Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister for Energy, Department of Trade and Industry

  Sub-Committee B considered this document, and your Explanatory Memorandum, at its meeting on 19 June 2006.

  We note and share the Government's clear opposition to this proposal, which raises important issues over the respective competencies of Member States and Euratom. You report that no Member States have "shown positive support" to the proposal. Can you confirm whether the Government have any concerns as to the consistency of this agreement with the principle of subsidiarity? We would of course be grateful to you for an update should any progress be made on negotiations on the agreement.

  We will hold this proposal under scrutiny at this stage.

20 June 2006

Letter from Malcolm Wicks MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 20 June, about the above draft inter-institutional agreement.

  The principle of subsidiarity is just one of many issues surrounding the draft inter-institutional agreement on which there are concerns. In addition to the UK a number of other Member States have now expressed concerns about issues relating to the agreement, and there has been significant opposition to the European Commission's proposals from, among others, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. It is therefore unlikely that the Commission's proposals will succeed. However the UK may be able to at least consider some non-binding guidelines which are consistent with Treaty obligations and we shall be in close contact with the Finnish Presidency as they consider the best way forward. Any initiative is, however, unlikely to be developed until the autumn.

12 July 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Malcolm Wicks MP

  Thank you for your letter of 12 July, replying to my letter of 20 June. Sub-Committee B considered your letter at its meeting on 24 July.

  We note that the Government hold concerns over "many issues" surrounding the draft agreement in addition to those over its consistency with the subsidiarity principle. We would be grateful to you for clarification on what these other concerns relate to.

  We look forward to receiving an update from you on the possibilities for considering non-binding guidelines as an alternative.

  We will maintain the scrutiny reserve on this proposal at this stage.

25 July 2006

Letter from Malcolm Wicks MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your further letter of 25 July, requesting clarification on behalf of Sub Committee B on what the "other concerns" are which I referred to in my letter of 12 July on the draft agreement.

  The UK has raised the following concerns with other Member States:

    —  We feel that it is unclear what problem the draft proposal is trying to solve. Co-ordination already takes place through regular meetings chaired by the Presidency.

    —  The Commission refers to principles. This is a strong term to use, suggesting an overriding legal requirement on Member States. Article 192 of the Euratom Treaty already enshrines the issue of solidarity in law under the so-called duty of loyal co-operation. In the UK's view the draft proposal has not made out a case why this is insufficient.

    —  There is a reference in the proposal that Community reports should only be discussed within the Council, and not in other fora. The UK is concerned that this could be a mechanism for trying to stifle dissent and discourage Member States from expressing different views at international meetings. There should be no restriction on comments only at the Council stage in Brussels.

    —  The UK wonders if the Proposal could also be linked to the Commission's plans for a greater role in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which could lead to the Commission seeking a greater role in other matters.

    —  There should be no obligation to secure a common position. In areas of Member State competence the European Court of Justice has held that Member States must use best endeavors to reach a common position; if this cannot be secured, Member States are free to go their own ways.

    —  The suggestion that The Commission and Council present things jointly when matters fall within both Community and Member State competence is odd.—The Presidency usually performs this role.

    —  Inter Institutional agreements are usually agreed between all three Community Institutions but here it does not appear that the European Parliament will be involved. Such arrangements are usually framed as a note or procedural framework agreed in the working group and Coreper under the procedural framework agreed last year for IMO related issues.

  I note your request for an update on the possibilities for considering non-binding guidelines. I look forward to providing a written update on this during the autumn, once the issue has been discussed in detail by Member States under the Finnish Presidency.

14 August 2006

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