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EU: Finnish Presidency

Volume 684: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Mr Geoff Hoon) will today lay before the House Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper 6896 on prospects for the European Union 2006. 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 of the House. 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 January at the conclusion of the UK presidency of the EU. This was a retrospective of our presidency as well as a forward look to the year ahead. The White Paper that I am laying before the House today is an update to the spring paper and sets out in more detail the priorities of the Finnish presidency over the next six months.

The Finnish presidency began on 1 July. The Finns have presented an ambitious programme for the next six months, which builds on the work of previous presidencies and addresses many important challenges for the European Union. We agree with the challenges identified by the Finns and welcome their proposed priority actions. In particular, we welcome the focus on follow-up to the Hampton Court agenda initiated under the UK presidency in October 2005. The informal meeting of the European Council in Lahti on 20 October will focus on innovation and energy and will be an opportunity to look at the next steps that we collectively need to take to meet Europe's needs in the 21st century.

The Finnish presidency also plans to take forward work in key areas such as tackling climate change, enlargement, competitiveness, security and migration. For example, we will see an open dialogue on the best way to drive international action on tackling climate change. This presidency will host a discussion on the Commission report on enlargement progress in the autumn. It will also oversee the mid-term review of the 2004 Hague programme, which will, among other issues, look at stronger EU co-operation to tackle illegal migration. The Finns hope to reach agreement on a number of important measures to boost European competitiveness, including final adoption of the services directive and increased investment in research and development.

This agenda demonstrates the EU's commitment to delivering on issues of concern to our citizens. We welcome these priorities and look forward to working with the Finnish presidency over an important six months.