Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report

CITES (12158/02)

Letter from the Chairman to Elliot Morley Esq MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum dated 16 October 2002. The document was considered by Sub-Committee D at its meeting on 30 October.

  We note that the proposal itself was debated in the Environment Council of 17 October, and a negotiating position agreed, giving this Committee no time to consider the potentially controversial amendments to CITES. This is an international agreement and the Committee feels that it should have been able to comment on the proposal in good time.

  We lift the scrutiny reserve, but we would like to know why the document arrived so late. We should also wish to be kept informed of developments at Santiago in November.

  Can you tell us why no legal basis was set out in the Explanatory Memorandum, and why the negotiating mandate is to be provided by way of a decision sui generis?

18 November 2002

Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister for Fisheries, Water and Nature Protection, to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 18 November expressing concern about the late arrival of the Explanatory Memorandum concerning the Council Decision setting out the Community's position on the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which met over the period 3-15 November in Santiago, Chile.

  I am very sorry that it has taken so long to reply. The draft was in fact prepared very promptly, but subsequently went astray within Defra. We have taken a number of steps to improve our management of correspondence flows, and there should be no repetition of this sort of unfortunate lapse.

  As to your original concern, I agree that it was regrettable that the Explanatory Memorandum arrived so late but the final draft of the proposed Council Decision was not issued until 11 October 2002. This left very little time to prepare and circulate an Explanatory Memorandum that was based on an agreed text. However, the Council Secretariat was not entirely to blame for this, as a number of the papers for the CITES Conference were submitted very late in the day thereby putting great pressure on all member states to establish their policy lines very quickly. Indeed a number of papers were still not available at the time of the Environment Council meeting. I agree that this was a very unsatisfactory situation for all the parties concerned and is an issue on which we are already pressing for improvement in the run up to the next Conference of the CITES Parties in October 2004.

  As to the question of the legal basis for the Council Decision, it is standard practice for all negotiating mandates to be agreed by way of a decision sui generis. This practice has developed in this way as it will not always be clear from the outset of negotiations what the appropriate legal base of the instrument will be.

  I am, however, pleased to report that the Conference itself proved to be very successful from the UK point of view. Marine species issues dominated the agenda: Japan's proposals to allow trade in Minke and Bryde's whales were soundly rejected while the UK's own proposal to list basking shark in Appendix II of CITES was successful. Proposals to list whale shark and seahorses in Appendix II were also accepted.

  These decisions mark a significant departure from the traditional view that fisheries related issues should be dealt with by FAO. It also signals that CITES is now seen as an appropriate mechanism for securing better protection and sustainable management of certain marine species. Another significant breakthrough was the listing of mahogany in Appendix II after several previous attempts over the last decade had failed. Hopefully this will act as a spur to encourage range states to list tropical timber species as means to bring illegal logging and unsustainable forestry under the closer scrutiny of international regulation.

  Although views were divided on the elephant proposals, the eventual outcome was consistent with the position set out in the Council Decision. Contrary to some reports in the media, the Conference of the Parties has not authorised a resumption in the trade of ivory. What was agreed was that three southern African countries (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) would be permitted to undertake a one-off sale of their ivory stocks to a pre-arranged destination but not before May 2004 and only then if certain conditions (which include strict controls on the market, stringent monitoring requirements and a condition that the proceeds of any sale are to be used for elephant conservation) are met in full and verified by the CITES Secretariat in conjunction with the CITES Standing Committee.

  In the run up to the next Conference (in Thailand in autumn 2004) we will be working closely with interested parties to secure the effective implementation of the decisions taken at COP12. We shall also be exploring with other EU Member States how best to co-ordinate EU action at future conferences, taking into account the need to accommodate the views of accession states.

26 May 2003

Extract from the Council Minutes 17 October 2002


  The Council adopted a decision, with the German and French delegations abstaining, defining the Community's and the Member States' negotiation position for the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is due to take place in Santiago (Chile) from 3 to 15 November 2002.

  The Community position refers to certain proposals submitted to COP12 in the framework of CITES such as: strategic and administrative matters, interpretation and implementation of the Convention and proposals to amend its appendices on the levels of protection afforded to different species.

  CITES is an international agreement whose aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

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