Select Committee on European Union Nineteenth Report



APPENDIX 4: EXTRACTS TAKEN FROM A LETTER TO THE CHAIRMAN, SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE EUROPEAN UNION, HOUSE OF LORDS FROM THE MINISTER FOR EUROPE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE RE: "COMMISSION COMMUNICATION ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EUROMED PARTNERSHIP" DATED 20 DECEMBER 2005

Thank you for your letter of 24 November on your decision to clear the above Commission Communication from scrutiny. I am pleased that you agreed with the Commission's proposals for a five-year work programme which will help move the Barcelona Process forward.

Your letter asks for an explanation for the seven month delay between the publication of the Commission Communication and the Government's depositing of the text for scrutiny. The Government shares your concern. The Commission produced its Communication on 12 April and sent it to the Council Secretariat on 18 April. However, it was not until 27 October that the Council Secretariat circulated this document. The trigger for the Cabinet office to request an Explanatory Memorandum from Government departments is the circulation of a text from the Council Secretariat. I regret that neither we nor the Cabinet Office spotted the time delay in order to provide an explanation to your Committee before an EM was submitted.

Officials at the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels have raised this issue with the Council Secretariat and ascertained that this was an administrative mistake, for which they apologise. A delay of seven months is certainly not common and the Council Secretariat has highlighted that this is an isolated case. Nevertheless, the Cabinet Office and FCO will continue to monitor the situation.

Additionally, the FCO will ensure the same early warning mechanism we have developed for legislative material (Joint Actions, Common Positions etc) is transposed for non-legislative documents, such as Commission Communications. I know your Committee has acknowledged that the FCO has made great strides in recent years in the early deposit of legislative material using unofficial texts. A similar system, whereby the FCO submits Commission documents at a suitable stage as unofficial text, would reap the same rewards in those cases where the Council was likely to consider the document quickly or where there was likely to be a delay in the text being circulated by the Council Secretariat.


 
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