Liberal Democrats back plans for strong Europe to defend British interests

September 12, 2008 3:22 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today backed plans to put Britain in the driving seat of the EU, refocusing the union on measures to protect the global interests and domestic security of the UK and its European partners.

Among the measures in Shaping Our World Through a Strong Europe are: Greater cooperation among member states to tackle terrorism, international crime and people trafficking.

Ensuring energy security and effective action on climate change by increasing the EU's carbon reduction target and developing a common EU energy policy.

Eliminating obstacles to cross-border economic activity within Europe.

The full text of the motion is as follows:

Federal Policy Committee

Conference believes that:

I. The EU has achieved a great deal in the last 50 years and continues to do much to increase prosperity and promote freedom and democracy.

II. The EU needs to do more to put its own house in order to focus better on its core objectives and realise its full potential.

III. The EU provides the best available platform from which to respond to the challenges and exploit the opportunities of globalisation: the UK is far more secure within the EU.

IV. Labour and the Conservatives have taken a half-hearted approach to the UK's relationship with Europe, refusing to provide political leadership and undermining the UK's standing and influence within the EU.

Conference is committed to providing the sort of constructive engagement in Europe that is essential to protect and promote the UK's national interest, protect its citizens and further its influence in the world.

Conference therefore believes that the key principles which should guide Europe policy are:

A. Internationalism: the UK is stronger, more secure and influential on the global stage working with and through the EU.

B. The rule of law: the UK is better able to protect its citizens at home and abroad by working with and through the EU on issues such as cross-border crime, terrorism, rights in court and smuggling of arms or drugs.

C. Democracy and Human Rights: the EU is a powerful force for the spread of democratic institutions, defending and promoting human rights; it works to protect democracy and human rights within the existing Union and to promote and enhance them both in aspirant member states and throughout the world.

D. Protecting the environment: the UK is able to do more to effect positive change for the environment by working with and through the EU, offering a powerful platform to lead the

fight against climate change.

E. Security, stability and prosperity: the EU is a major source of security, stability and prosperity in our continent and therefore for the British people; the UK has a strong interest in building on this success.

Conference therefore endorses Policy Paper 87, Shaping Our World Through a Strong Europe, as a statement of the party's key policies for creating a vision for the UK's European future. Conference particularly welcomes the proposals to:

1. Reform and strengthen common policies in order to bring about real change within the

European Union, through whatever institutional framework is in place.

2. Provide vigorous support for the Agenda for Economic Reform, and for the completion of the Single Market, including:

a) Implementing the Services Directive and other internal market directives.

b) Eliminating obstacles to cross-border economic activity.

c) Continuing efforts to tackle tax fraud.

d) More effective application of public procurement rules, using light regulation and mutual recognition where possible.

e) Agreeing a code of best practice for Sovereign Wealth Fund investments.

f ) More efficient use of EU Research and Development support.

3. Ensure a continuing focus of support on those regions, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, that are economically well behind the rest of the EU.

4. Provide more accountability in budget-setting within the EU, including:

a) Linking the budget-setting cycles with the political cycles of the Commission and the

European Parliament.

b) Giving local and regional authorities more say in the design of regional policy.

5. Push forward the subsidiarity agenda, including:

a) Continuing with the process of regulatory reform, making every effort to use sunset

clauses, withdrawing unnecessary legislation, and ensuring that resources are focused on core functions.

b) Extending the role of the European Parliament in scrutinising the use of delegated

powers and the implementation of EU law by the member states.

6. Ensure that the 2008/9 EU budget is restructured and better supports the EU's core activities, including reducing the volume and share of the budget expended on the Common Agricultural Policy.

7. Ensure greater cooperation in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice, including:

a) Strong UK backing for measures to tackle terrorism, fight international crime and achieve better justice for UK citizens within the EU.

b) Agreement at EU level on a set of minimum procedural safeguards when EU citizens

appear before a court in any member state, such as access to lawyers, legal aid, interpreters and proper recording of interviews.

c) The creation of minimum standards in EU asylum and immigration policy.

d) Pursuing safeguards and privacy guarantees on the sharing of information and databases by EU bodies and member state agencies.

8. Take a more positive role in leading action at EU level to tackle climate change and ensure reliable energy supplies including:

a) Increasing the EU's target for reducing carbon emissions to 30% by 2020.

b) Ensuring that EU policies play a greater role in building a low-carbon economy.

c) Ensuring that there is an EU framework to tackle climate change, which assists national governments in introducing strong and effective measures.

d) Promoting clean, low-carbon energy technologies, including supporting the EU target for 20% of Europe's energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 and speeding up the development of carbon capture and storage.

e) Strong measures to promote energy efficiency and energy saving.

f ) Developing a common EU energy policy, including the completion of an open and competitive European energy market, with a requirement for the supply and distribution of energy to be separated and working for a competitive global gas market.

9. Reform agricultural and fisheries policy within the EU, including:

a) Creating of a new Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development policy, to replace the current Common Agricultural Policy.

b) Transferring 30% of agricultural expenditure into a rural development budget (with a

focus on environment measures).

c) Bringing forward the date for ending export subsidies from 2013 to 2010 - Intervention

Boards should be abolished at the same time.

d) Providing full support for sustainability criteria for biofuels, ensuring that no biofuels come from land cleared of natural habitats or fail to save 50% more carbon emissions in

comparison to conventional fuels.

e) Extensive devolution of responsibility and power to regional management bodies, which include representatives of fishermen and marine scientists.

10. Call for an 'ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement on the Doha Development Round' of world trade negotiations.

11. Provide for enlargement of the EU for countries willing and able to meet the requirements of membership, and provide support to those neighbouring states not on a trajectory to join the EU.

12. Give leadership from the UK on improved EU defence co-operation including on procurement, as well as encouraging more EU countries to participate in deployment and, if the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, through the new Structured Co-operation arrangements which have the potential to enable those EU countries willing and able to do so to participate in deployments which would facilitate more effective EU responses.