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Renewal and Reform under the Danish Presidency

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 10:09

Anne McIntosh MPBy Anne McIntosh MP, Chair, British-Danish All-Party Parliamentary Group

The British-Danish All Party Parliamentary Group, which I chair, focuses on the relations between the British and Danish Parliaments. We work closely with the Danish Ambassador to Britain as well as visiting Danes. It meets under the auspices of the IPU which aims to foster contacts, co-ordination, and the exchange of experience among parliaments and parliamentarians of all countries.

The All Party Parliamentary Group is made up of enthusiastic members of both Houses, the Lords and the Commons, who tend to have a passionate interest in Denmark and seek an opportunity to promote relations between the two Parliaments. I am very proud of my Danish ancestry with my mother being born in Copenhagen, living there until the end of the German occupation of Denmark during the Second World War. At this time, she travelled to Hamburg working for the British Army with her knowledge of Danish, English and German languages. It was there she met my father, a Captain in the British Army Medical Corps who was posted to Hamburg at the same time.

In the present Parliament, I am delighted to say that four of us share the fact that we have one Danish parent. That gives each of us a natural affinity with Denmark.

We recently welcomed a group of Folketing Members from their Economic Affairs Committee and we had a useful meeting to discuss matters of mutual interest such as banking and the euro zone crisis.

More recently, we welcomed a high level group of officials preparing for Danish Presidency of European Union. I believe the most significant aspect of their Presidency agenda will be the reform of Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.

Wearing a different hat, I chair the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee and we are charged with scrutiny of reforms of Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. We shall be taking evidence on these subjects and considering our response to the Government position.

Of course, we have been following recent developments in the recent Danish Parliamentary elections closely, with the election of the first ever lady Prime Minister in the form of Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She also happens to be the daughter in law of Neil Kinnock and she leads the Social Democracy Party.

In spite of the change of Government, it is not expected that there will be a major change in their position from proposals for the reform of the CAP and CFP.

Obviously, Denmark will work closely with the Polish Presidency who currently hold the Chair and the Cypriot Presidency who take over on 1st July. The so-called trio presidency, with three presidencies working together aims to ensure a higher degree of coordination and consistency and does not replace the national programmes.

Each Presidency still sets its own priorities for the six months it holds the presidency and the ‘trio’ scheme should rather be seen as an overarching framework for work of the three Presidencies.

The Lisbon Treaty has come into effect since Denmark last held the Presidency, changing the institutional landscape in the EU. The treaty has given the European Parliament greater influence as a co legislator on the majority of new legislation, meaning cooperation with Parliament and other institutions becomes even more important during the Danish Presidency.

So this will also be the first occasion since then that the European Parliament has co- decision powers on CAP reform.

The Lisbon Treaty created a permanent President of the European Council (Herman Van Rompuy, Belgium) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton, UK). While these positions lead the work in the European Council and EU foreign policy in the Foreign Affairs Council respectively, Denmark will take the lead on all other policy areas, working closely with Van Rompuy and Ashton.

Although there are differences in the way each nation approaches the issue in European countries, generally European Union countries are committed to liberalising and diversifying their energy markets as a way of increasing interdependence and ensuring security of supply.

Energy security is very important and I believe that Denmark could act as a broker between Russia and the EU and try and address this issue, of particular benefit to neighbouring countries in the Baltic like Lithuania.

The priorities for the Danish Presidency will be determined by the Danish Government, but we have some idea of the priorities as the legislation that will be negotiated during their Presidency is either being prepared by the Commission or already under negotiation with the European Parliament.

The overall theme would seem to be renewal. Renewal of economic growth, renewed focus on the people of the European Union and a renewal of the role of the EU in the wider world. We will know the details of the Danish Government’s priorities once they are decided later this year.

During the Danish Presidency of 2012, Europe will still be weathering the economic and financial crisis. Denmark, while not a member of the Euro, tracks the Euro and the crisis in the euro zone will also appear prominently on the agenda.

Denmark will not have an easy Presidency ahead, negotiating their role amongst new partners and taking difficult decisions to secure the future prosperity and security for the European Union, but I am sure it will rise positively to the challenge.