§ Mr. Spearing
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will set out in the Official Report the functions, constitutions and responsibilities of each of the bodies listed in title III, paragraph 10, of the Single European Act.
§ Mrs. Chalker
The bodies listed in paragraph 10 of title III of the Single European Act have the following functions:
The Presidency in European political co-operation is held by the country which holds the Presidency of the Council in the framework of the European Communities. Member States hold the Presidency for a period of six months in alphabetical rotation. The Presidency has overall responsibility for the management of political cooperation: this includes scheduling, convening, organising and chairing meetings. It is also responsible for initiating action, and for co-ordinating and representing the positions of the Twelve.
The Political Committee is composed of the political directors (senior foreign ministry officials) of the Twelve; a representative of the Commission also attends. It was originally set up in 1970 as a result of the "Luxembourg report". Its functions are to give the necessary impetus to political co-operation activities, to maintain continuity, to prepare Ministers' discussions and to oversee the work of specialist working groups. It meets monthly and may meet more frequently if necessary.
The European correspondants are foreign ministry officials who assist the political directors. The correspondants were first appointed as a result of the 1973 Copenhagen report. They provide a contact point through which the Presidency and other member states channel communication between the individual foreign ministries. They meet as a group before and after meetings of the Political Committee; a Commission official also attends. The European correspondants group is responsible, under the direction of the Political Committee, for monitoring the implementation of political co-operation and for studying general organisational problems.
The working groups consists of experts from the Twelve foreign ministries; the Commission also attend. The existence of the groups dates from the 1970 Luxembourg report. They meet at the direction of the Political Committee. They prepare reports and recommendations for that Committee. Over the last 16 years, their work has covered most parts of the world as well as particular subjects such as consular affairs, CSCE or the United Nations.
The participation of Commission officials in these bodies is on the basis that the Commission is "fully associated with the proceedings of political co-operation" (Single European Act, article 30, paragraph 3(b)).254W
The establishment of the European political cooperation secretariat is subject to ratification by all member states of the Single European Act (Cmnd. 9758). Its role will be to assist the Presidency in the ways described in the decision of Foreign Ministers adopted on the occasion of the Single European Act, a text of which was deposited in the Library of the House on 25 April.