European Scrutiny Committee Contents

Appendix 1: reports on Council meetings

When the House is sitting, we table a written Question on the day of each meeting of the Council of Ministers asking for a report on the Council meeting and on the activities of UK Ministers in it. However, for Council meetings taking place when the House is in recess we ask Departments to write to us instead. Replies concerning meetings that have taken place since 7 April 2010 are published below.

Letter from the Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Home Office (Admiral the Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC) to the Chairman of the Committee

Justice and Home Affairs Council, 23 April 2010

I am writing to update you on the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council which was held in Brussels on 23 April. Lord Bach from the Ministry of Justice and Kenny MacAskill the Scottish Secretary for Justice were unable to attend due the problems caused by the volcanic ash cloud. Due to this issue the Council was also reduced to one day and took place in Brussels instead of Luxembourg.

The Council, beginning in Mixed Committee with the Schengen States, was asked to agree Council Conclusions on the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SISII). The Commission explained that the timetable had been followed and the first milestone test had been passed. I supported the Council Conclusions as drafted and said that we should be applauding a successful outcome to the milestone tests. The Commission then confirmed it would present a global schedule in June which would then be agreed at the October Council. The Presidency explained that whilst the Council Conclusions were accepted since the Council was not quorate they would be forwarded to the May 10th General Affairs Council for formal adoption as an "A" point.

Next there was a presentation by the Austrian delegation on lessons learnt following their experience as co-hosts of the European Football Championships in 2008 (Euro 2008). They explained how they had benefited greatly from a European network, and the pan-European training programme had also been important. They were currently providing advice and help to Poland and Ukraine for the Euro 2012 Championships. They felt that the Committee on Internal Security (COSt) would be the appropriate body to discuss this type of operation. The UK strongly supported Austria's approach.

Following Mixed Committee, the Commission presented the draft Stockholm Programme Action Plan — a Communication which sets out their plans and timetable for taking forward the Stockholm Programme (the next five year EU work programme for justice and home affairs). The Council considered interior issues in the morning and justice in the afternoon. Member States welcomed an Action Plan in principle. Discussion centred on the need to ensure that the Action Plan faithfully reflected the content of the Stockholm Programme. The UK supported the implementation of the Stockholm Programme as agreed by Heads of Government last December, and was pleased to see a timetable for the actions in the Programme.

The Presidency then introduced a draft negotiating mandate for the EU-US Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme agreement, underlining the need to reach an agreement as soon as possible; an outcome also desired by the US. The Presidency also proposed a joint Council and Commission declaration stating the need to establish an acceptable legal basis for the transfer of data to the US. I echoed the need to reach a quick agreement to fill the security gap, noting that not reaching an agreement could have a direct impact on the security of Member States. I believed that the negotiating mandate struck the right balance between protecting security and protecting citizens' data, and as such supported it, as well as the text of the accompanying declaration. The Presidency concluded that there was political agreement but since the Council was not quorate, the draft negotiating mandate would be forwarded to the May 10th General Affairs Council for formal adoption as an "A" point.

The Presidency then updated the Council on the EU-US JHA Ministerial Troika which took place in Madrid on 8-9 April, which focused predominantly on the post-Toledo Informal Council follow-up which covered aviation security, information sharing, research and international cooperation.

The Commission updated the Council on the Canada-Czech Republic visa issue, stating that it would not be introducing reciprocal measures against Canada for visa imposition on the Czech Republic. On 15 March Canadian, Czech and Commission officials reached agreement on measures that, when fulfilled, would allow Czech Republic nationals visa free access to Canada. The Presidency confirmed this issue has been put on the agenda of the EU/Canada summit on the 5 May.

Over lunch Justice Ministers, Commissioner Reding and I discussed the possible future creation of a European Public Prosecutors Office (EPP). Both the Presidency and Commission argued strongly for setting up the EPP quickly, with an initial mandate covering fraud against the Community budget. I made clear that the UK opposed the creation of an EPP.

After lunch Justice Ministers had an orientation debate about the EU's Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Presidency is seeking to make progress on a mandate for negotiation with the Council of Europe. A number of Member States, including the UK, noted that the issues involved were important and complex and would need further detailed discussion.

The Presidency then adopted Council Conclusions on actions in the field of justice that can be taken to assist the economic recovery. The Presidency reported that the e-justice portal could be launched in July.

Under AOB problems with visas in third countries caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano were discussed. The Commission was disappointed that certain non-EU countries had not responded during the recent crisis. The Commission saw the need for more developed cooperation around Consular affairs for those Member States who are not ordinarily represented; the ideal forum for this could be via the common consular cooperation group.

