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Nice Treaty (Polish Community)

10. Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): What representations he has received from the Polish community in Britain about the ratification of the treaty of Nice. [145044]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): Both the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and the Government of Poland have expressed their welcome for the outcome of the Nice European Council and their recognition of Britain's contribution in securing it. We have replied to the letter from the federation assuring it that we will seek early ratification of the treaty of Nice in order that Poland and others can become members of the European Union as soon as possible. I invite the Opposition spokesman to give the federation the same commitment.

Mrs. Gilroy: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I think that he knows that there is a significant Polish community in my constituency of Plymouth, Sutton. I am sure that many of its members will join me in welcoming the treaty. Is it not absolutely clear that what the countries of east and central Europe want most from the European Union is speedy ratification of the treaty? Would it not be a terrible betrayal of those countries if we were to reject the treaty, given that they have suffered so much under Soviet rule?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Across all the applicant countries, there is acute interest in how we shall respond to the treaty of Nice. A number of them have warned us that if the European Union does not proceed with the treaty, it will strengthen the hand of nationalists and extreme forces within their countries. It is, therefore, important that we proceed with the measures.

I noticed with interest that the Leader of the Opposition has called for target dates for Poland and other countries to enter the European Union. That requires real brass neck from a party that is insisting that there should be a new intergovernmental conference, followed by renegotiation of the treaty, and a referendum on the results of that renegotiation. I should like to hear a target date for how long that would take, and how much it would delay enlargement.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle): When will the full, definitive English translation of the treaty of Nice be made available, so that the British people can fully

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understand those horrible aspects of the treaty that do not bear on the expansion of the union to the east, but bear on the liberties of the British people?

Mr. Cook: There is a full English text of the treaty, and I shall be happy to deliver one to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that I noticed last week that The Sun said that Britain had emerged as the winner from the treaty of Nice. I warn the hon. Gentleman and his party that there is no electoral majority to the right of that Eurosceptic newspaper, The Sun.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to the maximum possible enlargement of the European Union, and that, if that happens, institutional changes in the organisation will be required to make it more efficient? Can he also confirm that although those who believe that we can reject the Nice treaty or hold up the process of institutional change pretend to favour enlargement, they are in effect saying to Poland and other countries in central and eastern Europe that, in reality, enlargement will not happen if we ever have another Conservative Government in this country?

Mr. Cook: There will be no enlargement without reform of the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. That is what we secured at Nice. I remind the House that the outcome is good not simply for enlargement and the candidate countries, but for Britain. For the first time since we joined the European Community, we secured an increase in Britain's vote in the Council of Ministers. It is that gain that the Opposition describe as a horrible outcome.

EU Enlargement

12. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): What recent discussions he has had with his Swedish counterpart on preparations for the forthcoming enlargement of the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [145046]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): At yesterday's meeting of the General Affairs Council, I welcomed the commitment of the Swedish presidency to give enlargement of the European Union "the highest priority".

In the candidate countries, enlargement will promote investment and prosperity and underpin freedom and stability. In the existing member states, enlargement will widen trade and enable us to find solutions to common problems such as cross-border crime. For that reason, we want negotiations with the best-prepared candidates to be concluded next year, but enlargement will not be possible unless we ratify the treaty of Nice in the meantime.

Miss McIntosh: I thank the Foreign Secretary for that full reply. Does he share my pleasure that enlargement has been made one of the top priorities? Does he share my concern that agriculture should be made the top priority to enable sufficient time to be taken to negotiate what is

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probably the most difficult policy area, in particular to help the Baltic states and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join when we hope they will join, by 2004-05?

Mr. Cook: I agree that agriculture will be one of the more difficult dossiers for negotiation. It is important that we proceed with reform of agriculture policy, but it is equally important that we do not make that a condition of enlargement; otherwise, those who oppose agricultural reform will find that that is a basis on which to oppose enlargement.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): When my right hon. Friend meets the Swedish Government to discuss EU enlargement, will he be prepared to raise the Turkish application to join and whether the human rights situation, the number of people in prison, prison conditions, the number of people on hunger strike and the denial of human rights to so many people in Turkey renders that country ineligible to join?

Mr. Cook: The simple fact is that if Turkey is to proceed with its candidacy, it must meet the Copenhagen criteria on political and legal reforms and respect for ethnic minorities. All those in Turkey who have campaigned for such reforms enthusiastically support Turkey's application to join the EU because they consider that to be one of the strongest levers that they have to deliver the reforms that are important to them and important to my hon. Friend. There is no prospect of negotiations starting until Turkey meets those political conditions.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): As we approach national holocaust day, does the Secretary of State agree that perhaps the best memorial that we could raise to the victims of Nazism and Stalinism in Europe would be the creation of an enlarged Europe embracing the countries of the Baltic and eastern Europe?

Mr. Cook: I agree absolutely and share the hon. Gentleman's view. One of the greatest gains from enlargement will be that the countries of central and eastern Europe will have underpinned the freedoms, the justice and the stability that we in western Europe currently enjoy. That will be a gain for them; it will also be a gain for us.

North Korea

13. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): What steps have been taken to promote trade with North Korea since the establishment of diplomatic relations with that country. [145047]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): Recent developments in relations between South and North Korea are good news and, as part of our establishment of diplomatic relations, we are taking steps to promote trade relations with North Korea.

Mr. Prentice: It is indeed good news that the so-called hermit kingdom is, after half a century, emerging into

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the daylight. A North Korean delegation is coming to Westminster next week or the week after. My concern is that 20 million North Koreans exist on the edge of starvation--there are terrible famines there--and 2 million have already perished. We established diplomatic relations last month, but what can we do to follow that through by achieving improved trade relations and, in particular, by boosting North Korea's agricultural sectors so that it can feed its own people?

Mr. Battle: Trade Partners UK, in consultation with the Korean business advisory group, is preparing detailed

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advice for British business. That advice, which will be available from March this year, is expected to be regularly updated as our relationship develops and our understanding of North Korea improves.

It is important for us to join in the campaign to eradicate poverty, famine and hunger in North Korea. I shall be meeting the delegation that will arrive next week. We think that, for once, the policy--that, in particular, of Kim Dae Jung: the "sunshine policy"--to promote a thaw in relations with the north has been successful so far. We want to encourage it and see it develop further.

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