TUESDAY 16 JULY 2002
Mr Jimmy Hood, in the Chair
RT HON PETER HAIN MP, Minister for Europe, and MR NICK BAIRD, Head of European Union Department (Internal), Examined.
(Peter Hain) Nick Baird is head of our European Union Department (Internal). He has to bail me out if I get into trouble!
(Peter Hain) First of all, thank you for inviting me again; I genuinely welcome the opportunity to have these exchanges and also to read of your reports and no doubt we will come to that later. The first thing to just emphasise is that the budget for CAP is not going to increase; there has been a ceiling put on that. That under pressure of enlargement is going to require huge reforms in any case, but it is important too that there are no first or second class citizens or Member States within the European Union in respect of agriculture or any other matter. So, even though there will inevitably be transitional measures as the Commission has in its negotiations on the agriculture chapter made clear, people will not come in on a level playing field with existing Member States on day one. Nevertheless, where it ends up must be on a level playing field which means a reduction in direct payment assuming the system remains the same, and we want to see it radically reformed, and then the Poles will get the same according to the criteria as British farmers do and French farmers do.
(Peter Hain) There is quite a long way to go on all of this, but we want to see a situation where direct payments supporting production, often wastefully and artificially, are replaced by development assistance to support the rural economy, rural enterprise including agriculture, diversification, value added products and so on, so that Europe's agriculture sector becomes much more modern and competitive, and that is the way we would want to see it go. So, we would like to see direct payments in the current form replaced by that support mechanism which would create a much more diverse form of rural support and actually create a more modern rural and sustainable rural economy in the process.
(Peter Hain) That block expressed itself recently in that we, the Germans, the Swedes and the Dutch have been most clear in wanting CAP reform, but other countries, particularly France and Spain, want to retain the status quo. In my view, the status quo is not tenable with enlargement and it is certainly not desirable. So, there will be reform and the Commission's proposals were very encouraging in promoting a shift towards environmental and rural support rather than production, as I said earlier, and also a focus on quality food. A very important factor in all of this which is often neglected is opening up markets to developing countries. If we are serious about poor countries in Africa, for example, being able to generate strong economies and create strong economies which make them less dependent on ourselves for aid and help them to escape from poverty, then we need to have a Europe which is not a fortressed Europe against poor countries but one that lifts its tariffs and its agricultural barriers including massive bloated subsidies.
(Peter Hain) There are all sorts of risks and that is certainly one of them. Europe has a habit of solving these problems one way or another and I think that the pressures and the imperators for reform are now so great that even those with, as you say, Chairman, a vested interest in maintaining the status quo are going to have to accept a combination of enlargement (because the CAP will not bear the weight of enlargement in its current form) on the one hand and pressure for reform on the other. For budgetary reasons, I think that reform will take place. Whether it is entirely on our agenda remains to be negotiated.
(Peter Hain) I am happy to agree with Mr Soros.
(Peter Hain) It is not sufficient but it is important that the Commission has actually at least faced up to the fact that it has to be reduced. Of course, overall CAP support has already fallen as a proportion of the total EU budget from 80 per cent to under 50 per cent, so we are going in the right direction. I just see the Commission's proposals as an important first step, a welcome opening shot at the negotiations from which we must build.
(Peter Hain) There are a number of candidate countries - I am thinking of Cyprus and Slovenia - where, on the agricultural chapter, there is really not a lot of problem in them completing their negotiations, almost whatever happens, save for equity on the agricultural support chapter. Remember that 95 per cent of the agricultural support chapter has already been agreed and negotiated and is there. It is the five per cent on the support mechanism payments where there is a difficulty. The European Council, in its informal moment, will have to resolve this. We were very determined before Seville that we did not have a situation, as a number of countries including France wanted, whereby effectively the outcome of the medium term reviews draft proposals, which is what you have just had from the Commission, were preempted by the decision the Council took on agricultural support in the chapter. Specifically, that it committed itself to direct payments as a number of countries with vested interests wanted us to do. We succeeded in postponing that decision until October or early November or whenever the informal Council might actually take place, so I think that puts us in a better position to resolve this issue.
