It could. Item No. 1.4, COM (2003) 714 is a proposed regulation laying down the weightings applicable to the remuneration of officials of the European Union in third countries. The Department has advised the secretariat that subsequent to its notification to the Oireachtas this proposal has been adopted, quite possibly at midnight when nobody was around, I suspect. It is proposed to note this measure. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.5, COM (2003) 721 is a proposed regulation amending the staff regulation of officials and the conditions of employment of other servants of the European Union. This proposal is the comprehensive amendment of the regulations we considered previously and was anticipated at the time the earlier measures were being considered. The Department's information note outlines that the proposal constitutes a significant revision of the regulations. The proposal also indicates that in the period 2003-06 the measures should result in a reduction in expenditure of €203 million in the EU budget. The proposal would result in the following changes, inter alia, in the existing regulations: the outlining of a comprehensive principle of non-discrimination; an increase in the number of grades but a reduction in the number of steps within grades; greater emphasis on the ability to work in a third language; the continuation for a further nine years of the so-called “method” whereby multi-annual adjustments are made to salaries to take account of purchasing power movements - the sub-committee recently considered a proposal on this method; the introduction of a special levy to reflect the costs of social policy such as improved working conditions. It is proposed to forward the proposal to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service for information and to the Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on the issue of language requirements, also for information. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.6, COM (2003) 731 is a proposed directive on waste. Both the Commission's explanatory memorandum to this proposal and the Department's information note outline that this proposal is a codification exercise that results in no changes of substance to the existing waste framework directive and its subsequent amendment. It is proposed therefore that it does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.7, COM (2003) 737 is a proposed regulation on measures to improve production and marketing of honey in codified version. It is proposed, as this is a codification measure, it does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.8, COM (2003) 757 is a proposed regulation terminating the partial interim review concerning the anti-dumping measures imposed on imports of cotton-type bed linen originating in India. In 1997 the Council through Regulation (EC) No. 239897 imposed definitive anti-dumping duties ranging from 2.6% to 24.7% on imports of cotton-type bed linen originating from, among other places, in India. These duty levels for India were reduced in 2001 to between 0% and 9.8%. This proposal seeks to terminate the expiry review of the measures in place and not to impose any additional duties as the Commission review found that there is little or no evidence of dumping of the product concerned from India. It is therefore proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.9, COM (2003) 772 is a proposed regulation terminating the partial interim review of the anti-dumping measures applicable to imports of urea originating in Russia. This proposal seeks to terminate a review of the anti-dumping measures in place on the imports of urea from Russia. The review has determined that the current system of a set minimum import price is operating as intended and there is no evidence of price manipulation between related companies. In the memorandum to the proposal the Commission indicates that it is open to review the situation again if evidence is provided that this situation has changed. It is proposed that the measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed. Now members know what urea is too for a table quiz.
Item No. 1.10, COM (2003) 825 is a proposed directive to extend the facility allowing member states to apply reduced rates of VAT to certain labour intensive services. This proposal seeks to extend a scheme for reduced rates of VAT in labour-intensive sectors for a further two years, from 2003 to 2005. Ireland does not participate in this experimental scheme as many of the services covered already benefited from zero or reduced rates of VAT. Only countries already participating may seek an extension to their participation. The services covered by the scheme include bicycle and shoe repairs. It is proposed that this does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Item No. 1.11, COM (2003) 761 is the proposed regulation concerning the compilation and transmission of data on the quarterly Government debt. This proposal seeks to have member states provide data on Government debt on a quarterly basis and this would be in line with other measures adopted on Government expenditure and revenue. It is proposed that the proposal does not warrant further scrutiny and that it be forwarded to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service for information. Is that agreed? Agreed.
COM (2003) 639 is proposed regulation on the implementation of development co-operation operations which contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The proposal incorporates various elements required by EU multi-annual programmes, for example, it contains a financial framework for its entire duration. There are also provisions made to increase the role of the human rights and the democracy committee in the programming phase on policy and strategy. It is proposed that this measure does not warrant further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
It is proposed that Items Nos. 1.1 to 1.3 and Nos. 1.5 to 1.12, inclusive, do not warrant further scrutiny and should be forwarded for information to sectoral committees as agreed. It was agreed to note that item No. 1.4 should be noted and has been adopted. Are those points agreed? Agreed.
The next set of proposals concerns the documents which it is proposed to refer to sectoral committees for further scrutiny, Items Nos. 2.1 to 2.7. Item No. 2. 1 is COM (2003) 674, a proposed directive on the safety of third country aircraft using Community airports. This proposal is an amended text of COM (2003) 664 that was scrutinised by the sub-committee in January 2003. The basis of the proposal is to put in place an obligation for the safety assessment of non-EU aircraft using airports within the EU. In January 2003, the sub-committee determined at that stage that the proposal did not warrant further scrutiny.
