Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-198)

Mrs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Mr Patrick Child and Mr Richard Wright

30 JUNE 2008

  Q180  Chairman: We would be grateful if you would spend a few moments bringing us up-to-date on some of the flavour of Khanty-Mansiysk.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: First of all, it was a well chosen site. Khanty-Mansiysk is a small town in Siberia that nobody would know, except for the future because it might be the Houston of Russia. (The answer was continued off the record)

  Q181  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We have come to the end of your half an hour.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Thank you very much for that because I have a few other meetings this morning.

  Q182  Chairman: What we feel is if we honour these sorts of things we are more likely to get a good response the next time we issue an invitation. Thank you very much. We do know from our previous experience with your colleagues that we always get very good answers from the whole of your team.

  Mrs Ferrero-Waldner: Thank you very much for the efficient way you have handled this meeting because it was really to the point. Thank you very much. I will leave you with Patrick Child, who is my Head of Cabinet, and Richard Wright, who is the Director for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is a key area.

  Q183  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Clearly there has been some success since 2003 in stabilising in the Balkans and movement in North Africa, the Maghreb, where the Commissioner has had a very strong personal interest. Where do you think the main changes are which require rewriting, updating in the ENP since 2003?

  Mr Child: I do not expect the present revision of the Security Strategy to get very deeply into specific geographical relationships. However, maybe slightly separately from that discussion, in the spring the Commission presented its latest analysis of the implementation by the different partner countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy. Here in particular we have recommended a group of four countries individually which we think have made most progress within the existing framework of the Neighbourhood Policy where we think upgraded relationships of one sort or another are justified. The four countries are, in the east, Ukraine and Moldova and, among the Mediterranean partners, Israel and Morocco. Now, as we work on the basis of the analysis in these annual reports that we presented a few months ago, we are looking more and more on a differentiated basis taking account of the different situations that might arise. We are also considering how we can further consolidate the give and take of the relationships with those countries in this new upgraded, strengthened context. The European Neighbourhood Policy is a relatively young policy which is still finding its feet to some extent. The finding of its feet is complicated by some of the other initiatives that we sometimes see. The Union for the Mediterranean, for example, started life as an initiative which was primarily outside the established EU context. In discussions over recent months, confirmed by the European Council Conclusions of a couple of weeks ago, we have now clearly anchored it within the Community policies and I think that is the right place for it to be. Similarly, as some Member States have looked to the south, that has created incentives and further interest from other Member States to think about whether there are new ideas for the eastern partners, and also in the discussion at the last European Council we were considering some ideas from Poland and Sweden for a new form of enhanced partnership with some of the eastern countries in the Neighbourhood Policy. The challenge for us is to make sure that this very welcome political momentum created by Member States is channelled in a way which is constructive and helps us to make progress on the agenda that we have with all the countries.

  Q184  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Morocco has been massively rewarded comparatively as a result of its progress and the amount to Israel is pretty vestigial, is it not? If that were to be enhanced, would that complicate relations with Libya and other Maghreb countries?

  Mr Child: The comparison between Morocco and Israel is a very good illustration of the need for a differentiated policy. We have a very different relationship with Israel where we do not have significant financial assistance programmes because that is not necessary for Israel.

  Q185  Lord Anderson of Swansea: It is technical co-operation.

  Mr Child: Where there is political commitment to the relationship, the inclusion of Israel in some of the EU's policies and agencies is a very promising area of mutual benefit, whereas in the relationship with Morocco the financial assistance component is also extremely important. That said there are many other important matters that we discuss with Morocco, and I just highlight the need to make progress on the readmission agreement that we have been preparing with Morocco in the context of the migration debate which the Commissioner mentioned as one of the issues of insecurity.

  Q186  Chairman: Could I just ask you one question from what you have just said. There almost seem to be things going in opposite directions. On the one hand, I think quite rightly, positive conditionality does lead to differentiation, and should, but, on the other hand, both the upgrading of a process which some people have thought was moving rather quietly, the Barcelona process and the Union for the Mediterranean, suggests that one can have a homogenous process in one direction in the same way the Eastern Partnership suggests that one is treating the whole of a group the same. On the one hand, one seems to have moves from Member States wanting to have homogenous approaches to a sub-region or a part of the world and, on the other hand, the other approach of the Neighbourhood Policy, as it has been developed here, has been this differentiation and demonstrating positive conditionality and perhaps this is an incentive to other people to follow in the example of people who have improved already.

  Mr Child: It is not necessary to make quite such a distinction between the two. There are things that make sense to discuss with the Mediterranean partners as a group, and many of those, I am sure, will be present at the summit which will be held in Paris in July to kick off the Union for the Mediterranean process, yet I think it is very important that we continue to work on a bilateral basis and on the basis of the action plans that we have with the countries covered by the Neighbourhood Policy on the specific issues which are relevant in our relations there. There is not a contradiction between the two, but it is important, as your question poses, my Lord Chairman, to keep the two elements present in the thinking.

