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11 Dec 2002 : Column 323continued
Mr. Love: Should we also temper that judgment with the recognition that Turkey has many steps to take to meet the criteria for accession to Europe, not least in respect of democracy, the treatment of its minorities, andperhaps most importantly in terms of sending a signalsupport for a resolution of the division of Cyprus? Unless we can get those messages across, I fear that Turkey's entering into negotiations will not lead anywhere very fast.
Donald Anderson: I am absolutely confident that the Turkish leadership knows that positive moves on Cyprus will be extremely important to Turkey's candidacy. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, in that the same Copenhagen criteria on matters such as democracy, rule of law and human rights as are applied to other candidates should be applied to Turkeyno
I end on the issue of the new neighbours and the future expansion of our Europe. We know that, if there is to be a Europe, there has to be a non-Europe, and the danger always exists of instability at the borders. I understand that a new document is expected from the Commission in January, on our new neighbours. There are important problems not only in the south, in the countries of the Maghreb, because of the attraction of the region to the north of the Mediterranean, with their booming populations, but in those countries which have no reasonable immediate prospectsUkraine, Moldova and Belaruswithout substantial reforms. In that regard, I agree with Mr. Prodi. There have to be some new borders, and the question of where we draw the line will lead to problems. On a recent trip to Zagreb, I visited the cathedral and saw how the changes in European architecture are wholly reflected in that country; it is part of central Europe. Other Balkan countries, particularly Albania and Macedonia, prove far greater challenges.
A line will have to be drawn, and when we do so we will have to find creative solutions for those countries that are the wrong side of it. We do not know what the final outcome will be; all that we do know is that the Europe that began with the vision of de Gasperi, of Jean Monnet, and of Adenauer will not be the Europe that we end up with. It began for a certain reason, and involved relatively rich, homogenous peoples. The Europe that will emerge will be far more diverse and valuable. It will still be a model for the world, but when the new, poorer countries are admitted, it will indeed be very different in 10 or 20 years' time. The applicants therefore need to be realistic about their own chances, and we too, as Europeans, have to be realistic and expand our thinking as Europe itself expands not just geographically, but culturally. That is an enormous challenge, and the Copenhagen council will be a major step on the road to meeting it.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): I am most grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for catching your eye in this important debate. It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). He has done the House great service as the longstanding Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. I may not always agree with everything that he says, but I always listen with great care and attention, as the right hon. Gentleman has a lot to offer in foreign affairs debates.
Like the Foreign Secretary, who opened the debate, the right hon. Member for Swansea, East used the language of Europe reunited. To me, that sounds like the language of the superstate. I bow to the right hon. Gentleman's superior intellect when it comes to examining such matters, but I feel able to disagree with him from time to time.
If enlargement is to succeed, the candidate countries must be able to receive the benefits, but they will not reap the full fruits of enlargement unless businesses, and business men and women, are happy to invest their money in them. For that to happen, they must have confidence in those countries' legal systems, but the quality of the judiciary and the trustworthiness and efficiency of the criminal and civil justice systems are serious matters in some candidate countries, as reports on enlargement by the Select Committee on European Scrutiny and by the European Commission show.
If the trustworthiness of the criminal justice system in some states remains in doubt, we are exposing British businesses to serious risk of injustice, for example with the introduction of the European arrest warrant. I hope that the Minister for Europe will say what the Government are doing to help in that respect when he winds up the debate.
We must also encourage the new states to make their criminal systems of satisfactory quality. I hope that the Minister will say whether any candidate countries are causing the Government specific concern.
In addition, trustworthy and efficient civil legal systems are vital when it comes to building prosperous societies that attract investment. I understand that it is not unusual for civil law suits in Poland, for example, to take up to five years before receiving a judgment. I have heard from British investors that the weaknesses of the legal system there are a serious impediment to business. That is a challenge that must be overcome if our new partners are to enjoy the prosperity that they deserve. Inefficient legal systems effectively put property rights at risk. Helping the candidate countries reform their legal systems should be a priority for the Government.
Structural operations, or regional subsidies, are potentially of great benefit in building up these countries' economies. In particular, they can help build up the infrastructure that many of these countries badly lack. To enjoy that benefit, however, the candidate countries must be able to absorb those subsidies. As the European Scrutiny Committee's report says, some candidate countries have
There is also the question of a proper management of funds by the Commission. It would be hypocritical of existing EU member states to insist on the new members raising their administrative game when one of the EU's central institutions has such a lamentable lack of financial self-discipline. We now have a chamber orchestra of whistleblowers, if the House will forgive the term, and the unsympathetic manner in which the Commission handles them is deeply disappointing.
