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EU: Slovene Presidency

Volume 698: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2008

My honourable friend the Minister of State 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, Prospects for the European Union in 2008. 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 at www.fco.gov.uk.

The last White Paper was published in July 2007. It focused primarily on the priorities of the Portuguese presidency. The White Paper that I am laying before the House today looks at the priorities of the Slovene presidency for the first half of 2008. The Slovene presidency will concentrate on the EU delivery agenda across a wide range of subjects, building on the positive successes of the Portuguese presidency, focusing on four key priorities.

The Slovene presidency is keen to oversee significant progress on the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon in the EU27 during its time in the chair. The UK agrees with the presidency that this treaty is key to the success of the EU, bringing an end to institutional reforms and a return to strong delivery both internally and with external partners. This change in focus will be essential to enable the EU to meet the varied challenges of globalisation.

On climate change and energy security, the presidency will take forward discussions of the climate and energy package to be published before spring Council, including a unilateral 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. 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 Slovene presidency will also aim to finalise the single market review and agree the energy and telecommunication liberalisation packages to create a more competitive network market and to ensure increased energy security. These are key issues for the UK Government, and we have been working hard with EU partners to reach agreement on them.

In addition, the presidency will focus on implementation of the Lisbon agenda, particularly at a national level, encouraging member states to carry out reforms already agreed. We will work closely with the presidency to assist it in taking this forward, rooted in a Global Europe approach. As part of this, the presidency is keen to increase innovation through a stronger focus on research and skills to prepare the EU for new global challenges, such as emerging markets and changing demographics.

The UK supports the presidency in its commitment to make real progress on Kosovo and the western Balkans over the next six months, for which it is ideally placed regionally, following on from the strong language we achieved at the December European Council 2007.

The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. The presidency has committed to summits with key partners, including Japan and Russia, and we will be working closely with Slovenia to carry forward agreed priorities with others, including China and Africa.