19 Europe in the World |
|Commission Communication: Europe in the World Some Practical Proposals for Greater Coherence, Effectiveness and Visibility
|Department||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration||Minister's letter of 12 July 2006
|Previous Committee Report||HC 34-xxxii (2005-06), para 5 (21 June 2006); also see HC 34-xxxi (2005-06), paras 1 and 30 (14 June 2006)
|Discussed in Council||15 June European Council
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
|Committee's decision||Cleared. Already considered relevant to the debate on "A Citizen's Agenda Delivering results for Europe"
19.1 After reviewing the challenges facing the EU and the EU's
external assets (enlargement; European neighbourhood policy; trade
and competitiveness; development; strategic relations, political
dialogue and CFSP; and disaster response, crisis management and
ESDP), the Commission, in its Communication, argues the case for
greater coherence and effectiveness. It proceeds on the basis
that, "within the framework of the existing treaties, the
Community and intergovernmental methods need to be combined on
the basis of what best achieves the desired outcome, rather than
institutional theory or dogma".
19.2 The Commission outlines "The Way Ahead"
under four headings:
- Better Strategic Planning
- Increasing Effectiveness and Impact through Better
- Better Co-operation between the EU Institutions
and Member States
- Improved Accountability
19.3 When we considered the Communication on 21 June,
we considered that the Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the
Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Dr Kim
Howells), with its cursory summary of the Communication, uninformative;
likewise his statement of the Government's views. This seemed
to us to be at one with the position taken by the previous and
present Minister for Europe with regard to similar documents,
all of which in one way or another related to the future of Europe
in the wake of the rejection, 14 months ago, by French and Dutch
citizens of the Constitutional Treaty witness the response
to the Commission's Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate
and its "Citizens' Agenda", which we considered on 14
June, as well as
the Commission's Green Paper on "The European Transparency
Initiative", which we again consider elsewhere in this Report.
The Government's general position appeared to be to shelter behind
the obvious absence of any consensus on the future of Europe and
to say that it would inform the House of its views once there
19.4 We considered this somewhat at odds with the
notion of increasing the involvement of national parliaments in
decision-making, as was the submission of an Explanatory Memorandum
on the day after the Council had approved the document in question
and instructed those involved to proceed forthwith. We felt this
was particularly so when the Communication contained significant
proposals that some might see as good managerial sense but which
others might see as "cherry-picking" in the face of
the uncertain future of the arrangements in the Constitutional
Treaty especially the absence of any comment on the proposal
to "double-hat" the EU Special Representative (EUSR)
and the head of the EC Delegation, given that only two days earlier
the Foreign Secretary had said to our colleagues on the Foreign
Affairs Committee, when questioned about the "double-hatting"
of the EUSR and Head of the EC Delegation in Macedonia, that "this
is certainly not a precedent that the United Kingdom Government
would wish to see repeated and we would resist it".
19.5 We considered this stance unacceptable, and
asked the Minister to provide the government's views now on the
detailed proposals in the Communication which ones he
did not agree with, and which ones he endorsed. In particular,
we asked whether he agreed with the Commission that, "within
the framework of the existing treaties, the Community and intergovernmental
methods need to be combined on the basis of what best achieves
the desired outcome, rather than institutional theory or dogma".
The Minister's letter
19.6 In his 12 July letter, the Minister for Europe
(Mr Geoffrey Hoon) continues to be reluctant to provide the sort
of answer that we are seeking: he does "not believe that
setting out the Government's detailed views on each of the Commission's
recommendations will be helpful until the debate at EU level has
developed further". He nonetheless does endorse proposals
on improving the internal coherence of the Commission's input
to EU external policy, which he describes as sensible and which
he notes can be implemented by the Commission itself without reference
to the Member States. Among examples of recommendations that "will
require further discussions between the Brussels institutions
and the Member States" and which he favours are:
meetings every six months between the incoming President of the
European Council and Foreign Minister, the President of the Commission
and the External Relations Commissioner and the High Representative
to undertake an overview of the Union's external action;
earlier preparation of Summits with key
partners to identify key internal policy issues to be raised;
an enhanced programme of exchange of
personnel with the diplomatic services of the Member States and
the staff of the Council Secretariat.
19.7 He then says that are other suggestions within
the paper that will require more detailed study, and indeed proposals
that will not be taken any further, but only discusses possible
arrangements in Bosnia and Herzegovina when, as is intended, the
EU takes over the lead role from the UN in 2007. He says:
"On double-hatting, the Foreign Secretary
stated our position at the Foreign Affairs Committee on 13 June.
We would not anticipate an extension of the precise model used
in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to other countries.
However, as the Committee is aware, the EU will need to take decisions
later this year about the organisation of its representation in
Bosnia and Herzegovina once the Office of the High Representative
closes, probably in June 2007. After this point, the EU will have
both a key political role in Bosnia, in the form of an EUSR who
will take on some of the OHR's functions, and a substantial amount
of leverage in the form of the Stabilisation and Association Process,
run by the Commission.
"In our view there is a good argument for
having the EU speak with one voice on these two closely interlocking
issues, so maximising the effectiveness of our presence in BiH.
This points to a different form of double hatting, which reflects
the greater political content of the job, under which the EUSR
(that is to say a politician, or senior national official, appointed
by the Council) also heads up the Commission's presence in country.
As with the FYROM case, safeguards would be needed to ensure that
lines of accountability were not blurred. Discussions on the way
forward in BiH are still at an early stage, but I would welcome
the opportunity to discuss our thinking with the Committee.
"During the term of the incoming Presidency
the Government will continue to discuss all of these issues with
the other Member States, the Commission and the Council Secretariat.
I shall keep you up to date on any important developments."
19.8 Lastly he notes our comments on the Explanatory
Memoranda on the Commission's Communications on Plan D and "A
Citizens' Agenda"; says that he welcomed the opportunity
of the debate in Standing Committee last month on Plan D;
and also notes "your invitation to come back to these issues"
in the debate on "A Citizens' Agenda".
19.9 We are less clear than the Minister that
the position taken by the Foreign Secretary on the question of
"double-hatting" and his are one and the same. He seems
to be arguing that the Foreign Secretary was referring only to
a situation where an "in situ" EU Special Representative
was also made head of an extant EC delegation, and that this is
in some way significantly different from the possibility that
he describes in a future Bosnia and Herzegovina: if there is a
distinction, it is one that at present escapes us. We look forward
to hearing more of how this notion develops during the discussions
to which he refers, and should be pleased to discuss this with
him on a future occasion. The debate on "A Citizen's Agenda"
will also provide the House with an opportunity to explore the
Government's thinking on this and other relevant issues, which
the Minister continues to be regrettably reluctant to share with
it at present.
19.10 We now clear the document.
57 See headnote. Back
See para 11 above. Back
Stg Com Deb, European Standing Committee, 23 May 2006,
cols 3-36. Back