5 Promotion of "active European
+ ADD 1
|Draft Decision establishing for the period 2007-2013 the programme "Citizens for Europe" to promote active European citizenship
Commission staff working document Impact assessment
|Articles 151 and 308 EC; co-decision; unanimity
|Culture, Media and Sport
|Basis of consideration
|Minister's letter of 29 September 2006
|Previous Committee Report
|HC 34-iv (2005-06), para 6 (20 July 2005)
|Discussed in Council
|25 September 2006
|Politically and legally important
|Not cleared; further information requested
5.1 In 2004, the Council adopted a Decision to establish a Community
action programme to promote active European Citizenship.
The programme provides:
- Operating grants to co-finance expenditure associated with
the permanent work programme of bodies (such as European think
tanks and the Association of Councils of State) pursuing an aim
of general European interest in the field of active European citizenship;
- grants to co-finance specific action to promote
active European citizenship, such as town-twinning.
The programme will expire on 31 December 2006. Its
legal base is Article 308 of the EC Treaty.
5.2 In April 2005, the Commission proposed this draft
Decision to renew the programme and to add a cultural dimension
to it. The programme would run from 2007 to 2013 with a total
budget of 235 million. The Commission cites two legal bases
for the measure:
- Article 151 of the EC Treaty,
which authorises the Council to adopt measures to give incentives
to Member States to co-operate with each other to promote knowledge
and dissemination of Europe's culture and history and encourage
cultural exchanges; and
- Article 308 of the Treaty, which authorises
the Council to adopt measures if they are necessary to attain,
in the course of the operation of the common market, one of the
objectives of the Treaty and the Treaty has not provided the necessary
5.3 The programme for 2007-13 would have three general
- encouraging involvement of
citizens in forming "an ever closer Europe, united in and
enriched through its cultural diversity";
- "forging a European identity,
based on common values, history and culture"; and
- "enhancing mutual understanding
between European citizens respecting and celebrating cultural
diversity, while contributing to intercultural dialogue".
5.4 The programme would also have four specific objectives:
- bringing people together from
local communities across Europe;
- fostering "action, debate and reflection"
related to European citizenship;
- making the idea of Europe more
tangible for its citizens by celebrating its values and achievements;
- encouraging balanced integration of citizens
and civil-society organisations from all Member States.
5.5 The new programme would :
- support activities such as
- give grants to think tanks and civil-society
organisations at a European level or with a European dimension;
- provide financial support for high-visibility
events such as commemorations, awards and conferences; studies,
surveys and opinion polls; and the collection and dissemination
5.6 The Commission says that Article 151 of the EC
Treaty would provide the legal base for the cultural element of
the draft Decision and Article 308 would provide the legal base
for the rest of it.
5.7 The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and
Sport (Tessa Jowell) told us that EC funding for the types of
activity covered by the draft Decision was well established. There
was widespread support among Member States for the main aims of
the proposal. She also told us that, although Article 308 was
cited as the legal base for the 2004-06 programme, the "additional
provisions in the proposed new programme will necessitate a further
look at the argument for 308 as part-legal base in this case".
However, she said that the use of Article 151 and 308 together
was acceptable to the UK because the procedure under each Article
requires the Council to act unanimously.
5.8 When we considered the draft Decision on 20 July
2005, we noted that
the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office
(Caroline Flint) had told previous Committee in her letter of
1 March 2004 that the Government had obtained an assurance from
the Commission that an evaluation of the 2004-06 programme would
accompany any proposal to renew it. (We were subsequently promised
that Departments would provide full explanations in any case where
such an evaluation was not carried out.) We concluded that it
was unacceptable that the Commission had failed to honour the
assurance, and had presented this draft Decision without an evaluation
of the existing programme and without providing evidence about
the effectiveness of the proposed expenditure.
5.9 We also considered it unacceptable that the Government
had not provided an explanation of the reason for the absence
of an evaluation. We asked the Secretary of State for Culture,
Media and Sport why she had not provided the explanation and to
find out from the Commission why it had not honoured the assurance
it had given the Government.
