European Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:31 pm on 3rd June 2010.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Labour, South Shields 1:31 pm, 3rd June 2010

Indeed, as my right hon. Friend also says from a sedentary position.

We look to the new Prime Minister to continue to show the level of engagement seen in the past on European economic issues. Of the many hard lessons that Europe has learned, the most significant is the importance of collaboration in the global economy. The "Europe 2020" growth strategy will be formally adopted at the Council. It was the previous Government who led on the development of those proposals, during the financial crisis that Europe faced last year, and who pushed for many of the positive solutions. We support a strong external dimension, to ensure that the EU is promoted on the global scene, notably through engagement with the so-called BRIC economies-those of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

We also support the expansion of research and development, increasing the share of renewables in final energy consumption to 20% and moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency. We also look to the Prime Minister to make the case for longer-term reform in the European Union, particularly in areas such as energy liberalisation and the completion of the single market in areas relatively untouched, such as e-commerce.

There was one country that the Foreign Secretary did not mention, but which it is appropriate to do so. He rightly talked of the importance of the rising powers, but he did not mention Russia. The EU is by far Russia's largest trading partner, with three quarters of all Russia's direct foreign investment coming from EU member states. The EU-Russia summit-the first since Lisbon came into force-took place on Tuesday, I think. I look forward to hearing further from the Foreign Secretary about how he sees Europe's relationship with Russia. He will know-he referred to this in the debate on the Gracious Speech-that Britain's relations with Russia over the past three years have been extremely testing.

The then Opposition supported the Government in the measures that we took in respect of Russia. However, when it comes to helping the modernisation of Russia, the European Union should be our best instrument. That is why we agreed to the opening of the so-called partnership and co-operation agreement negotiations-I think against the advice of the then Opposition. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will seek to use those discussions to help the process of engagement with Russia. We have a lot to gain, not least on issues to do with energy supply, on which the whole of the EU is a significant partner for Russia.

The European Union also has an important human rights dimension to its work in Russia. Indeed, it is appropriate that the Secretary of State for International Development should be in the Chamber now-he missed the Foreign Secretary's speech, but I am glad that he has come in at this moment. He made great play during the election campaign of what he called the absurdity of the Department for International Development funding work in China or Russia. Let us leave China to one side. The work that the Department for International Development was funding in Russia was vital human rights work in Chechnya and Ingushetia, parts of Russia that are extremely poor and extremely riven with human rights abuses.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will talk to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, because the important work that was being done with DFID money-relatively small amounts of money, compared with the multi-billion pound DFID budget-was supporting human rights issues that the Foreign Secretary said in his speech in the Loyal Address will be a vital part of his Department's work. We have heard a lot of words about joined-up government from the new Administration, and this is one area where the price of a campaign commitment to an across-the-board cut in the work done in Russia will be borne by people trying to do brave and important work, in an important country in an important part of the world.

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