Scrutiny of EU Proposals.

We will deal first with proposals proposed for further scrutiny. COM (2006) 636 is a proposal on the banning of exports and the safe storage of metallic mercury. This proposal is part of an overall strategy to reduce mercury exposure. The measure seeks to achieve this in two ways, namely, by banning from 2011 exports of mercury from the EU and by ensuring safe storage of mercury in order to ensure that it does not re-enter the market. The Commission warns that mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife even in relatively low doses and explains that while mercury is released into the environment naturally, for example, from volcanoes, it is also released through coal burning and use in products. While the Department indicates the proposal would have no implications for Ireland as there is no mercury industry here, it is possible it would have implications in relation to future development in certain sectors.

The proposal would appear to require close monitoring to determine if the adopted measure might negatively impact on potential mining opportunities and have waste management implications. Therefore, it is proposed to refer this proposal to the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government for further scrutiny and to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business for information purposes. Is that agreed? Agreed.

There are no Title IV measures for this meeting. We will now deal with CFSP measures. CFSP (2006) 755 is a common position concerning the temporary reception by member states of the European Union of certain Palestinians. This measure extends for a further 12 months the provisions concerning the national permits of the Palestinians involved. Concerning the review date of the measure, I understand Ireland accepted two Palestinians following the end of the siege of the Church of the Nativity and the measure would apply to these also. It is proposed to note the measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.

CFSP (2006) 795 is a common position concerning restrictive measures against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK. It expresses the gravest concern at the claim by the DPRK that it has conducted a test of a nuclear weapon and prohibits the trade in certain related equipment. Other aspects of the resolution concern the sale of luxury goods to the DPRK and restrictions on the entry of certain persons designated by the UN as being responsible for the above nuclear programme. The aim of the measure is to give effect within the European Union to the UN's resolution. It is proposed to note the measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.

CFSP (2006) 867 is a joint action extending and amending the mandate of the European monitoring mission. This joint action tasks the mission with a particular focus on Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro and neighbouring regions that might be impacted upon by any adverse developments in Kosovo and Montenegro, and foresees the continuation of its work until 31 December 2007. As members will know, the Department's note indicates there are currently six personnel from the Defence Forces with the mission. It is proposed to note the measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.

There are no proposals proposed for deferral. We will now deal with proposals proposed for no further scrutiny. COM (2006) 686 is a White Paper on enhancing the Single Market framework for investment funds. The Commission envisages in the White Paper an incremental approach to the regulation of this market and foresees,inter alia, the following developments: the introduction of measures to strengthen supervisory co-operation and the facilitation of UCIT mergers across borders. The Department’s note also indicates that its consultation process on this matter has resulted in broad support being indicated by the sector but with some concern expressed in regard to the anticipated proposal in regard to cross-border management of funds. It is proposed that the White Paper be forwarded for information and consideration to the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service and the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business, particularly in regard to the area of concern within the sector. Is that agreed? Agreed.

COM (2006) 497 is a proposal on the submission of nominal catch statistics by member states fishing in the north-east Atlantic. This is another proposal arising from the Commission's initiative to simplify Community law. It seeks to codify a 1991 regulation and its subsequent amendments. The original regulation requires member states to provide to EUROSTAT, the statistical office of the European Communities, data on the annual nominal catches by vessels fishing in the north-east Atlantic. The statistics are required to assist in the management of the Community's fishing resources in the region.

The Commission and the Department have indicated that no changes of substance were made to the regulation. The Department also indicates that this codifying measure will provide improved clarity as to what is required by the regulation, as amended. It is proposed that this codifying regulation does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.3, COM (2006) 511, is a proposal for a Council regulation amending regulations concerning drift nets. It seeks to amend three regulations on the conservation of fishery resources, all of which include provisions regulating the use of drift nets, to include a uniform definition of drift nets in all instances. The purpose of the proposal is to provide clarity, facilitate a common understanding and promote uniform monitoring and control of the use of drift nets between member states.

In its explanatory memorandum, the Commission confirms that this proposed establishment of a common definition does not expand on the restrictions and conditions on drift nets already provided for in Community law. It is proposed that this proposal does not warrant further scrutiny. It is proposed, however, to forward this proposal to the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources as it may wish to keep itself informed of developments in this area. It is also proposed to formally request that the Department provide clarification on the points outlined above.

