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Mr. Foulkes : I said that I would be brief. It would take much longer to do what the hon. Gentleman asks. However, I will see him afterwards--he and I are good friends--and I shall go through the examples.
The people of eastern Europe are certainly rejecting Communism, but, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil said--rightly, on this occasion--they are equally certainly not opting for Thatcherism. They are not opting for an unrestrained market. Instead, they are opting for a mixed economy, as J. K. Galbraith said in an excellent address at my old university at Edinburgh only last week. This spring we will see a welcome procession of democratic elections from March until June as democracy blossoms in eastern Europe. Opposition Members unreservedly welcome that.
However, the transformation from Communism to democracy is not easy. Elections cannot be delayed for too long, because instability during the hiatus between the end of Communism and the elections could become uncontrollable. Equally, we accept that time is needed for new parties to be formed and to organise. There is a dilemma facing people in each country in eastern Europe.
Column 341Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no need for Labour Members to be on the defensive? We fought against Stalinist tyrannies. For example, last year we went to the East German and Czech embassies, protesting at arrest and detention. From the very beginning of the Labour party, we have been opposed to every form of dictatorship or totalitarian rule. Is it not the case that Tory Members have often defended dictatorships--for example, Hitler and Mussolini before the war and the Greek colonels since, not to mention what is happening in South Africa? It is they who should be on the defensive when it comes to democracy, certainly not ourselves.
Mr. Foulkes : My hon. Friend is correct. We are also continuing to oppose tyranny in China, where it appears to be business as usual for Conservative Members. However, Opposition Members still recall the young student who stood up against the tank and fought for democracy. We do not erase that picture from our minds too quickly. I am not apologising in any way.
As the transition from Communism to democracy takes place, eastern European countries will need our help. Opposition Members welcome the know-how funds, and we are playing our part in them. The Secretary of State recently announced their development and expansion to other countries. However, the pace of events in eastern Europe is overtaking the capacity of the know-how funds to offer help. We urge the Government to move their efforts up several gears and several levels.
Mr. Foulkes : I said that we recognise the extension of the funds. I shall come to that in a moment and give some explanations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has called for a new Marshall plan for eastern Europe. Such an initiative was endorsed by professor Susan Strange in two recent articles in the International Herald Tribune. She said that it should involve a central fund for credit, trade assistance and other help of that nature. Major economic assistance from Britain and other western European countries should be co-ordinated. Such assistance should be determined largely by the newly elected Governments in eastern Europe. I hope that, in his reply, the Minister will tell us that he is prepared to move beyond the important technical assistance of the know-how funds to much wider, broader and fundamental assistance.
The new Governments in eastern Europe should be allowed to develop their own democratic, economic and social systems and to protect and develop their countries' cultural identities. It is vital to avoid new forms of dependency, such as we have seen, develop regrettably in the Third world. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) rightly said, it is vital that our help to eastern Europe should not be at the expense of our assistance to the Third world. That assistance will be even more important with the development of the economies of eastern Europe. Because I have known the Government over the past 10 years, I fear that, despite their assurances that new money will be made available, the planned increases in assistance to
Column 342poorer countries may be forgone and assistance to other areas may be squeezed. I urge the Minister to assure us that that will not be the case. I warn him that we shall watch it carefully.
Britain has much to offer eastern Europe because of our experience of pluralist democracy, free access to the media, autonomous trade unions and a plethora of independent non-governmental bodies which are all still relatively vigorous in spite of--in some cases, because of--the ravages of the past 10 years. The message from both Conservative and Opposition Members should be that we are eager and willing to offer many types of assistance to the emerging democracies.
We also support the initiatives of the European Community as an institution to assist eastern Europe. We have watched with interest moves towards closer political and economic links between east and west European countries. East Germany is a special case, and I shall refer to it later, but elsewhere in eastern Europe democracy will need to be established and consolidated and economies developed and stabilised before integration into the Community can be contemplated. Clearly, other forms of association are both possible and desirable. In Germany, the events of the past few weeks have been the most dramatic of all. Parties and unions in both East and West Germany are already joining in all-German federations. Some 3,000 workers who live in east Berlin have taken part-time jobs in the West. They earn more than they would by working full time at home. Last Saturday, at an amazing event, the great West German, indeed the world Socialist leader, Willy Brandt, addressed a tumultuous throng of 100,000 East Germans. It has become clear that the boundary between East and West Germany no longer exists. German unity is inevitable and we must work with that inevitability. Britain can take a lead in responding positively to that.
