26 July 2006
Developments in the European Union
The Foreign Affairs Committee today publishes a report on Developments in the European Union, after the UK’s presidency of the EU in the second half of 2005.
The British Presidency took place at a time when Europe was facing a deep and largely unforeseen crisis of confidence, and the Committee concludes that the Presidency was on the whole well-run and achieved some important successes despite the difficult context, but there were also a number of disappointing outcomes. The presidency failed to generate the fresh thinking on democracy and reengagement with the public which the Prime Minister called for. (Paragraph 33)
The report highlights an apparent shift in the Government’s policy on transparency of EU council proceedings, and concludes that Government was wrong to retract its previous support for all stages of the Council’s deliberations on legislative acts to be open to the public, and that it should support efforts by the Finnish Presidency to promote greater transparency in the EU. (Paragraph 40)
The Committee considered the status of the Constitutional Treaty and whether parts of it could be implemented if, as it appears, “the treaty as a whole is going nowhere”. (Paragraph 56) It concludes that:
“Although the Treaty is not dead, it is comatose and on life support. At some point, Europe’s leaders are going to have to decide whether to switch it off. We conclude that the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is unlikely ever to come into force, although attempts may be made to enact some of its provisions by other means. We recommend that the Government encourage its European counterparts to face up to this reality and explicitly to abandon the Treaty as a package, in the interest of making progress on some of the real and important issues which are at present caught up in the paralysis created by its rejection.” (Paragraph 64)
The Committee welcomes moves to improve decision-making and action in justice and home affairs on the basis of existing treaties, but opposes attempts to use the bridging clauses in the current treaties to introduce core objectives of the constitutional Treaty in the field of justice and home affairs. It recommends that the Government consult Parliament before agreeing to any further extension of qualified majority voting. (Paragraph 46)
The Committee also gives its support to the accession for Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia. It concludes that the Government should continue to offer strong support for the accession of a Turkey which fully meets all the entry criteria, and that a more constructive approach by Cyprus is necessary (Paragraph 87). The fulfilment of entry criteria, rather than “absorption capacity”, must determine the future shape and scope of the EU (Paragraph 93).
The Committee also considers the proposals around a common EU foreign policy, and the misconception that the EU has “ambassadors” or a foreign minister. It concludes that: “whatever the merits of the proposal to establish a Foreign Minister and an external action service for the EU, it is important that the European Commission should not develop a diplomatic service or ‘embassies’ by stealth…foreign policy is and should remain primarily a matter for each nation state to decide for itself.” (Paragraph 106)
The Committee’s report will be available on the internet from the time of publication and copies may be purchased from the Parliamentary Bookshop (12 Bridge Street, Westminster, London SW1A 2JX, Tel 020 7219 3890) or The Stationery Office (Parliamentary Hotline 0845 7023 474).
Members of the press with enquiries should contact Jessica Bridges-Palmer, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 0724, 07917 488447 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.