Is there any information on the process by which the single definition was devised?

I understand it was agreed as a result of consultation with industry experts. Is COM (2006) 511 agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.4, COM (2006) 655, is a regulation establishing a new statistical classification of products by activity, CPA. The CPA is one of an integrated set of classifications within the European statistical system. The use of such an integrated system is designed to generate statistics that are easily comparable at a European and international level.

This measure would replace the existing 1993 regulation and take into account technological developments and the development of the economy in the last 15 years. The Department indicates, in its information note, that there will be no direct implications for Ireland as the CPA is not widely used. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.5, COM (2006) 477, is a proposed codification of the regulation on the transmission of data subject to statistical confidentiality to EUROSTAT. The purpose of the existing regulation is to authorise national authorities to transmit confidential statistical data to the Statistical Office of the European Communities, SOEC, and to provide a guarantee that the Commission will take all necessary measures to ensure the confidentiality of data transmitted.

This regulation was subsequently amended to include,inter alia, a definition of “confidential statistical data”. The proposed regulation simply seeks to codify the original regulation and its amendments. The Commission has indicated that no changes of substance have been made to the regulation and the Department indicates there are no additional implications for Ireland arising from this codifying measure. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.6, COM (2006) 647, is a proposal setting subsistence and overnight rates to apply from 1 January 2007 for officials when staying in Bulgaria and Romania. This proposed regulation seeks to adjust, from 1 January 2007, the rates applicable for officials staying in Bulgaria or Romania. The existing rates, which have remained unchanged since 1991, are based on conditions applicable to non-member countries and therefore require adjustment to take into account both the accession of these two countries and the adjustment made to rates generally earlier this year. It is proposed that this technical measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.7, COM (2006) 715, is a proposal for a decision on regulation concerning imports from Brazil post-2004 enlargement. The proposed measure is similar to a number of previous proposals considered by the sub-committee subsequent to the accession of the ten new member states in May 2004. These measures were required to take account of the enlarged market, and proposed changed quotas and tariffs. As with similar measures recently considered by the sub-committee, the agreement also provides for the amendment of the definition of high-quality beef.

The Department has indicated its view that the proposed measure has no implications for Ireland. It is therefore proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. It is also proposed that it be forwarded for information to the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food in the context of measures forwarded to that committee at recent meetings that concerned changes to the definitions relating to beef imports. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.8, COM (2006) 688, is a proposal adjusting the remuneration and pensions of officials and other servants of the European Communities with effect from 1 July 2006. The salaries of Community officials are adjusted annually to take account of cost of living changes across the European Union. The proposal seeks approval for an increase of 2.3% effective from 1 July 2006. It also seeks to fix the correction coefficients for Bulgaria and Romania which will apply from the accession of these two countries on 1 January 2007. It is proposed that this technical measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.9, COM (2006) 587, is a proposal for an amending regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy. The Commission sets out in the memorandum to this amending proposal that it is being advanced following consultations in the context of the European fisheries regulation. It makes provision for some flexibility in the tonnage decommissioning scheme to allow for a limited increase in tonnage to new and existing vessels in order to improve safety, hygiene, working conditions and product quality on board. This increase in tonnage should, I understand, not increase the ability of the vessels to catch fish. The Department also confirms that the proposed measure will allow for the replacement of an engine with public aid. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. It is also proposed that it be forwarded for information to the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in the context of the increased flexibility that would be available under the scrappage scheme. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.10, COM (2006) 654, is a proposal for a decision concerning the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the European partnership with Montenegro. Montenegro's declaration of independence in June 2006 was recognised in the conclusions of the June 2006 GAERC. The Commission sets out in the memorandum to this proposal that it considers it appropriate to present this proposal for an updated European partnership specifically in regard to Montenegro. Among the key priorities identified in the partnership are the adoption of a new constitution based on European standards, the finalisation of plans for reform of the judicial system, and the strengthening of parliamentary control over the defence and security structures. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.11, COM (2006) 656, is a proposal for a decision on the appointment of the special co-ordinator of the stability pact for south-eastern Europe. A special co-ordinator is appointed for the stability pact on a yearly basis. This proposal concerns that appointment for the period 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2007. The Commission proposes the appointment of Dr. Erhard Busek, who has held this post since 2002. Dr. Busek's curriculum vitae is circulated for members' information. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.12, COM (2006) 680, is a proposal for an amending regulation concerning restrictive measures in respect of Liberia. This follows from positive developments in Liberia and proposes the repeal of the related EU legislation prohibiting the importation of certain timber products from Liberia. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Proposal No. 5.13, COM (2006) 698, is a proposal concerning the agreement with Belarus in respect of trade in textile products. The Commission seeks the approval of the Council for the signature and provisional application of the agreement with Belarus relating to the roll-over for a further year of the bilateral measures in place in regard to market access for textile products. The Commission's memorandum sets out that in the absence of an agreement, Belarus will be free to increase its import duties and introduce other import restrictions. The Department's note indicates its view that the adoption of the measure has no implications for Ireland.