As a democratic Socialist, I welcome the leading role that the SPD is playing in establishing a new Germany. It is important that the leadership of Germany show its acceptance of the 1937 borders with Poland and the Soviet Union in order to reassure the leaders and the peoples of those two countries.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : The hon. Gentleman endorses the policies of the SPD. Will he comment on some of the implications of the victory of Oskar Lafontaine in the Saarland at the weekend? He appeared to win through an opportunist attempt to stir up feeling against East Germans coming into the country.
I wish to move on rapidly to the defence implications of events in eastern Europe. I fear that the Government's response to developments in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe is both misguided and misjudged. The Soviet Union has already announced in 1988 that it will reduce its army by 500,000 troops. A similar number in Warsaw pact countries have an uncertain future. The conventional forces in Europe treaty will eliminate two thirds of Warsaw pact tanks and thousands of aircraft.
We all know that the Soviet Union is preoccupied with internal divisions and urgently needs resources to be transferred from expenditure on arms to boost its economy. Increasingly, the Soviet Union is becoming a
Column 343most unlikely aggressor. Yet the unbelievable response of the British Government, announced in the expenditure review yesterday, is to add £1 billion to our defence expenditure next year, with real increases in spending over the next three years. The British Government are increasing arms expenditure, unlike Belgium, the Netherlands and even the United States of America.
The Labour party believes that there is an urgent need for a wide-ranging defence review to cut expenditure and take account of the greatly diminished threat. Perhaps the Minister could confirm the report in The Times today that the Prime Minister is to head a Cabinet meeting to look into new defence strategy. If that is the case, we welcome it in principle but we have some doubts about the attitude of the person who will head the committee.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil spoke about continuing the existing pacts. Beyond that, the Labour party believes that the new architecture of Europe will need an entirely new system of security. We welcome the initiatives of Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Mitterrand to consider a pan-European security system involving all 35 countries in a new Helsinki process. Although we welcome the Foreign Secretary's rhetoric about turning tanks into tractors, we cannot see evidence of it in Government expenditure plans or the Prime Minister's statements.
We urge the Government to go even further than the Foreign Secretary's rhetoric and turn missiles into machines. It is grotesque and unacceptable while revolutions are taking place throughout Europe for the Prime Minister to press ahead with modernising short-range nuclear weapons. At whom are they targeted--Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa? Perhaps if the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will tell us. He is one of the remaining cold warriors in Europe.
The Prime Minister buries her head in the sand. That not only wastes resources and maintains tension but delays the forward planning necessary in the arms industry to diversify in order to protect and maintain employment in more socially useful production. Finally, unless our present Government stop trying to make petty party political capital out of the monumental events in eastern Europe, broaden their vision and end the suspicion that isolates them as Europe's sole remaining cold warrior, Britain will have failed to play the positive part in these monumental developments in Europe which our background and history should determine that we play. 5.39 pm
Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) is to be congratulated on tabling the motion, topical as it is in relation to the momentous events that are now revealing themselves throughout Europe. I suppose that he is to be admired for doing so with arguments which, although not entirely acceptable to me, have the deferential support of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Sir C. Smith), because for any Liberal leader to secure that characteristic deserves memory. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that it was time for taking a view and a vision of Europe.
I apologise for the fact that I shall not follow some of the more detailed argument of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). Instead, I shall put to the House one or two general
Column 344propositions that are properly the property of Back-Bench contributions to the debate, liberated as we are from the more cautious considerations of the Foreign Office or its shadows. I should like to reflect on the visionary comments of a generation ago, when the present European Community was being established, when it was much in the mind of Jean Monnet some time after the war, before the Messina treaty and the Rome arrangements were undertaken. He said :
"In my view Western Europe is a vacuum, on either side of which are two great dynamic forces of Communism and American Capitalism." From that analysis a whole concept has developed of a continental state that comprises western Europe with a high degree of economic and political integration to match the existing defence arrangements that had been essayed in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I do not make this comment in any sense of hostility, but whatever the virtue and validity of that analysis at the time of its making, it reveals nothing of the Europe that we now see. It reveals nothing of the Europe that preoccupies this debate and the debate outside the House and nothing of the kind of institutions that are more appropriate for what is now emerging.
Therefore, I should like to share with the House my own observations of the two great characteristics that I think will cast their shadow--or their inspiration--over European debates in the immediate years ahead.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that the Europe of today bears no resemblance to that described by Monnet is very much due to the implementation of Monnet's vision of the structures of Europe that should take the place of that vacuum?
