Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Report


ANNUAL POLICY STRATEGY FOR 2003


(23295)

SEC(02) 217/7

Commission Communication: Annual Policy Strategy for 2003.


Legal base:
Document originated:27 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 12 March 2002
Department:Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 16 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 13 May General Affairs Council
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; request to be kept informed



Background

  2.1  The Annual Policy Strategy paper for 2003 is the first stage of a strategic planning and programming cycle provided for in a Commission Communication of 25 July 2001[4]. It seeks to set out the Commission's policy priorities for 2003 and ensure that there is the right match between tasks and the human and financial resources required.

  2.2  The paper sets the framework for preparing the preliminary draft budget, due in May, and for the operational programming for 2003 carried out by Commission staff. The final stage of the cycle will be the production of a Legislative and Work Programme, due in the autumn, which will set out the Commission's activities for 2003.

  2.3  The first strategic planning and programming cycle was launched in 2001, covering 2002. Following evaluation of the first year's experience, this year will see significantly strengthened inter-institutional dialogue, with greater consultation by the Commission with the European Parliament and Council throughout the process.

The paper

  2.4  The Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) summarises the paper as follows:

"At the start of its term in office the Commission established four major strategic objectives:

  • working towards a new economic and social agenda;

  • ensuring a better quality of life;

  • stabilising the continent and strengthening the role of Europe in the world; and

  • promoting new forms of governance.

    "The proposed policy priorities for 2003 continue to develop these key objectives.

    "Enlargement forms the primary focus and common thread for the proposed 2003 activities. With membership for new states targeted for 2004, enlargement has entered a critical phase. Enabling the successful accession of new member states from 1 January 2004, and their participation in the 2004 European Parliament elections will require concentration on preparations for the most significant enlargement in the history of European integration. Future member states must be supported to ensure their readiness to assume the responsibilities of EU membership and full compliance with the acquis communautaire. In addition, Community policies and institutional framework will have to be examined to ensure their compatibility with enlargement.

    "Following on from enlargement, the Commission document identifies two other objectives as being of paramount importance for 2003: stability and security; and a sustainable and inclusive economy.

    "Making progress on security, freedom and justice in Europe will focus on internal security and respect for freedoms and fundamental rights. The fight against crime, including terrorism, will continue to be high on the agenda. Accession states will require support to strengthen checks on external borders as well as border surveillance. Immigration and asylum policy will also be a priority. In addition, there will be an emphasis on developing relations with Europe's neighbours and making CFSP more cohesive. Stability in the Balkans; peace in the Middle East; and contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan through effective aid will all be key priorities.

    "To achieve a sustainable and inclusive economy, the Commission will work to accelerate the implementation of the Lisbon strategy, with particular emphasis on promoting a knowledge-based society, strengthening the internal market for services, improving cross-border competition and promoting employment policies. Ensuring a fairer distribution of the positive effects of globalisation and the resources between North and South are proposed as key objectives. The negotiations which began at Doha will continue, and the Kyoto commitments for sustainable development will have to be properly implemented.

    "The Commission also proposes to undertake in 2003 two strategic evaluations of policies. These help to identify whether policies are relevant and useful as well as those programmes which have outlived their usefulness. The focus will be on the open method of co-ordination — a form of governance used to ensure coherent Community action and exchange of ideas in areas where competence largely lies with member states; and programme management arrangements".

The Government's view

  2.5  The Minister comments:

    "Consolidating the strategic planning and programming cycle is a key element of the Commission's reform programme. The Government fully supports and encourages efforts to make the Commission more effective and transparent. The planning and programming cycle also fits in well with the Government's efforts to introduce a more strategic and considered character to the activities of the European Union.

    "The Government wholeheartedly agrees with the three key objectives on which the Commission focuses; these reflect the Government's own commitments and priorities. The over-arching emphasis on the successful accession of new Member States in 2004 reflects the Government's own commitment to, and support for, an enlarged European Union. We welcome the Commission's continued commitment to make progress on the Lisbon strategy, particularly given our own efforts to advance this issue and the benefits to the UK from doing so. We also welcome the focus on stability and security which will include the fight against terrorism as well as immigration and asylum policy — all of which are of fundamental importance to the Government".

  2.6  On the financial implications, the Minister says:

    "This document will now be discussed with the European Parliament and Council. It does not constitute formally concluded plans but, rather, proposals for further consideration. As such, it has no financial implications in itself.

    "That said, the priorities set out in the strategy would require human and financial resources to be achieved. The exact resource implications will become clearer as the cycle of debate progresses. However, the Commission has endeavoured to identify the resources that would be needed to realise the priorities as currently set out.

    "The Commission estimates that 500 new staff members would be needed for 2003 to ensure that new member states are dealt with effectively from day one of their accession. The costs of this, and other administrative expenditure related to enlargement, are estimated by the Commission to exceed the Financial Perspective ceiling for the 2003 Administration category of the budget by euro66 million (£40.5 million). The Council (reflecting recent ECOFIN conclusions) can be expected to call for savings to be found to ensure that the ceiling is not breached.

    "The additional, non-administrative, resources required by the Commission to meet the enlargement priority of the EU are estimated at euro24.3 million (14.9 million). For the other two priorities, the Commission identifies the need for additional monies of euro127.2 million (£78 million) for stability and security and euro118.9 million (£72.9 million) for a sustainable and inclusive economy. The increased human resources required to manage these two key priorities could, in the Commission's view, be achieved through internal re-deployment.

    "The total monies required by the Commission to meet its priorities for 2003 as currently proposed would therefore be euro270.4 million (£165.8 million)."

  2.7  On the timetable the Minister says:

    "Working level discussions will take place in April and early May, with General Affairs Council consideration scheduled for 13 May. A revised Annual Policy Strategy, taking into account the views of the European Parliament and Council, will issue in the autumn, with further Council discussion proposed for November.

    "The Commission will present a preliminary draft budget in May, for a first discussion in the Council end July. A first reading in the European Parliament is scheduled for mid October, followed by a second Council consideration end November and second EP reading mid December. The Presidency and EP must formally adopt the budget 31 December."

Conclusion

  2.8  We note that the Government fully endorses the objectives set out in this Commission paper and this effort to make the Commission more effective and transparent. However, when it comes to the resources that the Commission estimates it will need to fulfil the objectives, including 500 new staff to ensure that the new Member States are dealt with effectively "from day one of their accession", the only comment the Minister makes is that the Council, reflecting recent ECOFIN Conclusions, can be expected to call for savings to ensure that the ceiling is not breached.

  2.9  Unrealistic demands of Commission staff have been a regular feature of its external actions, with predictable results in terms of quality of delivery. This is now widely acknowledged. One of the purposes of this strategy paper is to ensure that tasks are matched to resources. It may be that the Commission's estimates will need some pruning. However we would expect the Council not simply to ask the Commission for savings, but to cut its own ambitions to suit its pocket. We ask the Minister to inform us of the progress of discussions on the paper before the revised paper is issued in the autumn, paying particular attention to the question of how tasks and resources are to be matched. We also ask him to ensure that we are given a timely opportunity to scrutinise the revised paper in the autumn.

  2.10  We hold this document under scrutiny in the meantime.



4  SEC(2001) 1197/6&7 - Not deposited. Back


 
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