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Latvia presidency looks for progress in key areas

Posted by Nick Prag at 22 January 2015, 23:35 CET |
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Latvia has already outlined the broad priorities for its presidency of the European Union: competitive, digital and engaged Europe. This week, the country's ministers came to the European Parliament, and gave Euro-MPs in committee some details about some of the items of new legislation and initiatives we can expect over the next few months.

On environment, MEPs heard Kaspars Gerhards, Latvia's Environment and Regional Development minister commit his presidency to creating a market reserve to improve the stability of the EU carbon market, with discussion likely to start "early in the spring".

As regards biofuels reform, Mr Gerhards hoped for agreement between the two legislators "that would create clarity for operators and for European biofuels policy, through a balanced approach to the sustainable generation of biofuels".

And he would be pressing ahead with plans for cleaner air, e.g. to limit emissions of certain pollutants from medium-sized combustion plants.

On health, Minister Guntis Belevics told MEPs he intends to begin negotiations with Parliament on reforming EU regulations on medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices. He was also keen on opening a debate on a new EU alcohol strategy.  This is still a competence of Member States, but he believes the idea of "having an integrated policy at EU level" is now in the public arena.

The presidency's trade priorities are straight forward, to progress the trade talks with the USA, Japan and Vietnam and to work to advance the multilateral trade system within the WTO, and implement plurilateral deals already done.

A more competitive and more digital Europe was a key priority for Latvia's Economy Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, further integrating the single market, improving enforcement of EU rules, and promoting mutual trust and free movement of goods and services. She also pledged to advance digital single market initiatives, ensure that the services directive is properly implemented, and find compromises on network and information security and package travel rules.

On the data protection package, the presidency would focus on achieving a negotiating mandate for the Council, said Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnacs. Reaching agreements with Parliament on the trade mark package and the small claims procedure proposals will be among presidency priorities in the justice field, he told Legal Affairs MEPs.

And Education and Science Minister Marite Seile presented the Presidency's four research and space priorities: linking the Innovation Union and the European Research Area, further developing the research area, the digital elements of research innovation, and a comprehensive space policy.

Just a few details of what the new Latvian presidency will be working on in the next six months.

Major decisions may be unlikely during this presidency, but Latvia will be looking to make progress on many issues which will advance the EU's broader aims.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.