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A Europe at Work

Submitted by on 23 Apr 2012 – 11:20

By Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark

Nobody can deny that Europe is facing major challenges. Our overriding task is to get out of the financial and economic crisis and create the foundation for future growth and employment. At the same time, Europe must deal with new cross-border issues in relation to energy, environment and safety. In other words, what we need is a Europe prepared for tomorrow.

In drafting the priorities for the Danish Presidency of the Council of the EU, we have identified four key objectives: We need a more financially and economically responsible Europe, a dynamic Europe tuned for stronger growth, a greener Europe prepared for the future, and a safer Europe for our citizens. In this article, I want to use the opportunity to explain what these priorities mean – and in particular – how they can benefit the citizens and companies of the European Union.

Firstly, our Presidency will work to ensure a responsible European economy. In order to increase growth and create jobs it is of utmost importance to restore the market’s trust in Europe. Through the framework of the European Semester, the Presidency will support the efforts of Member States in implementing the necessary structural reforms and restoring the public finances. In this regard, the Commission’s proposal on a so called “2-pack”, which aims to strengthen budgetary discipline and financial supervision, is highly important. Without a strengthened European economy, investment appetite will remain low, growth will diminish, and further jobs will be lost. We cannot allow this vicious circle to continue any longer. We must make sure that 2012 becomes the year where the crisis turns around.

Secondly, we need a more dynamic Europe with a modernised Single Market. Since its introduction 20 years ago, the Single Market has proven to be one of the EU’s greatest successes. It has delivered wealth and prosperity to millions of Europeans, but it has yet to reach its full potential. To restore growth in Europe, we must rely on even better opportunities for businesses and citizens. In this regard, we will push forward the negotiations on the Single Market Act and promote in particular those initiatives that are growth enhancing. For instance, during our Presidency we will work for agreements on the standardisation package and on the unified patent, and we will push for SME’s to achieve easier access to finance. Further, we must bring the Market into the digital age. A successful conclusion of the Roaming III regulation will enable consumers to benefit from lower prices on cell phone usage, and a revision of the e-Signature directive will ease the online identification of citizens across Europe. We must also ensure that the next Multiannual Financial Framework is targeted towards the goals of the EU2020 strategy, and modernise the way EU spends its funds.

Thirdly, we have before us a unique opportunity to secure a green Europe. The EU has developed an ambitious policy on climate and energy, and has taken the lead on the global stage. We must maintain our position through new initiatives in areas such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. In combination, the proposal for an energy efficiency directive and a revision of the energy taxation directive could ensure the proper incentives for businesses and consumers to transform Europe into a true green growth economy. The Danish Presidency will push forward the negotiations on these crucial matters as much as possible. If we lay the right tracks today, we will have ensured the sustainability of Europe’s economy – not only in terms of green growth and jobs for our citizens, but also in terms of a clean environment for their children.

Finally, we wish to promote a safe Europe. In a globalised world with new actors emerging, a joint European effort is needed to ensure the safety and freedoms of our citizens. We must manage our borders smarter, and work for a compromise that establishes a well functioning European asylum system that treats asylum seekers effectively while maintaining high standards of decency. The Presidency will also work for an agreement on the European Protection Order, which will ease police investigation and evidence gathering in cases of cross-border crime. Further, through the Commission’s proposals we must strengthen cooperation in the Schengen Area, and make it capable to withstand pressure on our external borders. Every European citizen has a right to feel safe and to exercise their freedom of movement. As European lawmakers, we have a duty to respect those rights.

These are the priorities for the Danish Presidency which we will pursue in the coming months. But we are very mindful that we cannot deliver alone. We will work tirelessly to ensure the right compromises, and in this course we will be knocking on the doors of the European Parliament, the Member States, and the Commission. I hope and trust that you will allow us to enter. All of the institutions of the EU must be willing to find the right solutions. We owe it to the citizens to deliver concrete results, and we owe it to ourselves to show that Europe still works together.