The current text incorporates a number of amendments tabled by the European Parliament and accepted by the Commission. The amendments, inter alia, introduce a two-year period for the transposition of the measure and allow for a four year timeframe for the Commission to report on the application of the directive.
The Department's note indicates that the directive "will have no major implication for air services to or from Ireland, or for Irish Airlines". However, following the recent tragic crash in Egypt, it would be timely to refer the amended proposal for additional scrutiny. I understand that if the Flash Airline jet which crashed in Egypt had the same track record in a EU member state as it had in Switzerland, under these new regulations the member state would be required to notify other member states and, therefore, the flight would have been grounded. It is timely that this is referred to the Joint Committee on Transport for further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
COM (2003) 688 is a proposed framework decision on the European evidence warrant for obtaining objects, documents and data for use in proceedings in criminal matters. The memorandum to this proposal sets out the international conventions that govern the existing mutual assistance regime in criminal matters for EU member states and suggests that the existing procedures can be slow and inefficient. This situation occurs, according to the memorandum, because of differences in national legislation and a number of exemptions to the mutual assistance rule, for example dual criminality, that is, an action that is a crime on both the state seeking and the state receiving the request for assistance.
This proposal would, inter alia, introduce recognition of a request by judicial decision from another member state, without the need for its transformation into a national decision. Requests will be standardised by the use of a single form - a proposed form is attached at the back of the proposal. Deadlines will be laid down for the execution of requests and minimum safeguards would be introduced both for the issuing of a request and for its execution. The safeguards include the requirement that the objects, documents or data requested are likely to be admissible in the proceedings for which they are sought.
The Commission, in the memorandum, also envisages the subsequent introduction of a proposal for a consolidated instrument for mutual recognition of orders for the obtaining of evidence. This would include evidence that does not already exist, for example the taking of DNA samples. The current proposal relates to objects, documents etc. that already exist in retrievable form. The Department has indicated that it is awaiting the advice of the Attorney General's office on this proposal. It is proposed that the proposal be forwarded to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for further scrutiny. Is that agreed? Agreed.
COM (2003) 703 is a proposal on a directive on cross-border mergers of companies with share capital. This proposal is seen as part of the Commission's framework proposals to remove obstacles to cross-border mergers within the EU. This proposal did not advance during the Italian term of the EU Presidency and it is anticipated that it will be discussed at a working group on 22 January 2004. It is, therefore, only after this that a picture of the likely future evolution of the proposal will become clearer. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has indicated that it is consulting on the proposal and that feedback is currently ongoing.
The proposal seeks to simply and to clarify the legal framework for cross-border mergers of enterprises by outlining the common features that should apply in the member states. It also outlines that if agreement cannot be found between interested parties, the employee participation system that best protects the acquired rights of workers which already exists in one of the merging companies is extended to the merged company. It is suggested that this means that cross-border mergers would not be used to reduce employees' rights.
It is proposed to forward the proposal for further scrutiny to the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business and to the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service for information. Is that agreed? Agreed.
COM (2003) 723 is a proposal which would, inter alia, prohibit the disposal of industrial and automotive batteries and accumulators in landfills and by incineration and provides for a free take-back scheme for portable batteries and accumulators. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not anticipate the proposal being concluded during the Irish Presidency. The Department has indicated that it supports the aims of the proposal but that consultation with industry and interested parties is ongoing and that experience with similar initiatives has shown that such initiatives are not always practically feasible. It is proposed to forward the proposal for further scrutiny to the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government for further scrutiny? Is that agreed? Agreed.
COM (2003) 796 is a proposal for a decision on a single framework for the transparency of qualifications and competencies, called Europass. It bothers me to see a proposal such as this, but it is a matter for another committee. This proposal seeks to advance, in the context of bringing the EU closer to the peoples of Europe, the establishment of a single framework for a portfolio of documentation outlining qualifications and skills held by those searching for employment or further education within the EU. The promotion and operation of the portfolio would be carried out on a national level, but there is a small EU budget available for its development at €2 million per annum.
The portfolio would include a standard curriculum vitae format and documentation outlining the courses completed by an applicant for further education or employment. I understand that many of the documents contained in the portfolio have been available for some time, but their use across the EU has been uneven.
It is proposed to forward the proposal for further scrutiny to the Joint Committee on Education and Science for further scrutiny and the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business for information. I do not understand why we need a standardised curriculum vitae across the EU.