COMMONS

Meeting summary: 26 February 2014

27 February 2014

The European Scrutiny Committee met on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

Climate and energy policy and fracking

For debate in European Committee

We consider a series of documents this week relating to climate and energy policy. We refer for debate in European Committee a wide-ranging Commission Communication which aims to set out the basis for an EU climate and energy policy between 2020 and 2030. We also recommend that a Commission Communication and Recommendation on high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the EU is debated with it. We report on and clear a Commission Communication on Energy prices and costs in Europe, and request further information on a Draft Decision on the Emissions Trading System, which we keep under scrutiny.

EU industrial policy: for debate in European Committee

This Commission Communication and Staff Working Documents mark a further stage in the development of the EU's industrial policy. The Communication sets out the key priorities as being: mainstreaming to ensure EU reindustrialisation; stimulating investment in innovation; a more business friendly framework; easier access to critical production inputs; maximising the potential of the internal market; internationalisation of EU firms; and improving education and training and facilitating mobility. Initiatives in each area are set out. The Government broadly welcomes the Communication. We recommend it for debate in European Committee as an important example of 'upstream' scrutiny.

EU Special Representatives (EUSR)

We report on the Council Decision to end the mandate of the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process. The way that the decision has been made, along with uncertainty about the future of other EUSR roles, causes us concern. There have been press reports that there may be a wholesale integration of EUSR posts into the European External Action Service, which would mean that Member States would no longer be able to approve their mandates. We ask the Minister to respond urgently to a number of detailed questions about these wider issues. We also report separately (and clear) the proposed one-year mandate extension of the EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Sahel.

The EU and the Central African Republic

This Council Decision and Council Regulation support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2134(2014), reflecting changes made by the UN Security Council to the existing arms embargo. We clear the Council Decision but do not clear the Council Regulation as we do not yet know which individuals are to be targeted for sanctions, and believe that this should be subject to scrutiny.

Financial Services: bank accounts

This Draft Directive has been under scrutiny for some time and was last considered in July 2013. The aim of the Commission is to improve consumers' experience of bank accounts in the EU and to enhance the integration of the EU bank account market, through provisions to improve the comparability of fees on bank accounts, the ease with which consumers switch accounts and access to basic bank accounts. The Minister has now informed the Committee that there is significant pressure from the European Parliament to conclude negotiation of this proposal ahead of the elections in May; and that Council negotiations have picked up pace and were pushed to general agreement just before Christmas. Because the proposal is still under scrutiny, the UK Government abstained. The Minister also reports that the Government had achieved five out of six of its negotiating objectives, and on the sixth priority (relating to comparison websites) the impact was limited. We do not clear the proposal from scrutiny, asking the Government to report back on progress in trilogue.

Conditional access services

These two draft Council Decisions would authorise the EU to sign and accede to a Council of Europe Convention on the legal protection of conditional access services (such as pay-TV or other on-demand services offered by broadcasting or interne service providers in return for payment). The Decisions were cleared from scrutiny in December 2011, but the Commission bought an action in the Court of Justice to challenge their validity. The Government now reports on the Court's judgement by means of a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum. In its judgement the Court rules, among other things, that the UK's Title V opt-in cannot be engaged as no Title V legal base is cited; a long standing area of contention between the Committee and the Government. We ask the Government to comment on the implications of this ruling.

Other documents reported

We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Cabinet Office: Electronic procurement and invoicing in public procurement; Culture, Media and Sport: Conditional access services;
  • Environment, Food and Rural affairs: Nagoya Protocol: sharing of benefits from genetic sources;
  • FCO: Bulgaria and Romania: post-accession monitoring; EU-Kosovo co-operation;
  • HM Treasury: Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020; Taxation;
  • Home Office: Racism and xenophobia; Task force for the Mediterranean; Relocation of the European Police College (CEPOL); Female genital mutilation;
  • International Development: A results framework for EU funded development cooperation; European Humanitarian Aid Corps;
  • Transport: Rail research and innovation;
  • Work and Pensions: Integrating labour markets

The Committee's Report will be published next week. The Committee's Thirty-sixth Report has already been published covering: Sharing of data between the EU and US; Protection of trade secrets; Establishing a Quality Framework for company restructuring; Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment; Posting of workers; Electronic identification and trust services; Implementing the solidarity clause; Evaluation of rural development expenditure;
 
Barcelona Convention; EU accession to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora); Iran sanctions and the EU General Court; EU-Azerbaijan co-operation; 2011 and 2012 salary and pension adjustments for EU staff;: Preventing radicalisation; Financing EU external action.

Image: iStockphoto

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