(Peter Hain) They have to comply with the acquis and in negotiating all the different 30 chapters. That has been agreed to and the reforms have been put in place and implemented. So, when the Commission reports in the informal council in October, as it is currently planned, they will make a recommendation as to which countries are virtually there. Obviously corruption along with judicial reform and a number of other key criteria are part of that. It is clearly obvious that those countries that were in the Soviet Empire until 12 years ago have a long way to go to reform themselves especially in respect of corruption. So, I think that this has to be an absolutely high standard that we have to adhere to.
(Peter Hain) I think it is already being worked out of the system and that we just have to keep at it. I think the prize for all of us in terms of increased stability, increased prosperity, greater security from terrorism or hebo- trafficking or drugs trafficking or organised crime is completing enlargement on time. That is the supreme price. That is not to say that the performance of all the 10 candidates due to come in will not be uneven in different areas, whether it is in economic reform, corruption, agricultural modernisation or whatever it might be. You cannot expect countries to just transform themselves overnight. When Spain, Greece and Ireland came in, they came in as very poor countries. They did not become rich immediately at EU standards but they now are. I think we can expect that kind of progress to happen. Corruption happens in all countries, even from time to time in ours though thankfully it is very limited now. So, I just think that we have to keep a beady eye on it, but we must not make a total obstacle. Provided all these countries satisfy the acquis and provided they immediately negotiate the criteria, they should be allowed in but, as I say, with a beady eye kept on them.
(Peter Hain) We are certainly hoping that there is. I have visited Cyprus and was due to visit Turkey next week but that was impossible to secure for various reasons, and of course there is a certain impasse there governmentally. However, it is really, really important that we do get a settlement and that a united island is admitted into the European Union as we want. We have been working on an almost day-to-day basis through our special representative, Lord Hannay, and, at ministerial level, the Foreign Secretary and I have sought to engage at quite close quarters to try and exert what influence we can to promote a settlement because there is no doubt that although we will stand by the Helsinki Agreement that the Republic of Cyprus will be admitted if it satisfies all the normal accession negotiating requirements, it is not going to be easy but it is by a million miles a better solution to admit a united island. So, that is crucial to focus on.
(Peter Hain) The European Union cannot take over NATO's peace-keeping role in Macedonia if there is continued disagreement between Greece and Turkey. That is simply the case. The European Union would need access to NATO planning if it is to take over and any operation would need to be closely involved in NATO presence in the region, particularly for communications and logistics and air space. So, the short answer is, no. If that stand-off continues, then it would be very important that we achieve the very desirable objective of the EU taking over with NATO's full agreement and indeed request. At the present time, that is not going to be possible.
(Peter Hain) No, it is not helpful at all. If there is a sense of impasse in Ankara, that allows those both in Cyprus on the Turkish side and in Turkey itself to create difficulties in terms of progress. What we want is a strong Turkish Government that sees that it is in its own best interests and in the interests of Turkish Cypriots to settle this before the Copenhagen Summit in December. I have said both to the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Denktash, when I was in Nicosia some months ago, in April I think, and also to the Deputy Prime Minister of the Turkish Government, Mr Yilmaz, that Turkey is in its most powerful position in terms of achieving a settlement of the Cyprus question between now and the Copenhagen Summit. After the Copenhagen Summit, it is in a much weaker position and I think there is a dawning recognition of that on the Turkish side now and they really ought to roll up their sleeves much more effectively and negotiate with President Clerides and bring every pressure to bear to get a solution. Obviously we expect the Greek Cypriots to be willing to compromise as well because this will take compromising on both sides.
