EU Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development - European Scrutiny Contents

14 Common Foreign and Security Policy, including Common Security and Defence Policy

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny (by Resolution of the House on 1 February 2016)
Document detailsHigh Representative's Annual Report
Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Numbers(37005), 11083/15, —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

14.1 Each year, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President (HR/VP) produces a report that looks at activity carried out under the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in the year gone by and ahead to the year to come.

14.2 As explained below (see "Background" for details), this Report was exceptional in the sense that, beginning in December 2013 and running up to June 2016 and beyond, the Council, on the basis of proposals being worked up by the European External Action Service (EEAS), Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA), has been reviewing and revising the full CFSP and CSDP spectrum. We therefore recommended that this Report be debated last autumn on the floor of the House, for the reasons explained below, which revolve around not just the controversial policy matters involved but also the issue of proper, timely, prior parliamentary scrutiny of the process. That debate was finally held, in European Committee, on 1 February.

14.3 Key documents in this process are:

—  the HR/VPs new European Global Strategy, upon which the June 2016 European Council will take major decisions;

—  later this year, an EU Defence Action Plan,[74] designed to reinforce the internal market, support competitiveness and encourage investment in innovation for Europe's defence sector; and

—  during this year, new proposals around the so-called "security-development" nexus (including a possible new financial instrument), under the rubric of Capacity Building for Security and Development (CBSD); and a new EU-wide Strategic Framework for Security Sector Reform.[75]

14.4 We also explain below why we have been pressing the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) about the scrutiny of the European Global Strategy and the EU Defence Action Plan.

14.5 The Minister has now provided a further response to our representations, confirming that he will "share a copy of these documents in good time before any endorsement by the Council" and that, as per the Committee's letter, if "the documents are marked limité, we will aim to share a copy in confidence at an appropriate point with … accompanying Explanatory Memoranda".

14.6 Also, in response to a question about the CBSD initiative raised during the European Committee debate by a member of this Committee, the Minister says that the May 2015 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions do not mean new powers for EU Institutions and that he has been clear in discussions thus far that all CBSD activity will be subject to strict Member State control and political oversight (see "Background" for further details).

14.7 We thank the Minister for this further information. With regard to scrutiny of the European Global Strategy and the EU Defence Action Plan, the Minister knows our expectations.

14.8 In the meantime, we draw this correspondence to the attention of the House because of the importance of the issues involved, which is all the more apparent in view of their place in the Netherlands EU Presidency programme.[76]

Full details of the documents: Main aspects and basic choices of the CFSP (part II, point E, paragraph 25 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013) — 2014 — Draft Annual report from the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy: (37005), 11083/15, —.


14.9 Under Article 36 TEU (previously Article 21 TEU), the European Parliament (EP) is to be consulted regularly by the HR/VP (Federica Mogherini) on the main aspects and basic choices of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); to be kept informed of how these policies evolve; and to have its views "duly taken into account". Accordingly, in year "n", the HR/VP consults the EP on a forward-looking document, which sets out the main aspects and basic choices of the CFSP, including the financial implications for the EU budget of the European Union, evaluates the measures launched in the year n-1 and assesses the coordination and complementarity of CFSP with the Union's other external financial instruments. So, the 2014 report described the main CFSP decisions and activities undertaken in 2014 by EU Member States, and by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on their behalf, thus:

—  Overview of Activities by Regions;

—  Addressing Threats and Global Challenges;

—  Contribution to a More Effective Multilateral Order;

—  Support to Democracy, Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law;

—  Comprehensive Approach, Conflict Prevention, Mediation and Crisis Response; and

—  Common Security and Defence Policy; while

—  Part Two was focussed on looking ahead to 2015.[77]

Our assessment

14.10 Though, this particular report was of much greater significance than usual because the EU was reviewing its 2003 European Security Strategy, with a view to the June 2016 European Council taking major decisions on the HR/VPs new European Global Strategy and, either then or later this year, an EU Defence Action Plan, both of which were bound to be politically controversial.

