Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State, Department for International Development to the Chairman

  I am writing to you about scrutiny over the parliamentary summer recess and to forewarn your Committee about upcoming items subject to scrutiny. The recess period will affect the scrutiny of items going to the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 15-16 September. I also want to flag up items subject to scrutiny which are likely to be taken at the development section of the 16-17 October GAERC and at other Council meetings in the autumn.

  Firstly, the Council Common Position on the European Parliament 1st reading report on the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) will be taken at either the September or October GAERC (my letter of 26 June 2006[70]contained further details on this). Following on from my letter, we informed your Clerks that the DCI would now be accompanied by two new instruments, and not three as envisaged at the end of the Austrian Presidency: one for cooperation with industrialised countries and one for democracy and human rights. The FCO will lead on the former, and we have already submitted an EM for the latter. These instruments will be agreed in first reading before the end of the year, but we are as yet unclear about the detailed decision-making points for these dossiers.

  We have been negotiating the draft Common Position on the DCI over the last few weeks in Council working group and managed to reach a political agreement at the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) meeting on 18 July. This included provisions for financial allocations. We are broadly content with what was agreed— The Common Position will now be scrutinised by EC lawyers over the summer break. The next step is for the Common Position to be formally adopted by Ministers in Council and it will then pass officially to the European Parliament (EP) for its Second Reading.

  I understand that you will next sift documents on 7 September, but that the Sub-Committees will not start meeting again until your 9 October Sift. The final Common Position text has not yet formally issued and when it does we will complete an EM on the document, ready for your return.

  However, if the Common Position is adopted at the September GAERC we may be unable to obtain scrutiny clearance before agreement in Council. In this eventuality I hope that your Committee will understand the exceptional circumstances and, if this happens, I will write after the Council meeting to inform you of the outcome.

  On the other hand, the Common Position may be taken at the 16-17 October GAERC, in which case I hope it will be possible for you to consider the EM before the GAERC. We will liaise with your Clerks as necessary over the summer and inform them if the Common Position is to go to the October GAERC.

  Several other non-legislative items are on the provisional agenda for the development session at the October GAERC, on which Council Conclusions will be agreed. Currently, these are:

    —  Annual Report on EC Development Policy and the Implementation of External Assistance 2005;

    —  European Consensus on Governance in Development Cooperation; and

    —  Infrastructure Partnership for Africa.

  An EM was submitted to your Committee on the Annual Report Communication (10875/06, dated 11 July 2006). We are currently completing an EM on the Infrastructure Partnership for Africa. The Communication on the European Consensus on Governance has not yet issued and when it does we will complete an EM and send it to you over the summer. If your Committee's agenda allows I would be grateful if you could also give attention to these before the October GAERC.

  To the best of our knowledge there are not currently any other upcoming items, subject to scrutiny, which you should be aware of. However, I do want to bring to your attention the likely Council progress of the following EMs, which we have submitted to your Committee recently, but which you have not yet considered:

    —  Special Report No. 3/2006 of the European Court of Auditors: European Commission Humanitarian Aid Response to the Tsunami (11200/06);

    —  Proposal for a Council Decision granting a Community guarantee to the European Investment Bank against losses under loans and guarantees for projects outside the Community (11006/06);

    —  Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on operations conducted under the External Lending Mandate of the EIB and future outlook (11003/06); and

    —  Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) (11038/06);

  These items will be taken in Council in the autumn. The Finnish Presidency are keen to deal with the renewal of the EIB External Lending Mandate at the ECOFIN meeting on 7 November. The Democracy and Human Rights Instrument will be discussed in the European Parliament and in Council working group after the summer recess and will be taken at Council before the end of the year. Finally, the Special Report on the Tsunami will be considered in working group in the autumn, but we do not yet know when it will go to Council.

  I hope this explains the scrutiny situation for upcoming Council meetings. As mentioned, we will stay in touch with your Clerks over the period to ensure your Committee is up-to-date on its return.

27 July 2006

70   Refer to letter included under `EU External Relations Budget: Update and Outline Plans for 2006'. Back

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