Appendix 2 Letter from The Minister for
Thank you for your letter of 4 April about the Franco-German
proposals to the Convention on the Future of Europe.
You asked what the Government thought of the Franco-German
proposals, in particular the section on external activities of
the Union. We welcome the Franco-German contribution to the debate
on Europe's future and believe it contains some good ideas, for
example, the creation of a full-time Chair of the European Council.
On the detail of the external activities section,
we strongly support the idea of more coherence in EU external
action, strengthening the High Representative, giving him formal
right of initiative in Common Foreign and Security Policy and
the right to chair the external part of the General Affairs and
External Relations Council.
As the Committee are aware (from the various evidence
sessions in which colleagues and I have taken part), we continue
to have several key questions about how "doublehatting"
the High Representative as both High Representative and External
Relations Commissioner could work. We continue to ask partners
(including Paris and Berlin) what status the "European Foreign
Minister" would have in the Commission, to whom he/she would
be accountable, and who would mediate in the event of a dispute
between the Council and Commission. This will clearly be one of
the key issues for the Plenary discussion of the draft external
Treaty Articles on 15-16 May.
We share your interest in the exact nature of how
the Franco-German proposal for more Qualified Majority Voting
in foreign policy (but unanimity in defence and security issues)
would work. From our point of view, it would be difficult to distinguish
between what is a foreign policy issue and what is a security
issue. So we do not see how this proposal could work in practical
terms, as the oral evidence you quote from Sir Stephen Wall and
Peter Ricketts indicates. We welcome the recommendation in the
External Action Working Group report that any decision to move
to more QMV in CFSP would be taken by unanimity in the European
The Franco-German proposal for some Council Secretariat
staff to work in the Commission delegation offices overseas was
one of the recommendations of the External Action Working Group.
It clearly makes sense, as part of our efforts to improve coherence,
for council Secretariat and Commission staff to do more joint
work. Likewise, we welcome the idea of more synergy between Commission,
Council Secretariat and Member State staff in Brussels, although
we think the title of an EU Diplomatic Service is misleading.
On the Franco-German proposal that ESDP operations
should be able to go ahead even if all Member States do not wish
to participate, there is already provision in the Treaty for Member
States to choose not to participate in ESDP as a whole, as Denmark
has done. The Treaty also provides for a Member State to choose
to constructively abstain from a particular ESDP operation. The
decision on whether or not to commit personnel to an operation
remains for member States (although the decision to launch an
operation is taken by unanimity). We want to see ESDP remain fully
inclusive, and believe that any decision for operations with defence
or military implications should continue to be taken by unanimity.
You asked whether there were other significant relevant
submissions to the Convention on CFSP. Seventy two documents were
submitted to the External Action Working Group. If the Committee
are interested in the other contributions, they can be found at
http.european-convention.eu/int (by clicking on proceedings, then
Working Groups, then Working Documents Group VII).
I am copying this letter to Jimmy Hood MP, Chairman
of the European Scrutiny Committee; Dorian Gerhold, Clerk to the
Commons European Scrutiny Committee; Michael Carpenter, Legal
Adviser to the Commons Committee; Les Saunders (Cabinet Office);
Philip Kendall (FCO) and Gareth Bayley (FCO).