Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Sixth Report


Letter from Jack Straw MP, the Foreign Secretary to Lord Jopling

  Thank you for your letter of 31 March enclosing your Select Committee's Report on "The Future of Europe—Convention Working Group Reports on Defence and External Action".

  I read your report with interest. I share the Committee's view that much of the content of the Convention's Defence and External Action Working Group reports published last December is sensible. I entirely agree with the Committee about the undesirability of an EU seat in relevant international organisations. We have made clear that we could not accept such a move in, for example, the UN Security Council.

  I note the Committee's concern about more QMV in CFSP, particularly on defence issues. I can assure you that any move towards more QMV in CFSP would have to ensure that national interests were protected. One possible way of doing this would be to use the Peter Hain formula from the External Action Working Group report, which I was pleased to see reproduced in the current version of the draft Treaty Articles. This states that any move to more QMV in CFSP would have to be agreed by unanimity in the European Council on a case by case basis. This in effect means that such a move would not be possible unless each Member State agreed.

  On the issue of merging the jobs of the High Representative and External Relations Commissioner, Peter Hain has consistently expressed our doubts about how this could work in practice. The key to this will be resolving the extent to which any doublehatter would be accountable to the Commission. He/she would clearly have to be accountable to the Council of CFSP—I welcome the recognition of this in the current draft Articles.

  The two Working Group reports which your Committee examined have proved a useful basis for the ongoing Convention discussions on the draft Treaty Articles on defence and external action. As you are no doubt aware, the Convention Plenary will discuss these sets of Articles on 15-16 May. I welcome the Committee's continuing interest in the work of the Convention at this crucial time.

13 May 2003

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