It is clear that current systems of financial controls are not satisfactory. Major reforms, along the lines suggested by the sacked chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, are only now beginning to be implemented. The latest Court of Auditors' report also pointed to continuing serious weaknesses in the EU's finances. We need significant improvements urgently. For all of us, it is scandalous that taxpayers' money from all over Europe is treated so carelessly.
We have heard very little from the Government about this matter. One could almost believe that it does not seem to be of particular concern to them. I believe that it should be. Eurostat has today reported that only 31 per cent. of the British public think that EU membership is a good thing. That is unlikely to improve while the Commission seems so arrogant. It must become better at taking care of public moneytaxpayers' money. Romano Prodi's grand plans for the Commission become particularly risible when the Commission fails to do properly the jobs that it already has. The Commission should learn to walk before it even thinks of beginning to run.
If we can deal with these matters, we can vastly increase the chance of enlargement being a real success. Enlargement, and this summit, must not be about fine words alone, but about hard work on the practicalities of making the EU work. The cost of failure is too high a price for any members of the EU to pay.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): I begin by declaring an interest. In October, I visited Cyprus as a guest of the House of Representatives there, and of the Morphou municipality. I shall refer to Cyprus in a little while. Also, I visited Greece last week, where I met various Ministers, academics and journalists. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) commented on the quality of European weather, but I took London weather with me on my visit to Athens. It poured with rain most of the time.
I undertook the visit because I wanted to look at some of the issues related to the presidency of the EU, which Greece takes over in January. The debate has focused on the proceedings in Copenhagen in a few days, but it is important for us to look beyond that, and to examine the forthcoming presidency. I shall set out some of the key priorities that will emergeone of which is, of course, enlargement. The Greek presidency will see to the finalisation of enlargement and the signing of the treaty, and I shall say more about that in a little while.
Asylum and immigration are extremely important matters, and so is the Lisbon agenda, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) referred. The Greeks are concerned that their presidency may be overshadowed by security issues, in particular the confrontation with Iraq. However, Greece has made real progress on security matters, especially with the break up of the November 17 terrorist group. I am also pleased to say that the bilateral aspects of Greece's concerns about European security and defence policy, a major source of disagreement between our countries earlier in the year, have now been resolved. Greece now regards the matter as being between the EU and Turkey, rather than between Great Britain and Greece.
Immigration and asylum are also key issues for the Greek people. Over the past 10 years, Greece's population has increased by 8 per cent., or almost a million people, as a result of immigration. That immigration comes primarily from the Balkans and Albania, and from north Africa.
Greece is very concerned about the policing of the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and considers its national border to the south and to the east to be the EU's front-line frontier in the battle against illegal immigration. We must bear it in mind that the total length of Greece's coastline is the same as that of the continent of Africa. It is therefore not surprising that the Greeks should have great difficulty in trying to prevent illegal migration into the EU through Greece. It is fair for Greece to hope for help from the EU in developing the policies necessary to police that EU frontier. It is important that we recognise that it is better to stop illegal migration into the EU in the Mediterranean than in the English channel. Greece needs help and I think that it will be looking for financial support from the European Union, as might Italy and Spain, which face similar problems.
On the social issues arising out of immigration and asylum, I was pleased that the Greek Government are looking at the regulation of legal migration. The written statement issued yesterday on the free movement of people to the UK from the accession countries is an important contribution. There is an important debate to be had on this issue, and I hope that we will be able to play a constructive role with Greece in dealing with a problem that affects all European Union countries.
On enlargement, Greece is keen to press the road map forward for Bulgaria and Romania, as Bulgaria is a border state with Greece and Romania is not very far away. It would also like to see progress towards integration of the western Balkans into Europe. Obviously it will be a long time before there is sufficient stability for them to become members of the European Union, but progress in that direction is welcome.