14.11 The scene had been set in the 16-page May 2015 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, which noted that the "global and European security environment has changed dramatically in recent years". The Council Conclusions called for a "stronger Europe" with a "stronger and more effective" CSDP, and stated that by addressing conflicts, sources of instability and other security challenges in the EU's immediate and wider neighbourhood, the EU and its Member States were

    "assuming increased responsibilities to act as a security provider, at the international level and in particular in the neighbourhood, thereby also enhancing their own security and their global strategic role by responding to these challenges together",

with the EU and its Member States, through the CSDP and other policies and instruments, having a "strong role to play" through the unique EU comprehensive approach to preventing and managing conflicts and addressing their causes.[78] In one of her earlier papers, the HR/VP also noted that: "While the EU is not a military alliance, it cannot ignore the 'D' in its CSDP".[79]

14.12 If the EEAS and the Commission were tasked with working in close consultation and co-operation with Member States, the question arose as to how the House was to be involved. Notwithstanding the wording of those Council Conclusions and Ministers' assertions about UK "red lines" being thereby protected, the Committee concluded that the European institutions and at least some Member States continued to favour a deepening of the EU's own defence capabilities. The Committee therefore recommended that this CSDP Report and the related issues set out in our Report should be debated as soon as possible on the floor of the House. In so concluding, the Committee hoped that this debate would enable the Government to bring the House up to date on developments hitherto; demonstrate how UK interests had been protected thus far; outline how the Government envisaged that process being taken forward, including proper prior parliamentary scrutiny of key forthcoming documents; and how UK interests would continue to be safeguarded.[80]

Subsequent developments

14.13 Our recommendation was finally acted upon, insofar as this debate was finally held on 1 February: but, the Government dismissed our carefully-argued view, and insisted on the debate being held, not on the floor of the House, but in European Committee.

14.14 A Joint Communication was put forward separately on the link between security and development — the so-called "security-development" nexus, which is a key underlying principle of the EU's "Comprehensive Approach" to external conflicts and crises, and complementary to EU internal security policies, maritime security and others. This Joint Communication — EU Capacity Building In Support of Security and Development, or CBSD. In sum, the Commission and the High Representative are proposing a number of actions:

—  better coordination within EU actions and between them, and the activities of Member States, so as to build a "unity of effort" (including more information sharing on capacity-building activities; better use of development cooperation expertise in CSDP actions, etc.);

—  a stronger EU policy framework on security sector reform, monitoring, evaluation and results framework as well as risk management methodology; and

—  new measures for linking peace, security and development, including funding of equipment for actions related to security in certain countries and regions, especially where the EU already has active CSDP presence.[81]

14.15 As this foreshadowed two things: an implementation plan; and, sometime in 2016, a new EU-wide Strategic Framework for Security Sector Reform.[82] We accordingly "tagged" this it to the debate. Secondly, at the November Foreign Affairs Council "Defence", Commissioner Bienkowska updated Member States on the European Defence Action Plan, arguing that four objectives should underpin it: i) supporting further European Defence co-operation; ii) guaranteeing Europe's strategic Defence autonomy; iii) ensuring the Action Plan is coherent with wider EU policies and strategies; and iv) ways of supporting EU Member States develop capacity in new and emerging security areas, such as space and security. Once again, the Government representative (Earl Howe), though welcoming the Plan insofar as it coordinated existing instruments, also felt compelled to urge "caution regarding new initiatives, emphasising the need to implement those already agreed". We therefore also "tagged" this Report chapter to that debate.[83]

14.16 Looking further down the road, major issues about the EU's involvement in defence, security and the "security-development" nexus were clearly in play. Issues of competence and duplication with NATO were bound to arise. The picture was of a widening EU ambition, and Government ministers continually having to urge caution, press for better cooperation with NATO and generally seek to "rein in" EU policy makers. The House must be enabled to play its proper role in the prior scrutiny of such matters. We therefore continued to press a reluctant Minister for Europe to confirm that both the HR/VP's proposals for revising the 2003 European Security Strategy and the European Defence would be deposited for scrutiny, in good time, before they were adopted by the Council in Conclusions or otherwise.