Mr. Biffen : I am not trying to be clever, but the answer is yes and no. I have a qualified agreement with the Monnet analysis and a qualified acceptance of the present characteristics of western Europe as derived from the treaty of Rome and the changes that it secured. However, that is only a partial answer. So many other factors have operated outside Europe that have had inevitable hammer-blow consequences on the way in which we have developed that any answer given to that question must be much more than a mere couple of sentences, as the hon. Gentleman must know.
I now turn to the two characteristics that I think will cast a shadow. The first is the reunification of Germany. Most hon. Members will accept that that reunification has been impending. There may have been arguments about the timing and about the modalities, but most hon. Members are past believing that two distinctive Germanys, operating to different economic, social and political judgments, are in prospect for the next decade. If we accept that German reunification is to be a reality of the new Europe, I hope that we shall do so with a full heart and not grudgingly.
In my judgment, the behaviour of the German Federal Republic since the second war has been wholly exemplary. The fact that it has not sought to exercise a political authority in any sense commensurate with its economic clout, but has preferred to operate in partnership with France, should not deny us the belief that German politics operates with great maturity. They need no patronising comments from people in this country or elsewhere.
Column 345I have not been a particular Germanophile. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), who was in his place a moment ago, has a great record of association with German parliamentarians, so I am happy to place on record the fact that I am making these comments in his spiritual presence.
One can always try to unravel history to the advantage of one country or another, but I believe that the decision after the first war in the Versailles treaty provision 231 to identify German guilt for the first war is exactly the kind of insensitivity that haunts those who come after the authors of such attitudes.
I observe a new, dynamic and cohesive force--cohesive in its own internal disciplines--now existing in central Europe, with new opportunities to direct its energies. "Drang nach Osten" is a phrase that will come back to us as we see German economic penetration to the East, German aid to the East and the recreation of traditional German ambitions towards the East.
As I make my second observation in the presence of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), I confess that I had already formed my argument before reading Conor Cruise O'Brien's article in The Times. I make that point in self-defence. Although German reunification may be generally accepted, there are still great areas of dubiety, and I entertain great pessimism for the future of Mr. Gorbachev and the Soviet Union as currently constructed. I believe that the nationalism that has been released in the Warsaw pact countries will return to be effective in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, the Transcaucasian territories and possibly in the Ukraine. It is a formidable list, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence for believing that those pressures are now at work in the Soviet Union.
When one reflects that 18 per cent. of the Soviet population is Islamic and that 40 per cent. of the current Soviet conscript draft comes from the Islamic republics, one realises the lack of internal cohesion in the Soviet Union today. One possible reaction is that Russian nationalism will arise in response to the Soviet Union's losses in the minority, in the Islamic and in the non-Russian republics. Some evidence of the nationalist movement Pamyat can already be observed. I do not want to comment on that because I can do so only tentatively, but we would be extremely foolish to suppose that the Soviet Union, as currently constructed, can enjoy an element of stability in the new Europe. We have not seen the end of that story and no one can be quite sure where it will conclude. That takes me to the business of how the European Community and its institutions can adapt to meet that challenge. If I can plagiarise Jean Monnet, we need structures that can contain both a reunified Germany and possibly a humiliated, nationalistic Russia, which would be a potential danger on the eastern approaches. Therefore, in trying to secure the widest possible political co-operation, we should look at the institutions that we have today. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the Council of Europe and that is a start, but that wider political co-operation has to derive from the Council of Ministers and from the European Community.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil and the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley spoke of
Column 346defence. At this stage, not much can be said that is constructive, but I have an instinct that the influence of the United States will gradually diminish in the military councils of NATO. Therefore, we have to think in terms of European collective security, covering the European members of NATO and the Warsaw pact. That challenge will require the most delicate essay in statesmanship. The future of Europe will be more related to collective security and the ability to live to the old political structures--I know not whether before 1914 or 1939--than to maximising economic growth. That is the language of yesterday's Europe, not the challenge of tomorrow's.
Trade is still the third cornerstone factor in the new Europe. As this debate has been initiated by the SLD, I shall quote the old Liberal adage that if trade cannot cross frontiers, armies will. That is adage enough to secure the efforts of the House to ensure the maximum trade operating throughout Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals. However, let us be clear about one thing. That is not just the simple trade of the treaty of Rome. We are taking within our ambit countries whose economies are substantially different from those operating within the countries of the existing Community. Let me give the House just one example. Both in this country and in western Europe we are increasingly laying major environmental charges upon our industry and commerce. A Bill on that matter is passing through Parliament this very Session. There is no such comparable environmental care in eastern Europe. Much of the industry there operates under the most reprehensible environmental standards. Despite that, we shall expect our industry and commerce to compete where there is no even playing ground. We have to find some way to increase and improve trade across the wider Europe that is now emerging.
