Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


WORK PROGRAMME FOR THE FOLLOW-UP OF THE REPORT ON FUTURE OBJECTIVES OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING SYSTEMS


(22667)

COM(01) 501


Commission Communication: Draft detailed work programme for the follow-up of the report on the concrete objectives of education and training systems.
Legal base:
Document originated: 7 September 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 28 September 2001
Department: Education and Skills
Basis of consideration: EM of 10 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22184) 5980/01: HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph 12 (21 March 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 29 November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  13.1  The previous Committee cleared the report — The concrete future objectives of education and training systems — in March,[25] commenting that it set some challenging objectives which should provide a useful framework for future specific proposals. The report was later ratified by the Stockholm European Council which, in its Conclusions,[26] asked the Council and Commission to present a report to the Spring European Council in 2002 containing a detailed work programme on its follow-up.

The document

  13.2  The document is a first draft of the work programme, prepared by the Commission. It is intended to prompt discussion, and will contribute to the report to be presented to the 2002 Spring European Council.

  13.3  Under each of the thirteen objectives in the report, the draft work programme identifies one or two key issues, proposes some indicators and (in some cases) a benchmark,[27] and states when activities under the objective should start. For example, under Objective 3.3, Improving foreign language learning, two issues are identified:

"—  encourage everyone to learn at least two Community languages in addition to their mother tongue; and

  • improve the ways in which foreign language teaching is delivered in schools and in training".

  13.4  The indicators are:

"—  in-service training courses for foreign language teachers involving personal contact with the language/culture they teach; and

  • percentage of pupils in primary/secondary/vocational education and training learning one/two/three languages, by language studied."

  13.5  A benchmark is included:

"—  All pupils should be proficient in two languages in addition to the mother tongue at the end of compulsory education and training."

  13.6  The document states:

"On the basis of the vast number of activities during the European Year of Languages 2001, the activity can start in the first half of 2002."

The Government's view

  13.7  The Minister of State at the Department for Education and Skills (Margaret Hodge) tells us that the Government supports the objectives in the report and action programme. She continues:

"The Government supports these objectives. However, it believes that work should be taken forward using a flexible approach, as intended by the 'open method of co-ordination' described in the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council.[28] The rigid structure for follow-up described in the Commission's draft work programme is overly prescriptive and does not take into account sufficiently the different approaches which will be required to take forward the different objectives. The Government is continuing to influence discussions on the follow-up process and is optimistic that the final agreed work programme will take into account UK concerns on this point."

  13.8  The Minister also tells us that, although no treaty base is stated in the document, it has been prepared in accordance with Articles 149(4)and 150(4) of the EC Treaty. These Articles, which relate respectively to education and vocational training, recognise that Member State are responsible for the content and organisation of their educational and vocational training systems. The Government is considering whether the action programme's inflexible approach, based on the establishment of indicators and progress monitoring is consistent with the principle of subsidiarity.

Conclusion

  13.9  The document neatly illustrates a tension in this area of EU work. We commented adversely in July on the lack of challenging targets and vague "measures" in the e-Learning Action Plan.[29] In contrast, this draft work programme contains tough indicators, but runs the risk of offending against the principle of subsidiarity. The example we quote from the document gives some indications of the problems the Government could have with such an approach. Nevertheless, we hope that, in negotiations, the UK will continue to press for rigorous assessment of achievement, whatever the method employed.

  13.10  We ask for the final report to be deposited in good time for us to consider it before it is presented to the Spring European Council, and for the Explanatory Memorandum to comment on the outcome of the subsidiarity discussions. Meanwhile, we clear this document.





THE RIGHT TO FAMILY REUNIFICATION

(22741)

12022/01


Amended draft Council Directive on the right to family reunification.
Legal base: Article 63(3)(a) EC; consultation; unanimity of participating States
Document originated: 24 September 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 9 October 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (21730) 11123/00: HC 28-i (2000-01), paragraph 14 (13 December 2000)
To be discussed in Council: 16 November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared, but further information requested

Background

  14.1  This draft Directive sets out guiding principles for a common European policy on family reunion. The previous Committee considered the proposal several times before clearing it last December.[30] The UK has decided not to opt in to the proposal (which has a legal base within Title IV of the EC Treaty[31]). However, it continues to participate in discussions on the text, since it does not wish its policy in this sensitive area to be seriously out of line with that of the other Member States.

  14.2  The draft Directive has proved difficult to negotiate. In particular, there have been disagreements over its proposed scope.

The document

  14.3  The Presidency has now produced this amended proposal in an attempt to find a compromise solution to the outstanding problems. In relation to the scope of the draft Directive, the following three categories of family members who qualify for the right to family reunification (differentiated according to the closeness of family ties) are identified:

  • the spouse and minor children;

  • direct ascendents and children of full age "manifestly unable to satisfy their needs by reason of their state of health"; and

  • unmarried partners.

  14.4  Member States would be obliged to grant family reunification to the first category, and would have discretion in relation to the second and third categories. In addition, the document proposes different rights for the different categories and different conditions to be met.

