Select Committee on European Union Forty-Fourth Report

CHAPTER 3: policy matters: looking ahead to 2004


82. This Chapter of our report gives a flavour of some of the issues we may consider next year. This cannot be definitive, as the Sub-Committees will of course need to respond to events and to documents sifted to them.

The draft constitutional Treaty; and institutional affairs

83. The IGC is working towards at least political agreement on the draft constitutional Treaty this year. Although we have stressed the need to get the Treaty right rather than giving overwhelming priority to getting it done quickly, we accept that there is need to have the final text agreed in good time for the European Parliament elections in May 2004.

84. The Select Committee intends to review the final output of the IGC, and in particular to determine what lessons can be learned about the success of the Convention as a process for Treaty change. The Committee anticipates that the final outcome of the IGC will need to be fully debated on the floor of both Houses.

85. The Committee will also be examining in more detail the proposed early warning mechanism on subsidiarity. Once we see the final form of this provision we will, taking account of any developments in the Commons, be able to advise the House on how to implement its new responsibilities in this area.

86. Sub-Committee E is currently undertaking an inquiry into the future role of the European Court of Justice under the draft Treaty. It is intended that a report be published early in the New Year.

  1. 2004 will see not only elections to the European Parliament but also a new Commission. The attached box sets out the implications of these developments for the scrutiny of EU business next year.

Box 2

Effect on scrutiny of institutional change in 2004
On 1 May 2004, the accession countries will formally join the European Union. European parliamentary elections for the period up to 2009 will take place on 10 June 2004. A new Commission will take office on 1 November 2004.

These changes will affect the EU legislative process in a number of ways. Although EU legislative proposals do not fall if they are not agreed before the end of the European parliamentary session, any proposal subject to the co-decision procedure will be affected by the 2004 European Parliament election. Because of the accession of ten new Member States to the Union on 1 May 2004, it is expected that most of the May European parliamentary session will be taken up with ceremonial matters. This means that the last plenary session at which a vote can be taken on first or second reading of legislative proposals put forward under the co-decision procedure will be in the week commencing 19 April 2004. July will be taken up with internal European Parliament elections and parliamentary work will not properly resume before the September 2004 session.

As the election may mean a change of rapporteur for a legislative proposal, the Parliament hopes to leave as many proposals as possible with a decided first or second reading at the end of its session. There is no formal deadline for the Commission to propose a new piece of legislation, but any proposal put forward after November 2003 is unlikely to reach the end of parliamentary first reading by April 2004. The Commission is expected to act in accordance with this.

Therefore, as the Committee has heard from the Commission on a number of occasions recently, 2004 will be a year in which the Commission will concentrate on reviewing implementation of legislative measures in Member States and seeking to consolidate agreed legislation rather than proposing new legislation.

The Commission's Annual Work programme; and the Council's strategic agenda

88. We have continued our scrutiny of the Commission's Annual Work Programme. We will shortly be reporting separately to the House on the Commission's Annual Work Programme for 2004.

89. Once the output of the IGC is clear, we will review the case for scrutiny of any strategic agenda set by the European Council.

The WTO: The EU Mandate After Cancun

90. Sub-Committee A is examining what the EU should do to help to bring the Doha development round of trade negotiations to a successful conclusion. The inquiry will follow up the Committee's previous report on The World Trade Organisation: The EU Mandate After Seattle (published June 2000).

Economic and financial affairs: other key issues for 2004

91. Sub-Committee A will scrutinise the draft budget for 2005.

92. Sub-Committee A will also examine new proposals for:

Foreign Affairs and Defence

93. In the year ahead, foreign affairs and defence will remain in the spotlight. Sub-Committee C plans to continue their regular evidence sessions with the Minister for Europe and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, from time to time, from the Ministry of Defence. This will include updates on the monthly General Affairs and External Relations Council and discussing the Government's opinion on current developments in European Foreign policy.

94. The most significant issues on the horizon are:

The Sub-Committee wait with interest to discover the outcome of the IGC's deliberations concerning the proposal to create a European Minister for Foreign Affairs.

International development

95. Sub-Committee C's main inquiry for the beginning of the new session is EU international development assistance. The Sub-Committee plans to take evidence from a wide range of development experts and to make recommendations on how the EU can alter its development policy and procedures to benefit the world's most needy.

