PN040707EUSel

Embargo: Immediate Wednesday 4th July 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

LORDS EU COMMITTEE CALLS FOR GREATER CLARITY AND STRATEGIC THINKING FROM COMMISSION'S 2008 ANNUAL POLICY STRATEGY

The House of Lords European Union Committee has today published its report on the European Commission's 2008 Annual Policy Strategy (APS). The Committee recognises the value and transparency of the APS, but says that it should set out more clearly the Commission's strategic thinking.

The Committee argues that the APS represents a unique opportunity for the European Commission to set out clearly what it sees as the priorities for the year ahead. The Committee states that the Commission should take advantage of this chance to set out a strategic vision before negotiations with the European Parliament and Council necessarily lead to a compromise on the Annual Legislative and Work Programme (ALWP). The Committee is disappointed that the APS for 2008 " lacks the degree of clarity that would benefit the broader audience."

The APS is seen by the Lords Committee as an important opportunity for provoking a constructive debate both between the European institutions and between the EU and national parliaments about the EU's priorities for the year ahead. The Committee feels that this opportunity to engage the public is not being taken due to the way the APS is constructed and presented by the European Commission and scrutinised by the European Parliament and Council. The Committee states that the Government should push the European Council to make public its comments on the APS so that negotiations between European institutions on the APS could be open to more public and media scrutiny. The European Parliament should look at holding a plenary debate on the APS after it has been scrutinised by the Parliament's committees, to allow a more political response to this political document.

The Committee considers that the Commission should also provide more explanation and justification of the priorities it sets out in the APS. The Committee argues that the Commission should explain the financial constraints around the APS and should make clear which areas of action will be receiving less funding in order to allow the prioritisation of others. The Committee points out that political priorities must be matched in budgetary terms and argues that the Commission, Council and European Parliament should forge closer links between the budgetary and legislative processes.

The Committee welcomes the EU Commission's continuing commitment to the Better Regulation agenda, and supports the idea that the Commission should put forward its simplification proposals at the same time as its policy priorities, allowing both to be properly discussed ahead of the publication of the ALWP. However the Committee recommends that in future specific proposals for better regulation should be issued in a separate 'Annual Better Regulation Agenda Report' published alongside the APS. This would scrutinise the quality of EU legislation and set out the steps European institutions would take to pursue the Better Regulation agenda.

Commenting, Lord Grenfell, Chairman of the Lords European Union Select Committee, said:

"The Annual Policy Statement offers a unique opportunity for the European institutions to debate and think in detail about the priorities for the coming year. We feel that the European Commission is missing that opportunity.

"At a time when the EU is criticised for not being open enough with its citizens the Commission should use the APS to set out a clear vision for the year ahead, a vision that could then be debated and refined in cooperation with the European Parliament and Council. At present the APS is too vague and opaque for it to properly inform European citizens about the Commission's priorities.

"It is vital that the European Council's views on the APS are now published - public scrutiny of the debates and procedures between the various EU bodies would go a long way to reassure the public about the accountability of European legislation and policy."

Notes to Editors

1. The report is available from The Stationery Office, The Commission's Annual Policy Strategy for 2008, House of Lords European Union Select Committee, 23rd Report of 2006/7, HL Paper 123.

2. The report will be available on line shortly after publication at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_eu_select_committee.cfm

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Grenfell, please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer, on 020 7219 8659.

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