» Monday, February 16, 2004

Trilateral Summit/EU

Asked if the summit was an admission that 25 EU countries was unworkable without a leading group of 3, the PMOS said that it was not a matter of either/or. It was not a case of either trying to identify issues to could discuss as 3, or working as 25. It was a question of shaping our approach so that where there were issues that could be thought through and beginnings of solution identified by the 3, that could happen. Equally however that took place in the knowledge that we had to work with other allies such as Spain, Italy and Poland as well as the smaller countries.

The Prime Minister had kept in regular contact with Spain and Italy as well as the small countries. Hence the meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Persson of Sweden and his regular contact with Bertie Ahern. This was nothing new, as the Foreign Secretary had said this morning that France Germany and Poland held a meeting last week which nobody commented on apart from the three countries concerned. There would be different formulations at different times. What was also important to recognise was what this summit was about. It was primarily about Economic reform. Last year before the Spring EU summit, the three countries produced a report for the EU, so it was hardly surprising that before this year’s summit, equally they wanted to address the issues such as quality of regulation, strengthening the single market, improving the functioning of labour markets, promoting enterprise centres and using the WTO round to opening the EU to world markets, CAP reform. Those were the hard, basic issues which were at the core of this meeting. Asked why in that case the Chancellor wouldn’t be there, the PMOS said that Dawn Primarolo would be there in the Chancellors place. Equally the German Treasury Minister would not be there either. However the range of people who would be there in terms of Patricia Hewitt, Andrew Smith, Dawn Primarolo and John Reid, they all had experience of labour market areas and that was part of their responsibility.

Asked if the Prime Minister would like to see the EU constitution ratified by the end of the year, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed that it was important that we continued to make progress. How that was done and the pace at which that was done was determined by our partners in Europe, working under the Irish Presidency. The Prime Minister would like to see that done as soon as possible but it was not in his gift any more than it was the leader of any other country’s gift to individually, unilaterally decide when that progress was or was not made. Let us let the Irish presidency get on with the job of trying to find agreement.

Asked if the Prime Minister would support the idea of a new European Commissioner designated to follow the Economic agenda illustrated earlier, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had always placed a lot of importance on the issue of economic reform. The precise institutional way in which that was reflected was a matter for discussion with our partners.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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