We will work for a credible, growing and open Europe, says Vice-Minister Leškevičius

19 Jun 2013, Last updated at, 08:36 EEST
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The speech of Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Vytautas Leškevičius in the European Parliament (EP) Committee Chairmen Conference in Strasbourg.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and Honorable members,

It is a great pleasure for me to take up your invitation to present to you the priorities of the incoming Lithuanian Presidency. I welcome this early opportunity to engage with you on the important issues that are preoccupying your Committees. I am keen to establish the best possible basis for trust and genuine cooperation between the Council and the European Parliament under our Presidency.

Cooperation is essential. First, because of the scale of the challenge facing us. The MFF and the record-breaking load of legislation are testimony to that.

Second, because the legislative window is closing as we approach European elections, now scheduled for May 2014.

And third, because the Lisbon Treaty confers on the Parliament new powers. We understand the enhanced role of the Parliament as co-legislator. And we are determined that the Parliament’s committees- which are the real engine of Parliamentary work - should have our full attention.

The Irish Presidency has been doing a great job. Lithuania will continue on the same track, focusing on three main areas. We will work for a credible, growing and open Europe.

First, on Credibility

The EU's economic credibility is built on our ability to ensure financial stability and sound public finances.

To this end, we must implement an enhanced framework for economic governance, deepen Economic and Monetary Union, develop the Banking Union, and protect the financial interests of the EU and the Member States.

The Banking Union will be a top priority for us. We would very much like to start trilogues on Bank Recovery and Resolution as well as on Deposit Guarantee Schemes, with a view to reaching agreement by the end of the year. We look forward to the Commission’s proposal on the Single Resolution Mechanism, where we would like to make as much progress as possible with a view to completing the file by the end of the parliamentary term.

Financial market reform is also important. We hope it will be possible to reach agreement with the Parliament on the Directive and Regulation of Markets in Financial Instruments, the Omnibus II Directive, the Market Abuse Regulation, and the Regulation on Central Securities Depositories. Progress on the Depositaries functions, Packaged retail investment products, the Bank Account initiative, as well as Anti-money laundering is also important for us.

The framework for Economic Governance will only be effective when properly implemented. So, before considering new elements, we need to ensure that the potential of initiatives like the European semester, six-pack, two-pack is fully realized. We await Commission proposals on ex-ante coordination and the Convergence and competitiveness instrument.

Finally, on Credibility.

In line with the conclusions of the May European Council, we are determined to strengthen the EU’s efforts in the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion so as to protect the financial interests of the EU and its Member States. We will seek agreement on a revised Savings Taxation Directive. And we will prioritize work on the Extended Administrative Cooperation Directive.

Stability in financial markets will help restore confidence. But more needs to be done to secure sustainable economic growth.

So, the second priority of the Lithuanian Presidency will be a focus on Growing Europe. We need growth that results in real jobs for the people of Europe. And we need growth that enhances European competitiveness. To this end, we will redouble our efforts on the Europe 2020 strategy as well as on effective implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs. And we will ensure that the next European Semester cycle gets underway in good order.

The Lithuanian Presidency will of course work closely with the European Parliament on adoption of legislative proposals for the next MFF. Here I think it is important to stress that it is responsibility of both the Council and the Parliament to ensure that these proposals are adopted on time. This means we should be looking to agree 56 MFF-related legal acts between us by the end of the year. We should also work hard to ensure the timely adoption of an EU budget for 2014.

Growing Europe also means going further to complete the Single market. As Presidency, we are keen both to complete the SMA I, and to make good progress on the SMA II initiatives.

Specifically, on the Digital Single Market, our aim is to establish a clear link between the digital agenda, integration of the services markets, and an SME-friendly regulatory environment. Cutting the cost of communications is critical for business, especially SMEs, and so we need to reach agreement on Ten-Tele guidelines and e-identification.

I must also underline the need for progress on the internal energy market. The 2014 deadline for its completion is rapidly approaching. As you will know, Lithuania - an energy island - is a good example of the consequences of not having a single energy market in Europe. So we will focus on implementation of the 3rd Energy package and the list of projects of Common Interests. This will facilitate the stock-taking on completion of the internal energy market and other energy issues called for by the May European Council.

