Documents considered on 11 September 2013 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

11 The EU and Korea~



COM(13) 551

Council Decision on the conclusion of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States and the Republic of Korea

Legal baseArticles 207, 212 and 218(6) (a) TFEU; QMV; consent
Document originated25 July 2013
Deposited in Parliament1 August 2013
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 28 August 2013
Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussion in Council21 October Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentLegally and politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared; further information requested


11.1 Relations between the EU and the Republic of Korea are currently based on the Framework Agreement for Trade and Cooperation between the European Community and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Republic of Korea (RoK), on the other hand, which entered into force in 2001.

11.2 On 7 May 2008, the Council authorised the European Commission to negotiate a new Framework Agreement with the RoK. Negotiations were concluded and the text of the draft agreement initialled on 14 October 2009. The Agreement was co-signed on 10 May 2010 in Seoul.

The draft Council Decision

11.3 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 28 August 2013, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) explains that:

—  the Agreement will provide a framework aiming to consolidate and strengthen cooperation between the European Union and its Member States (MS) and the RoK in a range of sectors of mutual interest;

—  these include promoting democratic principles and respect for human rights; countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; combating illicit trade of small arms and light weapons; taking measures against the most serious crimes of concern to the international community; and combating terrorism;

—  the Agreement will allow for further engagement and cooperation between the Parties in regional and international organisations; on trade and investment; economic policy dialogue; business cooperation; and further engagement and cooperation on fields including taxation, customs, competition policy, the information society, science and technology, energy, transport, maritime transport policy, consumer policy, health, employment and social affairs, environment and natural resources, climate change, agriculture, rural development and forestry, marine and fisheries;

—  the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership was negotiated in parallel with the EU-RoK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which was signed on 6 October 2010, but it has taken time for all Member States, including the UK, to complete domestic ratification;

—  the Framework Agreement forms the contractual basis for the EU's relationship with Korea;

—  this is the first time that this dual approach has been followed and was designed to satisfy the long-standing EU (and UK) agreed position that all FTAs must either contain political clauses (commitments in the fields of human rights and non-proliferation), or be linked to Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) or updated Framework Agreements containing such provisions; and

—  this Framework Agreement will essentially establish a fully coherent, modernised framework for bilateral relations between the UK and RoK.

11.4 Following domestic ratification by all EU Member States, the Decision is the final step towards entry into force of the Agreement.

The Government's view

11.5 With regard to the political and economic importance of the Framework Agreement, the Minister says:

"The Framework Agreement is key to strengthening the EU's relationship with the RoK — an emerging regional power with a highly developed economy and a high rate of sustainable long-term growth. The RoK matters for our prosperity and security interests. It is the fourth largest economy in Asia — highly compatible with UK export strengths and with the potential for further growth. Korea shares many of our values and is a natural partner on foreign policy — especially as it is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.  We have a substantial programme of work to deepen cooperation in 2013, for which President Park's State Visit to the UK in November 2013 will be the centrepiece. This Framework Agreement will be an opportunity to develop relationships across a range of mutually beneficial sectors and will also be an opportunity to demonstrate the UK's commitment to deepening our trade and foreign policy links, and recognise the progress the RoK has made in many areas, including on economic strength and democratisation. As Korea is one of the EU's largest trading partners outside Europe, the Framework Agreement will bring significant benefits to the UK and EU economies and once concluded the Agreement will send a politically important signal of the EU's commitment to working with the RoK."

11.6 The Minister notes that the draft Council Decision concluding the Framework Agreement is likely to be tabled for adoption at the 21 October 2013 Foreign Affairs Council, ahead of the EU-RoK Summit on 8 November, and says that the Committee "should treat the document as one containing JHA obligations and enhanced scrutiny timings apply" and that, as such, the Government's opt-in decision will need to be taken by 28 October 2013."

11.7 The Minister further notes, with regard to Legal And Procedural Issues, that:

  • The proposed legal basis is Articles 207 and 209, in conjunction with Article 218(6) (a) TEU;
  • The Council Decision is subject to Qualified Majority Voting "though as this agreement is mixed it would not be adopted unless there is common accord of Member States";
  • As this is a mixed agreement it has been specified as an EU Treaty in accordance with Article 1(3) of the European Communities Act, 1972. No additional implementation measures are envisaged.
  • The Framework Agreement contains an obligation to conclude a readmission agreement:
    • "We believe that this JHA content engages our opt-in protocol, and will be pushing for the insertion of relevant legal bases and a recital protecting our opt-in. For the purposes of JHA enhanced scrutiny, the Committees should treat the document as one containing JHA obligations. We are also currently considering whether the inclusion of additional (non-JHA) legal bases is required in regard to other binding commitments in the Agreement." 

11.8 With regard to the Timetable, the Minister says:

"The last language version of this draft Council Decision was published on 29 July 2013; as such, the Government's opt-in decision will need to be taken by 28 October 2013.

"As per the usual enhanced JHA scrutiny procedures, the Government commits not to make an opt-in decision until the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees have had eight weeks from the 29 July to opine, i.e. 23 September 2013. We appreciate that this will leave only a short window for the scrutiny committees to consider the opt-in issue. Unfortunately, the timings of Parliamentary recess have created that situation in this case.

"The Council Secretariat is likely to table this draft Decision for adoption at the Foreign Affairs Council on 21 October 2013. Before the Framework Agreement is concluded through adoption of this proposed Council Decision, negotiations, including on the legal base, will continue. The FCO will provide further updates to the Parliamentary scrutiny committees, via Ministerial letter, to reflect those negotiations, before 21 October 2013."


11.9 We acknowledge the political and economic significance of this Agreement for both UK and EU interests. But equally significant legal considerations have still to be resolved.

11.10 It will be all the more important, therefore, for the Minister to provide the fullest possible explanation of the outcome of the negotiations on the legal base to which he refers, and to include in it what he should have told us now, viz., which additional (non-JHA) legal bases are being considered in regard to which other binding commitments in the Agreement.

11.11 We note the Minister's comments on the applicability of the opt-in Protocol. As we have stated previously and often, we do not consider the Protocol to apply in the absence of Title V legal base. Accordingly the enhanced scrutiny procedures do not apply. We do expect, however, the Government to succeed in adding Title V legal base, given the contents of the agreement, after which the enhanced scrutiny procedures will apply. (We bear in mind a similar situation with the EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Indonesia, where two Council Decisions were drafted to cover, respectively, Title V and non-Title V competences, the Title V competence relating to a readmission provision.)

11.12 In the meantime, we shall retain the document under scrutiny.

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 8 October 2013