas of activity covered by this configuration, it will hold separate meetings (with separate agendas and possibly on different dates and) dealing, respectively, with:

    (a)  preparation for and follow-up to the European Council (including the co-ordinating activities necessary to that end), institutional and administrative questions, horizontal dossiers which affect several of the Union's policies and any dossier entrusted to it by the European Council, having regard to EMU operating rules;

    (b)  the whole of the Union's external action, namely common foreign and security policy, European security and defence policy, foreign trade, development co-operation and humanitarian aid.


  3.  The following list of Council configurations shall be included in the Annex to the Council's Rules of Procedure:

    1.  General Affairs and External Relations[2];

    2.  Economic and Financial Affairs[3];

    3.  Justice and Home Affairs[4];

    4.  Employment, Social Policy, Heath and Consumer Affairs;

    5.  Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research)[5];

    6.  Transport, Telecommunications and Energy;

    7.  Agriculture and Fisheries;

    8.  Environment;

    9.  Education, Youth and culture[6];

  It is agreed that several Ministers would be able to participate as full members of the same Council configuration, with the agenda and the organisation of proceedings being adjusted accordingly.

  In the case of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, each government shall be represented at the different meetings of this new configuration by the Minister or State Secretary of his choice.


  4.  In keeping with the role conferred upon it by the Treaty of defining the general political guidelines of the Union, the European Council shall adopt, on the basis of a joint proposal drawn up by the Presidencies concerned in consultation with the Commission and acting on a recommendation by the General Affairs Council, a multiannual strategic programme for the three years to come. The first such strategic programme will be adopted in December 2003.

  5.  In the light of the multiannual strategic programme referred to above, an annual operating programme of Council activities shall be submitted to the General Affairs Council in December each year. This programme shall be proposed jointly by the next two Presidencies in line and shall have regard, inter alia, to relevant points arising from the dialogue on the political priorities for the year, conducted at the Commission's initiative. The final version of the annual programme shall be drawn up on the basis of the General Affairs Council's discussions.

  With a view to implementing these arrangements as quickly as possible and by way of derogation from the first subparagraph, the first annual operating programme of Council activities shall be drawn up in December 2002.

  6.  This programme shall be accompanied by a list of indicative agendas for the various Council configurations for the first six months of the year. The list of indicative agendas for the second six months shall be submitted by the Presidency concerned before 1 July, following the appropriate consultations, in particular with the following Presidency.


Co-operation between Presidencies

  7.  Where it is clear that a dossier will essentially be dealt with during the following six-month period, the representative of the Member State holding the Presidency during that six-month period may, during the current six-month period, chair meetings of committees (other than Coreper) and working parties at which the dossier is discussed. The practical implementation of this provision shall be the subject of an agreement between the two Presidencies concerned.

  Thus, in the specific case of the examination of the budget for a given financial year, meetings of Council preparatory bodies other than Coreper shall be chaired by a representative of the Member State holding the Presidency during the second six-month period of the year prior to the financial year in question. The same arrangement shall apply, with the agreement of the other Presidency, to the chairing of Council meetings at the time when the items in question are discussed.

  8.  For the preparation of meetings of Council configurations meeting once every six months, where such meetings are held during the first half of the six-month period, meetings of committees other than Coreper and working party meetings taking place during the previous six-month period shall be chaired by a delegate of the Member State which will chair the Council meetings in question.

Chairing of certain working parties by the General Secretariat of the Council

  9.  In addition to cases where the General Secretariat of the Council already acts as chairman, the following working parties shall be chaired by a member of the General Secretariat of the Council:

    —  Working Party on Electronic Communications;

    —  Working Party on Legal Information;

    —  Working Party on Codification of Legislation;

    —  Working Party on Information;

    —  Working Party on New Buildings.


  10.  Council debates on acts adopted in accordance with the procedure for codecision with the European Parliament shall be open to the public under the following circumstances:

    —  during the initial stage of the procedure: opening to the public of the presentation by the Commission of its main codecision legislative proposals and the ensuing debate. The list of proposals concerned shall be drawn up by the Council at the beginning of each six-month period;

    —  during the final stage of the procedure: opening to the public of the vote and explanations of voting.

  11.  The debates shall be made public by providing the public with a room to which the deliberations of the Council will be transmitted live, including the indication by visual means of the outcome of the vote. The public will be informed in advance by the appropriate means (for example, on the Council's Internet site) of the days and times at which such transmissions will take place.


  12.  The Presidency shall ensure that meetings proceed smoothly. It shall be the Presidency's responsibility to take any measure required to achieve the best possible use of the time available during meetings, including:

    —  limiting the time for which contributors may speak;

    —  determining the order in which contributors speak;

    —  asking delegations to present their proposals for amendment of the text under discussion in writing before a given date, together with a brief explanation if appropriate;

    —  asking delegations which have an identical or close position on any particular item to choose one of them to express their joint position at the meeting or in writing before the meeting.

1   The new arrangements regarding Council configurations will be applied by the Danish Presidency having regard to the constraints which may arise from the timetable of meetings already established. Back

2   Including ESDP and development co-operation. Back

3   Including the budget. Back

4   Including civil protection. Back

5   Including tourism. Back

6   Including audiovisual affairs. Back

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