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European Union

7. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): If he will make a statement on progress towards enlargement of the European Union. [8791]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): The Government are a champion of early and successful enlargement and of sticking to the agreed timetable of concluding negotiations by the end of 2002 with the most advanced candidates so that they can participate in the next European Parliament elections in 2004 as members of the European Union.

Mike Gapes: I am pleased with that reply. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the enlargement of the European Union, especially to bring in the countries of central and eastern Europe, will lead to an historic change in relationships after so many years of division? Does he also agree that it is strange that those who say that they are in favour of enlargement voted against the Nice treaty, which makes enlargement possible?

Peter Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend. Candidate countries, including long-standing friends of the United Kingdom—for example, Cyprus, Malta, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary—are puzzled by the Opposition's opposition to the Nice treaty. They are seeking to stop the enlargement process in its tracks and to prevent our friends from joining the rest of Europe and reuniting the continent, which we all want to see.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The whole House will know that Ireland voted against the Nice treaty yet it too, like the Opposition, supports expansion in Europe. However, does the Minister agree that that cannot be at

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any cost? For example, the common agricultural policy will have to be reformed. Does he accept that the British taxpayer cannot be expected to pick up the tab?

Peter Hain: I agree that the CAP needs to be reformed. The Government have done more to take forward that agenda than anything that was done during 18 miserable years of Tory rule. The 1999 agreement—I think at Berlin—initiated a series of reforms and discussions that will result in time in the reform of agricultural policy in the EU. That will become even more urgent after enlargement.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston): Does my right hon. Friend accept that for many of the accession states EU membership is a spur for economic security? However, at the same time they wish to have membership of NATO for military security. The two processes are distinctly different, but will my right hon. Friend accept that they have much in common and that they should be taken forward in similar time scales?

Peter Hain: I agree that both processes should go ahead in parallel. I welcome the contribution that my hon. Friend is making to discussions with countries such as Lithuania and Estonia to bring the agenda forward. It is valuable for Members to engage with applicant countries. I hope that Opposition Members will undertake similar work. It is important that Britain is seen to be standing shoulder to shoulder with countries that we want in the European family, not seeking to keep them out.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): The Minister is aware that not all members of the European Union are as good as others at maintaining cross-border security. What reassurances can he and his right hon. Friend give the House about the negotiation process for enlargement, and the steps that will be taken to ensure that cross-border security throughout the EU is as strong as it possibly can be in these difficult times?

Peter Hain: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point—it will be of concern to him, the whole House and, I guess, our constituents. We are ensuring that stringent border controls are placed along the external borders of the new applicant countries. In some instances—for example, between the Czech Republic and Germany—the existing border controls will remain for a period to ensure that there is a phasing in of the process, otherwise we could unlock many migration problems that we do not want.

International Terrorism

8. Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe): What discussions he has had with representatives of the member states of the European Union following the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September. [8792]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): We have had regular discussions with our European Union colleagues, helping to achieve unprecedented solidarity with the United States of America and the international coalition against terrorism, as well as an EU action plan for a

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common definition of terrorism, a European arrest warrant, the freezing of assets, intelligence sharing and enhanced airline safety measures.

Mr. Betts: I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. When I met with Muslim constituents after the horrific events of 11 September, they recognised that European Union Ministers were working much more closely together on all the issues that he mentioned. They asked me what else the EU could do regarding the peace process in the middle east. Quite frankly, their perception is that when the Americans alone are seen to lead on those issues, their approach is not necessarily even-handed. They believe that if the EU had a closer and more detailed involvement, equal pressure would be applied on the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a long-term settlement. That is their perception of those issues. What role does my right hon. Friend therefore see for the EU in those matters in future? Does he see it playing a greater role, both as individual states and together in the EU, and can he say how the matter will be progressed in future?

Peter Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend—the EU has a most important and growing role, not just in seeking to find a peace process in the middle east, but in a wider global context, to make sure that the world is rid of terrorism and that international stability and peace are progressed. Some specific things have been achieved. Yesterday, the General Affairs Council, which my right hon. Friend and I attended, issued a detailed statement on advancing a number of initiatives. Of course, Commissioner Patten, special representative Solana and Foreign Minister Michel for the presidency visited Islamabad, Teheran, Riyadh, Cairo and Damascus only a few weeks ago precisely to engage on that agenda and other matters. We will continue to develop that.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): The right hon. Gentleman will know that the borders of southern Europe are porous. Does he therefore agree that it is important that the Governments of the EU have urgent discussions with the Governments of, for example, Albania and the Mahgreb, to prevent the flow into southern Europe of people who may well be terrorist supporters?

Peter Hain: Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. It is something that is very much on our minds, and we are pursuing it. I am happy to give him the assurances that he wants.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): The security of the EU from terrorism rests very much on intelligence information. A lot of our intelligence information is drawn from nations of the Islamic world. Is it not felt within Europe that the bombing is creating a situation in which that intelligence begins to be at risk?

Peter Hain: The answer is no. Intelligence sharing is important and my hon. Friend is right to pinpoint it, but we have not found that that has been a problem so far. I remind him and others that the bombing, as he puts it, is designed to take out military installations and create air safety so that the forces involved can go out, track down Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network and destroy

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their capability ever to mount a repeat action. It will also ensure that the Taliban forces that provide shelter for him are not able to do so.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): Will the Minister join me in welcoming the way in which our European partners have been able, despite differences of emphasis, to adopt a firmly supportive position on the current international crisis and the coalition gathered against it? Does he agree, however, that that support would have been much more difficult to achieve, or would at least have been substantially diluted, if every member of the EU had been required by a common defence or foreign policy to sign up to identical levels of participation and action? Does not the current layered approach to the international crisis within the EU underline the benefits of a flexible Europe of nations and the dangers of further integration?

Peter Hain: That question started well but, disappointingly, tailed off rather badly. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing at all in the European security and defence policy initiative will bring about the dangers that he foresees. On the contrary, we have seen an almost embryonic security and defence policy initiative from the EU in the way in which it responded with unprecedented solidarity and offers of practical support for the international coalition. A series of countries—France, Germany and others—have offered practical military support and co-operation. That is a good step forward. Of course, the ESDP is designed to provide a peacekeeping and humanitarian capability, not to seek to rival or outwit NATO, on which we will depend in our ability to mount necessary operations in areas like the Balkans, where, so far, we have not been able do so.

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