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6. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): What plans the Government have for contributing to a lasting peace and constitutional settlement for Cyprus. [1543]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): The current United Nations settlement process offers the best chance of securing a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus, and we remain committed to supporting the UN's efforts. In conjunction with the US and our EU partners, we urge all concerned to engage positively.

Simon Hughes: Will the Minister confirm that, if all goes well, Cyprus should be able to complete accession negotiations with the EU by the end of next year, with a view to taking part in the 2004 European elections? Should not the clearest representations be made, through the Government of Turkey, to the Government of the self-styled "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" that unless that Government help to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem they will not be able to participate in Cyprus's membership of the EU? Should not it also be made clear that the Turkish Government's own application for membership could also be harmed?

Peter Hain: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point that would bear careful study by the Turkish Government, and by the Turkish embassy here. The Government very much welcome the progress being made by Cyprus, which has completed 22 of the 31 chapters needed to qualify for accession. Cyprus is an old friend, and we want its accession bid to succeed.

Those Conservative Members who want to block enlargement by holding up the Nice treaty are preventing friendly nations such as Cyprus, Malta, Hungary and Lithuania from enjoying the benefits of democracy, prosperity, stability and peace that EU membership brings. Cyprus would be among the first wave of countries to benefit from that membership.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the 27th anniversary of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus is approaching? For all that time, Turkey has been in illegal occupation of one third of a sovereign country that is a member of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations, and a prospective member of the European Union. Will he make it clear to the Turkish Government that the whole House considers that Turkey's admission to the EU remains out of the question as long as it is in illegal occupation of one third of Cyprus?

Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House and of the Turkish Government to the fact that formidable obstacles remain to be overcome before Turkey can accede to the European Union through the enlargement process. Those obstacles must be dealt with so that we can move forward, which is what we want to happen. We want to work with the Turkish Government

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to ensure that the obstacles are overcome in a way that benefits all who would be penalised if they were allowed to remain.

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): Will the Minister convey to the police and security forces in Cyprus the House's congratulations on their success in defusing, before any lives were lost, the rioting and regrettable violence that took place last week on the island's sovereign bases? What measures is he taking to ensure that the violence will not recur? Can he give the House a firm date by which he expects Cyprus to be able to accede to the European Union? Frankly, nothing that he has said so far gives any confidence that the process will be anything but slow.

Peter Hain: I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's message.

We are in close dialogue with Foreign Minister Kasoulides, whom I met earlier last week to discuss the Akrotiri antenna, which is being built on the salt lake there and has caused the difficulties. We made it clear through the environmental assessment that was conducted in 1997 that we see no problems to health or the environment as a result of the construction of that antenna. Obviously, we will want to make progress and resolve people's fears.

On enlargement, if the right hon. Gentleman would enthusiastically support the Nice treaty and the accession of Cyprus, Malta and all those other states—which will realise that the Conservatives are opposing their accession to the EU—we might move faster. The progress that Cyprus is making should mean that it clears all the obstacles by the end of next year. If everything remains on course, enlargement will take place and Cyprus will participate in the 2004 European elections to become a fully fledged member of the EU, as we want it to be.

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): Will my hon. Friend give us an assurance that the appalling violence that we witnessed last week will not be allowed to interfere in any way with British efforts to secure the peaceful resolution of the wider problems in Cyprus? I appreciate that many people in this country will have been horrified at what they saw, but we seek an absolute assurance that that will not interfere with the normal processes in which Britain is engaged to secure a peaceful resolution of the problems on the island.

Peter Hain: I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are working closely, in particular with the assistance of our special envoy, Sir David Hannay, with the United Nations and others—including the European Union—to involve Turkey, Cyprus and Mr. Denktash more positively in discussions to ensure that a settlement and the achievement of our objective and that of the UN, which is a bizonal, bicommunal Cyprus, are achieved.

EU Presidency

7. Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): What plans Belgium has for its presidency of the Council; and if he will make a statement. [1544]

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The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): Belgium has identified 16 priority areas for its presidency. I will place a list in the Library of the House.

Mr. Paterson: Will the Foreign Secretary confirm whether one of those 16 areas is the proposal pressed by the Prime Minister of Belgium and his Finance Minister to establish a European tax to be levied throughout the European Union on the benighted citizens by unelected authorities in Brussels? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if that proposal were put forward and pressed, he would use his veto to block it, as it is a fundamental principle of our democracy that there should be no taxation without representation?

Mr. Straw: That proposal is not formally on the list, but perhaps the Prime Minister of Belgium has since expanded it to 17. I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear, which is that we are opposed to that European tax.

Mr. Paterson: A veto?

Mr. Straw: Hang on. It follows therefore that we will use all the powers at our disposal to ensure that that opposition is carried through.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley): What plans does my right hon. Friend have to improve the accountability of European Union institutions to ensure that they are more relevant to the people of Europe?

Mr. Straw: My first plan is to ensure that we better explain, in language that our constituents and citizens understand, the values of the European Union. We should get away from jargon and talk about the benefits that the EU has brought for jobs, security and peace in Europe. Nothing more undermines support for Europe than a retreat into jargon. As for institutional changes, frankly, I am sceptical whether, as if by magic, an institutional change in the necessarily complicated structure of Europe will secure popular support. The Nice European Council set a pathway leading to the intergovernmental conference in 2004, in part so that the institutions could be improved. We are participating in those discussions.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): The Foreign Secretary's offer to go naked and the offer of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) to love him in the morning are taking social liberalism a little too far.

On the Belgian presidency, will the Foreign Secretary raise again during the Council meetings the question of the takeover directive which was lost by a tied vote in the European Parliament after 12 years of negotiations? The directive is a crucial opening up of the single market. It is absurd that the Germans ratted on an agreement that their Ministers had entered into, and in those circumstances the very essence and effectiveness of the European Union needs to be seen in the way that we react to it. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take a lead to

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ensure that the directive rapidly goes back on to the agenda and that this time the Germans hold to the agreements entered into by their Ministers.

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is better qualified to speak about social liberalism than me.

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the takeover directive. There is a warning there for people who believe that increasing democracy inside the EU means increasing the power of the European Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear in a speech in Warsaw that we see the European Union as a union of nation states. It is thus important that the principal power should remain with the Council of Ministers.

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