As our readers know, the library tries to monitor think tank events in the ‘Brussels bubble’, especially those that generate a flow of documents. So we could not really miss, last week, the policy briefing by the European Policy Center with the UK Minister of State for Europe, David Lidington, who addressed a rather large audience on”The policy priorities of the next European Commission – a UK perspective”. After recalling the founding values of the European project in a Europe divided by the Cold War, the Minister outlined five priorities which we noted down as follows (if you prefer, here’s the full speech):
- competitiveness – focus on growth. Europe should become part of the solution, not part of the problem.
- free movement – freedom of movement should be about freedom to work and not freedom to claim benefits. Each Member State to be responsible for its own welfare system.
- fairness – workout an architecture for Europe that respects that the EU is made up of 28 Member States. Avoid discrimination between euro-ins and euro-outs.
- learning the lessons of Ukraine – energy policy and energy security. Diversify future sources of natural gas and means of distribution, invest in interconnections. Develop indigenous energy supplies. Liberalise markets to have more choice and a more stable supply of energy.
- democratic accountability – Brussels often seen as the problem rather than the solution. The role of national parliaments to be substantially enhanced. Ensure that subsidiarity is respected. Council of Ministers should work with Commission to establish the strategic direction of Commission work.
And indeed there were many documents referred to in the ensuing discussion. The audience was keen to hear an overall result of the ongoing exercise known as the Review of the Balance of Competences. A question concerned the need to improve scrutiny of EU legislation in national parliaments, including the UK one, which relies largely on a documentary scrutiny model (rather than a mandate-based system as in the Danish parliament, for example). Some background can be found in the recent report by the Commons EU scrutiny committee.
Questioned about the euro, the Minister mentioned an article written by George Osborne and Wolfgang Schäuble States outside the eurozone should not be at disadvantage in the EU (Financial Times dd. 27/03/2014).
Two documents issued by the European Policy Centre were available for participants: “Britain outside Europe? Fewer EU concessions to UK post-Brexit” and “A more effective structure for the Commission“.