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Ms Stuart: Although I agree that the Baltic states should be admitted to NATO as quickly as possible, does the hon. Gentleman agree that we should distinguish between the situation of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which are all slightly different, and that there would be problems with Kaliningrad, should they join NATO and the EU?

Mr. Spring: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that point, as I know that she takes a particular interest in these matters. Following the events of 11 September, we should explore the position and take the opportunity to derive some benefit from the horror that occurred.

Since the House last debated European affairs, a great step has been taken in the struggle against state-directed terrorism. Last June, Slobodan Milosevic was handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. It is clear that in Europe at least, state terrorism has been shown not to pay for the individuals who direct it. Nevertheless, the western Balkans remains a region of great instability. Ethnic hatreds still hang over the region's future. In Kosovo, much progress has been made and free and fair elections have been held, in which all ethnic groups took part.

That brings us to Macedonia. I am sure that the entire House regrets the continued shootings and strife there, after it seemed that a peaceful settlement had been reached. It is clear that unless a way can be found to give Macedonia's inhabitants stability and security, the whole region will be in danger of another inter-ethnic flare-up.

The military framework for dealing with the Balkan crises has been NATO, and it has proved flexible and successful. European Union countries outside NATO, such as Austria and Finland, have worked with it in peacekeeping operations such as KFOR. We should never risk losing such practical flexibility, which demonstrates NATO's importance and pre-eminence.

The greatest strength of the response to the events of 11 September has been that it was a flexible and layered response within a flexible and layered coalition. It has been flexible in that it has not required every member of the EU to sign up to precisely the same response, and layered in that it has allowed for different levels of enthusiasm, and different levels of participation as a result. Some members have felt unable to make a military contribution in the fight against terrorism directly or to the campaign in Afghanistan in particular, while others have deployed forces or stated their intention to do so.

A single European foreign or defence policy as advocated by Romano Prodi and others would have limited the effectiveness of the European response to that of the lowest common denominator, rather than allowing flexibly for a varied and layered response which allowed the EU to hold together while responding according to individual national capabilities. It is manifestly absurd that the advocates of greater integration have adduced 11 September as a reason for it. In fact, it plays in entirely the opposite direction. We need to ask ourselves this question: what would a single defence and foreign policy

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on this issue have been? The lesson of the challenge of 11 September shows that a flexible Europe met that challenge as an integrated and harmonised Europe could never have done.

Roger Casale (Wimbledon): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is the existence of a European defence identity and the capacity to act in areas such as the Balkans that allow the flexibility that we have seen since 11 September, which has enabled us to build an international coalition that can act in areas such as Afghanistan?

Mr. Spring: I am not sure that I follow the hon. Gentleman's thought process exactly. Of course, there should be European defence co-operation. We have always been in favour of that, but we believe that it should work under the umbrella of NATO. That is the difficulty that we now face as a result of Nice.

Joyce Quin: Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether he is definitely repudiating the part of the Maastricht treaty—let us remember that it was signed up to by a Conservative Government and a Conservative Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary—that included a commitment to the

Is he now repudiating that commitment?

Mr. Spring: The right hon. Lady knows perfectly well that there was never any intention to establish a separate command structure outside NATO, but if one looks at exactly what was agreed at Nice, one sees that it is entirely different. I remind her that, originally, the Prime Minister himself bitterly opposed the moves that arose out of St. Malo. That is on the record.

The most practical thing that we can do to help our friends in eastern Europe is to proceed with enlargement of the European Union, which is the greatest task that faces member states. Regrettably, what the Government signed up to at Nice now threatens to undermine the very raison d'être of Nice: enlargement. There is no guarantee that the Irish people would change their minds if the Irish Government held another referendum on Nice. For enlargement to occur, a fallback position is clearly needed. We have pointed that out to the Government before and they need to answer the point. It is no use carrying on pretending that this is not a problem. I am sure that the whole House will be glad to hear whether such a fallback plan exists, and if so, what it is. I would not like to think that the Government had not comprehensively and urgently considered the problem.

The other great difficulty in the accession process is the lack of reform of the common agricultural policy. We know that, if there is no reform, the costs will explode and enlargement would be made virtually impossible. We have talked about these matters frequently in the Chamber, but I ask the Minister to note the final declaration at the recent World Trade Organisation meeting in Doha, which committed members to improvements in market access and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support. It would be very helpful to all hon. Members to understand exactly what that means in practice, as it applies to the common agricultural policy. I hope that he will refer to the matter. Of course, agricultural reform was not even raised at Nice, which is very regrettable.

