48th REPORT: EUROPE IN THE WORLD
Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, Minister
for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman
I'd like to thank Sub-Committee C for its excellent
report on Europe in the World (48th Report of Season 2005-06,
HL Paper 268). It is a positive and significant contribution to
the important debate about how the EU can best fulfil its role
in the world.
I attach the Government's response to the Committee's
recommendations and conclusions.
24 January 2007
IN EU EXTERNAL
1. "We welcome and endorse the Commission's
desire to improve the coherence of the EU's external relations
by strengthening cooperation between the Presidency, the High
Representative and Council Secretariat, the Commission and the
Member States through action within the existing Treaty provisions.
We do not regard these proposals as either cherry-picking from
the Constitutional Treaty nor as requiring Treaty change".
2. "The present Communication may
well not exhaust the EU's scope for such action within the existing
Treaties. We hope that both the EU institutions and Member States
will continue to search for pragmatic ways to strengthen cooperation
and that lessons learnt where cooperation has been successful
will continue to be applied in other areas".
The Government shares the Committee's view of
the Commission initiative. The UK welcomed the report warmly in
June 2006 as being in the spirit of the Hampton Court Agenda and
focussed on effective delivery.
The Committee is right to make clear that the
Commission's proposals are quite distinct from those of the Constitutional
Treaty, and can be implemented within the framework of the existing
Treaties. Work will continue on improving cooperation and coherence.
The December European Council invited "future Presidencies
to take this forward with the High Representative and the Commission
to ensure the continuity of this process".
3. "We welcome the Commission proposal
that there should be a high-level strategic planning meeting at
the beginning of each Presidency between the Presidency, Commission
and High Representative enabling issues of coherence and the overall
direction of EU external action for the duration of the six month
Presidency to be discussed, in order that the EU institutions
and the Member States understand each other's priorities".
The Government agrees with the Committee on
the value of this proposal. The Government also notes that the
Finnish Presidency usefully held such a meeting in July 2006.
4. "Attendance of the High Representative
at meetings of the Relex Group will improve the coherence of EU
external relations and is likely to be welcomed. The High Representative
cannot be involved in decision-making but will have an influential
role and should work closely with the Commissioners to agree priorities
in those geographical and thematic areas in which both the Commission
and the Council have competence".
5. "We hope that these meetings
will lead to closer cooperation between Commission and Council
officials, both in preparing for meetings, and more generally".
The Government agrees with the Committee that
the High Representative's attendance at the meetings of the Relex
Group of Commissioners would be beneficial and help reinforce
useful cooperation between Commission and Council Secretariat
officials. But the Government also notes that the High Representative
necessarily spends a good deal of time away from Brussels and
that there may therefore be practical limits on his ability to
attend such meetings.
6. "We endorse the concept of closer
working relationships at all levels within the Commission and
the Council secretariat. Officials need to build relationships
with their counterparts in order to ensure that strategic objectives
and principles are complementary and achievable by both institutions".
We fully support close working relationships
at all levels between the Commission and the Council Secretariat.
The Government notes that there are already many good examples
of this in practice.
7. "We endorse the concept of joint
papers for discussion in Council and its working groups both as
promoting closer working relationships between Commission and
Council officials and as a means of ensuring that the two institutions
reach a common position which takes into account the priorities
and expertise of each. Joint papers should become standard practice
in areas of overlap between Commission competence and the CFSP".
8. "We note with regret that the
present Communication was not a joint paper. The United Kingdom
Government should, at the December European Council, urge the
Commission and Council secretariat to take forward the Commission
proposals on cooperation together".
The Government agrees on the value of joint
Commission and Council Secretariat papers for discussion in Council
and its working groups on issues where significant Community and
CFSP interests are engaged. And the Government notes that the
Council Secretariat and Commission have already produced a number
of joint papers.
We were pleased to see that at the December
European Council there was a broad consensus in favour of taking
forward the Commission proposals. It is important to note that
the Conclusions invited future Presidencies, the High Representative
and the Commission to continue to enhance strategic planning and
to ensure coherence in the use of the different external relations
9. "We agree that the function of
the Commission's crisis centre and the Council's situation centre
are distinct and cannot be amalgamated. However, in crisis situations
analyses produced by one should be shared with the other".
The Government agrees with the Committee that
the crisis centre and the situation centre have distinct roles,
and that there are therefore limits to the sharing of "reporting
and analytical resources".
10. "We welcome the Commission's
proposals on upstream preparation for major international meetings
into which the EU has an input. Such preparation will facilitate
the joint presentation of a coordinated EU position and increase
the impact of the EU's message".
11. "The Presidency should be able
to call upon the assistance of Commission experts wherever necessary,
possibly at short notice. The Council secretariat and Commission
should work together to determine how best to implement this proposal.
We fully support effective EU preparation for
major international meetings on the basis of the existing Treaties.
The Government agrees that this should, where appropriate, draw
fully on Commission expertise and advice.
12. "We recognise that the proposal
for full Commission participation in the external representation
of the euro-zone raises sensitive issues for those Member States
which are members of the euro-zone. We believe this proposal will
need to be carefully weighed, taking into account the comments
of those Member States".
The Government agrees with the Committee that
this is primarily a question for those states in the euro-zone
to consider, taking into account Treaty obligations.
