Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


YOUTH IN ACTION (11586/04, 9838/06)

Letter from Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Department for Education and Skills to the Chairman

  I am writing to update you on recent developments in negotiations of the European Commission's proposals for a Youth in Action Programme as promised in my letter of 12 October 2005.[217] I apologise for the delay in doing so.

  In my previous letter I set out the opinion of the European Parliament Culture and Education Committee and said that the Parliament was set to adopt these opinions in plenary on 25 October.

  Five further amendments in addition to those from the Committee, which were discussed by the working party, were proposed following the plenary vote. Of these, only one, adding a reference to "social cohesion" in Article 2(3) which deals with general objectives of the programme, diversity and non-discrimination, amended the text for partial political agreement.

  I can now confirm that these opinions were adopted and were incorporated in the Partial Political Agreement reached at the Council on 15 November 2005. This Agreement excluded all budgetary aspects of the programme, including the age range, on which there remains a scrutiny reservation. I enclose a copy of the final document agreed at the Council (not printed).

  As you know, the December European Council reached agreement on the overall EU budget for the new Financial Perspective period 2007-13. This is now subject to an Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament and it is therefore still not clear what budget will ultimately be agreed for the Youth in Action programme. Once this has been agreed, later this year, the programme will then return to the Youth Council and Youth Working Party for the outstanding issues to be negotiated and for a political agreement to be sought—possibly at the 18 May Youth Council. I will of course consult you further before that point.

  Your letter of 31 October also asked me to confirm that I was content that the new procedures would be simpler and easier to follow, and would lead to greater decentralisation, while assuring proper accountability.

  I am pleased to be able to tell you that I believe the provisions in Article 8, covering the administration of the programme and roles of National Agencies, Member States and the Commission, which have now been agreed, meet these criteria.

  In addition to simplifying access, some of the amendments agreed in Council working parties specifically commit to making a particular effort to assist young people who have particular difficulties in taking part in the Programme for any reason. Time limits for signing contracts have also been introduced.

  In particular the criteria in Article 8 around the appointment of National Agencies have been considerably reduced and made less onerous. For example, the proposal now stipulates that the National Agency should have sufficient staff with appropriate skills to work in an international co-operation environment. The original proposal specified that staff should have language skills and qualifications in youth work. The stipulations around following Community fund management rules and contractual conditions and financial guarantees remain.

  I believe that this should address your concerns.

  I would also like to use this opportunity to clear up any confusion over another document, 13856/04 Communication from the Commission to the Council Follow-up to the White Paper on a new Impetus for European Youth: Evaluation of activities conducted in the framework of European co-operation in the youth field, also relating to EU Youth Policy, which some records show as not having cleared scrutiny. My officials have discussed this issue with Gordon Baker. The document in question replaced two earlier documents, 9182/04 (Communication from the Commission to the Council: Follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth. Proposed common objectives for voluntary activities among young people in response to the Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 regarding the framework of European co-operation in the youth field) and 9183/04 (Communication from the Commission to the Council):

  Follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth. Proposed common objectives for a greater understanding and knowledge of youth, in response to the Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 regarding the framework of European co-operation in the youth field), and was sifted to your committee for information only. The confusion arose because my predecessor referred to it in correspondence with you about the Youth In Action Programme, although you had stated in your letter of 28 February that you were "prepared to release" 13856/04 from scrutiny so long as the Committee's reservations about the Open Method of Coordination were borne in mind. I apologise for the confusion caused and would be grateful for your confirmation that this document is no longer subject to scrutiny.

13 February 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 13 February reporting on recent developments in negotiations on the Commission's proposals for the Youth in Action Programme. This was considered by Sub-Committee G on 2 March.

  As you know, document 11586/04 was released from scrutiny by my letter to you dated 31 October 2005. We are grateful for your confirmation that partial political agreement was reached on all but the budgetary aspects at the Education, Youth and Culture Council meeting on 15 November 2005.

  We are glad that the final text is expected to make the new procedures simpler and easier to follow and should lead to greater decentralisation, while ensuring proper accountability. We welcome the commitment to making a particular effort to assist young people who have difficulties in taking part in the programme and note that the criteria for the appointment of national agencies are now considered to be less onerous.

  All this appears to be satisfactory. But, as I stressed in my letter to you dated 31 October 2005, we will want to examine the financial aspects of the programme very carefully once they are submitted for scrutiny. We will also want to consider what is finally proposed about the age ranges where, as stated in previous correspondence, we share the Government's reservations that the range from 13-30 years currently proposed by the Commission is not justified and may pose practical difficulties.

  Thank you, too, for clearing up the confusion arising from correspondence with your predecessor about document 13856/04 on the follow-up to the White Paper on a New Impetus for European Youth. We confirm that this document was indeed released from scrutiny by my letter dated 28 February 2005 to your predecessor.

2 March 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP

  Your Explanatory Memorandum (9838/06) dated 14 June was considered by Sub-Committee G on 22 June.

  We note that the Government is content with the overall budget of €885 million in 2006 prices as now proposed, as well as with the proposed budget allocation arrangements. We are glad that UK representatives on the Management Committee will be instructed to monitor administrative costs closely to ensure that the maximum funding possible will be available for projects and participants.

  Although we continue to share your doubts about the age ranges of the programme, we agree that the Proposal to attach different age ranges to each activity is an improvement.

  In the circumstances, we are prepared to release this document from scrutiny but would be grateful if you would report if the expected Common Position is reached by the Council on 26 June.

23 June 2006

Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman

  In your letter of 23 June, you asked to be updated on the progress of the Youth in Action programme after Council.

  I am pleased to report that the Youth in Action proposal reached political agreement as an "A" point at the Environment Council on 26 June. It will now move to a second reading in the European Parliament, with formal adoption scheduled for later in the autumn.

17 July 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell MP

  Thank you for your letter dated 17 July which was considered by Sub-Committee G on 20 July.

  We are grateful to you for reporting that the "YOUTH IN ACTION" Proposal secured political agreement at Council on 26 June and that formal adoption is expected, following a Second Reading in the European Parliament, in the Autumn.

  Although the scrutiny reserve has been released, we would be grateful for your confirmation for the record once the Amended Proposal has been formally adopted.

20 July 2006



217   Correspondence with Ministers, 45th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 243, pp 617-618. Back


 
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