Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Gareth Thomas MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 13 July 2006 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 20 July. The Sub-Committee agreed to hold the document under scrutiny awaiting the outcome of further negotiations.

  We share many of your concerns with the draft proposal, in particular that the instrument should be "flexible, responsive and creative" in order that it can be implemented quickly and efficiently. We agree that there should be a fast-track procedure to deal with emergency situations and believe that the idea of a contingency reserve should be further considered.

  However, we would appreciate your detailed views on the extent to which the use of this instrument, for example through the funding of election monitoring missions, might overlap with the work of other multilateral organisations, in particular the Council of Europe and the OSCE. It is essential that the potential duplication of resources in promoting democracy and human rights is avoided and that efforts are coordinated in order to ensure the widest possible coverage. EU initiatives under this instrument should be global and not simply targeted on the EU's eastern neighbours where the Council of Europe already plays a prominent role.

25 July 2006

Letter from Gareth Thomas MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your reply dated 25 July 2006 to my Explanatory Memorandum of 13 July. Your letter sought my views regarding two aspects of the proposed instrument: the potential overlap between work under the new instrument and that of other multilateral organisations; and the instrument's geographical scope.

  The draft regulation includes provisions at the planning, approval and evaluation stages which should prevent potential overlaps and duplication of effort. These include Article 3 (Complementarity and Coherence of Community Assistance), which proposes that the Commission "shall promote close co-ordination between its own activities and those of the Member States, both at decision-making level and on the ground. Coordination shall involve regular consultations and frequent exchanges of relevant information during the different phases of the assistance cycle, in particular at field level and shall constitute a key step in the programming processes of the Community and Member States". The UK will press for full consideration of the activities of other multilateral organisations, such as the Council of Europe and OSCE, during these consultations.

  In addition, paragraph 12 of the Commission's Explanatory Memorandum notes that: "The strategy papers are adopted by the Commission in the form of a Commission decision after obtaining a favourable opinion by a management committee made up of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a Commission representative (Article 16). To ensure adequate complementarity of Community assistance with Member States' assistance and that of other donors and actors, consultations including with representatives of civil society, shall take place during the programming process." If at the committee stage it is clear that the Commission has not taken the work of other multilateral organisations into account during the programming process, then we will have the opportunity to raise this with the Commission and seek changes or try to block the proposal.

  Article 15 of the draft Regulation requires the Commission to "monitor and review, and regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of its programming under this Regulation. Member States and the European Parliament shall receive the respective reports for their information and discussion". The same Article also provides for "international organisations or other bodies" to participate in joint evaluations with Member States. The management committee will review the evaluation reports. This will be a further opportunity to assess any potential overlaps and advocate remedial action as necessary.

  These provisions should avoid unnecessary duplication. Similar provisions under the existing Regulation have not led to any duplication. The EIDHR has not funded any election observation missions to OSCE countries, although it has very occasionally provided some extra support to OSCE observation missions in particularly difficult situations, like the Ukrainian elections. Work with the Council of Europe is undertaken on the basis of a joint programme in which the costs are shared equally between the two organisations. However, when the Council Working Group discusses the proposal again in September we will seek reassurances from the Commission on the point you raised, and if necessary press for a strengthening of the text.

  Your letter also expressed the view that EU initiatives under the new instruments should be global and not simply targeted on the EU's eastern neighbours. I fully agree. I hope that like me you will be reassured by Article 2 "The assistance measures may be implemented on a global or regional basis, or in the territories of third countries" and the fact that there is no regional earmarking of the budget.

10 August 2006

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