Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

PROSPECTS FOR THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL COPENHAGEN, 12-13 DECEMBER 2002

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Copenhagen European Council should be the final stage in the enlargement negotiations with 10 candidate countries from Central and South-Eastern Europe. There will be a progress report from the Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Heads are also expected to endorse a note on the Drugs Action Plan, and may consider latest developments in the telecommunications sector, in the negotiations on a package agreement on tax issues, and on European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). On present planning, Foreign Ministers will discuss CFSP[1]1 issues—MEPP[2], Iraq, and possibly Wider Europe and terrorism. Heads of Government may also discuss Council reform.


ENLARGEMENT

  2.  Copenhagen is primarily about enlargement. We expect the Copenhagen summit to conclude negotiations with the 10 candidate countries hoping to accede to the EU in 2004. This is in line with the objective set by the Prime Minister in 2000: that the candidates join in time to participate as Members in the June 2004 European Parliament. We welcome the prospect of achieving this historic goal of ending the postwar division of Europe, and of reinforcing the stability, prosperity, and security of our continent.

  3.  The Copenhagen European Council will agree the financial package for enlargement This will be based on the decisions reached at the Brussels European Council in October, which set aside a significant amount of money for the candidates, focussing on their developmental needs, and in line with their capacity to absorb EU funds. Brussels also agreed that no candidate should be worse off after enlargement: in other words, that they should get at least as much in 2004, when they have joined, as they get in 2003 in pre-accession funds.

  4.  The Presidency aims to finalise as much as possible of the outstanding negotiating issues before Copenhagen. We support this aim. There is limited scope for further concessions. Our objective will be to ensure that the European Council agrees a fair and realistic outcome for the candidates, one which remains within the overall financial ceilings agreed at Berlin in 1999, and one which respects the cap on agricultural payments agreed at the Brussels European Council. Brussels also confirmed that the own resources acquis would apply to the new Member States from accession—this includes candidates' contributions to the UK abatement.

  5.  We expect Copenhagen to confirm 1 May 2004 as the date of accession for the first 10 candidates. The financial package has so far been based on a working assumption of a 1 January accession. We anticipate that the Council will agree that the candidates' contributions should be reduced on a pro rata basis to reflect the later date, but that most of their receipts in 2004 will remain unaffected. This will go some way to addressing candidates' concerns about cashflow in their first year of membership.

CYPRUS AND TURKEY

  6.  On Cyprus, our aim is for the European Council to agree on the admission of a reunited Cyprus to the EU. This will depend on progress in the Cyprus settlement talks. Decisions at Copenhagen on Cyprus will be in line with the Helsinki European Council conclusions, since reaffirmed by other European Council meetings—ie that a political settlement would facilitate accession, but would not be a precondition for it, and that in reaching a decision all relevant factors would be taken into account

  7.  We want Copenhagen to signal a step forward in relations with Turkey, by giving the Turks a clear prospect of the opening of accession negotiations, subject to their meeting the Copenhagen political criteria.

BULGARIA AND ROMANIA

  8.  The European Council will also consider the path to accession for Romania and Bulgaria, who will continue with their accession negotiations next year. We expect the European Council to endorse Commission roadmaps detailing how and where Bulgaria and Romania need to carry out reforms in order to be ready to join the EU in 2007. We support the Commission's proposals.

FUNCTIONING OF THE COUNCIL

  9.  As mandated by the Seville European Council, the Presidency will report to Copenhagen on reform of the Presidency system. Discussions to date have shown that there is broad agreement on some key principles which should form the basis of any future reform:

    —  strengthened continuity;

    —  improved efficiency;

    —  improved coordination, consistency and transparency in the Council's work;

    —  equality between Member States.

  10.  The Presidency has to date focussed on three possible models for reform (a majority of partners can support the first of these, though opinion varies as to whether this should be a final position or a first step in the reform process):

    —  Model 1: maintains the current rotating Presidency but extends cooperation and introduces burden-sharing between present and future Presidencies.

    —  Model 2: an "institutional" Presidency for the Council's coordinating chain (ie meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, when meeting in the General Affairs format and Coreper) with either a rotating or elected Presidency for other Council activities, including sectoral Councils.

    —  Model 3: a Team Presidency (composition, size, term not yet determined), perhaps retaining a six-monthly rotating component for the coordinating groupings.

  11.  There may also be discussion of the options for strengthening the role of the CFSP High Representative—and of the idea of an elected President of the European Council (which could be combined with either models 2 and 3).

  12.  The Presidency envisage informal discussion of the options by Heads of Government at Copenhagen, but they do not consider the time is right for decisions on immediate reforms (over and above those agreed at Seville). We would be happy with the proposals in Model 1 as an interim step to more fundamental reforms, requiring Treaty change, at the IGC. But we shall be seeking to ensure that our preferred options—inter alia an elected President of the European Council—remain part of the discussion at Copenhagen. The European Council will also decide whether the Council should send a contribution on this subject to the Convention. We believe it should.

LANGUAGE REGIME

  13.  The Seville conclusions asked the Council "to study the question of the use of languages in the context of an enlarged Union and practical means of improving the present situation without endangering the basic principles". At Copenhagen, Heads of Government will take note of a report on this issue. This report will consider the translation and interpretation problems which will face the Council in an enlarged Union. It will also set out three options: (i) adjusting the current system; (ii) introducing a "request and pay" system; and (iii) defining a limited standard interpreting regime. Heads of Government are expected to agree a mandate for further work by the Presidency.

CONVENTION ON THE FUTURE OF EUROPE

  14.  Giscard d'Estaing will give a progress report on the Convention's work to date. This is likely to focus on the reports of the 10 Working Groups intended to form the basis of a draft constitutional text (for which he has al ready produced a framework).

CFSP

  15.  On CFSP issues, we expect Foreign Ministers to discuss Iraq and the situation in the Middle East. Foreign Ministers may also discuss Wider Europe, including EU policy towards Belarus and, possibly, terrorism.

ESDP

  16.  The European Council will take note of a Presidency progress report on ESDP, which is likely to focus on the capability increases necessary to meet the Helsinki headline goal, and progress in EU-NATO relations.

DRUGS ACTION PLAN

  17.  We expect the European Council to endorse a Note from the Justice and Home Affairs Council on the mid-term review of the EU Drugs Action Plan. This will emphasise the need for more effective action at EU level on the most significant drugs (heroin, cocaine and crack-cocaine) to tighter deadlines. It will also make clear the need for continuing work in Afghanistan to eliminate the poppy crop. The UK wants to see implementation of the Action Plan as quickly as possible.

TAXATION

  18.  We expect Heads at Copenhagen to receive a report on negotiations on the Tax package initiated at the Feira European Council in 2000. The UK is a strong supporter of the package.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

  19.  In October President Chirac wrote to colleagues to express concerns about the state of the telecommunications sector in Europe. He considers the sector to be in crisis, in particular as a result of the high costs paid by telecoms companies for third generation (3G) licenses. He has submitted a number of suggestions for concerted EU action. These proposals have now been submitted to the Telecoms Council for its meeting on 5 December. Depending on the results of that Council, Heads of Government may give further consideration to this issue in Copenhagen.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

December 2002


1   Common Foreign and Security Policy. Back

2   Middle East Peace Process. Back


 
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