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Prospects for the European Union in 2007 (Command Paper 7024)

Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper on “Prospects for the European Union in 2007”. This is the latest in a series of forward looks to the work programmes of the respective European Union Presidencies.

Copies will be placed in the Library. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website

The last White Paper was published in July 2006. This was a look forward to the programme of the Finnish Presidency. The White Paper I am laying before the House today looks ahead to 2007, focusing primarily on the priorities of the German Presidency over the next six months.

The German Presidency will concentrate on a delivery agenda across a wide range of subjects. We welcome in particular the Presidency's focus on climate and energy security, which will form the basis of an Energy Action Plan to be discussed at the Spring European Council on 8 and 9 March. This will be an opportunity for EU leaders to agree practical and ambitious action to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency and liberalise the EU's energy markets. We can also expect discussion regarding the next stage in the EU Better Regulation agenda, where EU leaders will consider targets for reducing administrative burdens on business, as well as new priorities to help realise the full potential of the single market. These are essential elements in delivering the EU's growth and jobs strategy and a more competitive, outward-facing Europe.

The German Presidency also plans to take forward work in key areas such as competitiveness, the European Neighbourhood Policy and the future of Europe. We look forward to progress towards the further liberalisation of postal services and the reduction of mobile roaming costs. Under the German Presidency we will also see significantly increased funding for research and a new, independent European Research Council to channel these funds better—an important part of the innovation agenda, which EU leaders prioritised following the informal October 2006 summit in Lahti. The Presidency will take forward work to strengthen and reform the EU's relations with neighbouring countries to the east and south, as well as areas of strategic interest such as Central Asia. The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Iraq, Iran and the Middle East Peace Process.

The German Presidency will hold an Informal Meeting of Heads of State and Government on 25 March in Berlin to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. A declaration will also be issued to celebrate this important event. In line with the conclusions of the June 2006 European Council, and following consultation with member states, the Presidency will present a report on the future of Europe at the June 2007 European Council. The Government's approach to these consultations was set out in the written ministerial statement of 5 December 2006, Official Report, column 10WS, by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe.

Prioritising climate and energy security, economic reform, better regulation and external relations demonstrates that the EU remains an important mechanism for delivering on issues of concern to our citizens and where international action is vital. We welcome these priorities and look forward to working with the German Presidency over an important six months.