Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


6 Culture 2007 programme

(25859)

11572/04

COM(04) 469

+ ADD 1

Draft Decision establishing the Culture 2007 programme (2007-13)


Commission staff working paper — extended impact assessment

Legal baseArticle 151(5) EC; co-decision; unanimity
DepartmentCulture, Media and Sport
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 6 November 2005
Previous Committee ReportHC 34-vi (2005-06), para 4 (19 October 2005)
Discussed in Council14 November 2005
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionBudgetary provisions not cleared; further information requested

Background

6.1 This draft Decision proposes the establishment of the Culture 2007 with a total budget of €408 million for 2007-13. The money would be used to promote cross-border mobility of cultural workers; encourage circulation of cultural works (such as concerts, plays, ballets and art exhibitions); and encourage exchanges between cultures through, for example, grants to European Capitals of Culture and European cultural organisations.

6.2 The Government told the previous Committee that the proposal was broadly in line with the Government's view about the direction the new programme should take.[11] It would not be possible to settle the programme's budget until the EU's total budget for the 2007-13 had been agreed.

6.3 The previous Committee concluded that the draft of the Decision did not appear to raise issues of subsidiarity or proportionality. Moreover, the legal base appeared to be appropriate. Because the negotiations had only just begun, our predecessors kept the document under scrutiny and asked the Government for progress reports.

6.4 In October 2005, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell) told us:

  • about the amendments made to the draft Decision during the Council's negotiations and about amendments proposed by the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee; and
  • that it was the aim of the UK Presidency to seek a "partial political agreement" on the draft Decision at the Council's meeting on 14 November.[12]

6.5 The Minister told us that the proposed amendments included:

  • the addition of a new Recital (22a) requiring that the procedures for monitoring and evaluating the programme should make use of objectives and indicators which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed ("SMART");
  • drafting changes to ensure that the programme is open and inclusive and does not target specific cultural sectors; and
  • provision for the "memorials strand" of the programme to fund projects associated with the commemoration of Stalinist atrocities as well as projects associated with the Nazi Holocaust.

6.6 The Minister said that the Council and the Commission had informally welcomed the amendments proposed by the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee. She expected them to be endorsed by the European Parliament at its plenary session later in October. She would write to us again after the plenary meeting.

6.7 The Minister explained that the UK Presidency wished to achieve a "partial political agreement" (PPA) on the non-budgetary provisions of the draft Decision at the Council's meeting on 14 November. The PPA would, however, provide the opportunity to re-open consideration of the provisions on the programme's objectives and actions if the settlement of the EU's overall budget for 2007-13 resulted in a budget for Culture 2007 much less than that proposed by the Commission. The Council would take no decisions on the financial provisions of the draft Decision until after agreement has been reached on the EU's overall budget.

6.8 When we considered the draft Decision on 19 October 2005, we noted that Recital 3 of the draft considered by the previous Committee in October 2004 proposed that greater emphasis should be placed on the common cultural values and roots of the citizens of the European Union "as a key element of their identity and membership of a society founded on freedom, equity, democracy, tolerance and solidarity." We noted that the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee proposed that "respect for human dignity and integrity" should be inserted after "democracy" and that "in full compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union" should be added after "solidarity". We asked for the Minister's comments on the reasons for the addition of the reference to the Charter of Rights and her views on the appropriateness of adding the reference during the period of reflection on the proposed Constitutional Treaty.

6.9 We saw no need to object to the Government's aim of reaching a partial political agreement on the non-budgetary provisions of the draft Decision at the Council's meeting on 14 November on the express understanding that:

  • consideration of any provision of the document could, if necessary, be re-opened in the light of the settlement of the EU's overall budget for 2007-13;
  • the Minister would tell us about the European Parliament's proposed amendments following its plenary meeting in October;
  • the Minister would provide us with timely progress reports on the Council's subsequent consideration of the draft Decision; and
  • the budgetary provisions of the draft Decision remained under scrutiny.

