THE HELSINKI EUROPEAN COUNCIL
15. The European Council in Helsinki, on 10-11 December
1999, confirmed the Cologne agenda, and added a significant further
"The incoming presidency
will report to the European Council on progress made in the Conference
and may propose additional issues to be taken on the agenda of
16. The Portuguese Presidency's report is discussed
in more detail in Part 3 of this Report. Perhaps the most significant
addition which it made to the agenda was the question of reinforced
co-operation or flexibility.
17. The Helsinki Council also set out the working
methods and precise timetable for the Conference. It was to be
officially convened in early February 2000
and was to complete its work and agree the necessary amendments
to the Treaties by December 2000. Paragraphs 17 to 19 of the Conclusions
contained the following provisions on working methods:
"17. Ministers who are
members of the General Affairs Council
will have overall political responsibility for the Conference.
Preparatory work shall be carried out by a Group composed of a
representative of each Member State's Government.
The representative of the Commission shall participate at the
political and preparatory level. The General Secretariat of the
Council will provide secretariat support for the Conference.
18. The European Parliament will be closely associated
and involved in the work of the Conference. Meetings of the preparatory
Group may be attended by two observers from the European Parliament.
Each session of the Conference at ministerial level will be preceded
by an exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament,
assisted by two representatives of the European Parliament. Meetings
at the level of Heads of State or Government dealing with the
IGC will be preceded by an exchange of views with the President
of the European Parliament.
19.The Presidency will take the necessary steps to
ensure that candidate States are regularly briefed within existing
fora on the progress of discussions and have the opportunity to
put their points of view on matters under discussion. Information
will also be given to the European Economic Area."
PREPARING THE UNION FOR ENLARGEMENT
18. The most significant challenge facing the EU
in this IGC is to make the Union ready to cope with enlargement.
Accession negotiations have been opened with 12 candidate states.
The Committee has previously reported on Enlargement of the
EU: Progress and Problems.
In that report,
the Select Committee concluded that it was an "absolute political
imperative" that the IGC should be completed on schedule.
It considered that the pace of enlargement could be constrained
by failure to agree on the detail of institutional reform, and
that this could have a seriously damaging effect on the confidence
of the applicant countries. We maintain that view. The applicant
countries are being required to make major changes in order to
comply with the Copenhagen criteria.
The contrast between the efforts being made by the applicant countries
and the lack of progress by the present Member States on EU institutional
reform is striking. It is against this background that we have
considered the IGC agenda and the progress made to date.
9 Presidency Conclusions, Helsinki European Council,
10 - 11 December 1999. Back
The Conference began work at the General Affairs Council of 14
February 2000. Back
For the United Kingdom, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and
the Minister for Europe, Keith Vaz. Back
For the United Kingdom, Sir Stephen Wall, UK Permanent Representative
to the EU, who will be replaced as Permanent Representative by
Mr Nigel Sheinwald in September 2000. Back
Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In
addition, the Helsinki Council Conclusions stated that "Turkey
is a candidate State destined to join the Union on the basis of
the same criteria as applied to the other candidate States".
Formal accession negotiations with Turkey have not yet begun. Back
21st Report, 1998-99, HL Paper 118. Back
At paragraph 102. Back
The "Copenhagen Criteria" were laid down in the Conclusions
of the 1993 Copenhagen European Council, which specified the conditions
which would be applied in judging whether an applicant was ready
for membership: "Membership requires that the candidate country
has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy,
the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of
minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well
as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces
within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate's ability
to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to
the aims of political, economic and monetary union". Back