Select Committee on European Communities Report


12.  PROPOSAL FOR A COUNCIL DECISION ADOPTING A MULTIANNUAL FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME FOR ACTIONS IN THE ENERGY SECTOR (1998-2002) AND CONNECTED MEASURES (13035/97)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to John Battle MP, Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry

  The above proposal was considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting this morning.

  In your Explanatory Memorandum (EM), dated 16 January, you state that while the regrouping of energy actions under an umbrella framework is seen by the Government as "an essential prerequisite" for improving management, co-ordination and financial control, you have concerns about the proposal in several areas.

  First, you state that you require further information from the Commission before you are able to take a view as to whether the Synergy, ALTENER, SAVE, analysis and nuclear safeguards components are appropriate to the framework proposal in the ways proposed. Secondly, your EM states that you wish to strengthen the proposed Committee structure to give Member States a greater say in the determination of priorities and the allocation of funds. The third concern you raise is that the proposed legal base, under article 235, is not appropriate.

  The Committee would appreciate clarification on these issues. We would also appreciate being kept informed at the earliest opportunity of progress made in resolving these concerns. In the meantime, this letter maintains the scrutiny reserve.

12 March 1998

Letter from John Battle MP, Minister of State for Science, Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 12 March, seeking clarification on three points highlighted in the Department's Explanatory Memorandum of 16 January 1998; whether all the energy spending programmes were appropriate to the Energy Framework in the ways proposed, our desire to strengthen the committee structure and the issue of legal base.

  On the first, I am satisfied that all six component parts covered in the Annexes are relevant to the Framework Programme because they represent energy actions under the control of DGXVII. There remains, however, a question as to whether Annex VII, relating to nuclear activities should have its own legal base and its own instrument. A view (which I share) is emerging between some Member States that the scope of this annex and its budget justify a legal base and its own instrument, as is the case with other parts of the Framework programme (the only exception is Annex II which has a very small budget and involves statistical and analysis work in support of other activities). The Council could decide to add a EURATOM legal base to the Decision, but a new instrument would require a new proposal from the Commission: if so, of course it would be subject to scrutiny in the normal way. I will report further on this issue as soon as the situation becomes clearer.

  On the matter of Committee structure, I am happy to report that the majority of Member States share our view that it should be strengthened so that we can have a greater say in the determination of priorities and the allocation of funds. This issue is very much at the heart of our negotiations and we expect the Commission to accept this point. Officials will continue to press the Commission on this matter to ensure we achieve our goal.

  Finally, on the matter of the legal base of the Framework Decision, the Commission has proposed Article 235, which is the general one used for energy measures, which requires the consultation procedure with the European Parliament. Some delegations feel that, to reflect environmental aspects, the Decision should also cite Article 130s(1) which requires the cooperation procedure. The Commission takes the view that there is no need to cite article 130s(1) as this is included in the specific instruments for SAVE (Annex V) and ALTENER (Annex IV) and that the use of two legal bases with different procedures would cause legal difficulties. We share the Commission's view that Article 235 alone is appropriate for the enabling decision because it is a co-ordination measure; there is no need to include legal bases for the component parts which are covered by separate instruments and legal bases. This issue is likely to be decided in the final stages of negotiation when the EURATOM issue (see above) will also be tackled. Although it will be important to reach agreement on the correct legal base, I do not believe this is fundamental to the outcome of negotiations on the Framework Programme itself or its component parts.

  I hope this clarifies the position. I will, of course, report on further developments as soon as the position on these issues becomes clearer.

26 March 1998

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to John Battle MP, Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry

  Sub-Committee B considered Annex VI (Proposal for a Council Decision adopting a multi-annual programme of technological actions promoting the clean and efficient use of solid fuels) of the above proposal at its meeting this morning.

  In your Explanatory Memorandum (EM) dated 9 March you raise several issues of concern to the Committee. First, paragraph 14 of your EM states that the Commission's reasons for choosing Article 235 rather than 130s(1) "are not known". We are concerned that you are content to use Article 235 without knowing the reasons for this choice. Secondly, you state that you would not want to be under a Community obligation to promote clean coal technology as envisaged under Article 1 of the proposal (paragraph 20). While we accept your statement that it is unlikely that Article 1 will survive "at least in its present form", we would appreciate an explanation of what you would prefer if Article 1 was to be modified. The third issue you raise is the duplication or overlap with other international activities.

  The Committee would appreciate clarification on these issues. In the meantime, this letter maintains the scrutiny reserve.

2 April 1998

Letter from John Battle MP, Minister of State for Science, Energy and Industry, Department of Trade and Industry, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 2 April raising three questions on the EM which I submitted on 9 March on a Proposal for a Council Decision adopting a multi-annual programme of technological actions promoting the clean and efficient use of solid fuels (the "CARNOT" programme).

  As you know, the proposed CARNOT programme is part of the proposed Energy Framework Programme, and both these proposals cite Article 235 as the legal base. However, some of the other programmes in the Framework Programme (eg ALTENER II, SAVE II) are based on Article 130s(1), which relates to the environment. The European Court of Justice has ruled that the procedure requiring co-operation with the European Parliament, as required by Article 130s(1), cannot be used with the procedure requiring consultation, which is required by Article 235. This has raised a question over what is the appropriate legal base for the Framework Programme Decision which has yet to be resolved.

  As I said in my EM, the Government is content with the use of Article 235 as the legal base for the Council Decision relating to the CARNOT Programme as the proposal is concerned with the diversification of energy supply and the promotion of European energy technologies as much, if not more than, environmental protection. We would not be opposed on policy grounds to the use of a dual legal base of Article 235 and Article 130s(1), but I imagine the Commission did not propose this because of the ECJ ruling on the use of both the co-operation and consultation procedures. The use of Article 130s(1) alone has not been suggested, and would be difficult to justify.

  As I anticipated in my EM, Article 1 has not found much favour and has been substantially re-cast to be little more than an introductory Article. The current working text is set out in the Annex to this letter, and we could accept this.

  Finally, you ask about overlap with other international activities. UK and some other Member States are active in collaborative projects under the auspices of the International Energy Agency. One example is IEA Coal Research—The Clean Coal Centre, based here in London, which provides a forum for exchange of information about clean coal technologies between a number of countries, including the USA and Japan. We will seek to ensure that CARNOT does not try and re-invent the wheel and duplicate production of databases etc by IEA bodies. However, we recognise that CARNOT can add value to existing IEA activities by providing a European dimension to activities in this area which will assist European industry to compete more successfully with US and Japanese industry.

  I hope with this explanation you will be able to lift the scrutiny reserve in good time for the Energy Council on 11 May, at which I hope the Council will be able to reach a political agreement on the framework programme and its constituent programmes.

21 April 1998

Annex

ARTICLE 1

  1.  Within the framework programme for actions in the energy sector, a specific programme for the promotion of clean solid fuel technologies in order to limit emissions from solid fuel use including carbon dioxide emissions, hereinafter referred to as "CARNOT", shall be implemented by the Community for the period 1998-2002.

  2.  In addition to the priority objectives listed in Article 1(2) of the council decision adopting a multi-annual framework programme for actions in the energy sector, the objectives of the programme shall be to:

    —  promote the use of clean and efficient technologies to plants using solid fuels;

    —  encourage the development of advanced clean solid fuel technologies in order to achieve best available technologies (BAT) at affordable cost.


 
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