Documents considered by the Committee on 9 February 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


7   EU-Vietnam relations

(32369)

18041/10

COM(10) 699

Council Decision on the signing of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Legal baseArticles 207, 208 and 218(5) TFEU; QMV
Document originated29 November 2010
Deposited in Parliament22 December 2011
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 11 January 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilTo be determined
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested

Background

7.1  In May 2007, the Council authorised the Commission to negotiate a Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) with Vietnam, based on the November 2004 authorisation for negotiations with Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Negotiations with Vietnam were launched in Hanoi in November 2007. Both sides initialled the PCA in Brussels on 4 October 2010.

The Council Decision

7.2  The Council Decision authorises the President of the Council in turn to designate a person to sign the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation on behalf of the European Union. The text of the Agreement is attached to this Decision.

7.3  The Commission notes that the PCA with Vietnam is the third agreement finalised with an ASEAN country over the past year, following those with Indonesia and the Philippines, and will supersede the current legal framework of the 1995 Agreement between the European Community and Vietnam and the 1980 Cooperation Agreement between the European Economic Community and member countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, which was extended to Vietnam in 1999.

7.4  The Commission describes the Agreement as another stepping stone towards enhanced political and economic involvement of the EU in South-East Asia. It covers what it terms the EU's standard political clauses on Human rights, international climate change, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Small Arms and Light Weapons, and Counter-terrorism, and implements the EU policies on taxation as well as on migration. The PCA will, the Commission says, provide the basis for more effective engagement by the EU and its Member States with Vietnam in the development, trade, economic and justice domains, and encompasses areas such as health, environment, climate change, energy, education and culture, labour, employment and social affairs, science and technology, and transport. The Agreement further addresses legal cooperation, money laundering and terrorist financing, organised crime and corruption. It also covers areas of particular interest in the case of Vietnam such as cooperation on human rights and the rule of law as well as on remnants of war and natural disaster prevention. Finally, the Commission notes, the conclusion of the PCA will facilitate the launch and conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam in accordance with the EU's objective of creating a coherent economic and political framework for relations between the EU and ASEAN countries.

The Government's view

7.5   In his Explanatory Memorandum of 11 January 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) describes the PCA as key to strengthening the EU's relationship with Vietnam:

"On trade and investment issues it establishes cooperation on market access, in particular through the timely removal of non-tariff barriers and restrictions to trade. It is a necessary precursor to an eventual EU Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam. On socioeconomic development and other areas of cooperation the partnership commits to the establishment of university links, technical assistance programmes aimed at promoting the development of environmentally friendly technologies, and promotion of climate change awareness. The PCA contains a legally binding commitment by Vietnam to respect human rights as well as obligations in the areas of Counter Terrorism and WMD."

7.6  The Minister says that several provisions of the Agreement contain content which falls within the scope of Title V (Area of Freedom, Justice and Security) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), notably Articles 10, 11, 23-27:

"While as a result Protocol 21 to the TFEU (the JHA opt-in protocol) applies to the Council Decision to sign this agreement [sic], as the agreement is a mixed agreement (i.e. it is between Vietnam and the EU and its Member States) it is open to the UK to participate in these elements of the agreement in our own right rather than to opt-in and to participate in them as part of the EU. This position is made clear by paragraph 3 of the preamble to the Agreement noting the UK, Ireland and Denmark's participation and by a recital to the Council Decision. In light of these provisions we do not propose to opt-in to the Title V elements of the agreement and will instead sign up to those obligations in our own right."

7.7  The Minister notes that Vietnam has been identified by the Foreign Secretary as an emerging power for engagement and is a UKTI designated high growth market:

"In September the Foreign Secretary signed a Strategic Partnership (classed as an Memorandum of Understanding) with the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister, formally elevating our bilateral relationship in the areas of political and diplomatic cooperation, global and regional issues, trade and investment, sustainable socio-economic development, education and training, science and technology, security and defence, and people to people links."

7.8  The Minister also notes that Vietnam continues to be a country of concern on human rights for the UK. He says that the PCA will provide an additional channel through which we can pursue UK objectives on human rights, and that the Government will continue to raise its human rights concerns including freedom of expression, media freedoms and the death penalty, with the Vietnamese government through the biannual EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue and bilaterally.

7.9  The Minister concludes by explaining that the Commission's lawyers are currently reviewing the text and will then need to clear any revisions with the Vietnamese side; and that, once these steps are completed, the PCA will need to go to a Foreign Affairs Council, with the Commission aiming for signature in the first half of 2011.

Conclusion

7.10   As with its counterpart agreement with the Philippines, which we consider in Chapter 6 of this Report, the agreement per se is plainly to be welcomed.

7.11  However, we have the same concerns about the "Title V" aspects of this agreement as we have with the Philippines agreement. There, we have posed a number of questions, all of which are pertinent to this agreement too, save that this agreement does not cite Article 79(3) TFEU as a legal base despite containing similar readmission obligations. We therefore ask the Minister to address the question we raised on the Philippines agreement in relation to this agreement as well.

7.12  We would also be grateful to know why, unlike the Philippines agreement, the Decision to sign this agreement does not cite readmission, transport and environment legal bases.

7.13  Until we have the Minister's response, we shall retain the document under scrutiny.




 
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