There are no blueprints for these changes. There is no immediate revised treaty of Rome. It will be much more subtle and difficult. Those of my hon. Friends who have been to eastern Europe recently say that the countries of the Warsaw pact in the north are quite different from those in the south. Our whole mentality on east Europe and west Europe had better be replaced by one on north Europe and south Europe when we try to devise ways to cope with these changes. One modest, often neglected, mechanism that can reconcile such varying economies is flexibility in exchange rates. That is why what often seems to be the settled argument of last month or last year comes back to haunt us with new challenges and opportunities. At least the House is privileged to live in a time of challenge and opportunity.
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport) : There is little doubt that historians will compare 1989 with 1848, and that it will be seen as the springtime of nations. We are seeing the revival of nationhood, and there is nothing wrong with that. I agree with the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) that we must welcome the unification of Germany and not be grudging about that. We are seeing the flourishing of nations. How we handle the emergence of a unified Germany is the most significant issue. How we handle it over the next few weeks and months will be particularly crucial. I have no doubt that this will change the nature of Europe.
Column 347I believe that a united Germany will be a member of the European Community. After all, since 1956 the protocol annexed to the treaty of Rome has made it clear that the DDR and the FRG were, for all trading purposes, to be seen as one nation. I believe that unification will take place far faster than any of us had imagined. It is right that that should happen, because that commitment to nationhood, and the wealth in the Federal Republic, can bind the two into a unified country far quicker than the pace of any of the changes that will take place in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. It is in our interests that a market economy and a true democracy are established in one of the countries that were hitherto Soviet Communist satellites as quickly as possible. That can be done in three years, and unification will effectively take place this year, although the constitution requirements may follow later. If that can be done, it will make it easier for Czechoslovakia, Hungary and even Poland to come into the European Community within the decade. I do not know whether they will come into the Community. Much will depend on their determination to move to a market economy and the speed with which they can establish a real and genuine democracy. I agree with the Minister that democracy takes time to bed in. Such changes do not develop within a matter of months, and there are already worrying signs in Romania of the spectre of Fascism returning. We cannot be sure that any of these countries will find it easy to move--Poland, for example will find it hard to adjust to the market economy and will need all the help that it can get--but the fulcrum of these changes will be a unified Germany.
That unified Germany will be a member of the European Community, but how it sees its defence relationships is still an open question. It needs to be made clear to Mr. Gorbachev that we will not accept any country dictating the pattern of defence alliances. That is a matter for self-determination by a unified Germany. I hope that a unified Germany will remain a member of NATO, but I note that Hans-Dietrich Genscher said the other day that he thought that it would be impossible for a unified Germany to be a member of NATO. If it is not, I hope that it will be a signatory to the Brussels treaty, a member of the Western European Union and committed under that treaty to come to the defence of any of its fellow signatories. I think that many Germans will be reluctant to give up the relationship with the United States that they know has been a central factor in their prosperity and security. We in NATO must look seriously at whether it is reasonable to ask a united Germany to have on its soil United States forces. After all, although we do not wish to have the Soviet Union dictating the pattern of German unification, and certainly not imposing neutrality, we have to take account of Soviet concerns.
If, as I believe, Soviet troops are withdrawn quickly from Czechoslovakia and Hungary, it is certainly in our interests that they come out of eastern Germany. It would be foolish to have a unified Germany with Soviet troops in the old part of east Germany and United States troops in the old part of west Germany. It is open to argument whether it is right to provoke the Soviet Union by even trying to have United States troops in a unified Germany. Would it not be better for NATO, of its own volition--not as a result of an agreement with the Soviet Union or involving the Warsaw pact-- to say
Column 348that a unified Germany would not have US forces stationed on its soil, and thereby no nuclear forces either from the United States? This does not mean, however, that the United States would pull out of a defence commitment to Europe. It is essential that we bridge the Atlantic. It is strongly in the interests of European development that the United States link its forces into Europe. American aircraft could still be deployed in the United Kingdom and in Italy. United States ships and submarines would still come into European ports and exercise in the western Atlantic and the Mediterranean. With smaller forces, Canada should also remain.
NATO will stay ; the only question is whether Germany will be a member of it. I think and hope that it will be. But we must not offer the provocation of keeping US forces on the soil of a united Germany, given that the Soviet Union is withdrawing from all the satellite nations. A unified Germany without United States troops can still have the troops of Holland, Belgium and the United Kingdom stationed on its soil--[ Hon. Members :-- "Why?"] That might be prudent, because it would allow the German army to be smaller.