(Peter Hain) I take the view that our Government's policy of engagement with Iran and the European Union's policy of engagement with the Kotomy(?) regime is absolutely vital. There is and has been now for a number of years - you referred to the Kotomy(?) regime's second term - a balance of power, a struggle going on in Iran between the reactionaries, mostly identified around the mullahs and so on, and the reformers in the government. Yes, Iran is very far from meeting the complete democratic criteria but there have been big advances in terms of freedom of expression, reforms and so on. So, I think the European Union's objective must be to support that reform process by a process of association and through the ways that you have indicated, trade agreements, association agreements and other forms of dialogue in order that we encourage reform. If we pull up the drawbridge and say "no", then I think that would encourage the forces of reaction who are actually opposed to the engagement of the West and I think we should put ourselves and Europe has put itself so far on the side of the reform process, although going into it with its eyes wide open, and recognising that there are lots of abuses of power, not all of which can be attributed to the reactionaries who have largely got control of the judicial system there which is the problem. The Government does not have that influence. That needs to be seen in that context. Chairman, I do not know which EDM is being referred to, but there has been a very vociferous lobby by one faction in Iranian society which has pretty dubious links to the Baghdad regime and other pretty sinister forces. I do know whether it is the one that has been lobbying for this particular Early Day Motion or not, but I think sometimes we need to be very careful as to which EDMs we are signing, however good they may look on paper.
(Peter Hain) I used to sign a lot of EDMs myself and I am in favour of that practice. I am sure if it has been circulated by Lord Corbett it does not have that taint, but there is an organised lobby around the Commons at the moment and I think people should look at it very carefully and look at the origins of the group; it has pretty dubious connections.
(Peter Hain) Obviously it has a considerable influence as we saw at Doha in negotiating the trade round where Pascal Lamy was absolutely pivotal in getting progress towards a much more progressive trading system which would favour rather than penalise and exploit the poor world. That still has to be carried through. So, there is that area. The European Union, especially after enlargement, is the largest single market in the modern world and the most powerful and richest economic bloc. In respect of trade associations of a positive kind, North African countries, Euromed agreements and so on on the one hand or sanctions on the other, I just think that we have to look at its merits. I do not see any virtue in proceeding down the road of sanctions because I think what that would do, although there were some demands for it from some Member States, would be to simply deprive the European Union of any influence. In fact, under Javier Solana, the high representative, Europe has quite a purchase in the Middle East which it has never had before.
(Peter Hain) We have just completed the listening phase of the Convention as the Convention President, Giscard D'Estaing, described it, and we had the youth convention last week, so we are now in the more analytical phase where we have working groups - I represent the Government on the subsidiarity working group - and the existing batch of six working groups are due to report in the early autumn. A second stream of four working groups will open up in early September or in September at any rate and are due to report within a couple of months. So, the drafting phase is expected to start really around the end of the year. So far, I think a lot of the wind that has been developing from the Convention floor is blowing in an encouraging direction, which is in a British direction, if I can put it that way. So, I am quite encouraged so far but there is a long and heavy way to go.
(Peter Hain) It depends on which issue we are thinking about. I am seeking to represent the Government directly and negotiate a consensus on some of our key concerns: council reform - you might want to go into this in some detail and I would be happy to do so - the charter of rights where we are very concerned about pressure to incorporate it wholesale and unamended; subsidiarity and common foreign security policy where the intervention I made last Thursday provoked probably the most heated debate of the Convention so far and a real exchange of strong views with myself arguing, as it were, an inter-governmentalist position on CFSP and others saying that it should all be communitised and handed over to the Commission. Regarding alliance, I would say that we are probably most in tune with France, Italy, Sweden and Spain and to some extent with Denmark and with most of the cabinet countries who, having recently escaped from the Soviet tyranny, have enjoyed their own independence and freedom over the last 10 to 12 years and are not about to give it up to some fantasy of a Brussels superstate any more than we are. So, there are fruitful allegiances and alliances being built there.
(Peter Hain) It is quite difficult to do that. I am in the process of a whole series of tours between the nations and regions of Britain. I have visited Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, South Yorkshire, the West Midlands and the North-West in the last nine months or so and, in the most recent ones since the convention has been sitting, I have actually been talking about the Convention in some detail. It is not an easy subject for people to get into. It becomes very anoraky very quickly. Mind you, your Committee, Mr Chairman, is well versed with the anoraky nature of the European ...
