Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


EU MILITARY OPERATION IN SUPPORT OF THE UN MISSION IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (7779/06)

Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  The next meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 10 April. It is possible that at this meeting Foreign Ministers will agree to a Council Decision concerning an EU military operation in support of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) during the election process. Agreement on this at the GAERC will depend on whether the UN Security Council passes a resolution authorising the EU force by then.

  If the Council Decision on the mission is not agreed at this GAERC it is likely that it will be agreed by written procedure before Easter, as member states are keen to press ahead with the planning for the mission. The EU force needs to be ready to deploy in time for the June elections.

  The UK Government supports the proposal for this EU mission, which will comprise a small EU force based in Kinshasa, with a larger "over-the-horizon" EU force on stand-by outside the DRC, ready to deploy if the situation requires. It agrees that planning should begin as soon as possible.

I

   hope therefore that you will understand why it is necessary to override scrutiny in this instance. Of course, I will ensure that an Explanatory Memorandum is submitted on this subject for the next sitting of the Scrutiny Committee.

5 April 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP to the Chairman

  I wrote to you on 5 April to explain why it was likely that scrutiny would not be possible before the Council Decision on this mission. I also undertook to ensure that an Explanatory Memorandum was submitted to the Committee for their consideration as soon as possible. Please find this enclosed (not printed).

18 April 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 18 April 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 27 April. The Sub-Committee agreed to clear the document from scrutiny.

  We note the urgent need to begin planning this military mission as soon as the UN Security Council Resolution was received and therefore accept that this was an appropriate case for a scrutiny override.

  The mission is intended to cover the election period in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is due to terminate four months after the date of the first round of elections. We hope that if the mission proves successful, the EU will act swiftly to seek an extension to the Joint Action in order that ongoing support by the EU can be provided to MONUC.

  Following commencement of the mission we would also like to receive more detailed information on the national composition of the EU troops deployed both within and outside the DRC, and on the command and control structure between the EU and MONUC. As the EU increases its capacity and willingness to engage in military ESDP it is essential that the relationship between the EU and other forces is both clear-cut and transparent. Accordingly such information should be made available to Parliament once the command and control structures have been agreed.

28 April 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  As you will be aware from Douglas Alexander's letter and EM of 18 April the EU has been preparing for an EU military mission under ESDP to support the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We now expect the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) to take a decision to authorise the launch of this operation at its next meeting on 12 June, so that the deployment can take place in advance of the DRC elections.

  I attach an Explanatory Memorandum on the Joint Action authorising the launch of the operation (not printed).

  The document is still in a draft stage and is being worked on in committees. I am sending this version to you now to ensure that both your Committee and the Commons Committee have sufficient time to clear the text. I will, of course, keep you informed about any substantive changes to the Joint Action, as well as details of the national composition of EU troops and command and control structures, once they become clear.

17 May 2006

Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP to the Chairman

  As you will be aware from Douglas Alexander's letter and EM of 18 April and my subsequent letter and EM of 17 May, the EU has been preparing for an EU military mission under the ESDP to support the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  I thought you might like to be aware that as part of the preparations for this mission the EU is preparing a Status of Forces Agreement with Gabon to cover the element of the force which will be on stand-by there. This SOFA has been drafted on the basis of the EU Model SOFA that your committee scrutinised in March 2005 and follows standard language.

14 June 2006

Letter from Kim Howells MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  I am writing to inform your Committee of a Council Decision to exchange letters between the Presidency and Switzerland on the participation of Swiss doctors in EUFOR RD Congo—the EU military operation supporting the UN mission during the DRC elections. This exchange is necessary because Switzerland was not originally a contributing nation to the mission. We strongly support the Swiss offer. It meets a much-needed operational requirement.

  Given the operational nature of the Swiss offer and the need to avoid delay, the Council Secretariat decided to use a written procedure to approve the decision. The Secretariat only issued the relevant documents for approval on 7 August. They requested any objections to be made by 8 August, with a view to exchanging letters by mid-August.

  Given that your committee is not currently sitting and the straightforward operational nature of this decision, I have decided to agree to the Council decision without seeking the Committee's views.

9 August 2006



 
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