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EU: Portuguese Presidency

Volume 694: debated on Tuesday 24 July 2007

My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper on prospects for the European Union in 2007. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk.

The last White Paper was published in January 2007. It focused primarily on the priorities of the German presidency. The White Paper I am laying before the House today looks at the priorities of the Portuguese presidency for the remainder of 2007.

The Portuguese presidency will concentrate on the EU delivery agenda across a wide range of subjects, building on the positive successes of the German presidency. It will take forward implementation of the climate and energy package agreed at the spring European Council in March, including a unilateral 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The presidency will also lead preparations for the December conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali. We will work with our partners to ensure that the EU helps secure agreement on a comprehensive framework to tackle climate change once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Portuguese presidency will also begin discussions on the Commission's proposals for an open, competitive market in gas and electricity.

The Portuguese presidency will lead Council discussion on the Commission's review of the single market, as well as taking forward work on the further liberalisation of postal services, telecommunications and financial services. In addition, the presidency will present a report on the first 10 years of the European employment strategy and prepare a review of the Lisbon agenda.

The Portuguese presidency will take forward the implementation of the global approach to migration, which will intensify partnerships between the EU and third countries of source and transit migration. The Portuguese presidency will also host an EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in December. The Government hope that a new Joint EU-Africa strategy will be agreed with African Union partners, covering co-operation on peace and security, governance and human rights, trade and regional integration, and development issues. The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process.

In addition, the Portuguese presidency will chair an intergovernmental conference (IGC) to consider the reform treaty for the EU. The Government believe that the IGC mandate secured at the June European Council will make the EU more effective and efficient. This is in the UK's interests. The Government's approach to the IGC is set out in a separate Command Paper, on which I made a Statement in the House yesterday.

Action on climate and energy security, reform of the single market, tackling migration and strengthening support for development, particularly in Africa, are important UK priorities where EU action adds real value. We look forward to working with the Portuguese presidency over an important six months.