Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/1999-07-21-Speech-3-080"

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"Mr President, the Finnish Government assumes the Presidency of the European Union at a very challenging time. This year has seen the implementation of some very wide-ranging and aggressive policies which are all going to play a role in developing the economies within the fifteen Member States of the European Union. The launch of the new euro currency will certainly help to reduce business costs for small and medium-sized enterprises as foreign exchange transactions in eleven countries become an event of the past. I know that the euro currency has experienced some trading problems at times during this year. The instability within the EU institutions and the war in Kosovo have certainly not encouraged a climate of investor confidence. However, in recent times, the value of the euro currency has substantially increased as political and economic stability within the European landscape has re-emerged. There are eleven participating countries within the new euro currency zone encompassing over 291 million people. It is of the utmost importance that consumer information campaigns about the timetable and effects of the new euro currency continue in the run-up to the introduction of euro notes and coins in the year 2002. The Finnish Presidency of the EU, together with the Commission, should review progress that is being made on this important issue across the EU so that consumer concerns about the new euro currency are fully addressed. The increased interdependence between the Member States and EMU demands the strengthening of economic co-ordination. In order to boost competitiveness, growth and employment, the Finnish Government rightly intends to promote the co-ordination of economic, employment and structural policies and to complete the internal market. The ageing nature of our population, globalisation and technological advances present real challenges for European economic and social development. European employment strategies must be put in place in accordance with the new powers contained within the Amsterdam Treaty as well as within revised European social fund regulations. Unemployment still remains at over 9 % within the European Union which is unacceptably high. It is not right that one in four people below the age of 25 have difficulty in getting a decent start in life. The Finnish Government is certainly laying a great emphasis on the need to promote the enlargement process to a greater extent. The Finnish Presidency will direct preparations to convene an Intergovernmental Conference in accordance with the decisions taken at the recent Cologne European Council. An IGC is very important as institutional reform must take place before the practical process of enlargement can succeed and much work needs to be done to prepare EU Institutions for this intergovernmental phase. I am very satisfied that the Finnish Government intends to pursue this matter vigorously over the next six months. Enlargement of the Union is essential for the stability of Europe. The opening-up of larger markets will assist in the process of economic growth. The Union itself must be prepared to take up the challenges posed by enlargement by improving its decision-making capacity and improving the functioning of its institutions. National interests must be protected during this phase of negotiations as an overburdened bureaucracy at EU level is not the desired outcome from these IGC talks. In conclusion, as a result of the Cologne Summit of March of last year, it has been agreed that the EU budget will be worth over £506 billion during the seven-year period, i.e. 2000-2006. The conclusion of the Agenda 2000 discussion has ensured that the European Union can move forward and discuss and implement new policy objectives and goals. The Finnish Government has certainly started this process. The EU certainly now has a golden opportunity to put in place new policies in the fields of consumer rights, food safety and assistance to the elderly, as well as areas of environmental protection."@en1

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