|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 356country in which there will be a great deal of satisfaction and joy stemming from the fact that Poland really is our joint possession." Their proud assertion underlines the remarkable speech of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). We are seeing the emergence of a Europe of nations, proud of their heritage and proud of the contribution they can make, if they are allowed, to the common good.
I heartily endorse what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) and the right hon. Member for Devonport about the inevitability of German reunification. I do not think that there is anything in that to worry us. It will take place within a democratic framework at a pace dictated by the Germans themselves, and I venture to suggest that it will come sooner rather than later. It is to be welcomed, and it should not frighten any of us if it is accompanied by the statesmanship and vision of which today's Germans are fully capable.
For example, there is a need to reassure the Poles that there will be no clamour to alter Poland's western boundaries, which were settled in 1945. Poland has suffered enough at the hands of the Germans, as well as at the hands of the Soviet Union. The Helsinki accord must remain sacrosanct. There can be no boundary changes in the new Europe, save by the consent of the parties concerned. I do not doubt that German statesmanship will rise to the occasion. Elsewhere in central and eastern Europe the signs are also generally promising. Czechoslovakia has a new, inspiring head of state in Vaclav Havel. In 1983 I had something to do with helping to get him out of prison. That brave man could have purchased his freedom with the greatest of ease. He was then in prison for asserting that his country had dishonoured its signature on the Helsinki accord. If he had apologised to President Husak, he would have been released. He chose to remain in prison. It was only after ridicule from some of us in the West, aided by the BBC central European service, that finally the Czechs gave up and let him out. I salute the man ; he is a great artist and a great human being. He symbolises the true spirit of Czechoslovakia, and we all wish him well.
In Hungary, considerable progress is being made towards modernising and improving the economy. The Government are encouraging private enterprise and examining ways of securing closer economic co-operation with the European Community.
Only in Romania is there doubt and fear. Here there is real cause for anxiety, as the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and I discovered only last week. The Communist party there is entrenching itself in power. Only in Romania, of the eastern European countries mentioned in this debate, are the emerging democratic parties being harried by thugs brought in by the so-called Government from the provinces to terrorise their opponents. Hon. Members should consider the shameful events that took place only a few days ago just after the hon. Gentleman and I left Bucharest. There was shameful harrying of Cornelius Copuso, president of the National Peasant party, who had spent 17 years in Communist prisons. His party headquarters was ransacked.
The hon. Member for Newport, West and I made some modest speeches. We were greatly moved by our experience. I have never before in all my travels or political life witnessed what I saw in Bucharest. I saw a crowd of
Column 357about 300, many of them young, kneeling in the snow and the slush, holding candles in silent vigil, before one of the three improvised monuments to the dead in a place where large numbers of people had been mown down by the tanks of the Ceausescu regime. They were described later by the Government as hooligans. The Romanian people deserve much better than they have got. Indeed, they may need another revolution before they are truly free. I mention that because it is difficult to see how it is possible to help Romania, yet help it must be given.
Mr. Alton rose--
This has been one of the most interesting and stimulating debates that I have ever attended. This is the House of Commons speaking as one in favour of giving maximum aid, help and encouragement to the nations of eastern and central Europe struggling to be free. I look forward with confidence to our developing relationship with countries coming back into our common European home.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) : In the middle of October, in the course of a debate on the defence estimates, the Secretary of State for Defence told a somewhat surprised House that Mr. Honecker had resigned, and had been replaced by Mr. Krenz. There was among those who heard that news a sense of anticipation, but I think it is fair to say that none of us had any appreciation of the consequences. Indeed, had any of us attempted to predict what has happened since, we would have been received with nothing other than scepticism by those who were present on that occasion.
Truly, the changes in eastern Europe have been staggering beyond comprehension. Of course, they have not all gone smoothly. The euphoria of taking down walls is soon replaced by the harsh reality of political decisions, sometimes made by those who have had little experience in recent time of making decisions, and sometimes made by those who are unsophisticated and unused to the responsibility which has inevitably been thrust upon them.
The circumstances in eastern Europe, which are by no means common in each of the countries in which change has taken place, may yet get worse before they get better in our terms. One cannot ignore the emergence to a certain extent of nationalism. Any student of the history of the 19th century will recall that nationalism was a very bloody force in the politics of Europe at that time. Indeed, it had a carry-over into the current century. It is sometimes forgotten that the first world war was precipitated by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, something which in 1990 one would regard as highly unlikely to provoke the kind of conflagration that it did then.