It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome Senator Dardis, who has been delayed by traffic jams.

This morning broke the record. It took two hours and 16 minutes.

No. 5.14, COM (2006) 764, is a proposal temporarily withdrawing access to the generalised tariff preferences from the Republic of Belarus. This is an amended version of a proposal considered by the sub-committee on 20 September. The proposal sought to withdraw access to the generalised scheme of tariff preferences, GSP, from Belarus. This amended proposal seeks to take account of a technical error in the original proposal.

The Department, in its information note, indicates that in light of the situation in Belarus, Ireland supports the proposed measure and that it has no direct implications for Ireland. The sub-committee agreed that the original proposal did not warrant further scrutiny and since this corrected proposal contains no substantial difference, it is proposed that this measure should be similarly treated. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.15, COM (2006) 640, is a proposal to extend the Council decision on comitology procedures to the regulation on medicinal products for paediatric use. The sub-committee at its last meeting considered a number of proposals seeking to make a technical amendment to certain existing regulations to make them compatible with a recent Council decision on comitology. This proposal seeks to extend the new comitology procedures to the regulations on paediatric medicines giving enhanced scrutiny opportunities to the European Parliament. The Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked for a note on the revised comitology procedures for the information of members. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.16, COM (2006) 719 is a Council regulation amending an annexe to the regulation laying down general provisions on the Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund. The Joint Committee on European Affairs scrutinised the original proposed regulation in June 2005. The measure under discussion seeks to replace an annexe to that regulation concerning the ceilings applicable to co-financing rates to include Bulgaria and Romania in the list of countries eligible. This measure has been proposed in the context of the accession of the aforementioned countries on 1 January 2007 and will apply from that date. The Department categorises this proposal as being purely technical with no implications for Ireland. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.17, COM (2006) 609, is a proposal laying down conservation and enforcement measures applicable in the area of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation, NAFO. The objective of this proposal is to update the Community rules to incorporate conservation and enforcement measures adopted by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation. Many of these measures have already been transposed into Community law, such as an obligation on all vessels to carry impartial observers and a satellite monitoring device, as well as to participate in inspections at sea. NAFO has recently overhauled and updated its control and enforcement measures and the proposal seeks to consolidate into one regulation all the technical and control measures adopted by it. As the Department's information note confirms that Irish vessels do not operate in the NAFO area, this measure has no significance for Ireland. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.18, COM (2006) 696, is a proposal concerning changes to the classification of certain pharmaceutical products. This proposal aims to suspend customs duties on certain pharmaceutical products for public health reasons. An exemption is provided for products classified under chapter 30 of an annexe to Regulation 2658 of 1997. The products with which this measure is concerned are currently classified as being subject to a duty of 6.5%. It is proposed that from 1 January 2007, the products will be classified under chapter 30 of the annexe to the regulation and consequently will be exempted from duty. The Department in its information note indicates that Irish-based medical device companies will benefit from this removal of duty. It is proposed that while this measure does not warrant further scrutiny, it should be forwarded for information to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.19, COM (2006) 702, is a follow-on from EWN 2042 of 2006 and is a proposal for a regulation concerning the exclusion of certain television equipment from the scope of anti-dumping measures. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.20, COM (2006) 738, is a follow-on from EWN C239/05 and is a proposal for a regulation concerning a definitive anti-dumping duty regarding television camera systems originating in Japan. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 5.21, COM (2006) 720, which follows on from early warning notice C233/07 of 2006, is a proposal for a regulation concerning a definitive anti-dumping duty relating to urea and ammonium nitrate originating in Algeria, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Nos. 5.22 and 5.23 were circulated as additional documents today. No. 5.22, COM (2006) 704, is a proposal for a decision relating to agreement with the Swiss Confederation concerning the free movement of persons, as drawn up in Maltese. No. 5.23, COM (2006) 717, is a proposal for a decision relating to agreement with the Swiss Confederation concerning the free movement of persons, as drawn up in the other additional languages of the 2004 accession states. It is proposed that the measures do not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Nos. 6.1 to 6.3 concern adopted measures. No. 6.1, COM (2006) 678, is a proposal establishing the position to be adopted by the Community regarding the extension of the Food Aid Convention 1999. The aim of the convention is to contribute to world food security and to improve the ability of the international community to respond to emergency food situations and other food needs of developing countries. The European Union is a member of the convention and officially commits 1.32 million tonnes of food, or the €130 million equivalent. This measure proposes to authorise the Commission to agree to extend the food aid convention up to June 2008, in order to take into account the outcome of the WTO negotiations when renegotiating the new food aid convention. The Department describes this measure as purely technical with no implications for Ireland as it simply extends for one year an existing agreement. The decision on this proposal was taken quickly in order that a Community position could be formally agreed prior to a meeting of the food aid committee on 5 December 2006. An extension for one year from June 2007 was agreed and will be reviewed at that time. It is proposed to note this adopted measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 6.2, COM (2006) 709, is a proposal concerning the EU position within the energy community on the adoption of procedures related to the budget of the community and to observers. This adopted measure sought to authorise the Commission, on behalf of the European Union, at the first meeting of the ministerial council of the energy community on 17 November 2006 to agree to the following: the formal adoption of procedures related to the budget; the formal acceptance of Romania and Bulgaria as participants in the community as a result of accession to the EU; the formal adoption of rules on acceptance of countries as observers and rights and obligations of observers; and the specific acceptance of Moldova, Ukraine, Norway and Turkey as observers to the energy community. This proposal was agreed by written procedure on 16 November 2006, only two days after its adoption by the Commission. It is proposed to note this adopted measure and to forward it, for information, to the Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 6.3 was circulated as an additional document today. It concerns COM (2006) 737, a proposal for an amending regulation on common rules on imports of textile products subsequent to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. It is proposed to note the measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.