29 April 2010

Letter from the Minister of Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Chris Bryant MP) to the Chairman of the Committee

General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council, 25-26 April 2010

I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the General Affairs Council and the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 25-26 April. Baroness Taylor in her Ministry of Defence role and I attended both joint and separate sessions of the Foreign Affairs Council. I attended the General Affairs Council.

The agenda items were as follows:


The provisional summary of Conclusions adopted, including `A' points, can be found at: data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/ 114045.pdf


The Presidency sought Ministers' views on a draft version of a decision establishing the EAS. Following a discussion, a text was agreed which will allow Baroness Ashton to begin consultations with the European Parliament. It was noted that a number of Member States still needed to conclude their Parliamentary scrutiny requirements. I made it clear that this applied to the UK. The final decision will be taken once the discussions with the European Parliament have been completed.


A number of Ministers set out their views on the European Citizens' Initiative. The main themes of the discussion were admissibility and verification checks; the number of signatories required from each Member State and the conditions for collecting supporting statements; and verification by Member States about online collection systems.

The Presidency concluded that it would aim to reach a general approach at the June General Affairs Council.

I underlined our commitment to make this as open, as transparent and as readily accessible a process as possible.


The Presidency set Tout work which was underway in the sectoral Councils to take forward the Conclusions of the Spring European Council. Member' States would have a further opportunity to express their views at the June General Affairs Council.


The Presidency set out the current situation and the actions taken by the EU. Sweden called on the Council Secretariat to investigate the, rise of video-conferencing to help the PU coordinate its response to such events in the future.


Foreign and Defence Ministers met both in joint and separate sessions chaired by Baroness Ashton. The full text of all Conclusions 'adopted can be found at:


Defence Ministers heard a presentation by the Chief Executive, on the Agency's 2011-13 work plan and noted the increased emphasis on cooperation with NATO. They also received a presentation on the work of the team of five admirals on the integration of maritime surveillance systems.


During an informal discussion over dinner with High Representative Baroness Ashton, Defence Ministers reached broad agreement that they would continue to meet as a formation of the Foreign Affairs Council under the chairmanship of the High Representative to discuss issues falling wholly within their responsibility, as well as joint sessions with Foreign Ministers. Ministers were also briefed by the High Representative on the establishment of the European External Action Service and discussed ongoing EU-led operations in Bosnia, Somalia and the Indian Ocean.

During their formal session, Defence' ministers discussed the continuing development of a maritime surveillance strategy and lessons learnt from the EU's involvement in the Haiti earthquake disaster. On the latter, there was broad agreement that while EU coordination mechanisms for dealing with such circumstances could be improved, the focus should be on achieving effect on the ground rather than creating additional institutions.


Defence and Foreign Ministers discussed the way forward on the implementation of the EU Action Plan for Enhanced Engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan and noted the first six-monthly implementation report.

The NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, joined the meeting for a discussion of military and civilian cooperation on and prospects for further EU - NATO cooperation in Afghanistan. He set out the recent NATO agreement in Tallinn on the framework for transition to Afghan ownership. He appealed for further contributions to the NATO Training Mission and stressed the importance of coordinating EUPOL's contribution with NATO's, allowing it to focus its efforts on areas that EUPOL were not able to deploy.


Ministers agreed Conclusions and discussed the recent elections. Although the elections had not met international standards, they were an important milestone in the lead-up to the referendum on the succession of Southern Sudan under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. A number. of Member States expressed a wish to see greater EU engagement on the issue. Baroness Ashton concluded that Ministers would have to discuss the issue again ahead of the referendum of January 2011.


Baroness Ashton set out the EU's approach in line with the agreed Conclusions. Member States broadly agreed on the need to encourage preparations for new elections and to provide the necessary support.


Member States discussed the worsening situation in Burma and agreed Conclusions, expressing concern over its election laws and calling for genuine dialogue between all ethnic and opposition groups and the release of political prisoners. Restrictive measures were renewed for another 12 months.

I reiterated our commitment to the sanctions and to a tough approach towards the Burmese region.


Ministers had a preliminary discussion on how to align EU resources with strategic priorities. There was agreement for Ministers to revert to this issue at a later date.



Ministers welcomed Baroness Ashton's plans to engage with those countries in the region in May that could help achieve EU objectives with regard to the prosecution of pirates.

4 May 2010

Letter from the Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Andrew Adonis) to the Chairman of the Committee

EU Transport Council, 4 May 2010

I attended the extraordinary session of the EU Transport Council in Brussels on 4 May.