(Peter Hain) It is a supreme compliment; that is why I always try and prepare diligently for your sittings. We have also tried to get a wide range of views through regional visits, as I say, seminars, radio phone-ins and interviews, but the problem is that, if you called a meeting on a wet night in Dudley on the future of Europe, I guess the turnout would be quite low!
(Peter Hain) I think it has been important that Parliament's representatives on the Convention have been able to report back to Parliament through this new mechanism. I have been discussing with local governments regarding holding a conference with local government representatives at some time before the end of the year to discuss the indications of the future of Europe debate for local authorities. Civic Society, as you know, had its own day and a bit at the end of last month in the Convention and there were many British representatives there. The Foreign Office is due to open up a website which will promote interaction and debate for members of the public. I would look at all ideas, providing they were practical, in a sympathetic way.
(Peter Hain) One proposal of which you do not agree with.
(Peter Hain) Yes, I do. I agree almost entirely with what you say and I agree that the Committee's report was an excellent report and I am not courting, as it were, sympathy by saying that. I genuinely think that some of the ideas you presented were absolutely in line with our own thinking and were very helpful, not least in focusing on the importance of subsidiarity and on the fact that national parliamentarians really are the key body to police subsidiarity. It has not been effectively policed until now, I agree with that. It is vital that we reconnect the European Union institutions with the citizens of Europe and that is one crucial way in which to do it through national parliamentarians. The idea of a second chamber as a vehicle comprising representatives of National Parliaments was one idea suggested by the Prime Minister two years ago. The important principle he was saying is that national parliamentarians should police subsidiarity, so he is in agreement with you and happily with me on that. I think that thinking has evolved since then and the ideas that the Committee put forward in this respect are very close to the Government's thinking and actually, when we have been putting that idea forward, we have met quite a lot of support amongst other members of the working group on subsidiarity that I sit on. The other way in which accountability in the institutions of the citizen is best achieved is through Member States, through the Council of Ministers, and I was interested in the proposals you put forward on that. In respect of National Parliaments, that is the second or first, whichever way you look at it, form of accountability which I think it is imperative to ensure we secure.
(Peter Hain) No, it is.
(Peter Hain) I do think that National Parliaments should be given the right in some form - the Committee has put forward a very interesting proposal which we are looking at closely - to say "no" if any bit of legislation has integrated where it should not have done. I thought what was encouraging about the Laeken Declaration was that, for the first time, it considered the option of reversing the flow of decision making to the centre and said that we could consider repatriating powers to nation states. So, that was a major achievement. I would see National Parliament as having solved policing powers and subsidiarity. The real difficulty of COSAC, for example, in its present form, which, to be perfectly frank, I suppose you could build on, is that the European Parliament is represented there. European Parliament is a vested interest as is the European Commission and as is the Council of Ministers. You could have them making their representations to any subsidiarity body of national parliamentarians, but I do not think you can have them actually making decisions.
(Peter Hain) We concur very strongly with your view. That is the position I have argued in the subsidiarity working group. These are not decisions that should be made by lawyers, they are decisions that should be made by accountable elected representatives of National Parliament.
(Peter Hain) It depends to which issue you are referring. The British position broadly is that we want to see a Europe more closely connected to its citizens through National Parliaments in respect of subsidiarity policing and governments making key strategic decisions through the Council of Ministers reporting back to Parliament and being more transparent in the way they make their decisions. That is the British position. At the same time, I want a strong Commission. I do not want a weak Commission because a weak Commission would not have the determination to act against France for flouting the lifting of the beef ban, for example. In many repects, you could point to cases in recent years where the Commission has not been as strong as it should be in terms of enforcing the rules objectively and impartially. So, we do not want a weak Commission but we do not want a Commission either, together with the European Parliament, which is accreting all the power to themselves when actually the real accountability that I think people are looking for is their own ministers going to make decisions, being seen to make decisions and not doing so in secret, and then being accountable for those decisions to their parliaments and their publics. That is our vision and that is our position in a nutshell.