The Minister's letter of 14 January 2016

14.17 Most recently, in responding on 27 January to a letter of 14 January from the Minister for Europe, the Committee pointed out that the Minister continued to argue that:

    "It is as yet unclear how or if these documents will be adopted by the Council;

    "although the UK will seek to influence these documents throughout their development, … they will not be formally negotiated by Member States;

    "Where restrictive markings prevent us from being able to deposit these documents formally, we will aim to share them with the Committees in confidence."

14.18 The Committee noted that it had already pointed out that whether or not a document was adopted via a Council Decision, or Council Conclusions, or otherwise, was immaterial to the question of whether it should be subject to deposit. So, too, whether or not Member States had been involved in their drafting. The Committee reminded the Minister that (unlike its Lords' counterparts) it can only scrutinise documents that can be referred to openly, and those marked limité or restreint cannot; and that, as the Cabinet Office would confirm, there were many Ministers in other departments who, bound by the same constraints, readily not only shared the documents in confidence but provided full written insights in their Explanatory Memoranda without compromising either the privacy marking or the Government's position if the "dossier" was still a work in progress. The Committee noted the confirmation that, unless limité, both the European Defence Action Plan and the HR's European Security Strategy review proposal would be deposited for scrutiny, in good time,— and noted that the documents were limité, we expected his Explanatory Memoranda to deal with them as did other Ministers.

The Minister's letter of 10 February 2016

14.19 The Minister now says:

    "We currently still expect publication of the European Global Strategy (successor to the European Security Strategy) by HRVP Mogherini towards the end of the Dutch presidency in June 2016. As I said during the 1st February European Committee debate on CFSP,[84] this is still very much an exercise run by the High Representative herself: it is not a question of detailed negotiation of the text by Member States (although we are in touch with the EEAS to guide them on UK views). The European Defence Action Plan is due to be completed and published by the end of this year. However, we now have indications that this timing may slip to a date in 2017. It remains my intention to share a copy of these documents in good time before any endorsement by the Council. And I can confirm that if, as you say in your letter, the documents are marked limité, we will aim to share a copy in confidence at an appropriate point with an accompanying Explanatory Memoranda — as we often do on limité texts."

The Minister's letter of 11 February 2016

14.20 The Minister writes separately about a question raised during the debate by a member of this Committee (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg) concerning the May 2015 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, viz: "whether paragraph 16 meant giving more powers to EU institutions". The Minister notes that the specific piece of text in question was:

    "The establishment of a EU facility linking closer peace, security and development in the framework of one or more existing EU instruments; and a dedicated instrument to this effect, in view of the mid-term review of the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020."

14.21 The Minister then continues as follows:

    "As I said during the debate, these Conclusions do not mean new powers for EU Institutions. The EU facility in question refers to the Capacity Building in Security and Development (CBSD) initiative; it will be the mechanism that processes CBSD activity. This initiative is still in its early stages. However, we are clear that CBSD activity will be subject to strict Member State control and political oversight, including through the Political and Security Committee,[85] where decisions require unanimity.

    "The language of the Council Conclusions above recognises the two options being considered for financing CBSD: adapting an existing instrument; or creating a new one. We have no objection in principle to either option. In the case of adapting an existing instrument, we have made clear that this should not cut across existing UK priorities, for example funding for Somalia from the Africa Peace Facility.[86] If Member States choose to adopt a new dedicated instrument for CBSD, we will ensure this too does not cut across our equities in the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which provides the arrangements for the EU budget."

14.22 The Minister then says:

    "In 2013, the Prime Minister secured the first ever real-terms cut to the MFF for the period 2014-2020, which has led to better discipline and necessary budgetary restraint. As part of this deal, Member States committed to a mid-term review (MTR) of the MFF by end-2016. This MTR has been identified as the opportunity to create a new dedicated instrument for CBSD. Whilst no specific proposals have yet been tabled, any proposal at the MTR would require unanimous approval by Member States. Proposals would therefore need to meet UK requirements, for example avoiding compulsory Member State financial contributions and ensuring robust Member State political oversight. We would not agree a package that created any new powers for the Commission. We welcome the fact that Commission Vice-President Georgieva has identified 'better spending' as the highest priority for the MTR."