The Council discussed an information note to the Commission put together by Vice-President Kallas, together with Vice-President Almunia and Commissioner Rehn, on the impact of the volcanic ash cloud on air transport.

The disruption to air travel by the volcanic ash was previously discussed on 19 April at an extraordinary videoconference meeting of EU transport Ministers. During that discussion, Ministers stressed the need to have a coordinated European response through the European Commission and Eurocontrol. On this basis, the Presidency together with the Commission considered that it would be appropriate to convene an extraordinary Council on 4 May to evaluate the European response and to consider the impact of the crisis on the European airspace.

The Commission's information note provides a preliminary assessment of the European response. It proposes a number of measures including the review the European methodology for safety risk assessments and safety management, particularly in cases of natural disasters such as the Eyjafjallajokull eruption. It also includes a recommendation to accelerate the full implementation of the European Single Sky initiative.

At the Council, I stressed the urgent need to ensure the manufacturers' technical standards and guidance with respect to aircraft operation in the presence of volcanic ash are reasonable and their implications fully thought through. I further expressed that the work of individual member states in this area needed to be followed-up in a more coordinated manner at EU level with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) playing a more prominent role in engaging with the manufacturers.

The Council recognised that the airlines sustained considerable losses while airspace was closed and took note of the assessment work being undertaken by the Commission. I asked for further work to be undertaken on the financial impact to assess the precise nature of the costs to industry.

I also called for a broader review of the risk assessment and risk management process with respect to aircraft operation, and supported the Commission's suggestion that work is needed to ensure that we respond in an appropriate way not only to volcanic eruptions, but also more widely to other issues that could lead to airspace closures or major disruption of aviation. I agreed that the EU should work through EASA and the International Civil Aviation Organisation on this issue.

The United Kingdom has taken the position of supporting the Single European Sky initiative since its inception in 2004. Accordingly, I supported the view that Member States and the Commission should work closely together to make as much progress as possible to accelerate its implementation.

In its conclusions, the Council agreed on a series of measures, including the acceleration of the Single European Sky initiative by bringing forward the nomination of Eurocontrol as Network Manager and by accepting a proposal from the Commission for the role of FAB (Functional Airspace Block) Coordinator being established as soon as possible. The Council also agreed on the need to develop a new European methodology for safety risk assessment and risk management in relation to the closure and reopening of European airspace. The Council invited the Commission to present a report, in time for it to be discussed at the next Transport Council on 24 June.

6 May 2010

Letter from the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Ed Vaizey MP) to the Chairman of the Committee

  • Education, Youth and Culture Council — 10 May 2010

I am writing to inform you of the outcomes from the Culture, Audiovisual and Sport sections of the Education, Youth and Culture Council of Ministers meeting which took place on 10 May. The UK was represented at the meeting by the UK's Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Andy Lebrecht.


The Presidency reported to the Council on progress with the establishment of a European Heritage Label.

The European Heritage Label has existed as a voluntary inter-governmental initiative, in which 17  EU member states and Switzerland participate. In November 2008, the Council requested that this initiative be transformed into a Community action in order to extend it and improve its functioning. The Commission proposed a draft decision in March, which is currently being examined in both the European Parliament and the Council.

An Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on the proposal for the European Heritage Label was submitted to your Committee on 9 April for consideration.


The Council designated Riga in Latvia and Umeå in Sweden as European Capitals of Culture for 2014.

An EM was requested on this Council Decision on 28 April. As Parliament was in Dissolution at this time it was not possible to gain scrutiny clearance from your Committee prior to the Council meeting. The policy decision for the inclusion of new Member States in the European Capital of Culture programme was made in 2005 and cleared scrutiny in June 2005. This subsequent draft Council decision was a routine and non controversial decision on which cities would take part in the European Capital of Culture event for the year 2014 and has no implications for the UK. Therefore, in line with paragraph 3(a) of the 1999 Scrutiny Reserve Resolution, the UK took the decision to override scrutiny on this occasion. I hope you will understand why it was decided, given all the circumstances, to agree to the Council Decision.


The Council adopted, without debate, conclusions on the contribution of culture to regional and local development. The Council Conclusions suggest how Member States can strengthen the framework for applying public policies adopted nationally and then taken forward locally; improving the basis for investment in culture; how we can progress on sustainable cultural tourism; how culture and creativity can foster human capital and employability; the role of culture in fostering social cohesion; and the value that the EU might be able to provide in these areas.


The Council exchanged views on the contribution of culture and creativity to a competitive, inclusive and sustainable Europe.

