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11 Dec 2002 : Column 320—continued

Angus Robertson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Moore: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will let me make slightly more progress first.

The crisis arising from the reduction in fish stocks and Commissioner Fischler's proposals is real. The strength of feeling has been evident across the UK, not least in Scotland; a massive petition taken to the Scottish Parliament has now been sent to the Prime Minister, and many have sailed from Scotland to take part in the protest taking place at the mouth of the Tyne.

Strenuous efforts are being made to tackle the issue, and the Scottish Executive Minister, Ross Finnie, has been working closely with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers to maximise the impact of the UK's arguments on the issue. Fishermen all over the UK know that there is a serious problem to tackle, but nobody can be expected to accept the Commission's draconian proposals.

Next week's Fisheries Council will seek a solution, but the Prime Minister's involvement at the summit is still essential. In other circumstances, the French President or the German Chancellor would have no hesitation about arguing the cause on behalf of their countries, and we should expect the same for our fishermen on this occasion.

Angus Robertson: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister recently wrote about the fishermen in the Daily Record. Referring to Ross Finnie and the Westminster Fisheries Minister, the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) he said:


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I do not believe that Ross Finnie, the Liberal Democrat Minister with responsibility for fisheries, will be in Copenhagen. Is the Liberal Democrats' position that the British Prime Minister should raise the issue of fishing at the Copenhagen summit?

Mr. Moore: I hope that the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I said before his intervention, which was that I do believe that the Prime Minister should raise that issue. If an equivalent issue faced another member country, it would be inconceivable for its Prime Minister not to raise it, and I hope that our Prime Minister will do what is expected of him.

The debate will, of course, be carefully watched by many, not least by the accession countries, which will see the resolution of that problem as symbolic of the nature of the organisation that they seek to join. An article in the Financial Times yesterday by the Prime Ministers of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, stirringly entitled XOne step away from making history", acknowledged the huge efforts made by existing and candidate countries to find solutions to the innumerable problems that have characterised the accession process so far. In taking the last few steps towards final agreements, they appealed for vision, statesmanship and pragmatism to go hand in hand. That catches the spirit of how the EU should do business, and is the right approach for the European Union leaders when they meet in Copenhagen.

7.6 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): I welcome the critically positive speech by the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, and I contrast it with the negative speech made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), who, alas, in spite of his general geniality and good nature, cannot bring himself to say anything positive about the European Union.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): Absolute rubbish.

Donald Anderson: I at least concur with that—

Mr. Spring: Had the right hon. Gentleman listened last week to the debate on the Convention on the Future of Europe, he would have heard spelled out in the greatest possible detail policies dealing specifically with our relationship with the EU in a wholly positive and constructive way.

Donald Anderson: Perhaps the right hon. Member for Devizes was so positive then that he felt that he had to be totally negative tonight.

I approach the question of enlargement, which is, of course, the main item on the agenda of the Copenhagen Council, in a spirit not of caution or anxiety but of total rejoicing. I like the word that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary used when he said that this was not enlargement but unification. I know the countries of central Europe; I have lived for a year and a half in Hungary, and my eldest son has just married a citizen of Slovakia in Prague—and those who know these countries know that they are part of Europe. It is a uniting Europe that we see. Looking around the

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architecture and the culture, who can doubt that although there have been artificial divisions in the past, especially after the second world war, those divisions are now, happily, being ended?

It was only in 1989, on 8 and 9 November, that the Berlin wall fell, and only in 1993, at the Copenhagen Council, that we saw the start of the enlargement process. It is a happy 10 years that has led from that Council in 1993 to the Copenhagen Council in 2002. Enlargement has proceeded apace. It is a tremendous tribute to the Danish presidency that it has done so well over the past six months to further the aim of the enlargement—or, as I would prefer to say, the unification—of Europe. This is indeed an historic time. The year 2002 will be remembered for the security changes, with the accession to NATO at the Prague summit in November and now the 10 countries being welcomed into the unity of Europe.

I also pay tribute to a good friend of mine, Commissioner Günter Verheugen, for the way in which he has brought the ship to port. It is sad that that coincides with a time of financial stringency, when Germany, which has been so ready to be the paymaster for the European Union in the past, is facing much difficulty, and is ready to throw its weight around as it did not do in the past. None the less, there is positive change, and we should welcome it. Indeed, it will have profound effects on the nature of Europe, which I shall come to in a moment.

When we began this process in Helsinki in 1993, there seemed to be so many obstacles, some of which were in danger of proving decisive, in the way of each of those countries. Estonia, for example, had a problem with its Russian minority and its border with Russia. Lithuania had a problem with its power station, and Latvia had problems with its own Russian minority. There was the question of how we could possibly welcome in a divided Cyprus. There was deep division between the parties in Malta, and the possibility of a negative outcome of the referendum. At times, Hungary had a more nationalist leadership that held perhaps irredentist views about the minority populations in Romania, and across the border in Voivodina. Poland had impossible problems with agriculture. The Czech Republic had problems with its minorities, and Slovakia suffered a setback because of Meciar. Save perhaps for Slovenia, every country had problems that at times seemed insuperable, but happily, by working through them and always seeing the broad vision, Europe has triumphed. The Copenhagen Council, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, will be a signal date for us.

At least I agreed with the right hon. Member for Devizes when he talked about the disconnection between the elites of Europe and the people of Europe. We clearly have a long way to go in convincing our peoples about enlargement. According to the Eurobarometer surveys of candidate countries, there was no overall majority in favour of the European Union in seven of the 10 leading candidates. So far as the UK is concerned, there is a general lack of interest in enlargement; indeed, the latest Eurobarometer survey found that only 51 per cent. even knew that enlargement was taking place. It is clear that a great task needs to be undertaken in terms of public relations.

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I turn to two key issues that affect us: Cyprus and Turkey. Cyprus is a country with which we are on the most friendly of terms. Happily, two Commonwealth countries—Cyprus and Malta—will be joining the European Union. There are valued Cypriot communities in this country, and we are a guarantor power. Now, after 1974 and so many disappointments, there seems at last to be a real prospect of a happy conjunction of favourable factors in respect of Cyprus. The Turkish Government no longer includes Mr. Ecevit, and in Mr. Erdogan they have a leader who can deliver. Two elderly gentlemen—President Clerides and Mr. Denktash—sparred for far too many years. Mr. Denktash is alas ill, but we hope that that will not delay a settlement.

A happy rapprochement has taken place between the Greek and Turkish Governments, and through the initiative of Mr. De Soto, who had such triumphs in El Salvador, we have a package that, although unacceptable to the extremists, at last provides a chance of real progress. I anticipate that absolutists on both sides will reject it, and if they do, the prospect of a united Cyprus will be set back for perhaps a generation. Those who sign the document must also recognise that there will be some in both communities who will shout Xtraitor!" That is part of what far-sighted politicians have to bear, but we look forward, at last, to a solution to the Cyprus problem.

Others have already mentioned that Turkey is making serious progress towards meeting at least some of the criteria established in Copenhagen in 1993. Our Foreign Affairs Committee report stated:


and they have done so magnificently. However, the report also states that the Government should


Hopefully, that is not a rendezvous date, but an actual date—


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