One aspect that worries people about a unified Germany is the idea of its having a large force. Were the forces of East and West Germany to link, a massive army would be formed. Many Germans would prefer a more modest army, relying, through the WEU, on links with other countries such as Belgium, Holland and Britain. That makes sense, and it would link a unified Germany to the deterrent strategy of the WEU, which is nuclear as well as conventional. That would mean that the United Kingdom and France would retain their nuclear weapons and be able to exercise their nuclear-carrying aircraft at the invitation of Germany, should they wish to do so They could even station them permanently in Germany, but there would be no United States forces. I hope that Germany will choose membership of NATO as well as of the European Community, although I would settle for membership of the WEU. I would be extremely concerned if a united Germany chose to be neutral. How we handle that question in the coming weeks and months is of fundamental importance. We must not be grudging in our political acceptance of the fact that a unified Germany will exercise its power responsibly. We must not be jealous of its economic strength, which will be needed in East Germany and which will be generously applied to other countries.
The European Community and the Government have already demonstrated a great deal of imagination and foresight in the way in which they have tried to deepen the commitment to a market economy and to pluralist democracy in the countries of eastern Europe, but much more will have to be done.
It is time we told Mr. Gorbachev that a European common home is alive and well and living in the European Community. If we want to build on the common home, we should enlarge the Community--of that there is no doubt-- but the pace of enlargement remains open to question. We enlarged the Community from nine to 12 countries with political factors very much in mind. The economic development of Spain, Portugal and Greece had not progressed as far as we should have liked, but because we wanted to buttress the new democracies of those countries,
Column 349which were emerging from Fascism, we took a political risk and enlarged the Community more quickly than we might otherwise have done.
We may find towards the end of the 1990s that the economies of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland have not made quite as rapid progress as we should like, but we shall want to buttress their democracies by accepting them into the Community. There is no doubt that, if Austria wants to join after 1992, it will ; likewise Norway.
None of us quite knows what is happening inside the USSR. I am afraid that I share the pessimism of the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North. The great danger in this country, in the media and elsewhere has been that of giving Gorbachev rave reviews even though he is in serious trouble in his own country. Gorbachev has not delivered the market economy--he has come nowhere near doing so. I am somewhat pessimistic about anyone's capacity to turn the Russian economy into a market economy. Nor has Gorbachev moved in any significant way towards democracy ; but the nationhood of which I spoke earlier is certainly flowering in the USSR--the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a phrase which Leszek Kolakowsky said contained a lie in every word. The Soviet Union has always contained nations forced into it and resenting that fact.
What shall we do about Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania? It will be very hard for any Soviet leader to allow those countries to become independent--two months ago, I should have said that they would never be allowed independence. Now, I am beginning to wonder. The Russian empire is in such serious decline that it arguably may not be able to hold republics such as Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia. They may all seek independence. We may be witnessing not just the decline of the Soviet empire but the dismemberment of the USSR.
What does this mean for the enlargement of the European Community? Instead of a Community of 24 or more nations, a wiser grouping might be a Community of about 16 nations, including Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and East Germany--because of unification. There might also be a Baltic community, comprising Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden and possibly Norway. That grouping might maintain a close relationship with the European Community. A Black sea community might also develop, comprising Romania, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Armenia.
I have never believed that Turkey is a European country. I know that associate membership of the EC is meant to carry with it a commitment to full membership, but we should not see Turkey as an early candidate for enlarging the Community. If we outline how we see the enlargement of the European Community, we can lay claim to its being the European common home. We can have trading and economic relations with the Soviet Union, which might join us in the Council of Europe, a good forum in which to come together. However, the pace of development should be set by the democratic nations--by us. I urge the House not to get into the habit of thinking that these decisions should be taken in the framework of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe ; or to believe that we have a vested interest in retaining the Warsaw pact, which is loathed by countries such as
Column 350Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. When they have attained their freedom, who are we to tell them to keep that organisation? We must be self-confident enough not to be exclusive, but to open out our democracy all the time to a wider Europe. We must do so of our own volition and strength. There will be greater integration, but the European Community will respect nationhood. I hope that the federalists will stop seeking the end of nationhood and cease their drive towards a Community that tries to stifle the most basic political factor in our democratic development--the sense of belonging to a nation.
This is not the same as nationalism. Of course there are institutions in the EC that override nationhood : there is a pooling of sovereignty. We know how much we can poll at various times while retaining our nationhood. NATO had an integrated command structure, yet we retained our nationhood. We shall move towards greater European economic and monetary union. But we shall want to retain nationhood--and there is nothing wrong with that.