(Peter Hain) I think that is absolutely right. We want to see a much stronger and more effective Council of Ministers with the European Council at its head which operates more strategically and has more of a political grip on the European Union and provides that focus and that political direction and that is why we have put forward a whole series of reforms. I was delighted to see that the Committee's thinking is very much in line with ours in terms of proper leadership, in terms of the President of the Council and an end to the rotating presidency system and so on. However, as you say, the other side of that coin is accountability back through National Parliament.
Chairman: We may come back to more questions on the Convention but I want to now come on to asylum and immigration.
(Peter Hain) First of all, what we did not decide and what the British Government never intended should be the case is that there should be sanctions applied to punish poor countries. That story was hyped up before the Civil Council and was never really part of our objectives. It would be pretty absurd to try and do that. What we agreed was that the European Union should be able to review its relationship with countries which failed to co-operate in respecting their international obligations to re-admit migrants who have been smuggled illegally. That is a question of international obligations. It is really a question of saying to countries in the process of that review, "Look, we have a relationship as Europe with you with a lot of development assistance and trade opportunities that benefit both Europe and the country concerned and we expect you to, for example, pursue standards of good governance and, in this instance, to accept you into national obligations of accepting returns of illegal migrants."
Chairman: We will now turn to the reform of the Council.
(Peter Hain) I agree with you. I think there should be full transparency. Where the Council is legislating, where governments are declaring national positions and when they are speaking to those positions, not when they are negotiating ... The sensitivity at Seville was where we did not get completely what we wanted but we did get, as you say, openness on dossiers and legislation on dossiers subject to co-decision and that was a big step forward because that has never been achieved and we ought to welcome that, but we wanted to go the full hog, subject to the necessary restriction of excluding the negotiations because you simply would not get real negotiations, they would take place in a corridor outside or, as in the Euro United Security Council, what happens is that there is a separate room alongside where the really hard negotiation is done in private. So, I am sure you would accept that proviso. I do not think you can defend the situation any more whereby the Council and the Council of Ministers are not transparent. One of the problems of the disconnection between the citizen and the institutions of Europe is that there is not transparency and accountability. People do not know how decisions are made. Issues develop into a morass of EU decision making and the process is not -
(Peter Hain) I agree with you which is why I said I agreed with you, but I would just make this distinction. You mentioned the British Cabinet and you quite rightly said that nobody would expect that to operate in anything other than private. We are talking not about a Government of Europe, we are talking about an inter-governmental process and that is a very different position.
(Peter Hain) I do not suppose you are favouring a Government of Europe any more than I am. We are talking about an inter-governmental process. In that inter-governmental process where Ministers or, in the case of the European Council, Heads of Government arrive for a limited period, a day or a day-and-a-half, to negotiate big issues, you have to negotiate, although there is a lot of preparation done, and legislate and declare positions. That is not the same as having a weekly Cabinet meeting and then reporting to parliaments. It is a different system. I think there have to be variations which is why it cannot be transparent 100 per cent of the time, but it should by fully transparent, as I say, when it is legislating -
(Peter Hain) We are and I have already pressed for it in the context of the Convention on the Future of Europe and we are determined to press it fully and I think we will have a lot of support in doing so.
(Peter Hain) I do not see a problem with that in principle. It sounds like a remarkably sensible idea, if I may say so.
(Peter Hain) I think what we need to do is first of all make sure that we do not get the continued 'competence creep' that we have seen. At the moment, we will consider powers of themselves. I think the principle of repatriated powers is the important thing. At the present time, there are no powers for repatriation at the top of my agenda though, if the Committee suggested any, I would happily look at them. What I would like us to do is not go into a straightjacket where you have a catalogue of competences which means that you can never have flexibility. For example, if you had asked me a year ago at a hearing like this whether I would have agreed with a lot of justice and home affairs measures being put effectively into the first pillar subject to common policy and communitisation and so on, I would have said "no", but in the aftermath of the terrorist attack and some of things we had to do to get a common arrest warrant and so on, it has actually been a very sensible way to go, asylum policy being another example. I think we have to evolve and learn but I think we also have, in drawing up a new dispensation for Europe's constitutional arrangements, to be very clear as to what is a national policy and what is a European policy.