Later, nationalism was to some extent subjugated or subdued by Fascism, and then by the spurious internationalism and
totalitarianism of Communism. I accept, as the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said, that there is nothing wrong
Column 358with nationhood ; indeed, there is a considerable amount to be said for it. But I believe that in these burgeoning democracies in eastern Europe we must take account of the risk of an emergence of nationalism which would be detrimental to the view of Europe which so many hon. Members have expressed in the debate.
I believe that our task is to ensure that parliamentary democracy is enshrined, entrenched even, in these countries and that they have at an early stage inculcated into them a sense of international interdependence. We will do that best by giving them such economic assistance as we can, but perhaps more significantly by giving them political encouragement, and by being receptive, welcoming and, I suppose to some extent, tolerant of their efforts to replace totalitarian regimes with regimes which accord with our view of parliamentary democracy.
As the debate progressed, there was little doubt that in the minds of most hon. Members the single most significant question is the unification of Germany. I think most now accept that there will be unification. It could hardly be otherwise. All the political parties in Federal Germany have as part of their constitutions the aim and objective of unification, and the constitution of Federal Germany makes special provision for citizens of what we call East Germany to become citizens of the Federal Republic.
If we did not recognise it, the reality would soon overtake us, because the people of East Germany would simply vote with their feet, having voted with their bulldozers and their hands in the period around Christmas. I do not believe that we should be apprehensive about the prospect of a unified Germany. The democratic traditions which were put in place in Federal Germany after the war may not be particularly long-lived, but they are well entrenched. One is legitimately entitled to say that in that time the people of Federal Germany have behaved in all respects as if they accept, recognise and hold dear those democratic principles.
One must also remember that, unlike the 1930s, what is happening in East Germany is not the setting up of a dictatorship but pulling one down. It would be most curious if the people of East Germany, having got rid of one form of totalitarian government, were enthused to embrace another. Federal Germany is already the most dominant economic power in Europe. That is recognised by the United States of America in the special relationship which President Bush clearly feels with Chancellor Kohl.
I believe that the circumstances which now present themselves with regard to the unification of Germany should be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. We want to channel the new political assertiveness which is undoubtedly in Federal Germany into the European Economic Community, but we also want, and are entitled to ask, Federal Germany and those responsible for East Germany to make it clear that they have no territorial ambitions beyond the existing boundaries of the two countries.
The existence within a stronger Community of a unified Germany can only be to its advantage. I hope, like the right hon. Member for Devonport, that such a Germany will remain in NATO. However, between now and the time when that important decision is taken, we shall have to acknowledge that political circumstances have changed so much that, for example, the deployment of a successor to the Lance missile in the Federal Republic of Germany is not politically unacceptable. The notion that such a
Column 359weapon might be stationed in that country with a view to firing it at targets in Poland, Hungary or East Germany is totally inappropriate to the new political order.
There has been discussion as to whether or not NATO and the Warsaw pact should remain in existence. We have some influence over NATO, but not over the Warsaw pact organisation, so if it decides to disband there is nothing we can do. However, if we are to move towards a new order of security in Europe as a whole, that may be achieved more easily if negotiations can be conducted between two existing structures. That does not detract from the right of the people of Hungary or of Czechoslovakia to request that Soviet troops be removed from their country--and let us hope that such a request would be acceded to.
The eastern bloc countries--as we have known them--will all develop at a different rate. Their political sophistication and economic development will all advance at different speeds. I do not believe that it will be necessary for the Community to have a European equivalent of the Lome convention, but it should be flexible enough to offer each of those countries--as they develop to the stage at which the rule of law and parliamentary democracy is accepted--an association with the EEC both for the economic advantage that will bring, and, more significantly, the political stability that it will undoubtedly create.
Mention was made in the debate of the kind of Europe that people want to see. The word "federal" has been cast about, but I sometimes think that all such labels should be rejected, although they may give comfort to constitutional lawyers. The most amusing part of the debate was the notion that there are not yet sufficient lawyers in eastern Europe. Perhaps that might be our first export. I can think of a few candidates, both north and south of the border, excluding myself, who are capable of bringing a suitable range of skills and attributes to bear on the lapsing totalitarianism and bureaucracy of eastern Europe.
However, it is not necessary for the satisfaction of constitutional lawyers to describe one's attitude to Europe in terms that lawyers regard as important when explaining matters to their students. The pace of development within the Community will undoubtedly be different at different times, and it will depend on the collective will of all its members--not just the United Kingdom. There will be times when the Community will want to move more quickly because that is the collective will.