I have been a committed supporter of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Community since the first public political speech I ever made--in 1962. I have never been a federalist, and I resent the mood in Britain that, somehow, if one is not a federalist, one is not a European. I have arguments and differences with the Government about some of their attitudes to the European Community, but I will not be told that I am a bad European because I believe that the United Kingdom can retain its identity within a European Community.
Retaining identity will not result in a weaker Europe. We will not get a larger Europe by spurning nationhood, nor will we get a cohesive Europe if we hold on to the outdated views about national decision making. It will evolve. The evolution of the European Community is the most exciting thing that has happened. As it has been debated in this House, all of us have changed. I do not believe that 20 years ago the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North could have made the speech that he made today, and I doubt that 20 years ago I could have made the speech that I am making now. We have all adapted and changed.
In the European Community, we are building a unique structure. Forcing it into a mould marked "United States" would be ludicrous. It is utterly ludicrous to believe that, somehow, the European Community states will be like California, Montana and Oregon. The European Community that we are developing is unique, basic--[ An Hon. Member-- : "Bogus."] I hear someone say, "Bogus." I read in the New Statesman the other day an exact simile from Professor David Marquand, who likened the European Community development to California, Oregon and Montana. The fact of the matter is that the European Community that we are building will not be matched by any other institution in the world, because Europe has an identity of its own. It is the retention of that identity that will embrace central Europe, that will go wider than the Community of the 12. It is that which we should build--and build on the basis of a united Germany.
Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme) : It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). I certainly join him in his call to the NATO Allies in Europe--including a united Germany when it comes
Column 351into being, which, like him, I suspect will be sooner rather than later--to retain the commitment to the concept of collective security. It was the absence of that commitment in the 1930s that led this continent directly towards disaster. Further, I join the right hon. Member in his support for the concept of the United Kingdom and the other nations of Europe retaining their national identity within the scope of the European Community.
Everybody under the age of 50 has lived his entire life under the reality or the threat of world war. Suddenly the scene has been transformed out of all recognition. Without question, the changes that are taking place in the Soviet Union and the revolution that has taken place in eastern Europe in recent months are the most positive and encouraging developments of my lifetime. Never have the prospects for peace been brighter than they are today. For millions of our fellow Europeans a 50-year nightmare, at the hands of the Nazis and then of the Red Army and its police-state puppets is drawing to a close. For the first time, these betrayed and battered people have a prospect of securing control of their own destiny through the establishment of democratic governments and the withdrawal of the invader from their soil.
In this regard, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, most astonishingly, made it clear that it is his belief--I am not sure that it is a belief shared by his colleagues--that the Soviet occupying forces and the tanks of the Red Army should remain in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Since the day Gladstone gave the order for the bombardment of Alexandria, no more illiberal statement has been uttered by one who claims to be a liberal politician.
Mr. Ashdown : I can only assume that the hon. Gentleman was not listening. This calumny was put forward also by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport, (Dr. Owen), and the hon. Gentleman knows that I quite specifically denied it. That is not my intention, nor were those my words. It is perfectly clear that those nations--Hungary, Czechoslovakia and others--who want the troops of the USSR to be removed should be able to require their removal. That is what should happen. What I said was that in the interim period, until we believe that new European security agreements which would accommodate, for instance, the matter of the reunification of Germany are possible, the two structures currently in existence--NATO and the Warsaw pact--would be best kept in place. That does not mean that there would be Warsaw pact troops in Hungary, any more than it means that the preservation of NATO--and the right hon. Member for Devonport said that it was not so--necessarily requires the retention of United States troops in Germany.
Mr. Churchill : I am delighted to have the right hon. Gentleman's clarification on that point. I think that few hon. Members followed him in his suggestion that it was desirable that the Warsaw pact should be maintained. That is what he said.
The implications of these developments are far-reaching for the future of NATO, which will have to rethink both its strategy and its deployment, and for the future of the two Germanys, where reunification is inevitable. I regard reunification as wholly desirable, provided--and it is an important proviso--that it is firmly based on democratic principles. Of course, the very
Column 352prospect of German reunification will send shivers down the spines of an older generation in this country and elsewhere. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) said in his excellent contribution, the fact is that West Germany--the Federal Republic--has proved its democratic credentials, and there is no doubt that it could steer a reunified Germany on to the path of democratic development.