14.23 The Minister continues by saying:

    "Mr Rees-Mogg also asked whether the Joint Communication on 'Capacity building in support of security and development — Enabling partners to prevent and manage crises' means developing further EU competence. It does not. This Joint Communication provides an overview of: existing EU policies currently contributing to security and development work; the challenges faced in pilot test cases conducted in Africa; and an overview of EU security and development financial instruments available. My 5 June 2015 Explanatory Memorandum on the Joint Communication covers these points in more detail."

14.24 The Minister concludes by saying that he "will continue to participate actively in discussions on CBSD, including on its financial aspects", and that he "will keep the Committee updated on further developments".

Previous Committee Reports

Third Report HC 342-iii (2015-16), chapter 6 (9 September 2015); also see (36825), 8504/15: Fifteenth Report HC 342-xiv (2015-16), chapter 5 (16 December 2015) and (37347), — and (37388), —: Sixteenth Report HC 342-xv (2015-16), chapter 19 (6 January 2016).

74   See EU Defence Action Plan for details. Back

75   Broadly speaking, the "security sector" comprises individuals, groups and institutions that are responsible for the provision, management and oversight of security for people and the state. Back

76   See pp.13 and 14 of Programme of the Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU and the following extract:

"The Netherlands Presidency attaches particular importance to strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)… A stronger Common Security and Defence Policy is in the interest not only of the EU but also of NATO and the individual member states. The Netherlands Presidency will therefore endeavour to ensure that the themes of security and defence are firmly embedded in the new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, the enhanced CSDP and the future of European defence cooperation. Once the new strategy has been adopted in June 2016, the Netherlands hopes to see the High Representative translate it into concrete goals and adequate civil and military capabilities. The Netherlands Presidency wishes to narrow the distance between the various bottom-up EU defence cooperation initiatives and top-down EU security policy. To this end it will continue to raise the matter of giving defence cooperation a more binding character. Lastly, the Netherlands' efforts will also be geared to speeding up political and other decision-making.

"The Netherlands Presidency is in favour of strengthening the European defence market and industry. An open, transparent and well-functioning defence market, to which SMEs, as well as major players, have access, and a competitive defence industry, are vital prerequisites for a stronger CSDP. During the Presidency the Netherlands will also support the EDA in the context of research and technology, an area in which the Preparatory Action for CSDP-related Research should offer new opportunities". Back

77   The full details are in our previous Report: Third Report HC 342-iii (2015-16), chapter 6 (9 September 2015). Back

78   See Council Conclusions on CSDP. Back

79   See the HR's Strategic Review: The European Union in a changing global environment: A more connected, contested and complex world. Back

80   Third Report HC 342-iii (2015-16), chapter 6 (9 September 2015). Back

81   See press release. Back

82   See (36825), 8504/15: Fifteenth Report HC 342-xiv (2015-16), chapter 5 (16 December 2015) and First Report HC 342-i (2015-16), chapter 26 (21 July 2015) for full information. Back

83   See (37347), - and (37388), -: Sixteenth Report HC 342-xv (2015-16), chapter 19 (6 January 2016). Back

84   See Gen Co Deb, European Committee B, 1 February 2016, cols. 3-20 for the record of the debate. Back

85   Political and Security Committee: the committee of ambassador-level officials from national delegations who, by virtue of article 38 TEU, under the authority of the High Representative and the Council, monitor the international situation in areas covered by the CFSP and exercise political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations, as set out in article 43 TEU. The EEAS chair is nominated by the HR. Back

86   The African Peace Facility (APF) was established in 2004 in response to a request by African leaders. It is the main source of funding to support the African Union's (AU) and African Regional Economic Communities' (REC) efforts in the area of peace and security. It is funded from the European Development Fund (EDF), with an overall amount of more than €1.9 billion since 2004 and a further €750 million for 2014-2016. APF funded activities are: Early Response Mechanism (ERM; funding the first stages of actions aimed at the prevention, management and resolution of crises); African-led Peace Support Operations (PSOs, the main area of financial commitment of the APF) and Capacity Building (strengthening basic AU and REC institutional capacities and efficiency in planning and conducting PSOs). See African Peace Facility for full information. Back

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