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Before Nice, we were told by the previous Foreign Secretary that the accession process arising out of the so-called Amsterdam treaty leftovers probably did not require a formal treaty to pave the way for enlargement. If the accession process is, as we believe, a historical imperative, Nice should have been focused on it unequivocally and overwhelmingly. Before Nice, the previous Foreign Secretary told us about the 50 items for potential extensions of qualified majority voting put forward by the French presidency and then substantially ruled them out. In practice, however, at Nice the Government agreed wholly or partially to the majority of such extensions—so much for rhetoric versus reality.

As I told the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin), with regard to St. Malo our own Prime Minister flatly rejected the creation of any military structure outside NATO. What emerged at Nice was a European rapid reaction force that had nothing to do with improved defence capabilities or enhanced burden sharing, but everything to do with a structure that could ultimately undermine NATO and the United States presence in Europe.

Peter Hain: In that case, why have NATO and the United States welcomed it?

Mr. Spring: I have read what President Bush had to say. The Prime Minister's interpretation does not accord with what was signed up to at Nice. If the Minister looks at the annexes and exactly what was spelled out, he will see that there is a separate structure. As he will know, there is genuine concern in NATO, the United States and this country about a rival structure that may cause tensions within NATO in future. I am sure that he would not want that to happen. The separation of the command structure is spelled out unequivocally in the Nice annexes, and the Government simply cannot pretend otherwise. There are those who say that, since 11 September, there has been much rethinking. I hope so, for it is not only the decreasing military capabilities of Europe that have been put under the spotlight.

Let us turn now to the charter of fundamental rights. I am delighted to see the former Minister for Europe, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), in the Chamber as it was he who compared the importance of the charter with that of the Beano. He said:

A matter of weeks later, he said:

Furthermore, the Prime Minister appeared to rule out an EU-wide constitution in his Warsaw speech.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): Obviously, the hon. Gentleman does not read my speeches with the same enthusiasm with which I am listening to him now. He will know that I said that the charter of fundamental rights was not a legally enforceable document. There was no question of its being entered into the treaties.

Mr. Spring: I shall address that point specifically in relation to the interpretation of the European Commission's view of its efficacy in that respect. We said

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at the time that the charter would be the basis for a European constitution, and of course that is exactly what is happening at the moment.

When I recently asked the current Minister for Europe about discussions that he had had regarding the inclusion of a possible EU constitution in the forthcoming Laeken declaration, he declined in a written reply on 22 November to answer that very simple question. The plain fact is that numerous European leaders, including Chancellor Schroder and President Chirac, have made powerful calls for a European constitution based on the charter. Our Government know what the consequences will be for our country; we have no written constitution. Nothing will alienate the British people more from the EU than a wholesale increase in judge-led law and the further blurring of the division between the legislature and the judiciary.

So, Nice was a catalogue of bad preparation, bad judgment and a lack of foresight on the part of our Government. It not only put in place the seeds of an intrusive and damaging European supranational constitution and the potential for tensions in NATO, but most of all, to the extent that it dealt with enlargement—as it should have done—it may well have obstructed it.

Of course, we would have accepted the functional changes associated with enlargement, such as those in voting power. Nice was not about stopping the processes that are alienating Europe's citizens from the institutions of the European Union. It has simply aggravated the problem. All of this was signed up to by a Government who have failed to repatriate one single power to national Parliaments and to stop the remorseless process of political integration—a failure that has arisen because they have absolutely no view or conviction whatever about what an enlarged European Union should look like in 10 or 15 years' time.

However, as the Minister for Europe said, the processes that lead up to Laeken, and subsequently to the intergovernmental conference in 2004, are in place. We want to make a positive contribution to the discussions that lead up to the IGC. In contrast to the thought-free zone opposite, we have already devised fresh ideas to reinvigorate the role of national Parliaments and give proper force to subsidiarity.

Let me spell out some of our ideas. We want to put a senior Minister directly in charge of our Brussels representation, who regularly reports back to Parliament, answers questions, faces scrutiny and spends part of the week in Brussels. He or she would sit on the Committee of Permanent Representatives on that basis. We support a formal subsidiarity panel to which national Parliaments, not the courts, could appeal. We support enhanced scrutiny, and consideration of how national Parliaments can amend EU legislation. We want a structured and open dialogue between national Parliaments and the Council of Ministers. We also support a national parliamentary committee that oversees EU expenditure in every member state and monitors any possible fraud and abuse.

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