The UK will hold the Presidency of the EU from July to December 2005. We will look to deliver progress across the EU agenda by running an effective, impartial and business-like Presidency. We are working closely with Luxembourg, as the current Presidency, and Austria, who take on the Presidency after the UK, to ensure continuity in addressing the key challenges that face Europe today. We are also working closely with the Commission, the European Parliament and the other Member States.
We will focus first and foremost on the EU agenda we inherit from the Luxembourg Presidency. We have played a key part in shaping this agenda and it is positive for the UK.
The EU is moving in the right direction, delivering on the issues that matter to people - jobs, security, promoting peace and prosperity globally, as well as at home.
In this context, the themes for the UK Presidency will be around security, stability and sustainable prosperity and opportunity. These themes apply to both the internal and external business which we, as Presidency, will take forward.
In addition, the Prime Minister is committed to using the opportunity offered by our twin Presidencies of the EU and the G8 to make real progress on climate change and Africa.
These are priorities for both our Presidencies and we will work with our G8 and EU partners to ensure complementary action wherever possible.
We have identified a number of likely main priority dossiers within this framework. However, the precise work programme -- which also contains a wide range of other business -- will continue to evolve, as it depends on the progress of business during the first half of the year.
Other issues, such as future financing, or the Working Time Directive, could slip into our Presidency.
Sustainable prosperity and opportunity in Europe-
Along with the countries whose turn it is to hold the Presidency before and after us (Ireland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland) and the Commission we have developed the six-Presidency Better Regulation initiative. It is already beginning to show results. But we will want to see action during our Presidency in 3 areas. First, improving the policy making process by better consultation and Impact Assessments (which should include testing the impact on the EU's international competitiveness). Second, reducing the volume and complexity of EU legislation. Third, reviewing the impact and outcomes of existing legislation.
The Services Directive
We will want to build upon the work done by the Dutch and Luxembourg Presidencies, as well as forthcoming Commission proposals on the Services Directive. The proposal aims to open up trade in services across the EU. As services account for over 70% of EU GDP, this measure has the potential to be one of the biggest improvements to the Single Market since its original creation. The UK has a strong service sector and would be well-placed to take advantage of increased business opportunities.
Financial Services Action Plan
We will want to ensure that the remaining dossiers in the Financial Services Action Plan are adopted efficiently and in a form that protects and promotes the UK and the EU's competitiveness in the financial services sector. We will take forward the debate on the post-FSAP agenda, which should deliver on the Commission's prioritisation of improving the implementation and effectiveness of existing legislation, in line with the views of major stakeholders. We will work with the Commission to ensure that any new legislative proposals are brought forward once they fully meet better regulation tests.
Environment and sustainable development
The EU needs growth which is both economically and environmentally sustainable. We expect real discussions on the review of the EU's sustainable development strategy to start under the UK Presidency. We particularly want to progress discussions on the Chemicals Regulation (REACH), ensuring that benefits to health and the environment are properly balanced with competitiveness considerations. Work on continuing improvement to the environment for all Europeans should include work on updating air quality standards; better air quality and reduced pollution will contribute to improving life expectancy.
The EU's sugar regime is the next element of the continuing process of radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is likely to fall to the UK Presidency to complete reform of the sugar regime. We will want to achieve a consensus amongst partners that sees a reduction in the price of sugar for EU consumers and manufacturers, and a consensus on a market-based, liberalising reform in line with changes already agreed for most other sectors and for freer world trade in sugar to the benefit of developing countries. This will put the EU in a better position to contribute to an ambitious outcome in the world trade talks.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that Africa will be a key priority for Britain's G8 Presidency (which runs throughout 2005). The Commission for Africa will report in March 2005. We will want to take forward its recommendations with our EU partners, especially on aid, trade and peacekeeping.
The Prime Minister will represent the EU at the UN Millennium Summit in September. The EU is the world's largest provider of development assistance. We will continue to work with our European partners to ensure that the EU provides the leadership and the quantity and quality of aid needed to tackle global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development goals.
The Prime Minister has said that he intends to make progress on Climate Change with the EU Presidency later this year as well as through the G8. We will work with EU partners to reinvigorate the international negotiations on climate change by exploring options for a post-2012 strategy and developing stronger co-operation and real dialogue with key international partners on ways of securing low-cost emissions reductions. There is also an opportunity to begin the work of extending the EU emissions trading scheme to cover aircraft emissions.
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