Immigration and asylum

96. The establishment of a new Sub-Committee (G) to scrutinise measures on social policy and consumer affairs, including health, worker protection and education, will enable Sub-Committee F to concentrate exclusively on home affairs. It seems likely that immigration and asylum will continue to have a high political profile in the European Union with the Commission bringing forward further measures in response to the conclusions of successive European Councils.

97. There is likely to be continuing interest in the arrangements for managing the European Union's external frontier, Commissioner Vitorino having recently announced that the Commission would shortly be bringing forward proposals for the creation of an external border agency, which would take over responsibility for cross-border cooperation and coordination. The Committee will examine these proposals closely in the light of its report on proposals for a European Border Guard. The Commission is also planning to make proposals for immigration quotas, which are likely to be controversial.

98. Another important dossier, particularly as regards data protection, will be the development of a new system to replace the Schengen Information System.

99. The Committee's immediate task in the new session will be to complete its current inquiry into new approaches to the asylum process, which, among other things, is looking at various proposals designed to keep asylum seekers nearer to their countries of origin.

100. The work of Europol and Eurojust is also likely to require continuing attention, in view of their central roles in combating trans-national organised crime, particularly in view of the enhanced remit likely to be conferred on Europol by the Constitutional Treaty.

101. The Committee will also complete early in the new session a short inquiry into proposals to require airlines to provide advance passenger information to national authorities and to notify them if a passenger does not embark on his return ticket. The Committee has consulted a number of organisations representing carriers and several Non-Governmental Organisations about this proposal which raises important issues both of principle and of practicability.

Energy, Industry, Transport and Research

102. In the coming Session, Sub-Committee B will examine the Commission's legislative and work programme for 2004 and consider which, if any, issues require more detailed examination. The Commission is introducing draft legislation aimed at achieving a single market in services-from architecture to accountancy and jobs from hotel manager to boiler-fitter, which account for 70% of the EU Economy. Sub-Committee B will examine these proposals. The Commission has already indicated that it will review the growth and competitive performance of the EU in the light of the targets set at the Lisbon European Council Meeting in 2000. Sub-Committee B is likely to look into this review as it affects single market issues.

103. The Sub-Committee will continue to monitor all aspects of Energy, Industry and Transport under the internal market and to follow-up earlier inquiries. For example, the European Single Sky proposals come into effect. Sub-Committee B reported on these in the 9th Report Session 2001-02, Reducing Air Traffic Delays: Civil and Military Management of Air Space in Europe[17].

104. The Sub-Committee will wish to continue to monitor the EU/US negotiations on an Open Aviation Area and the two mandates granted to the Commission and which form the subject of the Committee's Report "Open Skies" or Open Markets? The effect of the European Court of Justice Judgments on Aviation Relations between the European Union and the United States of America[18].

105. The Sub-Committee will also wish to revisit the matter of the security of energy supplies in Europe. This, too, will be a follow-up to the Report which the Sub-Committee produced in Session 2001-02[19].

106. The Italian Presidency introduced a new initiative on Trans-European Networks with the object of increasing the Commission's ability to part-fund from 10% of contract to 30%. The Sub-Committee may look at these proposals and may consider what progress, if any, has been made in the liberalisation of rail freight.

107. Finally, the Sub-Committee will wish to return to the issue of the Commission's plans to allocate slots at Community airports.

Agriculture and Environment

108. With a change of Chairman of Sub-Committee D pending, no view has yet been taken on possible topics for inquiries in the forthcoming 2003-04 Session. A number of important dossiers (e.g. on revision of the CAP regime for tobacco, olive oil, cotton and sugar) are awaiting scrutiny and may give rise to inquiries.


109. Sub-Committee E is also likely to scrutinise anticipated EU proposals in the field of criminal procedure as well as proposals on a range of civil law matters. In January, the Sub-Committee will undertake an inquiry into the proposed Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (known as "Rome II"). This aims to standardise Member States' rules of conflict of laws regarding non-contractual obligations.

17   HL Paper 79 (Supplementary Report, HL Paper 63). Back

18   17th Report Session 2003-03, HL Paper 92 and supplementary Report, 36th Report, Session 2002-03, HL Paper 151.  Back

19   14th Report, HL Paper 82. Back

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