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The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper on Prospects for the European Union in 2008. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: www.fco.gov.uk
The last White Paper was published in July 2007. It focused primarily on the priorities of the Portuguese presidency. The White Paper I am laying before the House today looks at the priorities of the Slovenian presidency for the first half of 2008.
The Slovenian presidency is keen to oversee significant progress on the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon in the EU27 during its time in the Chair. The UK agrees with the presidency that this treaty is key to the success of the EU, bringing an end to institutional reforms and a return to strong delivery both internally and with external partners. This change in focus will be essential to enable the EU to meet the varied challenges of globalisation.
On climate change and energy security, the presidency will take forward discussions of the climate and energy package to be published before spring Council including a unilateral 20 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We will work with our partners to ensure that the EU helps secure agreement on a comprehensive framework to tackle climate change once the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.
The Slovenian presidency will also aim to finalise the single market review and agree the energy and telecommunication liberalisation packages to create a more competitive network market, and to ensure increased energy security. These are key issues for the UK Government and one which we have been working hard with EU partners to reach agreement on.
In addition, the presidency will focus on implementation of the Lisbon agenda, particularly at a national level, encouraging member states to carry out reforms already agreed. We will work closely with the presidency to assist them in taking this forward, rooted in a global
Europe approach. As part of this the presidency is keen to increase innovation through a stronger focus on research and skills to prepare the EU for new global challenges, such as emerging markets and changing demographics.
The UK supports the presidency in its commitment to make real progress on Kosovo and the Western Balkans over the next six months, for which it is ideally placed regionally, following on from the strong language we achieved at the December European Council 2007.
The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. The presidency has committed to summits with key partners including Japan and Russia and we will be working closely with Slovenia to carry forward agreed priorities with others including China and Africa.
The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne): I have made an authorisation under section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976 as amended, to enable the Secretary of State to request that asylum applicants claiming to be a Somali or Eritrean national submit to language analysis.
Language analysis carried out in 2007 for some Somali and Eritrean asylum applicants demonstrated that significant proportions of those tested had claimed to be of a nationality, or from a region or grouping, that was not their own in order to try to gain residence in this country. This authorisation will assist the Secretary of State to make decisions in individual cases, and to ascertain the extent of this abuse.