Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


COM(00) 119


Draft Regulation creating the Rapid Reaction Facility.

Draft Regulation creating a Rapid Reaction Mechanism.

Legal base: Article 308 EC; unanimity; consultation
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 12 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (28 June 2000)
To be discussed in Council: 26 February 2001
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  8.1  The Helsinki European Council agreed an action plan on non-military crisis management.[19] It said:

"In order to be able to respond more rapidly and more effectively to emerging crisis situations, the Union needs to strengthen the responsiveness and efficiency of its resources and tools, as well as their synergy".

  8.2  One of a number of specific actions in the plan was that:

"Rapid financing mechanisms, such as the creation by the Commission of a Rapid Reaction Fund, should be set up to allow the acceleration of the provision of finance to support EU activities, to contribute to operations run by other international organisations, and to fund NGO[20] activities, as appropriate".

  8.3  This draft Regulation responds by setting up a financing facility which will allow for rapid access to funds, in situations of emerging or actual crisis, without having to go through the usual procedures for expenditure under the main external spending Regulations.

Document (a)

  8.4  On 28 June 2000, when we considered this draft of the Regulation, we did not clear it, and we stated that it was relevant to the debate in European Standing Committee B on Financial Assistance for the Western Balkans and the Commission's Preliminary Draft Budget for 2001, which we recommended in the same Report.[21]

  8.5  In our conclusions, we asked the Minister to comment in greater detail on a number of concerns which he said that the Government had with the proposal. We also asked him to keep us informed of discussions on the proposal, which were just beginning, so that we were not faced with a request to clear the Regulation at short notice.

Document (b)

  8.6  In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 12 February, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) tells us that the draft Regulation has been "extensively recast", that the Government's earlier concerns no longer apply and that the proposal, which it supports, is expected to go to the General Affairs Council on 26 February. He says:

"The Explanatory Memorandum of 15 June 2000, entitled 'Rapid Reaction Facility', discussed the concerns the UK government had with the regulation as it stood: notably the appropriateness of the legal base chosen; the implications of possible overlap between Community and CFSP action and the effect on institutional relations between Council and Commission; the relationship between this proposal and existing Pillar 1 instruments; and the effect on commitments within Category 4 of the Community budget. We also sought further information on what the policy scope of that mechanism should be, bearing in mind its potential relationship to both the Common Foreign and Security Policy and to other existing Community instruments such as the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO).

"Subsequent negotiations have removed these concerns. The regulation has been extensively recast. The UK negotiated to ensure that the redrafted regulation would facilitate speedy disbursement of EU financing under existing Community regulations and programmes in response to real or emerging crises. Thus it would be clearly limited to Pillar 1 activity, complementing rather than duplicating Community and CFSP action. The redrafted regulation makes clear that the regulation will not include finance from ECHO, but that the Commission can decide whether it is appropriate to combine action under this regulation with ECHO action. As we, and others, have negotiated language that protects the UK's position on competence, and as the Rapid Reaction Mechanism is limited to Pillar 1 activity, there is no longer an issue over the legal base; Article 308 is the correct base for a Pillar 1 regulation with global coverage.

"The new draft is welcome. It supports the UK's commitment to improve the EC's response to crisis situations. However, we continue to make clear that the EC should look at how to make its organisation, as well as its financial disbursement, more flexible in such situations".

  8.7  On the financial implications, the Minister says that so far the only figure agreed is 30 million euros for 2001. It is proposed that thereafter the figure would be 40 million euros per annum, although the Budget Committee could change these figures. At the moment this would give an approximate UK contribution of £3.6 million in 2001 and £4.7 million in 2002 and 2003.


  8.8  The Minister has given us very little time to consider this proposal, but we are able to confirm, from the unofficial text which he has provided, that the Rapid Reaction Mechanism is now limited to Pillar 1 activity, and note his assurance that the earlier considerations which he lists no longer give cause for concern.

  8.9  We now clear the document, but ask the Minister, in future, to respect our requests when we ask him for information and for time to consider draft legislation. At least some forewarning at official level is preferable to receipt of an unexpected Explanatory Memorandum after our deadline, but a letter at an earlier stage from the Minister, updating us, was what we were expecting to receive.

19  Presidency Conclusions - Helsinki, 10 and 11 December 1999, Annex 2 to Annex IV (SN 300/99 Annexes page 27). Back

20  Non-governmental organisations. Back

21  (21304) 8795/00, (12334) - ; HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (28 June 2000) and (21337) -; HC 23-xxiii (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (28 June 2000) and Official Report, European Standing Committee B, 12 July 2000. Back

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