There are three early warning notices before the sub-committee. No. 7.1, EWN C289/04 is a notification of the initiation of an anti-dumping proceeding concerning imports of bicycles originating in the People's Republic of China. Senator Dardis could have done with one today. It is proposed that the measure does not currently warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 7.2, EWN C117/03, is a notification of the initiation of an anti-dumping proceeding concerning imports of certain camera systems originating in Japan. It is proposed that the measure does not currently warrant further scrutiny. It is also proposed that the Department should keep the sub-committee informed of significant developments regarding the concerns expressed by an Irish importer. Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 7.3, early warning notice C291/07, is a notification of the initiation of a partial interim review of anti-dumping measures concerning imports of sheets of plywood originating in the People's Republic of China. It is proposed that the proposal does not currently warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The minutes of the meeting of 30 November 2006 have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed.

One item of correspondence has been received by the sub-committee, pertaining to additional information on COM (2006) 686, which was taken as No. 5.1 on today's agenda. It is proposed to note this information.

It is proposed to hold the next meeting of the sub-committee at 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 January 2007. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I wish members a happy Christmas and a good 2007. I again thank the staff for all the work they have done in the past 12 months.

We agreed to look sooner rather than later at the resources available to the sub-committee. I hope we will have all of the information gathered from other parliaments by the time the sub-committee next meets to allow us to deal with the issue of resources in private session.

I also thank the secretariat for its excellent work, which makes our job much easier. I hope its members will have a lovely Christmas.

The sub-committee adjourned at 10 a.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 25 January 2007.