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Mr. Vaz: The language that the right hon. Gentleman has adopted today in respect of the convention that was created to reform the European Union is exactly the same as that used by his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), in talking about the European
Mr. Ancram: I have not mentioned the conventionI will in due courseand the hon. Gentleman cannot pre-empt what I am going to say about it. I repeat that the European Court of Justice is a European institution, and its jurisprudence now uses the charter of fundamental rights. To describe it as not legally binding is to indulge in semantics. If it is being used by the European Court of Justice as part of its jurisprudence, it is essentially part of the law by which we are being governed.
The Government keenly support the European security and defence policy, but yet again there is a lack of real effectiveness. At Laeken in December, the Belgian Foreign Minister said that the ESDP
Nowhere is the Government's drift towards further integration clearer than in the common foreign and security policy. Of course, the benefits of foreign policy co-operation are clear where such co-operation is in all member states' interests. However, attempts to enforce co-operation are flawed and ultimately unworkable, as is any attempt to coerce what is naturally incoercible. Instead, we should be seeking to entrench flexibility, the value of which we saw after 11 September. This Government were realistic about what was required to meet that threat. The Prime Minister helped to build an international coalition that allowed nations to contribute at the level at which they felt happiest. Europe was able to react at different levels of enthusiasm and participation. The attempts of the most ardent European integrationists to seek a common policywhich, on that occasion, would have involved sailing at the speed of the slowest ship in the convoywere rightly resisted. Various countries had different views on the most appropriate response, so in practice a common line or policy was impossible. The farce of the mini-summitsnot least the famously gate-crashed Downing street dinneralso showed that, quite understandably, smaller European countries would not stand for having their foreign policy dictated by larger ones.
Likewise, the varying responses to the crisis in the middle east illustrate that European nations' views on what is the proper reaction differ greatly. I am glad that the crisis will be discussed in Seville, and I endorse the Foreign Secretary's comments on the outrage that took place in Israel this morning. We agree with the Government's current position on the middle east, but in recent EU discussions on this issue, only Germany took the same view. We were in a minority, and if a real working common foreign policy with a single voice had been in place, we might now be imposing sanctions on Israel. Would the Foreign Secretary really have been happy to go down that route?
From the outset, the common foreign policy has been marked by a lack of direction. Much play was made of the EU's decision at the beginning of February to impose
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): Is my right hon. Friend aware that 8 August is off-the-farm day for all white farmers in Zimbabwe? Does he agree that Seville would be the ideal opportunity to discuss further sanctions?
Mr. Ancram: I agree wholly with my hon. Friend that further sanctions should be discussed, but more must be done. We want effective action from the EU. That is what we were promised in February. It has not happened and a disaster is now unfolding in Zimbabwe. The EU has a role to play and it should start playing it now.
Ms Stuart: I am not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we should have a common European foreign policy or not. He seems to be arguing on the one hand that it is not effective enough and on the other that we should not have one.
Mr. Ancram: The hon. Lady should have listened to what I said earlier. I said that there will be times when co-operation on certain matters will be beneficial, and Zimbabwe is an example of that. I want that co-operation to work, because there is no point in the Council of Ministers uttering brave declarations if they achieve nothing. I hope that we will see some effect on this occasion.
In recent weeks, we have seen in the press the chaos that characterises European foreign and security policy. Convention chairman Giscard D'Estaing has called for a common European diplomatic service. That is quite an advance. Romano Prodi wants to push ahead with a single European foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary, in a recent speech, appeared to want to redefine sovereignty better to fit that model. But at the same time we are told that the Government really support the concept of a Europe of nations. Which is it? Whom should we believe? The message is now so unclear and the language so confused that it is no wonder that ordinary people feel cut off from their European masters and are suspicious and mistrustful.
The Europe that we need, and that people in Europe want, is one that is modern and decentralised, that trusts its members and does not constantly try to aggregate more of their powers to itself. We want an EU that is outward looking. We believe that Europe must change in a way that brings it closer to the people who live in it. The idea that seeing Ministers voting on television will achieve that is laughable. That belief in change is now matched by a realisation throughout Europe that the old EU, driven from the top down, will no longer achieve it. Recent referendums and other electoral tests have demonstrated the growing sense of alienation. If Europe is to carry true democratic legitimacy and accountability, it must find a way to reconnect with its peoples. Europe itself has realised the need for that.
For a start, there is now the convention on the future of Europe. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) for representing our parliamentary party so effectively on it. [Interruption.] Two Members from opposite sides of the House represented this Parliament. I am thanking my right hon. Friend for the splendid job that he did. I am happy to pay tribute also to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): For the splendid job she did.
Mr. Ancram: The hon. Lady may well have done a splendid job, although that might by judged by different lights on either side of the House. At least the convention represents a realisation of the need for consultation in building the future European Union. However, that consultation cannot be narrow in scope or agenda. It must address all the fundamental problems facing the EU todayin particular, the glaring democratic deficit. Early experience, even from a distance, suggests that it will not do so. That is why we need a more fundamental reform and review of how the EU currently works. Such a review is necessary before genuine constructive reform can take place. It must be robust and comprehensive. It must be ready to root out that which is not working, and strengthen that which needs to be improved. It must be ready to revisit and re-examine the directives and treaties that make up the acquis if it is to do the job that must be done. There can be no sacred cows, no no-go areas, no sealed vaults. Anything less would be not just a massive missed opportunity, but an abdication of the chance to deal with the real issues in Europe today.
The EU stands at an historic crossroads. Britain would not benefit from standing aside from the process of change; withdrawal from the European Union would not be to our advantage. We would lose jobs and influence. But this Government's determined pursuit of a supranational union with ever more powers and responsibilities assigned to it is not the answer either.
Our view is clear. It is a view of a Europe that is constructive, responsive, positive and forward-looking; a Europe that seeks to work in partnership with the United States rather than in rivalry with it; a Europe that abandons its current anti-American rhetoric and its unreal aspirations to be a superpower itself.
Europe needs to change to bring itself back in touch with the peoples and Parliaments of the nations of Europe. They are the original and abiding source of its legitimacy.
We need a partnership of sovereign nations, bound by the single market and the rules of free tradea partnership that deals at European level with issues best dealt with at that level, such as pollution, but in other respects works at different levels of participation and involvement, tailoring common ventures and aspirations to the national interest and doing things in the way that is best for each nation. We need a Europe that recognises and maximises national strengths constructively.
"Top-down" Europe has failed. We must return to the concept of a "bottom-up" Europe, a Europe that starts and finishes with the needs and aspirations of the people of Europe rather than the ambitions of its bureaucrats. That is the challenge of Europe today. That is the challenge that we are ready to take up. That is the challenge that even France's new Prime Minister, Mr. Raffarin, seems ready to adopt in relation to France.
Our Government are so obsessed with their place and status in the Councils of Europe that they have turned their back on that challenge. We urge them to think again before it is too late.