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Speech: European Council March 2014: David Cameron's Press Conference

The Prime Minister's press conference at the close of European Council on 21 March 2014

Published on 21 March 2014

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by The Rt Hon David Cameron MP


London, England

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

This has been a wide-ranging European Council with the situation in Ukraine at its heart.

I’ll come to that shortly but first let me say a few words on other issues.

The economy

First, on the economy.

In this week’s Budget, we set out more action to build a resilient economy that delivers security for hard-working people in Britain. And specific measures to support manufacturers, investors and exporters.

Here at this summit, we have discussed how to make Europe more competitive, generate growth and create jobs.

As I set out at Davos, there is a real opportunity to bring back jobs to Britain and the rest of Europe. And today we have agreed to encourage that by doing more to cut red tape, attract investment and stimulate innovation.


We’ve also discussed how businesses need affordable energy prices to keep pace with their competitors elsewhere.

So we’ve agreed to accelerate our efforts to complete the internal energy market and to improve the energy flow across the continent with more interconnections.

We want the EU to play a strong leadership role in efforts to secure a global climate deal next year in Paris.

That means swift agreement on a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and I fully support the 40% target proposed.


I’ve also led the charge on tax reform around the world, putting it at the heart of our G8 agenda.

44 countries have now committed to the early implementation of automatic information exchange on tax matters.

And I’m delighted that at this summit, we have finally unblocked this issue in the EU with Luxembourg and Austria now committed to automatic exchange too.

And a commitment from all of us to agree new rules by the end of this year to ensure that the EU keep pace with the new global standard.

Sri Lanka

I also raised the situation in Sri Lanka.

As you know, this is an issue that I care deeply about. I want to see reconciliation in the country and that means properly addressing the issues of the past.

President Rajapaksa has failed to do this and so we now need an international, independent investigation into alleged war crimes.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner has called for this and that is what a UK co-sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council supports.

Countries will vote on that resolution next week and today I secured the full backing of all the EU for it.


Turning to Ukraine.

Since we last met, a sham and illegal referendum has taken place at the barrel of a Kalashnikov.

And Russia has sought to annex Crimea. A flagrant breach of international law and something we will never recognise.

This behaviour belongs to the Europe of the last century not this one. It cannot be ignored, or we risk more serious problems in the future.

So it was very important that the European democracies represented here should send a strong and united message that Russia will face further consequences.

And that’s what we have done.

We have subjected 12 more individuals to travel bans and asset freezes bringing the total to 33.

We have cancelled the EU-Russia summit. Agreed not to hold bilateral summits. And we will block Russian membership of the OECD and the International Energy Agency.

We have agreed to rapidly implement economic, trade and financial restrictions on occupied Crimea.

We will only accept Crimean goods in the EU if they come from Ukraine not Russia.

We have also reiterated that if Russia takes any further steps to destabilise Ukraine then there will be far reaching economic consequences. And we have tasked the European Commission to prepare such measures.

Our message to Russia is clear: choose the path of diplomacy and de-escalation or face increasing isolation and tighter and tighter sanctions.

We have already seen 10% wiped off the value of the Russian stock market this month. Reports of capital flight and downgraded credit ratings.

But the best rebuke to Russia is a strong and successful Ukraine, free to make its own choices about its future. Every leader at this summit is very clear on that.

So this morning we took a formal step to closer relations between the EU and Ukraine with the signature of a landmark agreement between us both.

We welcomed President Yatsenyuk to our meeting for the second time in a fortnight and I support his efforts to lead a stable, democratic government that reaches out to the regions and respects the rights of minorities.

We also commend the restraint of the Ukrainian authorities under particularly difficult circumstances. We want an OSCE mission rapidly deployed or we will send an EU mission.

In the long term, the biggest challenge will be to build a strong Ukrainian economy, rooted in strong institutions that respect the rule of law.

We continue to work on an IMF package for Ukraine and we have called on MEPs to rapidly confirm the removal of custom duties on Ukrainian exports, benefiting businesses there by €500 million a year.

Finally, we agreed to step up our efforts to reduce European dependency on Russian energy and we have asked the European Commission to produce by June a comprehensive plan to achieve this.

So today, we have agreed action to stabilise Ukraine in the difficult circumstances, to support the Ukrainian government and to build closer ties between the EU and Ukraine.

In the long run, Ukrainian success will be one of the most powerful answers to Russian aggression.

That is the vital contribution that Europe can make to help the Ukrainian people in their hour of need. And we are determined to deliver it.


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Posted 2014-03-21 16:03:00