The European Union's top envoy in Hong Kong has called for the city to resume its electoral reform process as soon as possible and predicted lively debate on the issue in the run-up to the 2017 chief executive election. Vincent Piket, head of the European Union office to Hong Kong and Macau, said he believed electing the city's leader and the Legislative Council by universal suffrage would help create a government strong enough to tackle thorny issues in the years ahead. Citing the EU's experience in tackling the problem of "social exclusion" of immigrants from mainstream society, Piket said there was a need for the Hong Kong government to address growing socioeconomic grievances in the city. In a wide-ranging interview with the South China Morning Post, Piket said failure to meet the original target of achieving universal suffrage in 2017 did not mean "the ambition and objective" was "no longer there". "I would be surprised if the topic [of how to attain universal suffrage] does not come up in the campaign for the 2017 chief executive election," he said. "I would think the public and business sector do want to know what candidates stand for in the economic and social spheres and also in the political sphere, particularly on electoral reform. "I think after the 2016 Legco election, or even before that, the question will be debated in a quite lively manner." Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said after Legco rejected a Beijing-dictated electoral reform package in June that the government would focus on economic and livelihood issues and that political change would not come up again during his current term. While he said the timing of electoral reform was a choice to be made by the Hong Kong and mainland governments, Piket said he hoped the process could resume as soon as possible. "Electing the chief executive and the Legislative Council by universal suffrage is good for governance. It's good for the building of a competitive and strong Hong Kong that the business sector expects," Piket said. The Netherlands-born diplomat said a strong government was needed to address complex issues in Hong Kong, such as retirement protection. "Any government will have to deal with the issues we find in society," the diplomat added. Piket said while Hong Kong needed to maintain its "soft assets" like the rule of law and freedom of expression, it should also examine the regulatory framework for the functioning of the market and ensure adequate intellectual rights protection. "The existing copyright law is quite old and does not take into account all sorts of issues connecting with new technology," he said. Piket also said he hoped to promote green issues in the city through dialogue with the government and business.