European Scrutiny Committee Meeting Summary: 16 October 2013

16 October 2013

European Scrutiny Committee Meeting summary 16 October 2013

This week the Committee considered the following documents:

EU General Budget for 2013
The aim of this Draft Amending Budget and Draft Decision is to allow additional European Social Fund commitments in 2013 for France, Italy and Spain “as a contribution to the special effort needed to address the specific situations of unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, and of poverty and social exclusion in those Member States” – a matter agreed as part of the settlement at the June European Council for the next Multiannual Financial Framework.  The Committee considered the documents in September and asked the Government for further details on why this particular settlement had been reached, and whether there was scope for transferring existing commitment appropriations from elsewhere in the 2013 Budget, rather than having recourse to this Instrument.   The Minister’s reply does not answer all the Committee’s questions and so the Committee asks for a further response.

EU merger control
This Commission Staff Working Document examines ways in which the current EU legislation on merger control might be amended, notably by extending it to acquisitions of non-controlling minority shareholdings.  Three possible approaches are proposed: a notification system; a self-assessment system (similar to the UK’s current merger regime); and a transparency system, which would oblige the parties to file a short information notice to the Commission.  The Government believes that the proposals generally respect the current system and that the reforms proposed are sensible, and notes that the document is essentially consultative.  We clear it from scrutiny but report it because of its policy significance.

The Telecoms Single Market and Broadband in the EU
This Commission Communication, Council Regulation and Commission Recommendation cover the EU’s latest policy thinking on the single market in telecommunications and the state of the Digital Agenda for Europe targets. 

The Recommendation (on Broadband) aims to promote competition (through the application of tougher non-discrimination rules) and investment (by allowing for flexibility in the pricing of new wholesale next generation access services) and would apply to the market for wholesale infrastructure access and the wholesale broadband access market.  The Government notes the Recommendation status of the proposals, and the fact that they are generally consistent with the way the UK market operates.  We clear the Recommendation from scrutiny. However, the Government expresses concerns about the Communication and Regulation.  The Minister states that the proposals could increase the administrative burdens for operators in the UK and represent a worrying shift in competence from national regulators, on such critical issues as spectrum assignment procedures.  We keep these documents under scrutiny and ask for an update on negotiations following the October European Council.

Other documents reported
We are also reporting on documents relating to:

  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: EU-US trade dispute over beef imports; EU forest strategy;
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Restrictive measures against the Republic of Guinea; EU-Kosovo cooperation; Relations between the EU and OCTs; 
  • HM Treasury: Financial services: central securities depositaries and securities settlement;  European Anti-Fraud Office; Financial assistance for non-eurozone member states; Banking Union: Single Supervisory Mechanism; Mutual financial assistance for non-eurozone Member States; Multiannual Financial Framework.
  • Transport: Vehicle registration;

The Committee’s report will be published next week.

The Committee’s Seventeenth report will be published shortly, covering EU Support for policing in Afghanistan; Financial services: payment services; Financial management; Invasive alien species; Package and assisted travel arrangements; EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement;: Global navigation satellite systems; Posting of Workers; Euratom funding of the ITER project; Building Open ICT Systems; Electronic procurement invoicing in public procurement; EU Cooperation with Egypt in the Field of Governance; EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa;  Restrictive measures against Zimbabwe; Repeal of an EU funding instrument to enhance protection against terrorism and other security-related incidents; International Development: the EU/ACP Partnership Agreement; EU development assistance in 2012; Action Plan for Resilience in crisis prone countries; Brussels I Regulation and the Unified Patent Court; Statistics;: Single European Sky: air traffic management; Emission reductions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles.

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