  Q187  Chairman: Can I just pursue one other problem. Again, looking at the document when you reviewed, let us take the examples of Algeria on the one hand and Belarus on the other, in one case the issues of stability and perhaps energy security play rather more part and would appear to lead our concerns, and in another one would see rather more attention to the promotion of good governance, democracy and human rights. Within our own approaches to our neighbours there even is a variation and a differentiation presumably because of our economic and other interests.

  Mr Child: We have to treat all our partners on their merits and as we find them. Quite a lot of the EU's energy is travelling across the territory of Belarus, so even if Belarus is not an energy producer like Algeria we need to have that as part of our discussions with them. It is true that the commitment and the level of interest in Algeria to full participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy has been influenced by their specific situation as a major energy supplier. This is something specific to that relationship which is not the case for the other partners that I mentioned. Libya is an energy producer but it has a different set of factors in the relationship and we are working there with a new agreement with Libya, Morocco and other North African countries.

  Q188  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Back to the Union for the Mediterranean. President Sarkozy's original, rather flamboyant concept was of a self-standing group. Now it has been modified substantially. Is the Commission content that the role of the Commission perhaps in terms of secondments to the Secretariat in terms of the other relationships on particular projects is now wholly acceptable?

  Mr Child: Yes. You may have seen a communication which the Commission presented a few weeks before the recent European Council meeting where we, following the mandate that we received from the previous meeting of the European Council—

  Q189  Lord Anderson of Swansea: The March meeting?

  Mr Child: Yes. We set out our ideas for the modalities for the Union for the Mediterranean. We are very pleased that it is that basic formula, including the institutional aspects between the Secretariat and the Presidency, but also in terms of the first concrete projects that we think this Union for the Mediterranean could help to make progress with. Most of our ideas, if not all of them, have been very much taken up in the European Council Conclusions and we expect this communication to have a very strong influence on the statement which is presently being prepared for the Summit.

  Q190  Lord Anderson of Swansea: So no remaining concerns?

  Mr Child: We are happy with the way that things are going.

  Q191  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The Commissioner mentioned enlargement, rightly in my view, as a key part of the European Security Strategy and I suppose it comes in the same context as the Neighbourhood Policy to some extent, it is our part of the world. To what extent is what is being said about the effects of the non-ratification so far of the Lisbon Treaty on enlargement really knocking away a large chunk of this Strategy? Surely a strategy that is going to be adopted in December is going to have to say very firmly, if it is to have any meaning, that enlargement continues and enlargement is an essential part of the European Union's response to the security problems in its own region. Is there not a risk that this policy is coming apart in that respect?

  Mr Child: I think it is very important that the Union sticks to its commitments in relation to enlargement, and that was the message which came from the European Council Conclusions of last week. The message on the Lisbon Treaty, although of course we have to take account of what has happened in Ireland, that there is a strong hope among large numbers of Member States that it will be possible to implement the Treaty, that the improvements in the functioning of the Union that that Treaty is intended to deliver will also help to strengthen and improve the way we go forward on enlargement. I am absolutely with you on the importance of enlargement as one of the strategic objectives of the Union and very much hope that the Treaty will be able to come into force and help us to consolidate that policy.

  Q192  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Surely the requirement that for the European Union's security you need to continue with a policy of enlargement exists whether or not Lisbon is ratified? The method of carrying it out would be affected by whether Lisbon is implemented or not, but not that it is a security requirement for the European Union, that is my point. After all, who knows, we may have to live without Lisbon, in which case that does not knock away enlargement as a security policy requirement or opportunity.

  Mr Child: I agree with you. Our capacity to address this particular, very important security objective will be affected by the future of the Lisbon Treaty. I am not in a position today to assume that the Lisbon Treaty will not be ratified; on the contrary, I hope that it will be and we will get both things together. The strategic necessity for Europe of contributing to the security and stability in its neighbourhood in its larger sense, including those countries which have a clear membership perspective as well as the ones covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy, is a very clear and present requirement whatever happens.

  Mr Wright: To add one footnote. In the Balkans, all countries now have an SAA—Stabilisation and Association Agreement—as well as dialogues leading towards visa liberalisation. These are very important elements of building up a more secure environment in Europe. The conclusion of an SAA for Serbia during the election period certainly was an important political signal which does seem to have had some effect. Things are moving forward with these countries. It is going to take a long time, no doubt, but we are very much engaged. You are fully aware of what is going on in Kosovo and we are now advancing towards the full deployment of the ESDP civilian mission, the largest by far. In Bosnia next year there is the prospect, we do not know when, at some point, of the OHR giving way to a European Union structure. There are positive developments going on in our immediate environment that are important to reaffirming of security in Europe.

  Q193  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Can I be clear on what you said about the Lisbon Treaty, that you saw it being implemented by a number of countries and not by others. The British have said they are not prepared to implement, have they not?

