Duke, Simon (1998) Accessing The UK Presidency: A Second Pillar Perspective. EIPA Working Paper: 98/W/04. [Working Paper]
[From the Introduction]. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stated goal for the presidency was that the United Kingdom should ‘lead in Europe.’ Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said in the autumn of 1997 that the UK ‘now has a government with a secure majority and a strong leader able to seize the opportunity to shape the direction of Europe.’ Any assessment of the overall effectiveness of any given presidency must rest upon its overall performance in relation to its intended goals. The goals outlined for the UK presidency, discussed in more detail below, were extremely ambitious but not unduly so when compared to those of the succeeding Austrian presidency. What follows is part of a wider project considering the UK presidency of the EU, from 1 January to 30 June 1998. Separate assessments will be made regarding first and third pillar activities. The second pillar activities of the presidency are of particular importance or, in the case of the UK presidency, perhaps of most importance. Certainly, any cursory glance at the work programme of the presidency indicates a strong concentration on second pillar activities. This suggests that the second pillar, due to its intergovernmental and relatively unbureaucratic nature, may be an area in which the presidency feels able to leave its mark. The first pillar agenda was however daunting since the presidency set out to act as pilot for European Monetary Union (EMU), to address employment issues, as well as the enlargement process with Central Europe and Cyprus. Britain’s well known difficulties with the former, notwithstanding ‘New’ Labour’s efforts, perhaps drew an undue amount of critical comments to the detriment of the presidency’s achievements in other areas. The third pillar, Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), also featured an ambitious agenda with collaboration amongst the EU customs authorities as the platform of a concerted anti-drug drive.
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