EAEA News 2005-01-03
Priorities of the Luxenbourg Presidency
Her Excellency Mrs Martine Schommer, the Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the European Union, addressed an EPC Breakfast Policy Briefing on "Priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency." The briefing was chaired by EPC Founding Chairman, Stanley Crossick. A question and answer session followed. This is not an official record of the proceedings and specific are not necessarily attributable.
Ambassador Schommer set out three main priorities to be tackled in the next six months, when her country holds the rotating EU Presidency for the eleventh time: completing the mid-term review of the Lisbon Agenda; revising the Stability and Growth Pact; and reaching a political agreement on the 2007-2013 financial package. The next stages of the EU´s ongoing enlargement, external relations and a wide range of EU policy areas from justice to defence would also pre-occupy the presidency, along with the efforts it would be making to ensure a smooth ratification of the European Constitution in all Member States. Luxembourg was also committed to promoting better regualation.
Economic affairs and the Lisbon Agenda
The mid-term review of the Lisbon Agenda would re-examine the lessons learned over the past five years and highlight the best means towards advancing the goal of creating the world´s most dynamic knowledge-based society by 2010. The Presidency was determined to put particular emphasis on the balance between the economic, social and environmental aims. A European Parliament report was due on 2 February , and the Presidency hoped to present conclusions to the Spring Summit of EU leaders in March. The aim was to relaunch the entire Lisbon strategy by striking the right balance between the competitiveness, social and environmental goals, while simplifying the "governance process" of Member States reporting the national implementation of legislation based on these goals, in the run-up to 2010.
With respect to the Stability and Growth Pact, the aim was to build on the work of the outgoing Dutch Presidency on reshaping the Pact, and Luxembourg was committed to bringing forward proposals on delivering better governance in the field of economic and monetary union by March.
On the financial framework for the Union, the Presidency had set itself a June deadline for achieving political agreement between the Member States on the final package, on which basis it should be adopted by the end of 2005, under the British EU Presidency. That would leave the whole of 2006 in which to prepare implementation programmes for the package.
More generally, the Luxembourg Presidency was waiting on the delivery of some missing "legal instruments" before taking action - for example in the field of Justice and Home Affairs and the Seventh Framework Programme. But by April, Ambassador Schommer expected that advances would have been made.
Enlargement and foreign policy
Turning to enlargement, she underlined that Luxembourg was inheriting the enlargement dossiers on Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia - the latter of which begins accession negotiations on 17 March . Ambassador Schommer made clear that Croatia´s candidacy remained closely linked to its continuing cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, and Luxembourg would be aiming to "fine-tune" the accession package to be presented to EU foreign ministers as the framework for negotiations.
Despite the number of priority areas highlighted, Ambassador Schommer said Luxembourg would also focus strongly on foreign relations and Europe´s Security Strategy (ESS).
The Presidency wanted, for instance, to improve the Union´s concept of "effective multilateralism," as well as ensuring that the EU has a coherent human rights policy, and increase the Union´s efforts toward achieving the UN Millennium Goals.
In addition to this focus on multilateral engagement, three bilateral summits were already on the Presidency´s agenda: EU-US, EU-Canada and EU-Russia. US President George W. Bush´s visit to Brussels in the first half of the year would be an "exceptional event," and an opportunity to review relations in the wake of the Iraq war, while looking ahead to joint ambitions for the Middle East peace process.
Other important areas of focus in external relations for the Luxembourg Presidency were the European Neighbourhood Policy, cooperation with the Gulf countries, deepening ties with Asian countries including the development of the EU´s strategic partnerships with India, Japan and China.
Then there was the new Constitution, with 2005 being a pivotal year. Two EU Member States - Lithuania and Hungary - had already ratified the Constitution, but the coming year would see a large number of other votes and referenda in Member States. The Luxembourg Presidency would be closely studying the prospects for positive decisions, leading up to its own national referendum on July 10. Summing up, she said that her country was planning "a full programme" for the next six months.
Answering questions, she was challenged to add many more issues to Luxembourg´s priority list, from working toward lifting the EU arms embargo against China to bringing peace to Sudan and the Ivory Coast. She pointed out that some issues - such as preparations for the EU-China talks in Beijing - were unlikely to coincide with the Luxembourg Presidency term. EU input on other issues, such as troubles in the African Union, were matters for all Member States to decide upon and the Presidency would "act in that direction" if it were deemed appropriate.
Many questions centred on the Lisbon Agenda, with Ambassador Schommer insisting that economic growth and competitiveness were not mutually exclusive. The question was whether the creation of the economic model for achieving the necessary improvements came before the social and environmental goals of Lisbon. It was, of course, not that simple, and the Luxembourg Presidency would be looking for "synergies." Social and environmental concerns could not have a lower status than the economic imperatives in the relaunch of the Lisbon Strategy.
On trade, the Permanent Representative said Luxembourg would play an active role in the latest phase of the Doha Round negotiations, although in the first three months of the year she expected a period of clam and no great activity on the WTO issues.
On Croatia, she admitted that the Presidency had inherited a dossier of "constructive ambiguity" from the Dutch EU Presidency, regarding Croatian cooperation in the hunt for war criminals. She insisted there was no suggestion of any "collective punishment" of the Croatian people in terms of the progress on enlargement talks, but all eyes were on the The Hague Tribunal process and the need for Croatia to cooperate fully.
One questioner wanted to know if an extra bilateral EU summit - with Ukraine - had been pencilled in by Luxembourg. Ambassador Schommer said that if she had a "secret diary" of possible Presidency-related events she was not revealing it - but in the case of the Ukraine the only thing to do was to wait for the result of the new Presidential elections in a fewdays time, before deciding how the EU could respond in the best interests of Kiev.
Reflecting finally on the changes to the role of the EU Presidency over the eleven times Luxembourg had served as president, she noted that Treaty changes and the EU´s enlargement had inevitably given the EU Presidency a "different shape." The main aim of her country as EU President was "to serve the EU and strengthen the Union´s integration process, in our common interest."
Stanley Crossick, in conclusion, expressed the desire that the "Lisbon" jargon be dropped and that EU citizens were made aware that the objective of the process was to promote prosperity in its broadest sense. He further hoped that, as the former Luxembourg Ambassador to China, Mrs Schommer would help the drive towards concluding, as soon as possible, a Strategic Partnership with China.
Source: European Policy Centre
Riikka Vihriälä feels at home in European environment