Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


Letter from the Chairman to The Rt Hon Clare Short MP, Secretary of State, Department for International Development

  Thank you for the Explanatory Memorandum dated 17 September 2002 which Sub-Committee C considered at its meeting on 17 October. The Committee have agreed to clear this item, but would be grateful if you would provide the following information.

  First, the Sub-Committee would like to know of the Commission's position with regard to the above draft regulation. The Sub-Committee notes that "this is likely to be a difficult negotiation" (paragraph five) and are interested to know what difficulties the Minister envisages in the negotiation process. The Minister has also suggested a rather long timeframe (paragraph 8) and the Sub-Committee would like to know why the planned negotiations "may take up to a year".

  The Sub-Committee would like information on the ratio of the administration costs, which the Sub-Committee considers to be significant, compared to the proposed spend on aid (paragraph 10.3 of the Financial Statement).

  The Sub-Committee notes the countries listed under Annex I and would like to know the Government's priority with regard to aid for those countries that are most poor. We would be grateful if you could also provide a list of the countries that currently have EC missions underway.

  The Sub-Committee would also be interested to learn details of the legislation envisaged under point 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum which discusses the issue of subsidiarity and the co-operation of Community and Member State development programmes.

24 October 2002

Letter from Clare Short, Secretary of State, to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 24 October advising me that the draft Asia and Latin America (ALA) Regulation had cleared scrutiny, but seeking some further clarification. I would welcome increased interest in the improvement of EC development efforts. The failure to allocate the substantial funds drawn from national development budgets and distributed by the EC in accordance with the most effective development and poverty reduction policies remains a disgrace. I am amazed at how few allies I can find to try to reform this misallocation of 25 per cent of my budget.

  The Commission, having drafted the Regulation, would prefer to have a very quick negotiation and agreement on the content. However, this remains unlikely. Overall, I assess the Commission's position to be closer to the UK than many other member states, but there is still much work to be done on the draft.

  The difficulties that will arise are likely to be rooted in the different political priorities of member states, and also varying historical linkages between certain member states and recipient countries in the ALA region. There will also be differences of view on what constitutes effective development assistance. The last regional regulation to be negotiated was the MEDA II Regulation and this took a year from initial draft to final agreement. That is why I have suggested that the timetable will be fairly lengthy.

  In addition, the Development Working Group takes this item on the agenda only every two to three weeks to allow time for revisions to be included.

  In terms of priority countries for assistance, I have suggested using objective allocation criteria across the whole region. I would expect such criteria to focus on levels of poverty and numbers of poor people. This would favour the poor countries in Asia such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Yemen. However, this would not rule out appropriate technical assistance to middle income countries with large pockets of poverty such as those in Latin America. This will be one of the most difficult parts to negotiate.

  I am not able to say how many EC missions are underway. Such occasional visits are an ongoing part of EC business as they are for DFID. But also like DFID, the Commission has been deconcentrating management of programmes to the field, which will not only reduce the number of missions, but should also make programme management more efficient.

  The administrative costs referred to in paragraph 10.2 and 10.3 relating to Commission staffing amounts to about 6.3 per cent of the total budget for administering the proposed programme in the 2003-06 period.

  There will not be any UK legislation flowing from this proposed Regulation. However, on a general level, the Regulation itself is intended to achieve the necessary complementarity between Member State and Community action in this area.

4 November 2002

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