Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report


The Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:


1. The Presidency of the European Union rotates every six months between its Member States. The Presidency country chairs all ministerial council meetings and hosts the majority of them. Each Presidency culminates in a Council meeting of heads of government and it has been the practice of successive Foreign Affairs Committees to hear oral evidence from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs immediately prior to such summits.

2. From July to December 2001, the EU Presidency was held by Belgium. The Council meeting took place at Laeken on 15 December, and this Committee heard oral evidence from the Secretary of State, Jack Straw, on 5 December. It is that evidence, together with associated memoranda and correspondence, which is published with this Report.

3. As part of its ongoing Inquiry into Britain and the European Union, the Committee will continue to invite oral evidence from the Secretary of State before each main Council meeting. We may also, if we think it appropriate, seek evidence before a "special" Council meeting, as we did before the Berlin Council of March 1999, which developed policy on EU enlargement. By so doing, we intend to assist the House with its scrutiny of EU affairs. Whenever we consider that a matter deserves particular comment, we will make a substantive Report to the House.

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Prepared 31 January 2002