My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint) 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 2009. 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.
This Command Paper provides an overview of the priorities of the Czech presidency for the first half of 2009, as set out in their work programme, which is available at www.eu2009.cz. Under the overarching theme of Europe without barriers, the Czech presidency will focus on three key priorities: the economy, energy policy and Europe in the world.
The top priority for the Czech presidency is the EU’s response to the financial crisis. The presidency will promote market liberalisation as a fundamental means of boosting growth and competitiveness and thereby meeting the challenges of the economic downturn. The UK will work closely with the presidency to drive forward timely and targeted measures to lessen the impact of the downturn on families and businesses across Europe. A concerted and co-ordinated European approach will deliver a far greater impact on jobs and growth in each country than that which any country could achieve by acting alone.
In order to develop the foundations for the EU’s long-term energy security, the UK will work with the Czech presidency to hasten progress towards a well functioning internal market, the diversification of supply and the promotion of energy efficiency. Following the historic agreement on the 2020 climate package at the December European Council 2008, the presidency will also maintain the momentum on international negotiations in the run-up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Czech presidency has a varied external agenda, including a strong focus on the eastern partnership and the western Balkans. The UK fully supports the presidency in its commitment to strengthen co-operation between the EU and eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The presidency has also committed to holding summits with key partners, including the US and Pakistan. The UK will be working closely with the Czech Republic to carry forward agreed priorities with these and other key international partners.