As many speakers have said tonight, the key enlargement issues for this European summit are Turkey and Cyprus. Those who have followed Greek politics for as long as I have welcome the rapprochement in recent years between Turkey and Greece. Several years ago, they were not far short of going to war over a rather obscure rock in the eastern Aegean but since the recent earthquakes that struck both countries so tragically, there has been a much more friendly relationship, piloted in particular by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and the then Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Cern. The very positive attitude that I saw in Greece to the new Government of Mr. Erdogan was extremely welcome. Some commentators described it as being one of reserved optimism, but certainly everyone whom I talked to had a rather more welcoming approach. The early statements issued by Mr. Erdogan were very positive, even though their content may have
Greece also recognises Turkey's importance for regional security, because bringing Turkey into the European Union would strengthen regional security in south-east Europe. Greece sees Turkey as a key partner in the development of south-east Europe and the Balkans. People often talk about Greece as the key state, the entry state, with Thessaloniki as the key port for entry to the Balkans, but the Greek view is much wider than that. It knows that it needs key partners such as Turkey to achieve proper development in that important region. Like us, Greece is keen for a date to be set for the start of accession negotiations for Turkey.
When considering Turkey in the European Union, one must inevitably take a reality check against the Helsinki process. With the new AK party Government in Turkey, there has been a welcome break with the past system of musical chairs that has bedevilled Turkish politics for so long. The same faces and personalities have been changing seats and changing places, in and out of Government for decades. There was really very little change and, as others have said, the Government were pretty detached from the population at large and operated as a political elite.
The new Turkish Government have learned the lessons of previous parties which were portrayed as Muslim. The AK party sees its role as evolutionary not revolutionary. In fact, if one were to describe the party to itself as Muslim, it would take exception. Its members call themselves Conservative Democrats. However, looking at their programme, they are probably more like social democrats than conservative democrats. I was interested to see that Mustafa Akinci, the leader of the Social Democrat party in northern Cyprus, believes that he is far closer to the platform of the AK party than to Mr. Baikal, the leader of the official Turkish Social Democrat party.
The new Turkish Government have a clear programme on human rights and constitutional reform. It is perhaps not surprising, when one sees that the leader of the AK party, Mr. Erdogan, is banned from sitting in Parliament because of statements that he made several years ago. There have been important reforms on the death penalty, torture and minority rights. The state of emergency has been lifted and progress has been made on incommunicado detention and access to lawyers. The question is whether all those constitutional reforms going through the Turkish Parliament can be delivered, and I think that Turkey needs help on that. I was pleased, therefore, to hear that one of the outcomes of the visit to Ankara by the Foreign Secretary last week was a $3 million bilateral arrangement between the UK and Turkey to provide support for prison reform, modern policing, economic affairs and banking regulations.
The Turkish Government's other priorities include economic revival and stabilisation, key facts in developing progress towards European Union membership within the context of the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps most important is the question of European Union accession. As has been said, EU accession will help to strengthen the reforms in Turkey, but we should not see Turkish membership as a one-way
I have said optimistic things about Turkey, but there is always the great Xbut": the role of the army in Turkish politics to defend what it sees as the secular state and the principles of Kemalism. Although the general mood of the army now appears to favour EU entry and the new chief of staff is seen as a progressive, none of the reforms so far contemplated considers the role of the army on the National Security Council in Turkey, where 50 per cent. of the seats are reserved for the military. If the Turkish army is serious about withdrawing from politics and Turkey is serious about European Union entry, the National Security Council has to become a purely civilian body.
Cyprus is also an important topic in today's debate. Turkey is trying to link its membership of the European Union with progress on Cyprus. However, the two are not linked, and we need to resist that even though Turkey is trying to push that agenda. It is also trying to link its acceptance with the reform of the European security and defence policy Ankara document. Certainly a settlement in Cyprus is desirable, but I do not think it right to link it with its EU accession. That has been said on many occasions since Helsinki, most recently tonight, and previously in answer to a question that I asked the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago.
We must recognise the constructive role played in the negotiations by the Republic of Cyprus. It is also fair to say that the time pressures that have been put on those who are being asked to make extremely difficult decisions can be counter-productive. People need time to adjust to the serious concessions that may have to be made to make progress.
We must reflect the fact that both sides have to agree in a referendum if the deal is to go through. In this respect, I take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) when he talks about extremists being rejectionists. Many people on both sides are concerned about the proposals not because they are necessarily extremists but because they see the possible problems arising from implementing the plan or believe that they could lose out. Refugees from Kyrenia, for example, would see very little in the plan for them as it stands. Those people are not necessarily extremists but they are concerned about their position. We must recognise that we are talking about the lives, properties and futures of real people with real concerns. It is easy for us in the House to talk about things in a very glib way without recognising that those problems are long standing and deep seated.