33. COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAMME TO
PROMOTE THE INTEGRATION OF REFUGEES
Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee, to Barbara Roche, Minister of State, The Home Office
Sub-Committee F considered the draft Council
Decision Establishing a Community Action programme to Promote
the Integration of Refugees at its meeting on 3 November.
The Sub-Committee noted that the only substantive
amendment to the draft Decision since it last looked at the matter
in March is the proposed legal base. The purpose of the Action
Programme has not changed and it would seem that the intended
beneficiaries of the Programme remain the same, although your
Explanatory Memorandum casts doubt on this.
The draft Decision specifies a dual legal base
comprising Articles 308 and 137(2) of the EC Treaty. Your preference
is for a single legal base, Article 137(2). This provision allows
the Council jointly with the European Parliament to "adopt
measures designed to encourage co-operation between Member States
through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge, developing exchanges
of information and best practices, promoting innovative approaches
and evaluating experiences in order to combat social exclusion".
Such measures must, however, be consistent with the objectives
of Community social policy as set out in Article 136. Article
136 is concerned primarily with employment and working conditions.
The objectives of the proposed Community Action Programme would
seem to extend well beyond the employment field. Indeed, your
earlier Explanatory Memorandum of 9 February (submitted with the
original draft Decision) gave some indication of the range of
intended activities. Under the pilot phase of the programme, the
UK has supported action in the following areas: employment and
vocational training, language courses, housing and access to social
amenities, dissemination of best practice and information, raising
public awareness and support for NGO activities in the fields
of information, policy development, training, and NGO capacity
building at national and European level.
The Commission's Explanatory Memorandum on the
original draft Decision states that the integration of refugees
requires specific measures which can "act as a bridge into
mainstream actions designed to promote integration". Commenting
on Article 5 of the draft Decision, the Commission emphasises
that the proposed Community Programme "cannot contribute
towards actions aimed at the integration of refugees into the
labour market" (emphasis added). It believes such actions
should be taken forward through the European Social Fund, Community
Initiatives (under the Structural Funds) and other relevant measures
launched by the Member States.
It would seem from the foregoing that specific
measures to take account of the special needs of refugees are
intended to be in addition to general initiatives aimed at combating
social exclusion. While some (employment-related) initiatives
might fall within Article 137(2), the Sub-Committee doubts whether
this Article provides a suitable or sufficient legal base for
the wider-ranging measures proposed for the integration of refugees
under the draft Decision. The Sub-Committee would therefore welcome
a full explanation of the Government's grounds for believing that
Article 137(2) alone provides an appropriate legal base, with
particular reference to the objectives set out in Article 136.
The Sub-Committee also notes that Article 137(3)
specifically provides for the Council to agree by unanimity "conditions
of employment for third country nationals legally residing in
Community territory". This provision seems to define the
scope for action in relation to non-EU third country nationals
in the field of Community social policy in narrow terms. The Sub-Committee
would welcome your views on the scope for adopting measures based
on Article 137(2) in relation to third country nationals.
The Sub-Committee looks forward to receiving
your reply to the points raised above. In the meantime, the draft
Decision remains under scrutiny.
4 November 1999
Letter from Barbara Roche, Minister of
State, Home Office to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee
Thank you for your letter of 4 November. With
regard to your first point about Article 136 of the EC treaty,
your letter explains that the Sub-Committee would welcome a full
explanation of the Government's grounds for believing that Article
137(2) alone provides an appropriate legal base for this instrument,
with particular reference to the objectives set out in Article
As your letter explains, Article 137(2) of the
EC treaty allows the Council, in accordance with the procedure
specified, to "adopt measures designed to encourage co-operation
between Member States through initiatives aimed at improving knowledge,
developing exchanges of information and best practices, promoting
innovative approaches and evaluating experiences in order to combat
social exclusion". The Sub-Committee point out, however,
that such measures must be consistent with the objectives of Community
social policy as set out in Article 136. It points out that Article
136 is concerned primarily with employment and working conditions;
and notes the objectives of the present proposed programme extend
beyond the employment field. The Sub-Committee also points to
the United Kingdom having supported action under the previous
programme not only in the areas of employment and vocational training
but also in the fields of language courses, housing and access
to social amenities.
As the Sub-Committee rightly observes, Article
136 is not solely about employment and working conditions. It
is also about "improved living and working conditions,"
"proper social protection" and "the development
of human resources with a view to lasting high employment and
the combating of exclusion".
Indeed Article 136 expressly refers to the 1961
European Social Charter as something the Community and Member
States must have in mind. That Charter deals with a number of
matters going beyond employment and working conditions. For example
the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection
(Article 16) and the right of the mother and children to social
and economic protection (Article 17) the right to social and medical
assistance (Article 13). Paragraph 2 of the Appendix to the Social
Charter provides for equal treatment of recognised refugees with
nationals of contracting parties.
Furthermore, the third paragraph of Article
137(2) is a new provision, added by Amsterdam, with a specific
aim of combating social exclusion through the means it sets out.
It is dealing with specific aspects of the field of application
of article 136; and measures under it do not have to reflect all
aspect of the coverage of article 136.
You have also asked for the Government's views
on how far the scope of Article 137(2) extends to third country
nations. The Sub-Committee notes that Article 137(3) specifically
provides the Council to agree by unanimity "conditions of
employment for third-country nationals legally residing in Community
territory". It concludes that this defines the scope for
action in relation to non-EU third-country nationals in the field
of Community social policy; and in narrow terms.
This is not our reading of the text. Article
137(3) is concerned with those particular measures, taken under
the Article, which require unanimity on a proposal from the Commission
after consulting the European Parliament, the Economic and Social
Committee and the Committee of the Regions, instead of the other
procedures provided for. It acknowledges, therefore, that third-country
nations may be covered by measures under Article 137, but itself
is simply concerned with those measures which require that particular
Accordingly, we consider article 137(2) is a sufficient
base in itself for the limited nature of the measure proposed.
14 December 1999
Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of
the Committee, to Barbara Roche MP, Minister of State, Home Office.
Thank you for your letter of 14 December setting
out the Government's grounds for believing that Article 137(2)
alone would provide an appropriate legal base for the proposed
Although your response does not entirely allay
the concerns expressed by the Committee as regards your preferred
choice of legal base, the Committee is grateful for your detailed
analysis of Articles 136 and 137 of the EC Treaty. The Committee
has decided to clear the draft decision from scrutiny but expects
to be kept informed of developments.
27 January 2000