Starting from July 1, the United Kingdom held the EU Presidency and targeted on two main agendas which British Prime Minister Tony Blair had addressed: the future directions of the European Union and the financial budget that is the basis of EU, said an official representative at the British Trade & Culture Office.
"It is a great privilege to be president of the European Union and a great opportunity to take forward various items of the agenda; it is also a challenging time to be the presidency of the Union as there are a few big issues on the table," said Derek Marsh, CVO, Director General of the British Trade and Cultural Office in Taiwan.
"One is the direction that the Union is going and the other is the budget. It will be up to us to take the debates [the issues] forwards the best we can," Marsh said.
"One of the things that the presidency has to do, the presidency has to achieve compromise between the twenty-five member states," he added.
The themes for the UK presidency will be around security, stability and sustainable prosperity and opportunity, which include issues such as regulatory reform, service directive, CAP reform, Africa, climate change, JHA (including Counter Terrorism), and EU membership for Turkey.
"For us, we are in the slightly unusual position because at the same time of having a presidency at the European Union, we also have a presidency in Group 8 countries," said Marsh. The 2005 G8 Summit took place at place at Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland from July 6-8.
Among those issues is the EU constitution, which at the referendum, the people in France and in Holland had said for "NO" at the electoral.
Marsh suggested the message from the NO vote of European is a wake up call to the leadership to recognize that there are concerns, in particular the EU constitution, within the European Union which has to be addressed by the leadership. He quoted Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech at the parliament on June 23, "There are two possible explanations. One is that people studied the Constitution and disagreed with its precise articles; the other explanation is that the Constitution became merely the vehicle for the people to register a wider and deeper discontent with the state of affairs in Europe. I believe this is the right correct analysis."
Marsh, last served as the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy at Seoul, became Director General at BTCO in Taiwan at 2001. In the last six months of the three-year term, he talks about the past in terms on education, investment and trade.
In terms of education and student exchange, Marsh said, "Britain is now the second most popular destination for Taiwanese students. We are very successful at selling Britain to Taiwan. We reckon maybe 13,000 Taiwanese students at any one time, compare to 50 about fifteen years ago."
In 2004, the bilateral trade volume was as high as 3.3 billion pounds. UK exports to Taiwan were 950 million pounds, arise 5.4% over 2003; Taiwan exports to UK were about 2.4 billion pounds. The major exports from Britain were semiconductor electronic components, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, vaccines, beverages (mainly Whisky and Scotch). Britain imports were machine components, computer peripherals, and video conference phones, sourced from the UK Trade and Investment.
The science and innovation team in BTCO, created four years ago, was to let British companies and scientists understand what Taiwanese scientists and companies are doing and vice versa. "The main purpose of this team is not just sharing of academic ideas, but commercial values. I want to see British and Taiwanese company benefit commercially from working together."
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