Ministers stressed the importance of fully incorporating creativity and the role of cultural industries into the "Europe 2020" strategy for growth and jobs, in particular into the implementation of the flagship initiatives.

Delegations underlined the important contribution of cultural and creative industries to innovation, economic growth and employment in the EU. It was said that a favourable environment for SMEs and reduced bureaucracy as well as adequate protection of intellectual property rights were needed to help the cultural sector fulfil its economic potential.

Some Member States highlighted how cohesion policy instruments could support cultural and creative industries and urged a better use of existing instruments, for instance structural funds or the MEDIA programme.


The Council adopted conclusions outlining the next steps for the European digital library, Europeana. It invited the Commission to present a proposal for the sustainable, long-term financing of Europeana, together with a vision — including as regards governance issues - for consolidating Europeana into an essential reference tool for the digital era. The UK intervened to support the voluntary nature of MS financial contributions.


Ministers discussed EU sports policy for the first time in a formal Council setting, given that the Treaty of Lisbon has added specific EU competence for cooperation on sports issues.

Member States underlined that EU action needed to have clear added value by comparison with national plans, respecting the subsidiarity principle and the specific nature of sport. Ministers suggested the following areas for possible EU action:

¯  Social and educational functions of sport, e.g. social inclusion through sport and health-enhancing physical activity, dual careers for athletes;

¯  Sport structures, in particular those based on voluntary activity;

¯  Fairness and openness in sport, including the fight against racism, discrimination and violence;

¯  Physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the fight against doping and the protection of minors;

¯  Dialogue and close cooperation with the sports movement.

Ministers agreed that a possible EU financial programme supporting sports activities for the years 2012 to 2013 ought to have a limited number of priorities.


Under Any Other Business, France raised the role of culture in the reconstruction of Haiti, with some Member States lending their support to the French proposal to restore and modernise Haiti's one major theatre in Port-au-Prince.

28 May 2010

Letter from the Minister of Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (David Lidington MP) to the Chairman of the Committee

General Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council, 10 May 2010

I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils in Brussels on10 May. The UK was represented by Sir Kim Darroch, UK Permanent Representative to the EU, at both Councils whilst these met in Foreign Ministers' format. Anthony Smith, Director for Europe and Development Relations DIFD, attended the Development Ministers' Foreign Affairs Council.

The agenda items were as follows:


The provisional summary of Conclusions adopted, including 'A' points, can be found at:


Ministers discussed the prosecution of pirates captured by ships taking part in Operation EU NAVFOR Atalanta. There was a broad welcome for Baroness Ashton's plans to visit the affected region. Ministers also noted that the UN Conference on Somalia, to be held in Istanbul on 22 May, was an opportunity to work with other interested groups and organisations.


There was a discussion on nuclear issues focusing on the new START treaty, the Washington Nuclear Security Summit in April and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that is taking place in New York (3-28 May). Ministers broadly welcomed the comments made by Baroness Ashton at the beginning of the New York meeting.


The discussion on Iran focused on its nuclear programme, including the EU's support to the UN Security Council process on new restrictive measures against Iran. Ministers also discussed human rights in Iran.


The Council looked at priorities for the 25th EU-Russia Summit to be held in Rostov-on-Don on 31 May to 1 June. These include the Partnership for Modernisation; possible progress towards visa liberalisation (for Schengen countries only); the global economic crisis; climate change; energy issues; and Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation.


Over lunch, Ministers continued their series of discussions on the EU's relations with strategic partners, this time focusing on China. Baroness Ashton noted these discussions would continue in the lead up to September's European Council.


Baroness Ashton issued a declaration on behalf of the EU welcoming the launch of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The text can be found at:


The Presidency (Moratinos) raised the European Parliament's concern about the ongoing crisis and the need for the EU to work closely with the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.


EU Development Ministers discussed the EU's engagement in Haiti, the EU position for the UN High Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September and the External Action Service.

Development Commissioner Piebalgs and Baroness Ashton briefed Ministers on EU reconstruction efforts in Haiti. During an orientation debate on the MDGs, the Commission set out proposals for a joint EU position including a mechanism for improved transparency on aid volume commitments. These will be explored in the June Foreign Affairs Council. On the EAS, Baroness Ashton and Commissioner Piebalgs briefed Ministers on plans for the new EAS structures and restated their commitment to work together.


The provisional summary of Conclusions adopted, including 'A' points, can be found at:


The Presidency (Moratinos) presented a draft agenda for the 17 June European Council. The agenda includes the Europe 2020 strategy, the G20 Toronto Summit, UN millennium development goals and climate change.

19 May 2010

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