The Minister's letter of 6 November 2005

6.10 The Minister's letter tells us about the European Parliament's amendments and responds to our question about the reference in revised Recital 3 to the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

6.11 She says that the European Parliament adopted nearly all the amendments that the Culture and Education Committee had proposed and which were acceptable. But the European Parliament also adopted some amendments which were not acceptable because they would:

  • place too much emphasis on the cultural heritage sector;
  • increase the proportion of EC financial support for projects from 50% to 70%;
  • require six partners from four Member States for multi-annual projects instead of the Commission's proposal for six partners from six Member States;
  • reduce the minimum threshold of Community support for cooperation measures from €50,000 to €30,000; and
  • insert a reference to specific organisations or prizes (such as the European Youth Orchestra or the Prix Europa), which would indicate earmarking rather than open calls for proposals.

6.12 As to the addition to Recital 3 of "in full compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union", the Minister says:

    "As the Presidency did not feel that the current wording of "in full compliance" was appropriate, the Council is expected to agree to change this Recital to reflect the more frequently-used wording of "in full respect of [my emphasis] the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union". This revision would keep intact the principle of the Parliament's amendment.

    "The Charter is a high profile political statement of rights, freedoms and principles applicable at EU level, as recognised in the opinion of the Advocate General in BECTU-v-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Case C-173/99 delivered on 8 February 2001). Including such references to it in the recitals to legislation is a positive way to ensure that the measures adopted by the EU institutions do not adversely affect the fundamental rights of citizens. Many of the provisions of the Charter are drawn from the ECHR or the EC Treaty, and mean the same as the ECHR or the EC Treaty respectively, but the Charter simply makes them more visible at EU level. It is not itself legally binding.

    "The Charter has been routinely referred to in the recitals to EC measures since its proclamation at the Nice European Council on 7 December 2000 (see Recital 5 of Council Directive 2002/8/EC of 27 January 2003 to improve access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid for such disputes and Recital 5 of Decision No 803/2004/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 adopting the Daphne II programme). As you know, recitals are the inspiration and context for a Decision, and while they can be used as an aid to interpretation, they do not contain legally binding obligations and do not change the Charter's status as a political declaration.

    "Moreover, referring to the Charter in the recitals to legislation in no way depends on the entry into force, or otherwise, of the Constitutional Treaty. The Government considers that this Treaty provides a sensible set of rules for an enlarged EU. The Government has long made clear that the Constitutional Treaty will only be ratified in the UK after a referendum and stands by that commitment. However, the Dutch and French 'no' votes raised serious questions about the Treaty's entry into force. As the European Council declaration (16-17 June 2005) states, the sensible thing to do now is to engage in a period of reflection to consider the right way forward for Europe. Europe needs to be relevant to the concerns of people in the early 21st century.

    "Therefore, in conclusion I believe that the inclusion of this revised reference can be considered appropriate."

Conclusion

6.13 We have quoted the Minister's remarks about the Charter of Fundamental Rights because we believe they will be of wide interest to the House. We wish to add only two observations. First, the Charter includes important provisions which are not to be found in the European Convention on Human Rights and the EC Treaty. Second, there appears to be little benefit in adding to the draft Decision a reference to a document which is not legally binding.

6.14 But, if the reference is to be added, the question arises whether an application for grant from the Culture 2007 Programme could be rejected on the grounds that it does not fully respect the Charter. We should be grateful for the Minister's views on the question.

6.15 We are grateful to the Minister for her comments on the amendments proposed by the European Parliament. We see nothing in her letter to lead us to depart from our previous decision that the budgetary provisions of the draft Decision should remain under scrutiny. We ask the Minister for regular reports on the progress of the negotiations.


11   See HC 42-xxxiii (2003-04), para 4 (20 October 2004). Back

12   See HC 34-vi (2005-06), para 4 (19 October 2005). Back


 
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Prepared 25 November 2005