Of course, the implications of this revolution for the European Community are also profound. We must see that the horizons of Europe and of the Community are widened to include the nations of eastern and central Europe. We must welcome those nations--we do welcome them--with open arms as partners in the building of this free and democratic Europe, provided that it is their wish to join in that adventure. Those people, like Mr. Delors, who favour a European unity based on centralism will have to revise their views, as the people of eastern Europe are most unlikely to want to be involved in anything that smacks of central control from distant places. We must build a structure of European unity based on respect for the national sovereignty of member states as expressed through their national Parliaments. In that respect, I echo what the right hon. Member for Devonport said. That is the way forward in building a European Community from the Atlantic to the Urals.
I should like to address the immediate needs of the peoples of eastern Europe, especially in three particulars that stand out. First, millions of our fellow Europeans are literally starving and in urgent need of food aid on a far larger scale than that so far undertaken by the European Community. Secondly, the economies of many east European states are on their beam ends. Even at sacrifice to ourselves, we must extend large scale practical assistance on a Community-wide basis. Free enterprise must play a leading part in the regeneration of industry and commerce in eastern Europe.
Thirdly, Britain and the House have a special part to play in helping the nations of eastern Europe to build democratic institutions. Those nations are at a loss to know which way to turn in that respect, and if we fail to help them there is a real danger that anarchy or even Fascism will fill the void created by the failure and collapse of Marxist Socialism.
The House should call upon the Government and the European Community to redouble the laudable efforts that are already being made, because a special responsibility falls on us as Europeans more than on anyone else in the world, including the people of the United States, to rebuild the shattered nations of Europe on democratic foundations and to welcome them as equal members within the European Community.
Let us recognise that, while we are living in a time of unprecedented hope for the future, the two super-powers are going through a period of the most intense instability. That could easily make the world an even more dangerous place than it was during the period from which we have so recently emerged--the cold war. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) would do well to recall that, in spite of the cuts in the Soviet defence budget to which he referred, the Soviet Union is today still spending as a proportion of its resources three times more on armaments and defence than the United Kingdom, and twice as much as the United States. It would be folly at this juncture for Britain and its NATO Allies to join in any mad rush to abandon our defences.
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Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East) : I am grateful for this opportunity to participate in the debate because it raises issues that are important not just for us or for Europe, but for the world. Like all hon. Members, I wholeheartedly welcome the emergence of democracy throughout eastern Europe and I was astonished and exhilarated by the pace of change.
In moving the motion, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) stressed liberal democracy and seemed to claim some special affinity between his party and the emerging democracies in eastern Europe. At the Conservative party conference the Prime Minister seemed to claim something similar, that the new freedom in eastern Europe had been inspired by events in Britain, as if somehow it was to be equated with bus deregulation.
Many of the emerging movements in eastern Europe have strong links with the Democratic Socialist elements in western Europe and indeed have been linked to the Socialist International. There are many good relationships in that context and I hope that they will be built upon in future. Perhaps, however, it is presumptuous and misleading for any one of us to claim a monopoly of friends in eastern Europe. If democracy is to mean anything at all, it will mean a variety of political movements emerging and no one strand outdoing all the rest put together.
The main thrust of my speech will be about the question of the new economic relationship between western and eastern Europe. Eastern Europe, if we include the USSR, has a population of 420 million. If that market becomes more open, and certainly, in the long term, if the people there are to become more prosperous as we all hope, the consequences for world trade will be far-reaching. What will be the prospects for British industry and the British economy in that new economic situation?
I fully recognise the economic difficulties in the countries of eastern Europe. When I talk about opportunities for British industry, I well understand the difficulties of eastern European countries in finding cash for expensive imports. That is why opportunities for British industry should be grasped within the co-operative framework of aid and trade about which many hon. Members, I am glad to note, have spoken. A Marshall aid type operation has been referred to. I am aware of the PHARE programme launched by the group of 24 which will assist economic restructuring in Poland and Hungary. I am delighted to know that that programme is being extended to the other countries of eastern Europe.
Quite rightly, one of the issues raised several times in the debate is the need for eastern Europe to receive help on the environment. I wish that the Minister had given us a few more details, but I am glad to know that co- operative action to try to repair environmental damage is one of the priorities that the group of 24 is addressing. The environment is certainly an important priority area.
The Communist regimes that have governed eastern Europe have been among the last environment-friendly regimes that the world has ever seen. I am sure that we all read with great concern the accounts in the press about the huge extent of environment damage in eastern Europe. Apparently 12 million people in Poland live in what is referred to as ecological "emergency" areas. It is reported that in Czechoslovakia 70 per cent. of rivers are polluted by mining wastes, nitrates, liquid manure and oil and that
Column 35475 per cent. of toxic wastes in that country is dangerously stored. It is also reported that 50 per cent. of forests are dying or damaged.