5.10 We said that we expected the Government to
oppose the draft Decision until such time as an external evaluation
of the existing programme demonstrated its effectiveness.
5.11 We expressed concern about the citation of Article
308 as part of the legal basis for this proposal since it did
not appear to us that the proposed programme would be necessary
to attain one of the Community's objectives "in the operation
of the common market". We asked the Government to re-examine
the argument for the use of Article 308 and to explain to us the
concerns raised by other Member States about combining Articles
151 and 308.
5.12 We also asked the Secretary of State to provide
us with the full Regulatory Impact Assessment of the proposal.
The Minister's letter of 29 September 2006
5.13 The Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism
at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (Mr Shaun Woodward)
begins his letter with an apology for the Government's failure
to reply, until now, to our report of 20 July 2005; he adds that
he has asked the Department's officials to ensure that our questions
are dealt with "more promptly".
5.14 The Minister tells us that the Council reached
a political agreement on the draft Decision at its meeting on
18 May 2006. He says:
"While the programme is a continuation of current
initiatives and not problematic in substance, [the] Committee
had raised a concern about the programme, that the Commission
has yet to provide an evaluation of the current programme. The
UK therefore maintained a scrutiny reserve and abstained at the
Council meeting (I set out the reason for our abstention to the
He adds that the Commission has still not produced
the evaluation and the Government has continued to maintain its
5.15 The Minister tells us that the Finnish Presidency
decided unexpectedly that it wished the Competitiveness Council
to reach a final decision on the Citizens for Europe programme
at its meeting on 25 September. He says that:
"If the UK had blocked the programme by voting
against it because the scrutiny process had not been completed
we would have been in a minority of one holding up a programme
which Member States, including the UK, believe will bring benefits.
"As a result of the sudden decision by the Finnish
Presidency to proceed with a final decision I took the decision
"Of course I recognise that in abstaining on
the programme and not blocking the programme this
inevitably could appear to you that the scrutiny of the Committee
has been overridden. This was not my intention and I regret the
sequence of events which brought about this difficult decision
for the UK Government. I can only apologise that no other practical
way forward seemed to be available and therefore we took this
course of action. However, we felt that as the UK favours the
substance of the programme in general and had we blocked it the
UK would have caused considerable irritation to other Member States,
including those with whom we are seeking alliances on a number
of wider issues. This course of action seemed the best way forward
out of a difficult situation."
5.16 The Minister tells us that an interim evaluation
of the 2004-06 programme is due to be published "very shortly"
and that he will then seek our clearance of the draft Decision.
5.17 The European Parliament has approved the common
position adopted by the Competitiveness Council on 25 September.
The Minister expects the draft Decision to be put to the Council
for adoption in October.
5.18 We are grateful to the Minister for his apology.
But he has failed to explain:
- the reason for the gross
delay in providing the information for which we asked in our report
of 20 July 2005; and
- why the Government did not tell us that the
draft Decision was to be discussed at the Council on 25 May 2006
and why it did not tell us until 29 September that it had decided
to abstain from the political agreement reached at that meeting.
5.19 The Minister tells us that the Government
"favours the substance" of the proposed programme. It
is not clear on what basis the Government satisfied itself that
the proposals represent good value for money when the report of
the evaluation of the 2004-06 programme is not yet available.
5.20 The Minister's letter is silent about the
legal base for the proposed Decision. We raised the point well
over a year ago and so we ask for the Minister's answer without
5.21 We consider that the Government's failure
to respond promptly and adequately to our report of 20 July 2005
is discourteous to the House and reflects very badly on the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport.
5.22 We also await the Government's Regulatory
Impact Assessment of the proposal.
5.23 We shall keep the draft Decision under scrutiny
until the Minister has provided the information for which we have
8 Decision 2004/100/EC: OJ No. L 30, 4.2.04, p.6. Back
See HC 34-iv (2005-06), para 6 (20 July 2005). Back