How the UK’s new Tory-led government sees its EU policy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Although the British Conservative Party is openly critical of some aspects of the European Union, it has nevertheless made Europe free, stable and prosperous and its member states must now focus on issues such as climate change, poverty and energy security, writes William Hague, the UK's new foreign secretary, in a commentary for Europe's World.

The following is a summary of a commentary written by William Hague MP for Europe’s World.

The UK's new foreign secretary, William Hague, believes that the EU has accomplished many things in the last 20 years and should be lauded for this. ''Despite the present economic crisis, Europe has never been freer, more stable and more prosperous, and the European Union deserves considerable credit for that,'' he stated.

Despite his party's criticism of some of its aspects, Hague affirms that the EU remains vital to the UK's interests. ''The EU is an institution of enormous importance to the United Kingdom and to British foreign policy.''

Looking ahead, Hague said that the EU member states must work together on the challenges facing Europe in the 21st century, namely ''combating climate change, fighting global poverty and securing our energy supplies''.

In the context of the economic crisis and emerging economies elsewhere, Hague believes that the EU needs to focus on its ''knowledge advantage'' and competiveness. He affirmed the importance of the 'Europe 2020' strategy, calling for focus and realistic goals in areas where Europe can add value.

Hague also wants the internal market to be evolved further: ''This means completion of the single market in goods and services, better enforcement of single market rules and full advantage taken of the opportunities offered by e-commerce,'' he stated.

As for the EU's external policies, Hague said that the new UK government will be ''energetically involved from the outset''. The Conservative Party remains convinced of the merits of further EU enlargement, particularly in the Western Balkans, he said.

''The Western Balkans are the backyard of the EU, and its credibility in foreign affairs depends on the effectiveness of its policy there. In Bosnia in particular, there is a need for a more muscular and demanding European policy which should be capable of using sticks as well as carrots,'' writes Hague.

He also believes that Turkey's case for EU accession is as strong as ever: ''As well as offering considerable mutual economic benefits and profoundly strengthening the EU's security of energy supply, Turkey's membership would refute those who claim that there is a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam, and would make Turkey an ideal interlocutor between Europe and the Middle East,'' he affirmed.

Hague called for more external unity and wants the member states to show more ''determination and consistency'' in delivering on foreign policy goals. Hague hopes that the EU's new External Action Service can play a positive role, but noted that the Conservatives were not particularly in favour of its establishment.

Hague criticised the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, arguing: ''British voters were denied any say over the treaty, either at a general election or in a referendum and in breach of the last government's election manifesto commitments. That denial has done grave damage in Britain to the European Union's democratic legitimacy, and that legitimacy is now profoundly in need of repair.''

He said that the new government plans to implement domestic measures ''to make the EU more accountable and by negotiating for specific British guarantees on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the operation of the EU's competence in criminal justice and on social and employment legislation''.

Finally, the UK’s new foreign secretary said it is ''crucially important'' for the EU to focus on its current priorities and dispense with activities best left at national level, ''because a forward-looking and flexible Europe is in every member state's interests''.

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