  14.5  In her helpful Explanatory Memorandum, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) lists the following significant amendments:

"(i)    increasing the time-scale for deciding applications from six months to nine months, with provision for extending in exceptional circumstances (Article 6);

"(ii)    provision for conducting interviews and investigations in order to obtain evidence of a family relationship and conditions for establishing an unmarried partnership (Article 6);

"(iii)  provision for Member States to impose maintenance and accommodation requirements for the sponsor/family member for a period not exceeding one year for family members within the scope of the Directive and two years for family members outside the scope of the Directive (Article 8);

"(iv)    provision for Member States to consider contributions from family members where a sponsor is unable to meet the maintenance and accommodation requirements (Article 8);

"(v)    removing the prohibition on visa charging (Article 13);

"(vi)    restricting employment to family members outside the scope of the Directive (Article 14);

"(vii)  allowing Member States to issue independent residence permits to family members outside the scope of the Directive (Article 15); and

"(viii)  extending the conditions for rejecting applications (Article 16).

"In addition to the above amendments, the conditions relating to the family reunification of refugees have been incorporated into a separate chapter."

The Government's view

  14.6  The Minister tells us that the Presidency proposal causes some Member States considerable difficulties. In relation to the UK, she states that the proposed amendments do not affect its decision not to opt in to the measure. However, if it were to opt in, certain of the amendments would be welcome. She cites the increased time-scale for deciding applications, the provisions for conducting interviews and investigations, the removal of the prohibition on visa charging, the provision that applications may be submitted by the sponsor or family member, and the extension of the conditions for rejecting applications.

Justice and Home Affairs Council Meeting, 27-28 September 2001

  14.7  The Presidency proposal was discussed at this Council. Following the discussion, it was agreed that the Presidency and the Commission would explore possible compromise solutions. COREPER and the Article 36 Committee[32] would consider these, with a view to a further discussion at the Justice and Home Affairs meeting in November.

Conclusion

  14.8  Family reunification was one of the first issues on which the UK decided not to opt in to a measure but to continue to participate in the discussion of the text. We are interested to note that the current version of the text meets several of the objections raised by the UK, which suggests that it is able to influence discussions despite its "outsider" status. We also note that most of the amendments favoured by the UK are in the direction of restricting, rather than extending, family reunification.

  14.9  We note that the proposed amendments do not affect the UK's decision not to opt in to the measure. We ask the Minister to restate the reasons for that decision, and to tell us whether any future amendments might affect it. We also ask for some indication of the areas of the draft Directive which the UK is most likely to "shadow" in its own domestic laws.

  14.10  There are obviously still divisions among Member States in relation to this proposal, and we ask to be kept informed of progress. Given that the UK has not opted in to the proposal, we clear the document.

ACP COUNTRIES AND INDIA: GUARANTEED PRICES FOR CANE SUGAR

(22820)

13177/01

COM(01) 554


Draft Council Decision on the conclusion of Agreements in the form of an exchange of letters between the European Community and, on the one part, Barbados, Belize, the Republic of the Congo, Fiji, the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the Republic of the Cote d'Ivoire, Jamaica, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Madagascar, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mauritius, the Republic of Surinam, St Christopher and Nevis, the Kingdom of Swaziland, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Uganda, the Republic of Zambia, the Republic of Zimbabwe and, on the other part, the Republic of India on the guaranteed prices for cane sugar for the 2000/2001 delivery period.

    

Legal base: Article 133; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 2 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 2 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 6 November 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 6 November 2001
Previous consideration: None
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  15.1  The document sets out the prices applicable to cane sugar from the ACP[33]/India producers for 2000-01. Under the Sugar Protocol of the Lomé Convention, the ACP producers listed have a right of access to Community markets for about 1.4 million tonnes of cane sugar each year, tariff-free and at guaranteed prices. A parallel agreement between the Community and India guarantees access for 10,000 tonnes.

The proposal

  15.2  As in previous years, the price negotiated is set at the level equivalent to the Community's intervention prices. Figures agreed are as follows:

  • raw sugar: 52.37 euro/100kg (£32.54/100kg)

  • white sugar: 64.65 euro/100kg (£40.17/100kg)

  15.3  These are in fact equivalent to the 1999-2000 intervention prices in euro terms because the 2000-01 Community prices were frozen at the same level as in the previous year.

The Government's view

  15.4  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 4 July 2000, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) says that the Government fully supports the Community's obligations to the ACP States and India, and he points out that 85% of the sugar imported into the Community under these preferential arrangements is refined into white sugar in the United Kingdom. He adds that the imports are essential for the UK refining sector, which accounts for about half of UK consumption needs, and that the outcome of the negotiations is in accordance with the Lomé Sugar Protocol and the EU-ACP Partnership Agreement.

Conclusion

  15.5  This year's negotiations simply follow the same formula as in previous years, and indeed contain the same prices in euro terms as those for 1999-2000. However, previous Committees have taken the view that these annual negotiations raise questions of political importance, and we consider that the same applies to the current proposal, even though we make no recommendation for its further consideration by the House.


25  (22184) 5980/01: see headnote to this paragraph. Back

26  Paragraph 11. Back

27  The document states: "[Benchmarking] will involve Member States adopting targets with a view to comparing the extent to which objectives have been achieved." Back

28  Conclusion 37. Back

29  (22320) 7674/01; see HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 28 (18 July 2001). Back

30  (21730) - : see headnote to this paragraph. Back

31  The Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland provides that measures developed under Title IV EC (Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons) do not apply to these States. However, either may decide to opt in to any proposed measure. Back

32  The Committee of senior officials (as provided for in Article 36 EU) which co-ordinates activities under Title VI EU (i.e. provisions on police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters). Back

33   African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Back


 
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