House of Commons
|Session 2008 - 09|
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General Committee Debates
European Standing Committee Debates
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Mick Hillyard, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(6):
European Committee B
Monday 2 March 2009
[Mr. Mike Hancock in the Chair]Mandates of EU Special Representatives
The Chairman: Does a member of the European Scrutiny Committee wish to make a brief explanatory statement about the decision to refer the relevant documents to the Committee?
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): It might be helpful to the Committee if I explain why the European Scrutiny Committee recommended this debate. European Union special representatives are appointed to represent the common foreign and security policy when the Council agrees that an additional EU presence is needed on the ground to deliver the political objectives of the Union. Special representatives were established under article 18 of the 1997 Amsterdam treaty and are appointed by the Council. The aim is to represent the EU in troubled regions and countries and to play an active part in promoting its interests and policies.
An EUSR is appointed by the Council through the legal act of a joint action. All EUSRs carry out their duties under the authority and operational direction of High Representative Javier Solana. Each is financed out of the CFSP budget implemented by the Commission, to which the UK contributes 17 per cent. There are 12 EUSRs in office. The draft joint actions will extend the mandate of the five EUSRs in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the African great lakes region and Sudan. The Council is being asked to approve the extension of the mandate.
The substance of each EUSRs mandate depends on the political context of the deployment. The Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina special representatives are double-hatted because they also represent the elements of the wider international community that helped to settle the conflicts and that remain involved. In Kosovo, the EUSR took over from the UN as head of the international civilian office when Kosovo declared its implementation. The EUSR in Bosnia and Herzegovina represents the EU and the High Representative of the international community and has a mandate to oversee the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement, the 1995 accord that ended almost four years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The EUSR in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is also double-hatted. In addition to representing the EUs political interests in a candidate country with a recent disturbed political history, the EUSR is head of the local European Commission delegation that delivers normal pre-accession technical assistance. The EUSRs in the African great lakes region and Sudan are involved on behalf of the EU in the wider local, regional and international effort to solve the long-running crises.
No legal questions arise from the provisions. As was mentioned earlier, no changes were proposed to mandates already cleared by the Committee on previous occasions.
The Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North for his introductory comments. I also thank the European Scrutiny Committee for its approach in dealing with the explanatory memorandum on the renewal of mandates for EU special representatives. By using section 3(b) of the scrutiny reserve resolution, the Select Committee was able to flag up issues of interest to the House without the need for me to override scrutiny on operational grounds. I am glad that the Committee used its discretion in the matter. I hope that we will continue to work together in that way.
We have a range of tools with which to deliver our foreign policy objectives. One is to act collectively with our European partners on issues such as Afghanistan, the middle east peace process and Zimbabwe. Particularly in areas emerging from conflict, we use classic foreign and security policy instruments delivered by member states such as peacekeeping or policing missions alongside longer-term tools such as development agreements delivered by the Commission.
EU special representatives support that effort. They are appointed by the Council to represent the CFSP when the Council agrees that an additional EU presence is needed on the ground to deliver the political objectives of the Union. They represent the EU in troubled regions and countries to promote its interests and policies. They also help better align EU resources and efforts with the external priorities set by member states in Council.
There are 11 EU special representatives covering 12 portfolios: Afghanistan, the African great lakes region, the African Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, central Asia and the crisis in Georgia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the middle east, Moldova, the south Caucasus and Sudan.
The substance of an EU special representatives mandate depends on the political context and can include providing political backing to European security and defence policy operations. No one size fits all and duties vary from involvement in crises far from Europe, such as supporting the Darfur political process in Sudan, to complex and challenging responsibilities in the western Balkans. The incumbents come from different backgrounds, with a welcome range of experience and strengths, which help them carry out their responsibilities to good effect. For example, the most recently appointed EU special representative for the crisis in Georgia, Pierre Morel, is, as former French ambassador to Moscow and already EU special representative for central Asia, well placed to lead the Geneva talks with considerable skill.
Having an EU special representative responsible for relations with the African Union has helped us work with the African Union commission on the joint Africa-EU strategic partnership. It has, without doubt, helped strengthen the political relationship between the EU and the African Union. The current incumbent is the
As my hon. Friend commented, there are several EUSRs for whom the phrase double-hatting can be used. There are sometimes circumstances where such an arrangement makes sense in striving for a more coherent and effective EU external action effort. It works where there are clear benefits for the coherence and impact of the EUs presence on the ground, and for speaking with one voice. The EUSR for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is also double-hatted, as the head of the EU Commission. Mr. Fou√(c)r√(c) played a key role in highlighting the seriousness of the problems caused by conduct of the 2008 parliamentary elections, and our special representatives in Bosnia and Kosovo are doing a sterling job in what we all agree are complicated situations.
