The European Scrutiny Committee met on Wednesday, 26 March 2014.
This week the Committee considered the following documents:
Europe for Citizens Programme
This Draft Regulation re-establishes the Europe for Citizens Programme for the period 2014-2020 and has been under scrutiny since February 2012. We recommended it for debate in European Committee on 27 November 2013 but the Government failed to schedule the debate until recently (it is now due to take place on Wednesday 2 April). Concerns have been expressed that the scrutiny situation has jeopardised funding for civil society organisations in the UK, including some planning events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. To avoid any confusion of who has been responsible for this delay, we make clear in the conclusion that it is entirely attributable to the Government. We note that this was one of a number of documents subject to such delays, and that on 26 February we wrote to the Leader of the House complaining about the situation, noting that “such delays potentially render the scrutiny process meaningless”. The Leader of the House replied that “I regret that there have been some delays recently in scheduling debates in respect of documents recommended for debate by your Committee. The delays have been due in part to time taken in obtaining the information from the European Commission requested by your Committee (for example in the case of the EU Staff Regulations) and in part due to the need to secure agreement across Government.” We note that the reasons cited by the Leader do not apply in this case. As the Government has now, belatedly, scheduled the debate we consider that it should take its course so that the Minister can be held to account for the unconscionable delay.
The EU and Ukraine
The Committee continues its scrutiny of EU documents emerging as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. This week we report the latest set of restrictive measures which have been applied to 21 individuals, including Sergey Valeryavich Aksyonov, who – in the words of the Annex to the Council Regulation in question – “was elected ‘Prime Minister of Crimea’ in the Crimean Verkovna Rada on 27 February 2014 in the presence of pro-Russian gunmen”; seven additional Ukrainians, who were also involved in the events in Crimea leading to the "referendum", plus – for the first time – ten Russian parliamentarians and three senior Russian military personnel similarly involved. We note a letter from the Minister which reports that the EU has pressed ahead with signature of the political provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and sets out which parts of the Agreement have and have not been ‘provisionally applied’. In view of the continuing developments in the Ukraine crisis, we are recommending these restrictive measures for debate on the floor of the House as soon as possible. We also report on EU measures relating to macro-financial assistance to Ukraine and introducing a new system of autonomous trade preferences for goods originating there.
EU training of Malian armed forces and EU military operation in the Central African Republic
The Council Decision relating to Mali marks the first step in establishing a new civilian CSDP mission to train the Malian Police, Gendarmerie and National Guard. Much work remains to be done filling out the details before a further Council Decision to launch the mission will be considered in the autumn. We clear this Council Decision, hoping that when the second Decision comes before us in the autumn, the Minister will be able to comment in more detail about the exit strategy and the sort of timeline and scope that Member States envisage for longer-term EU involvement. On the Central African Republic, we consider a Council Decision relating to a transfer of prisoners agreement in connection with the EU military operation there. This is part of a series of agreements relating to the Mission, raises no issues, and we clear it; we also report on an update letter from the Minister for Europe, following the 17 March Foreign Affairs Council; it is clear from those Council Conclusions that the scheduled end of March deployment is no longer feasible due to failure of Member States to provide the necessary resources.
Other documents reported
We are also reporting on documents relating to:
- Business, Innovation and Skills: Access to published works for the visually impaired; Disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by companies; Posting of workers; Reforms to the EU’s trade mark regime;
- Culture, Media and Sport: Internet governance; Cultural co-operation under the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement;
- FCO: EU-Kosovo cooperation; the working of the comitology committees in 2012;
- HM Treasury: Remuneration and pension adjustments for EU staff in 2013; Banking Union: single resolution mechanism;
- Home Office: Regulation of new psychoactive substances;
- Justice: Hague Convention (Choice of Court Agreements);
- Transport: Nitrogen oxide emissions from shipping.
The Committee’s Forty-fourth Report covering these documents will be published next week.
The Committee’s Forty-second Report will be published shortly, covering: the European Investigation Order; Relocation of the European Police College (CEPOL); The EU and Ukraine: restrictive measures; Invasive alien species; Electronic identification and trust services; Environmental impact assessments; Tourism; Protocol on Cultural Co-operation to the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement; EU-Azerbaijan co-operation; Restrictive measures against Egypt; EU-Singapore relations; Money Laundering and terrorist financing; Value added taxation; Financial assistance for non-eurozone Member States; Migration and Mobility; Task Force for the Mediterranean.