Recently I read an article in the press which referred to the black snows of Transylvania. A joke was that in one of the towns in the region a white car that entered at one end of the town emerged as a black car at the other. Horrific accounts such as these show the extent of the environmental problems facing eastern Europe. A massive effort is needed.
Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : I am happy to endorse what the hon. Lady has said. Is she aware of Mr. Gorbachev's comments two weeks ago when he suggested the establishment of a green cross that could be used in parts of eastern Europe such as the Ukraine where 300 villages have been evacuated in three separate regions as a result of the continuing effects of Chernobyl? An international green cross could be established to pool common European resources so that we could fight some of the environmental disasters that are occurring.
A massive effort is needed to improve the environment in eastern Europe and that effort is certainly beyond the present financial capacity of the countries concerned. The West must help with environmentally friendly technology and equipment. I should like to see Britain in the forefront of that movement, but, despite the brave words of the Minister, we are a long way behind many other countries in that respect.
When we look at the various joint ventures that have been agreed between western industry and industry in eastern Europe we see that the West Germans, the Scandinavians, the Americans and the Japanese are all very active. Recent accounts certainly bear that out. Our trade balance with eastern Europe is worrying. We are in deficit with the USSR, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and even Romania. There has been a dramatic deterioration during the Government's term of office, but especially during the past five years.
I read today that Tokyo was expanding its branch offices throughout eastern Europe, so we have to make up a considerable amount of mileage and the Government need to do a great deal more. That is not only my view ; it was the view expressed a year ago in the excellent report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on trade between Britain and eastern Europe. We cannot afford to sit back, although we should adopt the aid and trade co-operative approach.
I wish to quote from the Kreisky report, which was published last year and which referred to an economic programme for the whole of Europe. It stated :
"Environmental protection will be as important in the next decade"--
that is, this decade--
"as national defence was in the previous decade "
It also stated :
"Environmental technologies will be more important than Star Wars technologies."
Those are the challenges of the new Europe, and that is where Britain should be playing its full part.
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This is an exciting time to be alive in Europe. It is full of hope and promise both for the nations of the West and for those of the East. It is also a time fraught with some danger. In 1986, in a book about Poland, I wrote :
"If East and West are ever to enjoy a genuinely peaceful co-existence-- which is what millions on both sides want--there will have to be an end to the nightmare of repression suffered by the once independent nations of Central and Eastern Europe. This may have to come step by step but come it must.
The alternative to removing the present injustices and building bridges of understanding and co-operation between East and West is the certainty that our grandchildren will be living well into the 21st century in two vast armed camps bearing a crushing burden of arms which they can only hope and pray will never be used, a state not so much of peace as one of controlled hostility."
When I wrote those words, I had no idea that change would come so quickly, as it has done during these past few months.
It was marvellous to see the Berlin wall come tumbling down. It is astonishing that, at long last, the Hungarians and the Czechs are now negotiating peacefully for the withdrawal of the Soviet occupation forces that have been in their countries for the past 45 years. It was symbolic of the new mood in Europe that even the Communists in Hungary decided to remove the Soviet-style star from the arms of their country and to replace it with the Holy Crown of St. Stephen. It was not at all surprising when a Member of the European Parliament representing a Bavarian constituency, who happened to bear the name Hapsburg and who speaks fluent Hungarian, was warmly welcomed on the streets of Budapest recently.
Poland led the way with the first free elections last June, the first defeat ever of a ruling Communist party and the emergence of the first non- Communist Prime Minister since the second world war. Hon. Members will know how, with other hon. Members from all parties, I have long campaigned for Polish freedom, holding that Britain above all owed a special debt of honour to Poland, for which we went to war in 1939 and which, whatever the reasons, we abandoned at the end of the struggle.
What has happened in Poland, since the end of Jaruszelski's dictatorship, has given us great joy. I wish to pay tribute to the Government for their ready and practical help for the Polish economy, which is struggling to modernise itself. I single out the know-how fund, which is the sort of developmental help that I would recommend elsewhere in the new circumstances of eastern Europe. Last year the Government authorised the sending of food, and declared a readiness to give additional aid once Poland had agreed an economic reform programme with the International Monetary Fund.
However, as the Financial Times said on 28 December, it is still doubtful whether the flow of international aid to Poland--and, we must assume, to the other eastern European countries--will be sufficient. The Poles understand what is required. Prime Minister Mazowiecki made it very plain in his speech on 11 December on Polish independence day--the first time, incidentally, that it had been celebrated since the war. He said :
"Let us at last take this fate into our own hands and we shall make Poland a normal country, a prosperous country, a