The UK remains seriously concerned about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We believe that a lack of reform, and ongoing rhetoric and actions that sometimes challenge the Dayton agreement, undermine the structure of the state. The EU perspective is vital for stability and so the EU special representatives double-hatted position as High Representative as well will play a key role.
On Kosovo, the EU has stated its willingness to assist the economic and political perspective, through a clear European perspective. The UK remains strongly committed to the pursuit of that goal for all in the region. For that reason, we fully support Pieter Faith in his roles as EU special representative and as international civilian representative in Kosovo. He plays a key role in co-ordinating international policy for Kosovo and contributes to the common objective of securing a stable, viable, peaceful and multi-ethnic Kosovo, which we believe contributes greatly to regional stability.
The Government continue to work closely with the presidency, Commission and member states to ensure that EUSRs continue to make a full contribution to the efforts to stabilise crises or situations in their regions, and to make the EUs external action as visible and effective as possible. We believe that EUSRs can be an important part of delivering the CFSP on the ground as the EUs eyes, ears and mouthpiece as well as its implementers in key regions of the world. For that reason, the Government will continue to support their work.
The Chairman: We now have until half-past 5 for questions to the Minister and I remind all Members that they need to be brief. It is open to a Member to ask, subject to the discretion of the Chair, supplementary questions relating to the Ministers answer, or to further questions that they might have.
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Hancock.
I would like to ask the Minister a technical, but nevertheless important, question. On page 31 of the bundle of papers, the mandate for the EU special representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina specifically mentions Miroslav Lajc√°k as holding it. As he has now
Caroline Flint: The hon. Gentleman is correct about Mr. Lajc√°ks resignation. At present, he continues to work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we are in the process of seeking a new candidate. Of course, two parties need to agree the candidate and that process is under way.
Mr. Francois: With respect, I know that. We know that Mr. Lajc√°k has resigned and that the Council is looking for a replacement. Will the mandate, which specifically mentioned Mr. Lajc√°k, still apply to any other candidate, or will the Council need to generate a new mandate? I hope that the Minister, given the situation, will understand that that is an important question.
Caroline Flint: I presume that the mandate will go forward under the new candidate, but I will check that matter for the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Can the Minister tell us whether the reports in The Daily Telegraph last week, which claimed that the enlargement strategy is being put on hold, are correct?
The Chairman: I do not know whether the Minister is responsible for what appears in The Daily Telegraph, but if she cares to answer that question she may do so.
Caroline Flint: Enlargement has been one of the success stories of the European Union, and we continue to work with several countries that seek to pursue a journey that will take them closer to membership and, for some, eventually lead to membership. I wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph, which is in the public domain, giving some detailed responses to the article to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
Mr. Cash: Will the Minister clarify what she had a disagreement about with The Daily Telegraph, or anyone else for that matter, as she knows my views on enlargement for the countries we are discussing and others, and will she explain more precisely what she had in mind?
The Chairman: Thank you for that question, Mr. Cash, but once again I find it difficult to understand how that relates to what we are discussing this afternoon. If the Minister cares to clarify the situation, she may do so.
Caroline Flint: The debate is on the mandate of EU special representatives, and the Committee had a debate on enlargement a short time ago. Suffice it to say that the Government think that enlargement is good for the EU, a view shared by other political parties, but there are conditions set for it and we continue to support that process. No timetables have been set for any countrys journey towards membership, which is decided on the basis of conditionality, as I explained in great detail the last time I appeared before the Committee. Also, my
Mr. Francois: I would like to ask the Minster several questions about the replacement for Mr. Lajc√°k, given the sensitive situation in Bosnia and Hertzegovina. In the Ministers letter of 19 February to the European Scrutiny Committee, which is included on page 85 of the bundle, she stated that the UK is proposing Sir Emyr Jones Parry for the role of EU special representative to Bosnia, and that of international higher representative, following Mr. Lajc√°ks resignation. The media, however, reported that Sir Emyr withdrew his application before a final decision was made because of other commitments that would not allow him to take up the post in time. Is that the case, and if so, was the Minister aware of those other commitments when she first proposed Sir Emyr for that rather important post?
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