Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


COMMISSION'S ANNUAL WORK PROGRAMME 2003 (13905/02)

Letter from the Chairman to the Rt Hon Denis MacShane, Minister of State for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  The Commission's Annual Work programme was considered by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) at its meeting on 15 January. Two points arise.

  First, paragraph (b)3., under the heading 2.1., "An enlarged Europe" refers to the need to reinforce the administrative and judicial capacities of the future Member States. Can you assure the Committee that adequate preparation is being made, including the provision of additional resources, for the Community Courts to deal with the increased workload that will follow Enlargement?

  Second, there is one reference in your covering Explanatory Memorandum of which the Committee would welcome clarification. At the end of paragraph 16, commenting on the section of the Commission's paper dealing with stability and security, you say: "We would also prefer to have a reference to Civil Law more generally". The Committee would be grateful if you could clarify what is meant by this sentence, whether the Government supports and is proposing a greater harmonisation of civil law and if so in relation to what aspects of civil law and under what powers in the Treaties.

  We look forward to receiving this information. In the meantime the document remains under scrutiny.

16 January 2003

Letter from Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe, to the Chairman

  Thank your or you letter of 16 January raising two points that arose from the consideration of Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) of the Commission's Annual Work Programme for 2003. I am happy to provide the Committee with the clarification it seeks in respect of the preparations being made for the Community Courts in an enlarged EU; and on the paragraph in the Explanatory Memorandum dealing with stability and security and its reference to civil law.

  First, with regard to the Community Courts, the Government attaches great importance to the Courts' work. Improving their effectiveness is a key aim. We will work to ensure the Courts have resources to do their job properly and efficiently. Changes under the Treaty of Nice, which came into force on 1 February, will also facilitate the allocation of work between the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Court of First Instance (CFI), as well as providing for judicial panels to be attached to the CFI. Work is underway to implement these changes which should enable the Courts to carry out their work as efficiently as possible. We also intend to discuss in the Convention on the Future of Europe how best to facilitate the Courts' work and improve the enforcement of EC law.

  Second, on the question of civil law, the Government welcomes a greater compatibility between legal systems in the EU but we believe the most effective way ahead is by mutual recognition of each others' systems and common minimum standards for cross-borders access to justice rather than harmonisation of substantive law. We want to enable citizens to have access to all the information they need. We also want to ensure that courts are sufficiently flexible, accessible and cost effective, and that there is effective enforcement of judgments in all member states.

13 February 2003


 
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