(Peter Hain) That are already in European competence?
(Peter Hain) As I say, what is important is the power that exists there to do it rather than drawing up a list. I have not seen a list which I would be particularly impressed by saying what should be repatriated. I would perhaps make a related point and that is that the European Union often legislates with a pretty heavy hand and we are arguing that it should pursue policies with a lighter touch. It does not always need an all-embracing directive straitjacket or regulation straitjacket. It could be, as we have seen on the Lisbon reform agenda, for example, co-ordination of policy rather than legislating in a very restrictive way, and maybe legislating on set principles and leaving it to nation states as to how they implement those.
(Peter Hain) You are asking me on the one hand do I want to repatriate any of those powers.
(Peter Hain) I have said that I want the power to do so should the necessity arise, but if you are asking me do I have in mind any specific examples, no, I do not at the present time. What is important is to establish the principle that you can do so if the situation changes and you decide that is where you want to go.
(Peter Hain) I could not possibly comment as a member of the Government.
(Peter Hain) But I know what you are saying.
(Peter Hain) That seems to me to be a good idea. I will happily look at that. That is not something I have specifically considered but I would like to look at that. On the face of it, as I say, it is a good idea, Chairman.
(Peter Hain) We will try and make sure that happens.
(Peter Hain) Yes. If we could integrate the Commission's programming better with the Council's programme and then have a process of direct accountability prior to and after initiatives on legislation, that would be a good idea.
(Peter Hain) I do not think so because at the European level it is part of the same foreign policy agenda. If you think, for example, of what we are trying to do in the Balkans, or for that matter what is going on in Afghanistan, there is as it were the hard end on foreign policy which could involve military action, peacekeeping, and then there is a softer end but equally, if not more important, is the development assistance programme. Integrating them under a common external relations umbrella actually helps to get a more coherent joined-up foreign policy position for the European Union. That is not to say it would be entirely determined by foreign ministers. Clearly, if there were development issues then the Secretary of State for Development and other development ministers in other Member States would be party to those negotiations and present.
(Peter Hain) I share your concern about this and it is precisely because we want Councils to be better organised that we pressed very hard for the reforms we got from Seville so that things do not just appear at the last minute or are added on by the Presidency almost like pulling rabbits out of a hat from time to time, or it seems rather like that, but that there is a coherent programme in which there can be room for the accountabilities which you refer to, and the whole thing has a much more long term strategic focus instead of a haphazard one.
(Peter Hain) I think the fact that those Seville conclusions were agreed unanimously means that everybody understands that we cannot continue as we are. It is not working in 15, let alone what it would be like in 25 or 27 or 28. These reforms have come not before time.
(Peter Hain) I would happily look at any proposals you put forward, and you have put forward a number of proposals with which we agree.
(Peter Hain) What we really wanted, Chairman, was a situation where, if a subject had been agreed by QMV in the lower Council formation, then if it was re-visited at the European Council level QMV would have to operate there, because effectively what you see is a series of vetoes exerted. The Common Agricultural Policy is an example of that where having qualified majority voting on the Common Agricultural Policy would actually be a big advantage. We did not quite get there. What it said was that it would be brought to the attention of the Council so that they could consider the implications for subsequent proceedings. What we will still push for is that principle.
(Peter Hain) It is part of the preparation and pre-negotiation with more limited agendas. Some of the Council agendas just elongate almost by the day in the run-up to the Council meetings but with the more limited agenda, focusing on the big issues, with the new General Affairs Council underneath, an internal council as it were, meeting more regularly, managing the European Union more effectively, preparing for the European Council more efficiently, you should get to a situation where the really big decisions are made by heads of government and a lot of those earlier decisions are dealt with at a lower level. I think that would help overcome the problem to which you are referring.
(Peter Hain) You mean the compromise agreed at Seville?