We firmly believe that progress on all these files will create employment opportunities, for young people in particular. We will put a special emphasis on implementing Youth Guarantees, on developing the Apprenticeship Framework, and on reaching agreement with you on measures to enhance free movement of workers. We will seek to make progress on Posting of Workers, Preservation of Supplementary Pension Rights, on Undeclared Work Platform, as well as the rights of EU migrant workers. We need speedy and effective action to bridge the gap between education and the labor market.

Research and innovation also drive growth and competitiveness. We want to develop a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation. Policy debate on a European Research Area will play an important part at the October European Council.

The EU’s macro-regional strategies also contribute to growth. So our Presidency will review progress in the strategies for the Baltic Sea and Danube regions. At this point I would like to record my sympathy and concern for all those affected by last week’s flooding in the Central Europe.

The third and final priority of the Lithuanian Presidency will be to strengthen the EU as a global model of openness and security.

Croatia will join the European Union on the first day of our Presidency. But that does not make our Enlargement portfolio any thinner. Current EU accession negotiations with Montenegro and Turkey will be further advanced, as will the European perspective of other Western Balkan countries. Of course, we await Iceland’s decision on the continuance of EU membership negotiations.

Naturally, we place special importance on the advancement of the EU's Eastern Partnership. November’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius should be the opportunity to sign an Association Agreement, incorporating a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, with Ukraine. Similar agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia should also be initialed. For some Eastern Partnership countries, we might also be able to look at advancing the process of visa facilitation and liberalization.

Free trade agreements have the potential to foster economic growth and bring new jobs to Europe. The Presidency will aim to accelerate talks on free trade agreements not only with the Eastern partners, but also with the Mediterranean countries and, most importantly, strategic partners like the US and Japan. Depending on where the Irish Presidency gets to, we would like to finalize negotiations with you on the Trade Omnibus acts, the Dual Use Regulation, as well as application and enforcement of international trade rules. We also hope it will be possible to start trilogues on Financial Responsibility for Investor-State Dispute Settlement. 

Aiming at effective control of European borders, Lithuania will seek to make progress in the Council on the “Smart borders package”.

In the area of internal security and legal migration, we would like to see a Directive on intra-corporate transferees adopted. We hope that Irish Presidency will finalize negotiations with the EP on seasonal workers. We would like to renew negotiations with the EP on Passenger Name Record and advance negotiations in the Council on legislative proposals for the EU agencies EUROPOL and CEPOL.

Another element of Open Europe is development - continuing preparations for the UN General Assembly, preparing Council conclusions on financing for development, as well as integrating the transition experience of Member States in EU development cooperation.

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Members

I have set out three broad areas which will provide a particular focus for the Lithuanian Presidency over the next six months. 2013 is the European Year of the Citizen, and we are once again reminded of our common responsibility to the people of Europe.

We need to keep building a Europe that is credible to its citizens and the world.

A Europe which grows its economy and offers jobs.

A Europe which remains open to its partners and neighbours.

The President of Lithuania, Ms. Dalia Grybauskaite, will set out the Programme of our Presidency when she addresses the Plenary of the European Parliament on the 3rd of July.

I look forward now to hearing your views and concerns. I will do my best to answer your questions, and of course I shall take up the points you raise with my Lithuanian ministerial colleagues. And there will be a chance for you to take these issues up in more detail when my colleagues meet your Committees formally in a month’s time. I should underline our hope that, despite the Parliament’s summer recess, you might see the first two weeks of July and the early days of September as a convenient opportunity to hold trilogues.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

The European Parliament is the beating heart of our European democracy. The Lithuanian Presidency will put all our efforts into maintaining and building on the strong tradition of respect for and cooperation with the Parliament. 

Our ambition over the next six months is to demonstrate our effectiveness in working with you in the Parliament, to engage actively and constructively in the search for balanced and inclusive solutions.

We look forward to working with you.
 

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