The circumstances that we have debated, particularly as they affect the EC, ought to create in us a sense of anticipation and a feeling that here is a moment of great opportunity--perhaps several moments. The Minister gave an account of the Government's contribution, and although the letter of what he said may have been recognised by our partners in Europe, I wonder whether they recognised the spirit of his remarks.
I and other right hon. and hon. Members feel strongly that Britain, as one of the Twelve, is often dragged into a collective decision. Instead of arguing for a collective decision and trying to improve it, too often we are seen as being dragged unenthusiastically into agreeing to a compromise. While it is right that differences over important matters should be permitted and perhaps even encouraged, and although the pace of movement will always be subject to the keen attitude that people take towards important issues such as the sovereignty of this House, it is undoubtedly the case that too often we are seen as grudging participants in the European process.
Column 360If that impression is allowed to persist in the new circumstances of eastern Europe, it will serve not only the EEC but the interests of this country very badly. We have the greatest influence when we are seen to be enthusiasts for the European process. If this debate has done nothing else, it has brought home to many people, both inside the House and outside it, that a remarkable opportunity is available to us--and I hope that the House will collectively decide this evening to grasp it.
Mr. Maude : With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, may I say that one of the greatest of the privileges that I have enjoyed during my short tenure in my present post--six months that have seen a revolution across Europe--has been the opportunity to participate in several debates concerning matters that go much beyond the frontiers of the 12 existing members of the European Community. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) said, they have shown this House at its best-- able to look for the most part beyond narrow partisan politics and to devote its collective and considerable expertise and wisdom to examining the uncertainties that have unfolded before us, and to prospect the future, to see how events may change.
Today's debate has been very much one such debate. I regard myself as greatly privileged to have heard the contributions made--especially those of my right hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point and for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), and the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). They all brought to the debate their formidable experience, wisdom, clarity and insight, which has better informed all those among us who must examine how our country can help decisively to shape the future.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North referred with a glancing blow to the caution that necessarily attends those of us who are, however temporarily, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was right to refer to that caution, but it is right also that we should exercise it, particularly at a time when Europe faces of necessity a period of instability. That instability exists for the very best of reasons, because for the past 40 years eastern Europe has paid a terrible price for its enforced stability. It is inevitable that we should deal with the new situation cautiously, sometimes looking carefully--perhaps excessively carefully--before we tread. I make no apology for that.
It is inevitable that we should treat with caution also the unification of Germany, to which almost every speaker has referred. That is not to diminish in any way our commitment to that unification, based on self- determination. However, I re-emphasise the unanimous decision of the 12 European Heads of Government at the Strasbourg Council, that when unification takes place, it must have regard both to the interests of those directly affected by it and the treaties and agreements that it will affect. As I have said, that does not diminish the commitment of all 12 member states to Germany's reunification, should it emerge from the process of democratic self-determination.
Inevitably, much of the debate has focused on the European Community and the way in which it should develop. I sensed a fairly widespread view that we should
Column 361not proceed helter-skelter into further institutional changes. I agreed profoundly with the right hon. Member for Devonport when he said that it was not necessary to be a federalist to be a good European ; no one needs to believe that rapid further changes should be made to the treaty of Rome to be entirely committed to the European Community and to making it a success.
The Government are committed to making the Community a success, and we have contributed centrally to its present position. That is why I found it hard to recognise the reality in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who said that we did not seem to be taking part in the discussions. The single market--the single factor that has made the most difference to the success of the Community--is fashioned after the pattern that we have described.
Mr. Maude : It may have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention that I do occasionally go to Brussels. I take part in the discussions, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman without immodesty that our influence on their outcome is profound. The fact that he does not understand that is a simple demonstration of how far removed he is, and will remain, from the reality of the discussions. Perhaps we have looked into the past more than we should have, but we have also looked ahead. That is proper at a time when we should not let our caution diminish the joy and pleasure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point described in his profoundly moving speech. At a time of necessary and inevitable instability, now that the tyrannies have gone we should be readier to build than to dismantle ; but this time we should build to last.
Question put :--
The House divided : Ayes 215, Noes 9.
Division No. 59] [7.02 pm
Amery, Rt Hon Julian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Beith, A. J.
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Browne, John (Winchester)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Sir Antony
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Davis, David (Boothferry)