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.
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
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 soughtpossibly 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
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
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
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