Documents considered by the Committee on 24 March 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

Annex: Response to specific questions in ESC reports: European security and defence: following up the December 2013 European Defence Council of 15 January 2015 and European Defence Agency of 10 December 2014

Policy Framework for Systematic and long term Defence Cooperation, the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework and the Progress Catalogue for 2014

"The Reports request that the Government deposit with Explanatory Memoranda the Policy Framework for Systematic and long term Defence Cooperation, the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework and the Progress Catalogue for 2014. We would like to clarify the Governments approach to scrutiny of these documents.

"Unfortunately, the Progress Catalogue is an EU Restricted document and therefore we are unable to provide an Explanatory Memorandum or deposit the document and share publicly more information than we already provided in our joint letter of 10 December.

"As the Policy Framework for Systematic and long-term Defence Cooperation is a non-binding framework, we would not normally deposit the document with an Explanatory Memorandum. However, the document is publicly available and given the interest of the Committee we are happy to provide you with a more detailed commentary on the framework which the MOD will send through in the coming weeks.

"The Committees will have received a detailed update letter dated 8 December on the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework from the Minister for Europe setting out the details of the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework including our views. Unfortunately the letter had already been agreed by the relevant Government departments by the time we saw your report of 27 November, which is why your report was not referenced in this response.

"Although the EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework was called for by the December 2013 European Council, it was one of seven action points from the CSDP section of the Council Conclusions on the EU Cyber Security Strategy adopted by the June 2013 General Affairs Council. The EU Cyber Security Strategy is not a legislative document and is therefore non-binding on Member States.

"The Council Conclusions of the June 2013 GAC clearly state that there was a need to 'take forward the CSDP related cyber defence aspects of the Strategy'. The EU Cyber Defence Policy Framework is intended to increase resilience of EU networks/institutions and promote the development of Member States' cyber defence/resilience capabilities. It therefore describes the EU networks defences against unwanted intrusion rather than in a wider military sense and therefore does not cross any UK red lines. We therefore do not intend to provide an Explanatory Memorandum on this document, but we hope that the above overview is helpful to the Committee.

"Comprehensive Approach

"The EEAS and Commission have made some progress on producing an Action Plan. An experts meeting was convened in December 2014 where the EEAS and Commission issued a draft outline of the plan. We welcomed its focus on: providing better joint analysis; the nexus between training and equipping; the transition to other instruments, not least development cooperation; and the avoidance of new procedures and structures all of which are important parts of the comprehensive approach. The thread that ties everything together is better institutional cooperation.

"As it currently stands, the action plan is short on practical detail as to how such cooperation might be achieved.  Whilst we have no formal remit in agreeing the contents of the plan, the UK has led lobbying efforts to the EEAS and Commission, to include more tangible ideas for implementation. Given the scale of the task of implementing the Comprehensive Approach, we do not expect a single action plan to have all the answers. But we want to make sure the plan adds real value by suggesting ideas and incentives to improve comprehensive working practises. We will write to the Committees and provide a copy of the final version of the Action Plan once published.

"EU Maritime Security Strategy Action Plan

"The EU Maritime Security Action Plan was adopted at the General Affairs Council on 16 December 2014 as an A point. This was a change from the originally stated intention of including the Action Plan in Council Conclusions. The final agreed unclassified document has no amendments from the Limite version previously submitted and is attached for your information.

"Your report outlines your interest in the five work strands of the action plan which correspond to the areas identified for action in the EU Maritime Security Strategy. These are external action; maritime awareness, surveillance and information sharing; capability development; risk management, protection of critical maritime infrastructure and crisis response; and maritime security research and innovation, education and training. The implementation of the action plan will be managed by existing commission working groups. The Friends of the Presidency Working Group have agreed that a review will be conducted by each Presidency. The first of these is due to occur in March 2015, following which the Minister for Europe will write to you with further details of the actions, implementation progress and monitoring process.

"European Defence Agency

"Your report raises a number of issues regarding Parliamentary Scrutiny of the EDA report and budgets. As you are aware, providing these documents in appropriate time for Parliamentary Scrutiny is made more difficult by EEAS timelines. However, we will provide you with an update before and after EDA steering boards. We will also provide you with the headline figure for the EDA Budget ahead of its agreement and a supplementary Explanatory Memorandum with the final version of the budget to explain any updates.

"There has been no change to the Government's approach to the EDA budget where we have secured a budgetary freeze over the past five years. We have consistently argued that the EDA should be realistic about its budget, given the ongoing decline in defence spending by all Member States. The Minister for International Security wrote to Baroness Ashton on 15 May 14, asking the Agency to amend the 2015 budget estimate to see zero 'nominal' growth. However, the EDA did not produce an alternative zero 'nominal' growth budget, choosing instead to present the draft zero real growth draft budget for consideration at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 November 2014. As such the UK could not agree to the draft budget as it did not meet our initial requirements, leading to the Council tasking the EDA to produce a 'flat cash' EDA 2015 Budget for consideration.

"This draft 'flat cash' budget was then published by the EDA as a limite document at which point it was submitted for scrutiny to the Committees, with an associated draft Explanatory Memorandum. Both Committees approved the draft budget by the 15 December 14, following which the EDA budget was approved with no amendments by the Council on the 17 December 14. The UK will continue to lobby the European External Action Service to provide key documents in a non limite format so as to enable their submission for scrutiny and clearance prior to Council meetings.

"As you are already aware, the Government is committed to regularly reviewing its membership of the EDA. An external review by the Defence Academy is due to be completed by mid-March 2015 and will result in a confidential report. The report will inform the internal debate going forward and as such the MOD will be unable to provide the review for scrutiny. However, we will inform the Committees of any Government decision on UK membership of the EDA.


"You also raise the continuing scrutiny issues caused by EEAS timelines. We share your concerns — as you will have seen from the Minister for Europe's update on 15 December, he wrote on 9 December to the new High Representative outlining the Government's concerns and setting out known scrutiny timelines. The Minister wrote again on the 10 February to set out timelines and scrutiny around dissolution, and will be writing to you shortly with a further update and response from the High Representative / Vice President."

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Prepared 27 March 2015