Examination of Witnesses(Questions 40-46)|
THURSDAY 16 JANUARY 2003
40. My successor would be opposing it no doubt.
I am in favour of it.
(Mr Ricketts) Right.
41. Mr Ricketts, I would like to come to question
six but before I do so could you clear up what the Government's
view is of the title of our putative Javier Patten or Chris Solana.
In a note on page five of the working group this person, as we
have called him so far, is intended to be called a European External
Representative because that has the advantage of not corresponding
to a title used at a national level. Earlier you used the phrase
"the EU minister of foreign affairs" and personally
I favour something which is indeed familiar to the people of this
country, something like EU foreign secretary, so what is the British
Government's view on that?
(Mr Ricketts) I think the honest answer, Lord Harrison,
is the British Government has not taken a view on that yet because
we do not yet know what this person is going to be, and I think
the titles are used in this working group report to distinguish
the different models, so the European External Representative
is their way of referring to the third option, which would be
someone who is a full member of the Commission. The fourth option
is labelled an EU Minister of Foreign Affairs, that is someone
who is largely under the Council although they may have a seat
but not a vote in the Commission. So they are trying to distinguish
those two models, and until we know what model we get I think
it is difficult to make a final decision on the title. Although
there is no formal Government position, my instinct is probably
that ministers would not want to see someone called an EU foreign
minister or an EU foreign secretary because then you risk confusion
as to whether you are still in the area of common policies adopted
together and pursued individually, or a single policy and a single
foreign policy implemented by a single foreign minister.
42. Yes, but is the material point not that
if we are bringing the European Union closer to its members, its
people, actually using designation or formulation which is familiar
in British political life, like Foreign Secretary, will have the
benefit of making clearer what the possible function is for this
new putative person?
(Mr Ricketts) I entirely see your point. I think it
is a decision that our Ministers will have to take, but I take
full note of it.
43. Can I go on to question six. In particular
I would like to focus on the eurozone members who are mentioned
on page 10 of the working group report under paragraph 13, the
third paragraph there. The proposal might be that the eurozone
members of the group expressed support for a single representation
of the eurozone in the international financial institutions. Two
sets of questions really. First of all, if there was such a person,
would it be drawn, would it be part of the function of the new
hybrid person, would it be a separate person or would it affect
the EMU Commissioner who exists presently or what relationship
would they have with the ECB President who does represent the
eurozone on certain IFIs now? The second question in that area,
if that were to happen, if there were separate representation
of that kind of the eurozone, which is growing in membership,
especially with the adhesion of the new accession countries, what
is the Government's view about the isolation of possible confusion
of policies that might be expressed if you have a eurozone representative
separate from an EU representative?
(Mr Ricketts) Lord Harrison, I find this a particularly
difficult area to give you authoritative answers, partly because
it lies outside my area of competence in the Foreign Office and
partly I think because the Treasury will take a particularly close
view of these issues, so I do not want to say things which my
Treasury colleagues would find difficult. But, as I understand
it, first of all, there is an issue about the statute of international
organisations like the IFIs as to whether that statute allows
for an EU seat as opposed to seats by individual members of the
IFIs, so there is a prior issue there, and partly as a result
of that we are not expecting there is going to be any early movement
in the direction of a single EU seat in the IFIs. Of course, we
are not a member of the eurozone and therefore we are not part
of the group referred to in this report, but I do not expect that
we will see early moves in that direction. I think the questions
that you raise in terms of overall coherence of representation,
if we have one, are very relevant certainly I would not think
that it would be the High Representative/European External Representative
EU foreign minister figure who would take that function on, because
I do not believe that whatever role that person had in the Commission
it would include the sort of Financial Commissioner matters that
would be covered there. So I do not think we are talking about
that person doing it and I do not expect it to happen soon. I
am afraid that is about the limit of my knowledge of that issue,
but it seems to me to be one that the practical problems in terms
of the statute of the institutions will prevent early progress
in this direction.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
44. With reference to the issue of an External
Representative, the concluding recommendation in the report refers
to the overseas representation bringing together Commission representatives,
Council representatives and representatives of national governments,
and in particular suggests that those embassies or delegations
could service Member States not represented in a particular country.
Would the British Government be willing to be represented in a
particular country which is not otherwise represented by such
an embassy? I think, for example, of some West African countries
where I understand that there are current arrangements to be represented
by the French. Would that be thought to be preferable to being
represented by the European embassy?
(Mr Ricketts) First of all, what we are talking about
here is not representatives of national governments joining Commission
representatives and Council representatives, I think it would
be people seconded from national governments. So if we sent a
British diplomat to join the EU delegation in a third country
he would not be representative of the UK, he would be seconded
to the European Union. I think you raise an interesting question
about representation in a country where some Member States are
not represented. I would see that as applying more to the small
Member States who may have very limited external representation,
including some of the new Members who will be joining in 2004
who have probably extremely limited overseas representation than
the UK with our very extensive network overseas. As you say, there
are already a number of cases where certainly we are co-located
with other European embassies, for example, in Reykjavic where
we and the Germans share an embassy, in West Africa there are
examples of that as well. I would have thought that would be our
first approach in countries where we ourselves are not going to
maintain a separate embassy, there would be co-location with other
European Union Member States. This idea I think will take several
years to develop.
45. Have you finished your answer?
(Mr Ricketts) Yes. I would not rule anything out for
the longer term. I doubt that we are going to see useful options
emerging in that area, at least for some time.
46. Did anyone have any other questions they
want to ask before the alarm starts going off again? Mr Ricketts,
thank you very much indeed for setting us on fire with your various
thoughts. We are most grateful to you. Thank you very much indeed.
(Mr Ricketts) Thank you very much indeed, Chairman.