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Statement by State Secretary for European Affairs Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council: Preparation of the June European Council

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Dear President,

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

The second meeting of the European Council under the Slovenian Presidency will begin tomorrow. Allow me to set out the main subjects of discussion to be addressed by Heads of State and Government.

The first debate will most certainly be devoted to examining the situation following the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty held last Thursday in Ireland.From the onset I would like to reiterate the words of President of the European Council Janez Janša:The Presidency regrets the decision taken by Irish voters and is accordingly disappointed.It goes without saying that we will respect the will expressed by the Irish people.After the official outcome of the referendum had been made public, the President of the European Council spoke with a number of leaders of those Member States that have not yet completed the ratification procedure.It is encouraging to know that these Member States are determined to proceed with ratification.As underlined by the President of the European Council, the Lisbon Treaty is vital for the European Union and its citizens, as it brings more efficiency, democracy and transparency.It is a fact that the problems and challenges confronting the Union today remain.Another fact is that the negative outcome of the Irish referendum will not help to solve these problems.

At tomorrow's meeting of the European Council, Heads of State and Government will deliberate how the situation could best be remedied.They will endeavour to set a timetable for further work.The Presidency is convinced that a solution could be found in cooperation with Ireland, and that the Union will not face the recurrence of the situation from 2005. The President of the European Council, Mr Janša, also announced that he would call upon the Taoiseach, Mr Brian Cowen, to explain the circumstances surrounding the referendum result, and the reasons for such an outcome.

Of course, the European Council will not disregard the other important challenges that lie ahead of us. The EU continues to function. Thus, the second major debate by Heads of State and Government will focus on the question of rising food and oil prices. It is a fact that rising commodity prices contributed to the escalation of inflation of food prices, and to the overall inflation within the EU. In particular, families with low incomes were most directly hit by these high prices. Globally, the most affected are developing countries as net food importers. It is vital for the European Union to play its part in devising appropriate responses and to demonstrate unity in its measures for dealing with the consequences, not only with a focus on the poorest sectors of the EU population, but also in developing countries. Therefore, it is expected that the European Council will endorse the necessary steps within the EU and at the international level. Allow me to present them briefly.

The European Union has already taken measures to alleviate the pressure on food prices through the sale of intervention stocks, the reduction in export refunds, the removal of the set-aside requirement for 2008, the increase of milk quotas, and the suspension of import duties for cereals, thus improving supply and helping to stabilise agricultural markets. Given that low income families are the hardest hit, it is quite natural for Member States to envisage short-term measures to alleviate the pressure of high prices on them particularly.

However, the European Council must look to the longer term. Nobody really expects food or oil prices to return to the previous levels anytime soon. I am convinced that the next Presidency will achieve, in close cooperation with the European Parliament, a timely agreement on the CAP health check which will comprise measures for enhancing agricultural production and ensuring the security of food supply. We also need to pay attention to bio-fuel policies and find a way of ensuring their sustainability, both within the EU and also in other countries. It will be important to encourage the development of second generation bio-fuels. More generally, we need to pursue work on innovation and research and development in the agricultural sector to enhance its efficiency and productivity.

Among the initiatives to be pursued at the international level, the European Council intends to point out the Union's contribution to global endeavours for mitigating the effects of rising prices on those living in poverty. This will include an appeal for a better coordinated international response to the crisis caused by rising food prices, particularly in the framework of the United Nations and the G8 group; support for open trade policies; rapid reactions to immediate short-term humanitarian needs; and encouraging targeted assistance to boost agriculture in developing countries.

In addition to high food prices, the EU faces rising oil prices. This calls for an adjustment of the European economy, and a special debate to address this issue is planned for today. 

A further priority of the Presidency is that the European Council should stress those measures taken to enhance the European perspective of the Western Balkans. In particular, I would like to underline the completion of a series of Stabilisation and Association Agreements, and the launch of dialogue on visa liberalisation with all countries of the region, as well as the submission of roadmaps. Furthermore, Heads of State and Government will emphasize the importance of involving all Western Balkans countries in regional cooperation, and welcome a series of sectoral initiatives.The Western Balkans is a region surrounded by EU Member States, and therefore urgently needs confirmation of its European perspective and assistance in implementing reforms. The Presidency highly values the support of the European Parliament in this respect.

Another major item on the agenda will be progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 2008 is the halfway point in the timeline for achieving these goals. As the largest donor of development aid, the European Union is aware of its responsibility and is willing to play an active role in encouraging the international community to strive for achievement of the MDGs. The European Council will therefore stress the key role of the EU at international conferences and its commitments.

The third set of issues to be discussed by the European Council will be about economic, social and environmental matters.First of all, I would like to touch on the review of work accomplished regarding the climate-energy package. The Slovenian Presidency has achieved all the set objectives relating to the package in question. Of crucial importance were the political decisions adopted at the March meeting of the European Council. In the course of extensive and thorough discussions and in meetings with the European Parliament, significant progress was made in understanding the proposed solutions.Simultaneously, proposals for additional improvements have also been drafted. The Presidency wishes to maintain the political momentum at the coming European Council with a view to achieving the goal of adopting the package before the end of 2008. I would like to reiterate that it is only through timely adoption of this legislative package that the EU can play a leading role and participate as a credible partner in the international negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The European Council will also take note of the agreement reached in the field of energy market liberalisation. The broad consensus on key elements of the legislative package for electricity and gas markets, achieved at the last meeting of the Energy Council, brought the positions of Member States closer. The Presidency believes that such an agreement represents a solid legacy for finalisation of all five acts proposed by the third legislative package for an internal energy market.

On the basis of conclusions from December 2007, the European Council will also review progress made in key dossiers pertaining to the area of migration, justice and terrorism.

Finally, Heads of State and Government will address issues relating to European Neighbourhood Policy. Building on and reinforcing previous successes, the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" will bring further momentum to the Union's relations with the Mediterranean countries. It will complement ongoing bilateral relations, which will continue within existing policy frameworks. The European Council is expected to welcome the recent proposals for developing an eastern partnership within European Neighbourhood Policy.

In the margins of the meeting, Heads of State and Government will discuss the Commission's proposal for the accession of the Slovak Republic as the sixteenth Member State to the Economic and Monetary Union on 1 January 2009. I would therefore like to extend my special congratulations to the Slovak Republic.


Dear Mr President, Honourable Members of the Parliament,

I am looking forward to hearing your discussion. I am convinced that it will represent a relevant contribution to the coming debate by Heads of State and Government. Thank you.

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Date: 18.06.2008