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Mr Hugo Swire - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I would like to take the opportunity to update the House on the outcome of the recent elections in Burma.

National and regional parliamentary elections took place in Burma on 8 November. Official statements from international observers paint a positive picture and suggest that election day passed in a calm and orderly manner. These landmark elections are an important step towards democracy, and a victory for the people of Burma. This is the first time in over 50 years that they have had the opportunity to choose their parliamentary representatives, and to make their voices heard in support of democratic change.

The general good conduct of the election is also a credit to the current Burmese government and the Union Election Commission. The dignified manner in which the result has been accepted by the governing Union Solidarity and Development Party is also commendable. Of course the process was not perfect - it was inevitable that there will have been flaws and complaints. It is important that these are properly investigated through official mechanisms.

The UK has supported this technical process throughout. This support has included, amongst other things, allocating £2.7m to provide specialist technical advice to the Union Election Commission (through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems), £1.5m to train 5,000 domestic observers, and £400,000 to provide international best practice on security planning, focusing on communication and community engagement. Embassy staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, Ministry of Defence and UKTI took part in the observation of the preparations for voting and election day itself.

The next stages, including a peaceful and orderly transition to a new government, will not necessarily be easy. There is a lengthy interregnum before, constitutionally, newly elected parliamentarians convene in February to choose a President. The President should, in turn, form a government in March. During this period we call on all sides to engage in a spirit of openness and dialogue to manage a peaceful handover of power. The new government will face high expectations and a demanding workload. Building on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to achieve a comprehensive sustainable peace and addressing the dire situation of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine will be pressing early concerns. The UK will continue to support the people of Burma in their aspiration for a democratic and accountable government, including those unable to vote in this election. This will include providing practical and material support as well as raising human rights abuses, which remain a significant challenge.


Andrea Leadsom - Department for Energy and Climate Change

In advance of the forthcoming Energy Council in Brussels on 26 November, I am writing to outline the agenda items to be discussed.

The Commission plans to hold an orientation debate on new energy market design with the view to adapting the current electricity market design rules to new challenges. The Commission has suggested questions to frame the debate which will focus on two of its recent Communications; on the public consultation process on new energy market design, and delivering a new deal for energy consumers. The UK will welcome the Commission’s Communications since the efficient delivery of our ambitious decarbonisation objectives requires modernisation of our electricity markets, while stressing the importance of maintaining an appropriate balance of competence between the Commission and Member States.

The Council is then expected to agree to adopt the ‘General Approach’ on proposals on energy efficiency labelling with the objective of setting a revised and improved legal framework for the energy efficiency labelling of energy-related products. The proposal retains the main principles of the current legislative framework but further clarifies, strengthens and extends the scope of the current rules and features the move to an ‘A-G’ scale for energy efficiency labelling and the introduction of a product database. The UK supports the rescaling of labels on an A-G scale to increase consumer understanding thus resulting in greater energy efficiency and also the introduction of a product database to facilitate better market surveillance.

The Council will later agree to adopt Council conclusions on the governance framework for the Energy Union, the draft version of which was agreed by senior officials earlier in November. In October 2014 the European Council agreed that a reliable and transparent governance system would be developed to help ensure that the EU meets its energy policy goals. The framework will underpin the implementation of long term energy goals including the 2030 targets. The UK welcomes the conclusions which recognise that any governance framework must be flexible, and balance the need for EU frameworks on issues such as market integration and emissions reduction, with national flexibility to choose the best and most cost effective way to meet GHG targets.

Vice-President Šefčovič will present on behalf of the European Commission the first ‘State of the Energy Union’ report which will be published on 18 November. This Report reflects on action taken over the course of this year to implement the Energy Union and looks forward to the proposals that will come forward over the next 12 months.

Over lunch Commissioner Arias Cañete will provide an update to Ministers ahead of the UNFCCC negotiations in Paris (COP21). In the afternoon the Council will provide further updates on developments relating to international relations in the field of energy. Items will include Ukraine/Russia/EU trilaterals, the Energy Community and Energy Charter Treaty, the International Energy Agency, the Strategic Group for international energy cooperation and EU-MED energy cooperation.

Finally the incoming Dutch Presidency will provide information on their expected programme of work.

 


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