  Mr Child: I do not think I said that. The Commission is very hopeful that the Treaty will be ratified by all countries, and we are very happy that as many countries have ratified as they have, including the United Kingdom.

  Q194  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The existing Strategy talks about the EU being more "active, capable and coherent". What are the instruments at the disposal of the Commission in this area of the security threats and do they need to be strengthened? How far do Pillar 1 instruments contribute to stabilising and improving governance in fragile states, for example?

  Mr Child: I will let Richard Wright comment as well. The Commissioner referred in her opening remarks to our document on Europe in the World.

  Q195  Chairman: Which we read the report about.

  Mr Child: Yes, indeed, which we discussed with you before. This very much underlines the increasing interplay between the internal and external policies. Some of the issues that the Commissioner mentioned are increasingly on the agenda in our discussions with strategic partners: energy, migration, transport, environment. They are things where, as our internal agenda progresses and as we make progress on our internal policies, so the impact on our external relationships becomes greater. It is in these areas first and foremost that I see us making a contribution to the thinking in the latter part of this year on how we can complement the existing supporting Strategy to make it more our version drawing on our policies which we are managing to a greater extent internally and also when it comes to their external projections. The Commissioner's example of discussions with the Russians in the last couple of days on energy is very relevant in this respect.

  Chairman: We are under some pressure of time because we are meeting people from the Directorate-General Development at noon at UKRep. I would like to ask Lord Hamilton to ask the last question.

  Q196  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: I have been asked to ask you about the extent to which the Commission has inputted into the review of the European Security Strategy. I think that has been answered because you have given us a paper and so forth. I would like to ask a totally different question. Everybody we have talked to have very much said that the existing European Security Strategy is short, pithy and easy to understand, the problem is implementation. I was slightly alarmed by your Commissioner because she seemed to have an extremely long shopping list of things she wanted to add in. Is not the effect of this that you then dilute the effectiveness of the existing Strategy, you open up a lot of areas for argument and discussion when really the problem with the Strategy today is it has not been implemented. I would be much happier to see much more emphasis being placed on the implementation of the Strategy rather than rewriting the Strategy.

  Mr Wright: The mandate from the European Council is on implementation and we are charged to look at the implementation, how to improve the implementation, and identify elements to complete the strategy, so it is three parts of the same exercise. There is a general consensus from the first discussions we have had with Member States that the existing concept needs to be enlarged. Certainly I do not think there will be any disagreement on energy security, climate change, perhaps food security, but how far you push out the frontiers remains to be seen. As the Commissioner indicated, perhaps understandably from where we are coming from in the Commission, we would certainly like to go beyond that. You are right to point out that the existing Strategy is essentially a concept. A strategy would have implementation plans. There were three or four implementation fiches last time, but I do not think they had a big impact. A question that will be discussed this time is to what extent the final Strategy should have attached to it certain plans for implementation. If you look at the recent interesting French White Paper on Defence and Security, they have very clear ideas both on the military side to strengthen capabilities as well as on the civilian side. We will have to see what the mood amongst Member States finally will be on this. On the civilian side, we in the Commission are already doing things. We are helping to train police who will participate in future European missions; there is a dearth of police and in every mission that comes up we need this—police, prosecutors, judges, customs officials. There is a lot that can be done here to strengthen European capabilities. On your fundamental point, the implementation is crucial. From our side we are open to broadening, to have some clearly focused action plan. We should not necessarily duplicate what is already there; we have a plan on energy security, it is just a question of recalling it. There may be other areas where we want to give specific direction for implementation subsequently

  Q197  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Are we talking about targets there for capabilities, do you think?

  Mr Wright: Or maybe just recalling things that we have agreed to that have not been implemented, like targets in terms of military capabilities, civilian capabilities, headline goals. We need to deliver. We have done 17 ESDP missions roughly since the beginning of 1999, most of them civilian, but there are two ongoing military ones. I do not think the demand for intervention by the European Union is going to diminish; on the contrary, I think it will increase.

  Q198  Chairman: We have also got to do them better. If we look at the police mission in Afghanistan, which we are perhaps going to make some inquiries into, we are very concerned that we are not very good yet at knowing how to do that sort of thing.

  Mr Wright: There were teething troubles at the start, I think everybody knows this. We are getting it together now but it is an extremely difficult environment in which to operate. There is a commitment now from the Council to further strengthening it, even up to doubling it, and Germany has indicated its readiness to deploy two times the number of police officials, which is very good from their side. I will not hide from you it is a challenge and it is also a challenge to get people to go there.

  Chairman: Can we say thank you very much indeed. As you know, you are the part of the Commission which we feel we relate to and are always delighted that you are so ready to see us and help us with our inquiries. We will be unlikely to complete this before we come back after the summer recess but we hope it will be available before the final decisions are made in the December Council. Thank you very much indeed for your help this morning.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008