By HE Ambassador Christian Braun, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the EU.
From the first of July onwards, Luxembourg will take up the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It will be Luxembourg’s 12th Presidency, as the last one took place in 2005. For six months, my country will be responsible for successfully conducting the proceedings of the EU Council in its different configurations.
For Luxembourg, the upcoming Presidency provides a genuine opportunity to show our attachment and our engagement with regard to the European integration project. It will allow us to share our expertise and put into good use our extensive experience in this field. The Presidency mandate will enable us to contribute in a positive way to the European idea: we will help to build bridges, to reconcile diverging positions and traditions, to demonstrate our willingness to commit ourselves to the quest for compromise.
Recalling our attachment to the European integration process, to the principles and the fundamental values the European Union founds upon, we have chosen to adopt an approach based on outreach and openness: listening to the citizens, supporting enterprises, collaborating with partners and institutions in view of acting in the general interest of the Union will be crucial in this respect.
In line with its tradition and convictions, the Luxembourg Presidency will do its utmost to put the citizen at the heart of the European project. More than ever, it is important to ensure that the real and direct interests of the citizens are properly taken into account.
As far as the specific priorities of the Presidency are concerned, it comes as no surprise that the migration issue ranks very high on our agenda. The tragic events in the Mediterranean Sea call for a resolute and continued action in the field of migration. Saving lives and conducting an effective and credible immigration policy are two objectives to which Luxembourg will accord the highest priority. Furthermore, we intend to examine possibilities to promote legal migration with the aim of making the European Union a more attractive destination for talent.
From an economic point of view, the most important objective of the Presidency will be to contribute to the revitalisation of the economy as well as to tackle unemployment. We will therefore strive to unlock investment to create growth and jobs. The actions of the Luxembourg Presidency aim at complementing the Investment Plan for Europe proposed by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a plan that intends to unlock up to 315 billion euro in investment. The financial component of this plan, however, constitutes only one part of the task. Regulatory measures rendering investments in Europe more attractive should complement the effort so as to leverage the effects of the investment plan.
We also remain attached to the triptych based on fiscal consolidation, boosting growth through investment and structural reforms conducive to sustainable and equitable growth. Improving productivity and restoring competitiveness hinges on putting into place an ambitious structural reform agenda.
Deepening the social dimension of the European Union will be another priority of our Presidency. Since its beginning, the European project has distinguished itself by a solid social dimension, which has for long years secured large popular support.. Against the backdrop of the economic crisis, unemployment has skyrocketed, particularly among young people, and social inequalities have widened within the EU. The Luxembourg Presidency will therefore support the idea of a « social triple A » Europe, put forward by the President of the European Commission.
Creating a sustainable and balanced growth does also mean fighting against tax fraud and tax evasion. This will constitute an important priority for the Luxembourg Presidency and we intend to address these issues in the context of establishing a global “level playing field”.
Moreover, our Presidency sets out to revitalise the internal market. The creation of jobs and growth above all relies on the deepening and the well-functioning of the single internal market. We will make efforts to develop a genuine digital single market, an area which currently remains to a large extent underexploited. The Luxembourg Presidency is committed to make of the digital agenda a cross-cutting priority and to place it at the very heart of the EU’s internal market policy.
A better functioning of the single market also requires an ambitious European policy in the field of energy and transport, where sustainability will be one of the Luxembourg Presidency’s leading principles.
Sustainability in general will be a recurrent leitmotif during the Luxembourg Presidency. We believe that a sustainable economic growth to the benefit of citizens goes hand in hand with a high level of environmental ambition. During our Presidency, we will therefore strive to accelerate the transition towards a low greenhouse gas emission and circular economy. The sustainability condition will also be at the centre of the Presidency’s action at forthcoming international meetings, first and foremost at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) taking place in December in Paris.
Finally, transatlantic talks on TTIP will gain in intensity during the second half of 2015 and Luxembourg will seek to take negotiations forward while at the same time emphasizing on transparency and openness towards civil society.
To conclude, I would like to underline that Luxembourg is proud to be given the opportunity to make its contribution. Within the government as well as within the different public administrations, there is a great willingness and eagerness to make sure that this twelfth Luxembourg Presidency will be a success both for the EU and for its citizens.