|UK's presidency of the EU|
|Monday, 27 June 2005 14:13|
Next week, the UK takes over the presidency of
the European Union. I thought you'd be interested to hear about our priorities
for the next six months.
The EU is at a key moment in its history. The recent referendum results in France and the Netherlands have raised profound questions about its future direction. We could retreat from the debate. That is what the Tories would do. Or we could use this difficult time as an opportunity to set out our vision of a Europe facing up to the challenges of globalisation while providing jobs, security and prosperity from within a strong and caring social framework.
This vision was set out by the Prime Minister in his speech to the European Parliament on June 23 and by the Chancellor in his Mansion House speech on June 22. In his speech, the Prime Minister said: "Political Europe and economic Europe do not live in separate rooms."
He is absolutely right. It means working for an EU budget which recognises the demands of a changing world - a disciplined, efficient approach with more focus on investment in knowledge, skills and innovation. And all within the framework of a modern social policy founded on the principles of social justice and equality.
This debate is important, but so are issues beyond the EU's borders. During the Labour presidency of the EU we will also be supporting countries like Turkey who wish to join the Union. We'll also continue to work hard on issues like the EU's support for Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process and EU action on terrorism and international crime.
The government's commitment to fighting global poverty and addressing climate change, which are at the heart of our G8 presidency, will resonate strongly amid our EU work. We will lead EU delegations in key talks on efforts to halve global poverty, to improve access to world markets for developing countries and to make progress on tackling climate change.
These are big issues and there will be tough, complex negotiations ahead. I am very proud that it is a Labour government taking on these challenges. And as we do so, what we won't forget is that what lies at their heart is the chance of a better life for millions of people for generations to come.
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