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11 Dec 2002 : Column 345—continued

Mr. Shaun Woodward (St. Helens, South): We are holding an important debate on an important subject, and considering an important meeting in Copenhagen in the next few days.

Britain's future unquestionably lies at the heart of Europe. I speak from experience when I say that we also unquestionably have the right Government to negotiate that future. I say that with some pleasure because in a former guise in another party I spent some time undergoing the twists and turns of trying to explain to my constituents and activists why I was pro-European, how that view could be accommodated with going no further into Europe, the way in which Europe presented all sorts of problems, and that closer integration was not a good idea.

In the debate, Conservative Members expressed similar conundrums, which individuals are trying to solve. When the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) spoke about the reasons for a new constitution, I wondered whether the Conservative party was prepared genuinely to consider what the Government are trying to achieve. The Prime Minister made it clear in Cardiff last week that we need a proper constitution for Europe because of the EU's expansion to 25 members. Without change, it is impossible to take forward such a Europe in the way that we support. The Prime Minister spelt out that we want a constitution,

Secondly, he made it clear that

Subsidiarity will not be compromised but enshrined. The Commission and the Council are currently judge and jury. The Convention wants national Parliaments to be given new early-warning rights. They are important because if sufficient national Parliaments object, the Commission's proposals will require revision. That means expanding the principle of subsidiarity and giving national Parliaments in a union of nation states greater control. It makes perfect sense for us to go back to the treaties and create a sensible, simple constitution in plain language.

At Copenhagen, two crucial issues will be considered: enlargement and the future political architecture of the EU. That is necessary because we are entering a new phase in this millennium. Interdependence means the expansion of the global economy. However, there is a dark side to that. It includes the problems of climate change; trans-border crime, and AIDS and HIV. The list is long. We must have effective structures for dealing with them. They must be flexible but integrated in order to work. Archbishop William Temple once said that the art of government was creating structures in which

Structures and integration therefore matter.

Of course, democratic accountability is critical in that architecture. People feel stronger if they have a greater sense of democratic accountability. A constitution would ensure that it was enshrined in a principle that underscores enlargement in the next few years.

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The right hon. Member for Devizes spoke of failures in the EU under the Government. He should visit the north-west, where two thirds of our exports go to the EU. He should witness the 400,000 jobs that have been created in the north-west and which depend on our exports to the EU. There has been #5 billion of inward investment in the north-west. Structural funds are being poured into Merseyside. The infrastructure projects in my constituency include roads, railways, new schools, new equipment, community projects, regeneration, and two new business parks. We even hope that we will get money for rebuilding or finding a new home ground for the Saints. All those projects are due to structural money from the EU.

The summit will critically tackle where we go from here. We face many problems. Twenty-five years ago, the EU constituted 15 per cent. of the world's population; the figure is now nearer 5 per cent. In the early 1980s, there was a 10 per cent. gap in GDP per capita between the peoples of Europe and those of the United States. Today, the figure is closer to 42 per cent.

Unquestionably, we must do something about improving economic performance and reviving failing economies. We must increase our markets and make them more efficient. I say to Opposition Members that it is impossible to make the single market work without further integration. It is absurd for Conservative Front-Bench Members, as architects of the single market, to argue for less integration in the context of the single market. External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten recently observed that in Europe at present we are seeing a unique experiment in regional integration. It is unique for a number of reasons, but it is absolutely unique across the globe.

We must look at the important question of Turkey. The Foreign Secretary was right to refer at the beginning of his speech to Turkey's accession to the EU as an Xobligation". This weekend, we shall look to the summit as much to see what it says about Turkey as to see how that reflects what it says about ourselves. Our response to Turkey's accession is, as much as anything, about the kind of Europe we want to create. Do we want a Christian club for reactionary economies or a dynamic union of nation states focused on improving the economic performance of those countries and providing security and a climate free from terrorism?

In that context, I refer to the lamentable remarks that former President Giscard d'Estaing made recently about Turkey joining the EU. He said that those who support Turkey's accession are enemies of Europe. He said that Turkey is a different culture, with a different approach and a different way; that Turkey is a country that is close to Europe but it is not a European country. Those arguments—those prejudices—are serious, because when Giscard d'Estaing speaks, he speaks for many, albeit not a majority, who would prefer to see the European Union as a club, not an effective single market working for the peoples of nation states.

What are former President Giscard d'Estaing's objections? His first is a prejudice about the religious nature of most of the peoples who make up the European Union. That argument excludes the 18 million Muslims who are already a critical and well-integrated part of it. He regards the admission of more Muslims as potentially destabilising. His second objection seems to be about Turkey's size: it has a

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population nearly the size of Germany's, so it is too large and its backwards economy poses a threat. I understand that what he proposes for Turkey is a trade association with the European Union, but not full integration. On that, he is entirely wrong. It would be a terrible backwards step for us were we to go with that advice.

This is about the kind of Europe that we are trying to shape, and how the political architecture that we are forging can best serve the peoples of these nation states. Former President Giscard d'Estaing has been economical with history. He forgets, for example, that at the time of his own presidency, Turkey was already on its way to membership. He forgets that, back in 1963 when Britain's membership was vetoed, Charles de Gaulle recognised that Turkey was indeed a European country.

More compelling today, however, is the logic of Turkey joining. In 1989, the Berlin wall fell and we saw the curtain lifted for a new generation, with hope and possible prosperity offered to it. Today, the curtain can be lifted between the east and west. Former President Giscard d'Estaing fears that Turkey as part of the EU bordering on Iraq would be dangerous for the EU. I believe that the opposite is true: it is a real opportunity. As John F. Kennedy said when he was at the Berlin wall in the 1960s, XFreedom is indivisible", and as Attaturk said 75 years ago,

Geographically, Turkey offers us an opportunity to create a bridge between the east and the west. It stands at a crossroads between Europe, the middle east and central Asia, yet it serves not as a bridgehead between east and west, but as a bridge to unite civilisations, providing an opportunity to bring 80 million Muslim people into the institutions and ideas of Europe. Three years ago, former President Clinton paid a visit to Turkey. While he was there, he said:

There is a lot for us to learn in those words. There is also a lot for us to learn by thinking about what we might lose if we do not embrace Turkey.

Turkey sits on the eastern flank of NATO. It is a strategic ally of Israel, a buffer against Iran, and an ally against Saddam. In the past, it has been a shock absorber against an expansionist Soviet Union, and today it absorbs the Russian pressures on the middle east. It is a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. In short, Turkey offers us the chance of having a window into the Islamic world. We have made many mistakes in the past in relation to Islam. Today we see new contours emerging in the post-cold war world, and we can see the importance of this new order. In the past, the United States and the European Union have missed the opportunities to create new paradigms with which to deal with Islamic fundamentalism. Today, Turkey gives us that chance.

The old Turkey of 70 years ago has gone. It has begun a journey, and that journey is now advancing at speed. This Turkey is drawn by European values such as

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democracy. It has abolished the death penalty. It has also outlawed torture, and punishes those who are guilty of it. Its XMidnight Express" culture is giving way to one in which it is trying to establish freedom and human rights. As the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) rightly observed, the Turkish model, with its 80 million Muslim people, is a democratic alternative to the models of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is important that we embrace it.

Turkey has the strongest economy in its region. President Giscard d'Estaing's question about whether Turkey is European is simply the wrong question to ask today. The right question is whether the European Union can afford not to include Turkey. That question whether to include Turkey and offer it a real prospect of accession is central to the success of this weekend's summit, and central to all those in Copenhagen who are framing the architecture for successful European Union enlargement.

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