Letter from the Chairman to Elliot Morley
Esq MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated
16 October 2002. The document was considered by Sub-Committee
D at its meeting on 30 October.
We note that the proposal itself was debated
in the Environment Council of 17 October, and a negotiating position
agreed, giving this Committee no time to consider the potentially
controversial amendments to CITES. This is an international agreement
and the Committee feels that it should have been able to comment
on the proposal in good time.
We lift the scrutiny reserve, but we would like
to know why the document arrived so late. We should also wish
to be kept informed of developments at Santiago in November.
Can you tell us why no legal basis was set out
in the Explanatory Memorandum, and why the negotiating mandate
is to be provided by way of a decision sui generis?
18 November 2002
Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister
for Fisheries, Water and Nature Protection, to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 18 November expressing
concern about the late arrival of the Explanatory Memorandum concerning
the Council Decision setting out the Community's position on the
12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which met over the period
3-15 November in Santiago, Chile.
I am very sorry that it has taken so long to
reply. The draft was in fact prepared very promptly, but subsequently
went astray within Defra. We have taken a number of steps to improve
our management of correspondence flows, and there should be no
repetition of this sort of unfortunate lapse.
As to your original concern, I agree that it
was regrettable that the Explanatory Memorandum arrived so late
but the final draft of the proposed Council Decision was not issued
until 11 October 2002. This left very little time to prepare and
circulate an Explanatory Memorandum that was based on an agreed
text. However, the Council Secretariat was not entirely to blame
for this, as a number of the papers for the CITES Conference were
submitted very late in the day thereby putting great pressure
on all member states to establish their policy lines very quickly.
Indeed a number of papers were still not available at the time
of the Environment Council meeting. I agree that this was a very
unsatisfactory situation for all the parties concerned and is
an issue on which we are already pressing for improvement in the
run up to the next Conference of the CITES Parties in October
As to the question of the legal basis for the
Council Decision, it is standard practice for all negotiating
mandates to be agreed by way of a decision sui generis.
This practice has developed in this way as it will not always
be clear from the outset of negotiations what the appropriate
legal base of the instrument will be.
I am, however, pleased to report that the Conference
itself proved to be very successful from the UK point of view.
Marine species issues dominated the agenda: Japan's proposals
to allow trade in Minke and Bryde's whales were soundly rejected
while the UK's own proposal to list basking shark in Appendix
II of CITES was successful. Proposals to list whale shark and
seahorses in Appendix II were also accepted.
These decisions mark a significant departure
from the traditional view that fisheries related issues should
be dealt with by FAO. It also signals that CITES is now seen as
an appropriate mechanism for securing better protection and sustainable
management of certain marine species. Another significant breakthrough
was the listing of mahogany in Appendix II after several previous
attempts over the last decade had failed. Hopefully this will
act as a spur to encourage range states to list tropical timber
species as means to bring illegal logging and unsustainable forestry
under the closer scrutiny of international regulation.
Although views were divided on the elephant
proposals, the eventual outcome was consistent with the position
set out in the Council Decision. Contrary to some reports in the
media, the Conference of the Parties has not authorised a resumption
in the trade of ivory. What was agreed was that three southern
African countries (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) would be
permitted to undertake a one-off sale of their ivory stocks to
a pre-arranged destination but not before May 2004 and only then
if certain conditions (which include strict controls on the market,
stringent monitoring requirements and a condition that the proceeds
of any sale are to be used for elephant conservation) are met
in full and verified by the CITES Secretariat in conjunction with
the CITES Standing Committee.
In the run up to the next Conference (in Thailand
in autumn 2004) we will be working closely with interested parties
to secure the effective implementation of the decisions taken
at COP12. We shall also be exploring with other EU Member States
how best to co-ordinate EU action at future conferences, taking
into account the need to accommodate the views of accession states.
26 May 2003
Extract from the Council Minutes 17 October
The Council adopted a decision, with the German
and French delegations abstaining, defining the Community's and
the Member States' negotiation position for the 12th session of
the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which
is due to take place in Santiago (Chile) from 3 to 15 November
The Community position refers to certain proposals
submitted to COP12 in the framework of CITES such as: strategic
and administrative matters, interpretation and implementation
of the Convention and proposals to amend its appendices on the
levels of protection afforded to different species.
CITES is an international agreement whose aim
is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals
and plants does not threaten their survival.