(Peter Hain) No, I do not think so. In fact, it will encourage it. It just has not gone the full way which would have secured it.
(Peter Hain) We are willing to look at the accession to the Convention on Human Rights in a sensible and sympathetic fashion provided we see exactly what it means. I think the problem with the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights as it is presently constituted, just wholesale into the Treaty, is that it could - in fact would in our view - start to influence domestic law in a way that was never intended. In that form it is completely unacceptable to us and we have been working very hard to draw the attention of Member States to the implications not just for us with our common law based system, because we are particularly vulnerable, but also to other Member States' system of law. To be frank, Chairman, the fundamental rights are seen as a motherhood and apple pie document by a lot of Member States and people say, "How can you possibly object to this?", and, when you read it, it is a very fine declaration of human rights and so on. However, they have not really looked beyond that and considered what the implications are. I have pointed out, for example, to German delegates at the Convention that their ban on essential workers having the right to strike - there is a ban on those essential workers in the German constitution having the right to strike - could be overridden, in fact probably would be overridden, by wholesale incorporation, unamended, of the Treaty without the horizontal articles preventing that happening being strengthened and stiffened. They were really quite amazed at this, so we are doing some fairly heavy lifting to try and get a more intelligent debate about that at the present time but ultimately it is not acceptable to us. We do not mind incorporation in some form with those necessary safeguards built in but not wholesale incorporation, which is just not acceptable.
(Peter Hain) There is a consensus that we need to simplify the Treaties in some form. We very much support that point of view. There are two broad alternatives for doing that. The one that I suppose is symbolised by the text produced by the Florence European Institute is a wholesale re-structuring of the Treaties and simplification into what would amount to an entirely new text of the Treaty. We do not want to go down that road because it will put up for grabs virtually everything that has been painstakingly negotiated in the past, or there is the second alternative, which is a bolt-on-the-front option, if I can put it in that fashion, of a new statement of constitutional principles: what the European Union is about, where the limits on its competences are, what is reserved to a national level, what operates at a European level, how it is organised and, to the extent that the existing Treaties are amended, for example, by ending the six-monthly rotating Presidency system, as we and your Committee favour, then you would amend the Treaty article concerned in that new statement, that bolt on the front. Those are the two options and we are exploring support for the second of those options which is the one we favour.
(Peter Hain) Rather longer than I have.
(Peter Hain) We are not inclined to.
(Peter Hain) Let me finish. The European Community already has a legal personality through - and I am sure you are familiar with every word - Article 281 of the Treaty of the European Communities, but the European Union does not have.
(Peter Hain) Although there is an issue as to what, if it operates as you implied, in an international context, its actual personality is. I think we should look at this with an open mind but with a very wary eye as well in order to see exactly what the agenda is. Lord MacLellan is on the working group that is looking at this.
(Peter Hain) That is right.
(Peter Hain) Perhaps you might take that up with him. Remember, there is a British Government position and then there is a position which may or may not be adopted by national parliamentarians.
(Peter Hain) We are inclined to look at it just to see what it means.
(Peter Hain) Chairman, since Bill has invited my brilliant diplomat sitting next to me to advise the Committee, perhaps he would.
(Mr Baird) We want to look at exactly what the consequences of a full legal personality in the Union would be and how you could draft to limit the consequences of that within the intergovernmental pillars. The fact is of course that at the moment in the CFSP Pillar and, by consequence, in the JHA Pillar, you have a power to enter into agreements, which is a limited form, but the question is what would be the difference if we moved from that limited form. We want to look at these issues and they are very complex legal issues.
Chairman: I am sure it is very interesting for the constitutional lawyers. One last point.
(Peter Hain) Sometimes weary as well.
(Peter Hain) You spend a week in Brussels on these matters and you get a bit weary.
(Peter Hain) Yes, subject to some pretty powerful constraints. I cannot see it applying in common foreign security policy, for example. That is one instance where that would not occur.
(Peter Hain) Thank you, Chairman. Could I say that your reminding me that I am about to exceed the longest serving minister makes me a little concerned. I hope to be here for a while yet.