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Denmark’s EU Presidency

Submitted by on 09 Mar 2012 – 11:08

By Nicolai Wammen, Minister for European Affairs, The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On the first of January, Denmark assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is our seventh presidency, since we joined the European Economic Community in 1973. In contrast to last time, however, when Denmark had the EU Presidency in 2002, there will not be one big, overarching priority like the EU enlargement was back then. The Danish Presidency this year will focus on several issues of various scope and importance within a long list of policy areas. An outline of these issues has already been published in the shape of a trio-presidency programme that has been agreed between the previous Polish presidency, Denmark and the subsequent Cypriot presidency. It covers an 18 months period and allows the rotating presidencies to ensure more coherence and continuity in handling the EU agenda. In addition to the trio-programme, the Danish Government also published its own presidency programme in December, which sets out in a more detailed manner what we want to achieve and how we aim to do it. This program is our own “to do”-list so to speak, against which we will measure our success as presidency.

So what do we want to achieve? Modernization of the Single Market will be one of our key objectives. The Danish EU Presidency will pursue an agreement among the 27 Member States on modernizing the Single Market, while we celebrate its 20 years of success. The Commission has proposed a package of 12 initiatives aimed at creating a better business environment in Europe that will promote innovation and reduce red tape. We need to bring the Single Market firmly into the digital age, and to this end we hope to get agreement on an efficient and user-friendly EU Patent System as well as a legally binding directive concerning consumer rights. We must not forget that a well-functioning internal market is a precondition for a stable euro-system and economic growth in our countries.

As another important objective, we will work hard to strengthen Europe’s leadership in shaping a green agenda at the global level. The Danish Government wants the EU to do more in order to help European companies to remain at the cutting edge internationally, when it comes to developing green technologies and promoting energy efficiency. We need green transport policies in Europe, and we need drastically to increase our energy efficiency towards 2020 through the expanded application of renewable energy sources and reductions in our CO2-emissions. Furthermore, funding for research and development in the energy sector must be increased.

 

As a third major objective, we want to get tangible progress towards a deal on the future budget of the EU. The next multiannual financial framework for the EU will cover a seven year period starting from 2013, and it will be up to the Danish presidency to ensure that sufficient groundwork is made during the first six months of 2012 for a deal to be clinched in the second half of the year. By their nature, budget negotiations in the EU are never easy. This time around, however, with European economies struggling to get back on a growth track, we must obtain meaningful reform in key areas like the common agricultural policy and cohesion policy. Needless to say, the Danish Presidency will do everything in its power to pave the way for an EU budget that points to the future. A budget for the future means that we channel more money to areas that can help drive economic growth and create new jobs in Europe. Areas like research, green technologies, energy efficiency and education. Growth and jobs is a matter of urgency for Europe right now, and the Danish Presidency will treat it accordingly.

 

These two key areas that I have mentioned – an EU budget for the future and modernization of the Single Market – are both aimed at reinvigorating economic growth in Europe. This is essential for Europe’s future and even more so, because the competition we face globally today from countries like China, India and Brazil is intensifying. In this context, and with a view to strengthening the EU’s role on the global stage more generally, the Danish presidency will pursue a close co-operation with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the High Representative, Catherine Ashton. It has been a long-standing Danish priority to help the EU become a more resourceful and effective partner, when solutions to global challenges like climate change and international terrorism are being crafted. We intend to use our presidency to further this aim and to be a result oriented honest broker that professionally brings the different dossiers as much forward as possible.

 

But conducting a successful EU presidency is not only about achieving the political results needed for Europe to prosper in a new world order. It is also about much more practical and low-key issues like logistics, communication and ensuring co-ordination between various ministries in Copenhagen and between Copenhagen and the diplomatic machinery working in Brussels, including European Parliament, The Council and the Commission. We expect as EU presidency to convene more than 1000 EU-meetings at different levels, and we plan to organize a number of informal ministerial meetings in Denmark. Furthermore, a total of 15.000 EU-delegates and journalists are expected to visit Denmark. Thus, an EU presidency holds tremendous potential with regard to raising the international profile of Denmark not just politically and economically, but also culturally and as a tourism destination.

 

Finally, we also know that chairing the European Union for six months is not only about hard work and good planning. It is also about being able to improvise and respond swiftly to unforeseen events that might high-jack the international agenda. To the extent possible, we have made contingency planning, and we will be able to respond quickly, if a sudden crisis appears on the radar screen. Being a small Member State with short lines of communication, I am confident that Denmark again will manage to deliver a successful p