European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 12:45 pm, 3rd June 2010

My hon. Friend has a long-standing campaign for such a measure. We are examining the case for a sovereignty Bill in the coalition, for the reasons that I explained to him earlier. It was part of the Conservative party's election manifesto, but not part of the Liberal Democrats' manifesto. We must therefore examine that together, and that examination has already begun. Of course, we will come back to the House with our conclusions.

I was making a point about the importance of extending the single market, where we think there are real opportunities to boost growth by further opening up energy and services sectors and moving forward on patents. There are many helpful proposals in Mario Monti's recent report about relaunching the single market, on which we want to build. All that is germane to the Europe 2020 strategy, which will be the main formal item of discussion at the forthcoming European Council. It is the successor to the Lisbon strategy, which is widely acknowledged to have been well intentioned but disappointing in its results.

The current crisis in the eurozone demonstrates that it is vital that the EU has a coherent strategy for growth and jobs, but it must fully respect the balance of competence between member states and Community action. We will work with our partners on the Commission's proposals for a Europe 2020 strategy to promote growth. The strategy is intended to drive growth in the next decade and secure jobs, and those are, of course, the right objectives, but we will want to pay close attention to the detail.

At the spring European Council, five EU-level target areas were identified: employment; research and development; energy and climate change; education; and social inclusion. We are concerned that some, while not legally binding, may stray into the competences of member states. Some are inappropriate for the different systems and models that various member states use. That variety must be respected in creating a meaningful strategy that addresses the economic issues faced across Europe.

We are clear that the EU has a role to play, for example, through providing a deeper and stronger single market, with smarter regulation, a more strategic approach to trade and a framework for innovation. The 2020 strategy faces two other immediate problems that need resolution. First, the next financial perspective-the seven-year EU budgetary framework-needs to cohere with it. In our view, its priorities should be aligned with the strategy. It is deeply unfortunate that the budget review has been so long delayed that linking the two is more difficult than it should be. Secondly, the 2020 strategy is a long-term strategy-it is meant to be-but recent events require a more immediate response to drive growth now. As I said, that response will be the Government's priority. If we can get the 2020 strategy to be more coherent with the financial framework, and link its long-term nature with the immediate action that is needed, perhaps we can avoid the risk of a strategy again proving disappointing in the benefits that it brings to European nations.

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