13. "We consider that the double-hatting
arrangement has been a success in Macedonia, has led to greater
visibility for the EU presence, greater impact and coherence,
and has contributed to resolving the issue of division of responsibilities.
The presence on the ground of a double-hatted EUSR and Head of
Commission Delegation means that the EU now speaks with one voice
14. "We accordingly support the
proactive consideration of extending this model on a case-by-case
basis and adapting it to other situations where a Commission delegation
and EUSR are on the ground in the same city, country or region".
15. "Due to the high level of responsibility
and the political sensitivity of such posts, persons nominated
for double-hatting should have a strong capacity to build relationships
with the Council, the Commission, and the Member States, and ideally
have experience of working for both European Institutions".
As the Minister for Europe stated in evidence
to the European Union Committee (Sub-Committee C) in July 2006,
the Government believes that the double-hatting arrangement in
Skopje has been a success and has effectively supported the delivery
of EU objectives in Macedonia.
The Government will continue to consider proposals
for double-hatting on a case by case basis and agrees with the
Committee that it is important that candidates for such appointments
should have the capacity to build strong relationships with the
Council, the Commission, and the Member States.
14. "The Government should take
a pragmatic approach to the issue of closer cooperation between
Commission delegations and the Presidency Representations, EUSRs,
ESDP mission representatives and Council secretariat officials".
15. "Commission delegations and
EUSR staff offices should explore means of closer collaboration,
taking into account each particular set of circumstances. Special
consideration should be given to the western Balkans and Addis
Ababa where the EU presence stands to benefit from such arrangements".
16. "Greater coordination at field
level between Commission delegations and EUSRs or ESDP missions
should be encouraged. We note that the exchange of reporting information
is already being carried out, but the institutions should continue
to explore avenues for greater cooperation".
The Government's approach to the issue of closer
cooperation in the field is pragmatic. We entirely agree with
the Committee that the work of the Commission and the Council
in third countries should "enhance and complement that of
the other to make the best use of the Union's resources"
within the framework of the existing Treaties.
We take note of the Committee's view that this
would be particularly appropriate in the Western Balkans and Addis
Ababa and will take this into account when considering the possible
development of the EU presence in both areas.
17. "Consular assistance is the
responsibility of Member States. On a practical level, delegations
may be able to support Member States" representations in
crisis situations, such as in the field of logistics. We would
encourage the Commission to develop guidelines in this latter
area for its delegations, in close consultation with the Council
and the Member States, taking into account the need for a high
level of preparedness in the event of an emergency".
The Government agrees with the Committee that
consular assistance is the responsibility of Member States. There
are useful ways in which we can cooperate with other Member States"
representations and Commission delegations in order to enhance
our preparedness to deal with emergencies. A good level of cooperation
between EU Member States already exists, and work is underway
to further develop it. The Government agrees that we should work
with the Commission and Council of Ministers to define the practical
support Commission delegations might provide under certain circumstances.
18. "We welcome the Commission's
pragmatic proposal for the sharing of premises and support services
between Commission delegation offices and EUSR or Member State
missions, where these are in the same city. Decisions should be
taken on a case-by-case basis taking into account the needs and
capacities of each party".
The Government welcomes the Commission's readiness
to consider the sharing of premises and support services. The
Government notes that there are already examples of this in practice,
including in Iraq (as the Committee have identified) where Commission
Officials and the European Security and Defence Policy mission
(EUJUSTLEX) work from British Embassy premises.
19. "We believe that the Commission's
proposals for the exchange of its personnel with diplomatic services
of the Member States and the staff of the Council secretariat
will bring real benefits to staff of greater understanding and
knowledge of the EU institutions and Member States. The United
Kingdom Government should strongly encourage their staff to participate
in the exchange".
The Government supports this initiative, and
is considering how best to co-ordinate UK participation in the
recently launched full scheme. The Commission aim to begin exchanges
later in the summer.
20. "We welcome efforts by the national
parliaments of the Presidency countries, and by AFET, to encourage
the attendance of both the High Representative and the Commissioner
for External Relations at all meetings of COFACC as well as at
joint meetings of the European Parliament and national Parliamentary
foreign affairs committees. We would welcome a joint contribution
in order to promote discussion of the effectiveness of coordination
The Government notes that the Presidency and
the High Representative regularly brief Members of the European.
Parliament on Common Foreign and Security Policy developments.
The Government notes that Commissioners also do so on other external
matters. We support this practice, and see no problem with the
High Representative and the Commissioner for External Relations
appearing together in the configurations listed by the Committee.
21. The United Kingdom should give a
political lead by publicly recognising what the EU is doing in
the field of external relations and in giving due credit to the
EU for its success. Only through greater visibility and increased
public awareness in both the EU and third countries will the EU
be able to properly fulfil its role in the world.
The Government is committed to achieving greater
public awareness and a more mature debate about of EU issues.
Working through the EU to promote stability, security, good governance
and the values to which the Union subscribes is a central element
of the Government's foreign and security policy. The Government
is grateful to the Committee for its recognition of the successes
of this policy. The Government will, as the Committee suggests,
continue to promote broader awareness of the EU's activities in
the field of external relations and the benefits for the UK.