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The autumn Presidency lunch - Friday 23 November 2007
at The Dining Room, Purchases, Chichester


Israel Saraiva
of the Portuguese Embassy in London
on the Presidency of the EU held by Portugal

Israel Saraiva joined Portugal's Foreign Service in 1997 and spent his first few years working in Lisbon specialising in the Middle East Peace Process and on Portugal's relations with the Maghreb region. This involved in particular its summits with Morocco, then later on Iran and Iraq.  In London now for four years, he had been closely involved in the work of the EU Presidency. Israel Saraiva


At a sociable lunch held in The Dining Room of Purchases in Chichester, Israel Saraiva, First Secretary of the Portuguese Embassy in London, described some of the key issues during the six month period of the Portuguese Presidency of the European Council, which was to finish at the end of 2007.


The challenges are not the same today as they were after the Second World War when the European Movement was founded. But the willingness and full co-operation of all member states are still required to face the challenges of the 21st century: globalisation, climate change, energy security, economic prosperity and stability in Europe.

After the recent wave of accessions from the East, Portugal continues to believe that eastward enlargement is a strategic as well as a moral duty. The EU has already initiated serious negotiations with other countries. In the case of Turkey, the Portuguese Presidency understands that Turkey’s accession to the EU should occur as soon as the stated criteria have been met in full. We are not there yet, but we have to keep the pace.

The credibility of EU as well as the stability in its neighbourhood depends also on its capacity to continuing acting as a role model. The reference to “role model” for Europe is not mine. It was mentioned by UK Secretary of State David Miliband in his recent speech in Bruges, at the College of Europe.

The view that Europe should continue to play a vital role in the world is widely shared and has been the cornerstone of the third Portuguese Presidency, now in its final phase. It has been part of an 18-month co-operative plan which started in January this year with the preceding German Presidency and will end on 30 June 2008 with the Slovenian Presidency.

There has been a long list of achievements, and three main areas can be the focus:
  • the Treaty of Lisbon
  • the Lisbon Strategy
  • External relations, in particular the EU-Africa Summit

Future of the Union

The top priority of the Portuguese Presidency was to reach an agreement on the future institutional framework for the Union. The task handed over on 1 July was to transform a clear and complete mandate into a Treaty aimed at reforming and amending previous Treaties. It began quickly with the Inter-Governmental Conference and continued with steady work on the text.

It was actually in the early hours of the 19th October that the Heads of State and Government reached a political agreement on the text, bringing to an end 6 years of deadlock in the European Union’s institutional debate. The next step is the signing of the Treaty, in Lisbon on 13 December. This must then be followed by a ratification process in all 27 countries. It is expected that the new Treaty should come into force before the next European Parliament elections, scheduled for June 2009.


Some areas to highlight are:

It creates a full-time President of the European Council for a term of 2½ years, renewable once, replacing the current 6 month rotating Presidency.
It creates a High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy merging two current roles, to preside over an “external action service”.
It reduces the size of the European Commission. From 2014, the number of Commissioners will be reduced, capped at two-thirds of Member States. A principle of rotation between Members States will apply.
It extends qualified majority voting to new policy areas. From 2009 Justice and Home Affairs matters will be dealt with like normal EU business, thus streamlining and speeding up decision-making. The UK has negotiated an opt-out from all JHA policies (immigration and borders, extended as from 2009 to policing and criminal justice co-operation). The Reform Treaty clearly safeguards the UK position.
It introduces a new system of majority voting. Under the new ‘double majority’ voting system, (i) a minimum of 55% of the member states, (ii) representing a minimum of 65% of the EU’s population, must vote in favour for European legislation to be passed.
It incorporates the Charter of Fundamental Rights into EU law and makes it legally binding on European legislation. For the UK, a special arrangement was put in place: a protocol equally legally binding underlines that the charter does not create new social or labour rights and cannot be used to strike down British laws.
It gives national parliaments a greater voice in contributing to European laws and, for the first time, the right to challenge a piece of EU legislation that they consider unnecessary.


continued in right-hand column

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Lisbon Strategy and the challenge of globalisation

Europe must lead and shape globalisation in accordance with its principle and values. In this context the EU has been renewing and updating its internal policies to ensure that Europe can respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Competitiveness, sustainable development, energy security, and respect for the environment should guide economic reforms as well as social cohesion.

Shortly before the Informal European Council in October the Commission issued a communication called The European interest: succeeding in the age of globalisation, indicating where Europe was intending to move in the international scene. In its final part, this stated that “The EU must be in a position to present to its citizens a compelling vision of how a global Europe is adapting to new needs while protecting their interests, reforming its economic and social governance to ensuring prosperity, solidarity and security for the next generation as well as today’s citizens”.

Acceleration of reforms must be a priority. The EU has global responsibilities and therefore needs to reinforce from within to face globalisation. Measures are needed to deal with changes in demographics, public finances and their sustainability in the longer term, the labour market, employment, social cohesion, competitiveness, research and innovation, energy and climate change, as well as education and training.

The Treaty of Lisbon should be signed on 13 December, and just one day later, at the European Council meeting in Brussels, an EU declaration on globalisation should also be signed  - a proposal presented in October by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


Europe and the World

BRIC

It is argued that the economies of the BRICs are rapidly developing and by the year 2050 will eclipse most of the current richest countries of the world.
Brazil, Russia, India and China

Relations between the EU and other strategic partners have been high on the agenda of the Portuguese Presidency. In July came the first EU-Brazil Summit in Lisbon. Brazil is a crucial strategic partner for the EU on key areas like trade, energy and climate change. There was also a summit with Russia in October, and at the end of November summits with China and India. This has been the first time the EU has had a complete series of summits with the BRIC countries.

Africa

Similarly an EU and Africa Summit has been planned to take place in December. The project has focused on moving from development aid to a new level. An EU Strategy for Africa was approved in December 2005 during the British Presidency and the Lisbon Summit endorsed three projects: the EU-Africa Joint Strategy, the Action Plan and the Lisbon Declaration.

The Joint Strategy identifies four medium-term interlinked common interests: (i) peace and security; (ii) governance and human rights; (iii) trade and regional integration; and (iv) development.

The Action Plan sets out the partnership arrangements within the next 2-3 years - covering energy, climate change, migration, and information, science and technology.

The Lisbon Declaration will be a short document mainly aimed to public opinion. It will stress the strategic change in the EU-Africa relationship and illustrate some measures to which both sides are committed.

The aim for both sides is that the Lisbon Summit should mark the beginning of a new EU-Africa relationship based on strategic dialogue.
Mediterranean

The Mediterranean has always been a top priority of the EU as well as for Portugal and has remained so during our Presidency. Portugal has always been in favour of any initiative or proposal that could strength and deepen the bonds between the two shores of the Mediterranean. A policy debate has been re-launched, particularly on the issues of development and migration.


Israel Saraiva concluded by emphasising that for Portugal the European project over the past 50 years remained a success story.

A new sense of urgency has been calling for a stronger EU to match with the challenges of our times, better equipped in terms of rules, policies, instruments and own resources. Europe must build a political model which reconciles freedom, economic growth, social justice and preservation of the environment in a spirit of partnership, co-operation and shared responsibility.

Portugal had been holding the Presidency at a complex moment, and knew that Presidencies do not resolve all the issues. A stronger Union for a better world has been the motto of the Presidency, encouraging a sense of shared responsibility to tackle common challenges.




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