Select Committee on European Communities Twelfth Report


Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to James Paice, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Decision establishing the Community action programme "European Voluntary Service for young people" and a proposal for a Council Resolution. (Document Number 5056/97)

  Thank you for your Department's Explanatory Memorandum of 5 February on the above document. The proposal has now been considered by both the European Communities Committee and its Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs).

  The Committee agrees with your Department's view that the Community should not embark on a new action programme in this area until a full evaluation of the youth volunteer pilots and the volunteering strand of the Youth for Europe III programme have been undertaken. We note, however, that the Commission refers in paragraph 12 of the document to the findings of an ex-ante evaluation and the initial results of the current pilot action which were supposed to be attached to the document. We would be grateful if you would provide an explanation why these documents were not deposited with the document.

  We accept that Article 126 of the EC Treaty is capable of a broad interpretation, encompassing youth volunteering as an educational activity We question, however, whether certain aspects of the proposal, in particular those specified in Article 2(3)(b) ("innovative initiatives, particularly in the social, environmental and cultural fields and with regard to the fight against different forms of exclusion") are matters which fall within the ambit of Article 126. We would welcome your Department's views on this matter.

  We share your concern that the draft Council Resolution relates to matters which properly fall within the scope of the Third Pillar. Contamination between the Pillars should be avoided and the draft Resolution should be restricted to matters falling within the scope of the EC Treaty.

  I would be grateful if you would supply a more detailed account of what support this programme is attracting from other Member States and what improvements the Government will be seeking during the negotiations on this proposal if it finds itself in a minority position.

  Sub-Committee F has retained this document under scrutiny pending receipt of further information on the matters raised above.

20 March 1997

Letter from James Paice, MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, to Lord Tordoff Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 20 March about the Commission's proposal for a Decision to establish a European Voluntary Service for Young People, about which I sent you an Explanatory Memorandum on 5 February.

  I am sorry that you have not seen the ex-ante evaluation referred to in the body of the Commission document. We assumed you already had it. A copy is now enclosed. For completeness, I also attach a copy of the preliminary progress report which is referred to in the Commission document as well.

  Agreement on the Youth for Europe III Decision established youth volunteering as an educational activity. The present proposal goes somewhat beyond youth volunteering and makes references, for example, to racism and xenophobia which are in our view outside the scope of Article 126. The inappropriateness of the legal base of individual elements of the proposal will be used to challenge the text in Working Group negotiations. We shall be seeking deletions from, and improvements to, the text of the Decision regarding the references to social security policies, immigration and rights of residence, accreditation, the comitology arrangements, racism and xenophobia, and the budget. It seems, at this point, that the accompanying Resolution may also be dropped entirely, owing to vigorous opposition from the majority of Member States. This should avoid any question of contamination between the Pillars which you feared might otherwise result.

  We are not alone in our concerns about the main proposal, and have strong support for negotiating out the more objectionable elements of the text. However, we have little prospect of blocking the proposal outright. It is becoming increasingly clear as negotiations proceed that the political will exists, to one degree or another, in other Member States to ensure the adoption of a decision on volunteering in some form. There is some support among Member States for a two year rather than a five year programme at least, to run concurrently with the remainder of YFE III until the end of 1999. This approach, given that a volunteering programme of some kind appears inevitable, would at least allow for a thorough and meaningful evaluation of youth action programmes before the establishment of new activity into the next century.

  I hope that this information is helpful.

8 April 1997

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