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The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The 2005 Euro-Mediterranean Summit took place in Barcelona on 2728 November. I co-chaired the Summit with the Spanish Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also attended for the Government.
The summit delivered a five-year work plan with a substantial package of commitments towards political, economic and social reform in the southern Mediterranean region. A code of conduct on countering terrorism was also agreed. There was also agreement on a chairman's statement, reiterating the overall political commitments of the Euromed partnership. I have placed copies of these texts in the Libraries of both Houses.
a code of conduct on countering terrorism: this is the first time that Europe, Israel and Arab countries have agreed to condemn terrorism in all its manifestations, as well as practical commitments to act together against terrorism;
agreement to liberalise trade in agriculture and services: A first wave of regional negotiations should start before the end of 2005 with the aim of concluding them before December 2006. This is a major step towards the agreed goal of establishing a Euromed free trade area by 2010;
targets on education including a commitment to ensure that all children (boys and girls) have access to quality education and to halving current illiteracy rates in the region by 2015. The EU and Mediterranean partners have committed to increasing significantly resources devoted to education; and to developing a "benchmark standard" university education qualification transferable within the EU and the region;
The Government are committed to the full and early implementation of the commitments agreed at the summit. We shall also continue to work towards further economic, political and social reform in southern Mediterranean countries.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alan Johnson): The Prime Minister and I are pleased to inform the House that we have asked the Minister for Energy, the hon. Member for Croydon, North (Malcolm Wicks) to lead a review of UK energy policy and to bring forward policy proposals next year.
The review has a broad scope and will consider aspects of both energy supply and demand focusing on medium and long-term policy measures beyond 2010. The review will consider all options including the role of current generating technologies, such as renewables, coal, gas and nuclear power, and new and emerging technologies, for example carbon, capture and storage. The review will also consider transport and the role of energy efficiency. The terms of reference for the review are annexed to this written statement.
The review will be taken forward by a cross-departmental team based in the DTI, with officials drawn from key relevant departments and the Prime Minister's strategy unit. The review team will develop energy policy proposals during 2006.
This review is part of our ongoing commitment to reviewing progress against the goals and, if necessary, taking steps to ensure we stay on track. It will be taken forward in the context of the Government's commitment to sound public finances and will take account of all short-term, medium-term and long-term costs and liabilities both to the taxpayer and energy user. The review is taking place against a background of strengthening evidence on the nature and extent of climate change and increasing concerns about the future security of UK energy supplies.
Given the substantial challenge posed by climate change, Sir Nicholas Stern has already been asked to produce a report to the Prime Minister and Chancellor by autumn 2006 on the economics of climate change. The work undertaken as part of the stern review will be closely co-ordinated with, and complementary to the energy review.
The Government will review the UK's progress against the medium and long-term Energy White Paper goals and the options for further steps to achieve them. The aim will be to bring forward proposals on energy policy next year.
The review will be informed by analysis and options drawn up by a review team led by the Energy Minister. This will be a team of officials drawn from key relevant departments and the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit. In drawing up the analysis and options, the Energy Minister will undertake extensive public and stakeholder consultation. The review will be taken forward in the context of the Government's commitment to sound public finances and will take account of all short-term, medium-term and long-term costs and liabilities both to the taxpayer and energy user. The review team will report to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in early summer.
The first item on the agenda will look at the important theme of better regulation, focusing specifically on the 2006 review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications markets and on the future of EU spectrum policy. I will chair a policy debate on these issues and we have produced a Presidency policy paper to help guide the debate. This discussion is important in the wider context of EU economic reform. I hope to achieve a steer from the Council on the key issues that need to be addressed within the 2006 review and on the role of market based mechanisms in EU spectrum management.
I will then introduce a policy debate on the i2010 Strategy which I believe can play a key role in achieving the Lisbon goals of economic growth and productivity. With the help of a Presidency paper, I will ask my colleagues to explore the key issues that need to be the focus of attention in the area of information and communication technologies over the next five years and to discuss how best to ensure that ICT policy is appropriately reflected in wider national economic discussions both at EU and national level. I also hope that as part of this agenda item, we will be able to agree the set of Council Conclusions responding to the Commission Communications on the i2010 strategy and on e-accessibility.
The third agenda item will look at the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, focusing specifically on the spectrum gains from digital switchover and on a timetable for digital switchover in the EU. I hope that we will be able to agree the Council Conclusions responding to the Commission Communication on this issue, but I do not anticipate a substantive policy debate.
Finally, together with Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, I will report back on the outcome of the world summit on information society which took place between 14 and 18 November and parts of which I attended.
The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I will be chairing the Energy Council of the UK's EU Presidency in Brussels in the morning of 1 December 2005. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Alun Michael) will occupy the UK seat.
The first item on the agenda will be better regulation: implementation and outcomes of the internal market for electricity and natural gas. This item will include presentations from Commissioner Piebalgs on the Commission's report on progress in creating the internal gas and electricity market and from Commissioner Kroes on the initial findings of the Commission's sectoral inquiry into the European gas and electricity markets. I will then chair a policy debate. In order to guide the discussion, we have prepared Presidency questions focusing on implementation, enforcement and transparency; the power of regulatory authorities; market integration; and the need for improved third party access to networks. We hope the debate will help influence the future direction of EU energy market
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liberalisation within a better regulation framework and will make an effective contribution to the emerging findings of the DG Comp inquiry.
The second item will be Climate Change and Sustainable Energy, on which we hope that Ministers will adopt draft Council Conclusions. I will chair a policy debate, which aims to give impetus to the ELPs contribution to international efforts to address climate change and to promote sustainable, cost-effective energy supplies. Again, the Presidency has prepared questions to guide the debate, which will focus on the interaction between the energy, climate change and competitiveness agendas; the role of sustainable energy sources and technologies in helping to achieve climate change objectives; and, following publication of the Commission's Green Paper on energy efficiency, member state priorities for measures to be taken forward in the forthcoming EU energy efficiency action plan (EEAP) to be adopted in 2006.
The third and last item consists of information from the Presidency and the Commission, and comments from Ministers, on the EU's international energy relationsthe EU-Russia energy dialogue, the South East Europe energy treaty, the EU-OPEC dialogue and the energy charter treaty. Although discussion may be brief, we hope it will underline the importance of this subject for the EU's security of energy supply. The UK can point to some successes in this area during our Presidency. We hosted an energy Permanent Partnership Council on 3 October, which gave impetus to the EU/Russia energy dialogue; progress on the South East Europe energy treaty was such that it was signed by Ministers in Athens on 25 October; an EU-OPEC ministerial meeting will be held on 2 December and negotiations on the transit protocol to the energy charter treaty are continuing. All these initiatives help to promote producer/consumer understanding and enhance energy transit and market opening.
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