CITIZENS FOR EUROPE 2007-2013 (8154/05)
Letter from Shaun Woodward MP, Minister
for Creative Industries and Tourism, Department for Culture, Media
and Sport to the Chairman
I am writing to bring your Committee up to date
with the proposal for the Citizens for Europe programme: I apologise
for not having responded sooner to your letter of 28 June 2005.
Political agreement for this programme was reached
at the Education, Youth and Culture Council meeting on 18 May
While the programme is a continuation of current
initiatives and not problematic in substance, your Committee had
raised a concern about the programme, that the Commission has
yet to provide an evaluation of the current programme, The UK
therefore maintained a scrutiny reserve and abstained at the Council
meeting (I set out the reason for our abstention to the Commission).
The Commission has still not produced an evaluation,
and the UK has thus maintained its scrutiny reserve.
However, the Finnish Presidency decided unexpectedly
that they wished to take a final decision on the Citizens for
Europe programme on 25 September at the Competitiveness Council.
We were unaware that this decision was to be raised at the Competitiveness
Council until the week prior to the meeting. One of my officials
tried to contact the Clerk of your Committee on Thursday and Friday
of last week, as soon as we knew this was going to arise, to discuss
the UK's approach going into the 25 September Council. However,
as Parliament was in recess they were unable to do so.
As you know the programme requires unanimity
and was supported by all other Member States. If the UK had blocked
the programme by voting against it because the scrutiny process
had not been completed we would have been in a minority of one
holding up a programme which Member States, including the UK,
believe will bring benefits.
As a result of the sudden decision by the Finnish
Presidency to proceed with a final decision I took the decision
that the UK should abstain.
Of course I recognise that in abstaining on
the programmeand not blocking the programmethis
inevitably could appear to you that the scrutiny of the Committee
has been overridden. This was not my intention and I regret the
sequence of events which brought about this difficult decision
for the UK Government, I can only apologise that no other practical
way forward seemed to be available and therefore we took this
course of action. However, we felt that as the UK favours the
substance of the programme in general and had we blocked it the
UK would have caused considerable irritation to other Member States,
including those with whom we are seeking alliances on a number
of wider issues. This course of action seemed the best way forward
out of a difficult situation.
An interim evaluation is due to be published
very shortly. When the Commission produces its evaluation I will
formally seek your clearance of the programme.
Of course both myself and officials will continue
to address the concerns you have expressed.
The European Parliament (EP) has now approved
the Common Position adopted at the Competitiveness Council. The
confirmed version of the Citizens for Europe proposal will now
come back to the Council for final adoption and I anticipate this
to be early next month. I will write to you again in order to
update you on the outcome of this.
I again apologise for not updating your Committee
sooner on this proposal. I have asked officials at the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport to review the scrutiny procedures
to ensure outstanding questions raised by the Committee are dealt
with more promptly.
29 September 2006
193 Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of
Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 564-565. Back