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Heads of State or Government (Lahti)

Volume 450: debated on Monday 23 October 2006

The informal meeting of EU Heads of State or Government on 20 October followed up the 2005 Hampton Court summit in addressing a range of issues that are central to the question of how Europe responds to the challenge of globalisation.

We had a constructive discussion of the EU’s external energy relations, in particular our relationship with Russia. There was unity on the need to build a close and legally binding partnership based on mutual, long-term benefits based on the principles defined in the Energy Charter Treaty and the declaration agreed at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July this year. These principles include market based rules, market opening, and transparency and reliability across the whole of the energy relationship. The EU will shortly start negotiations with Russia on a new comprehensive agreement to replace the 10-year-old partnership and co-operation agreement. We agreed that these principles should form the core of any new agreement.

We shall also continue to develop our relations with other producer and transit countries around the EU, and we agreed on the need to extend the internal energy market principles of open, transparent markets to our neighbourhood.

We also agreed that the EU must show strong leadership in combating climate change. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands and I wrote to our colleagues about this ahead of the meeting. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House. We stressed the need to act now to avoid catastrophic consequences in the future. President Barroso, both in the discussion and with the media after the meeting, emphasised the Commission’s intention to act on the climate change agenda, and highlighted the Commission’s energy efficiency proposals as the first stage in this.

We also discussed migration. Illegal immigration is an issue that concerns the whole of the EU. We agreed on the importance of well-functioning border controls and gave our full support to the European Border Management Agency. We also stressed that cooperation with Africa and other countries of origin and transit is essential.

I raised the desperate situation in Sudan. The conflict has led to 2 million displaced persons. I emphasised, to general agreement, the need to keep up the pressure from the EU on the Sudanese Government to cease military action, allow UN peacekeepers into the country, and reopen talks with non-signatories to the Darfur peace agreement.

Finally, we discussed how best to develop innovation policy as a source of European growth. We welcomed the Commission’s intention to prepare a comprehensive strategy on intellectual property rights in 2007. Enhancing the co-operation between the private and public sectors is also essential. European Technology Platforms and Joint Technology Initiatives were cited as excellent examples of public-private partnerships. We also discussed a proposal to create a European Institute of Technology, and looked forward to further consideration in the Council.

The presidency invited President Putin to join the EU Heads of State or Government for dinner. Energy was one of the main topics. The presidency reiterated the conclusions that we had reached earlier. For his part, President Putin stated his conviction that energy cooperation should be based on principles of predictability of the energy markets and the mutual dependence of suppliers and consumers.

The EU and President Putin agreed to enhance our co-operation on international matters such as Iran, North Korea and the Middle East peace process.

The EU also emphasised the need for a full investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

The EU expressed its concerns at the increased tension between Georgia and the Russian Federation.