Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
TUESDAY 10 DECEMBER 2002
MP, MR PETER
40. Are there any other items that you wish
to add to the list you have given to the Committee already?
(Dr MacShane) I think those are the principal ones.
I need to refresh my memory considerably and in a sense all of
this evolves over time. It does seem to me that always the only
question is would this be in Britain's interest. Now you can have
a dogmatic die in a ditch view or you can seek to take the argument
forward. I think there are so many different views in Europe that
Mr Prodi's speech was quite scathingly dismissed by the President
of the Convention, Mr Giscard d'Estaing, according to reports
I read in the French press, but each contribution is worthwhile.
The French Foreign Minister made an interesting speech in Marseilles
on the Convention, the French Prime Minister made an interesting
speech in Orleans, the British Prime Minister made an outstandingly
interesting speech in Cardiff and these contributions will go
on and on as the Convention hots up in its work.
41. Thank you very much for the helpful and
substantive answer you have given. I did not ask the question
to you in any way to try and trip you up.
(Dr MacShane) No, no.
42. I will have to say to you, Minister, that
the answer you have given to my question is wholly different from
the answer which was given to the same question which I put to
the Foreign Secretary when he came before the Committee earlier
I am delighted you have now given a substantive list of areas
where it remains the British Government's position to preserve
unanimity and I just will simply register that the Committee will
rest on the answer you gave today as being the latest position
of the British Government unless you advise the Committee subsequently
that in any way you were mistaken in the answer you have given.
(Dr MacShane) Sir John, I am looking
quickly through the last Committee evidence minutes to see whether
I am out of line with the Foreign Secretary, a position I would
not at this stage in my career ever wish to find myself in. That
is my understanding of areas where on the whole we think unanimity
should be maintained. If that position needs to be altered of
course I will write to you but, as I said, I am always up for
persuasion myself and my only question is what is the British
national interest, not what is a dogmatic position that it should
never be changed.
Chairman: On the veto generally you have heard
Sir John's generous offer that you can refine any answer you have
made by letter if you feel that your career might otherwise be
Sir John Stanley
43. Minister, I have asked you a very substantive
question, you have given a substantive answer, the Committee will
rest on that answer. You have enumerated, I think, five areas
where it is the British Government's position to retain the veto
and the Committee will rest on that unless we should be advised
subsequently that you were in any way mistaken in the answer you
(Dr MacShane) I am grateful to you, Sir John, that
is a fair point.
44. I am confident, Minister, that we could
not get a cracker cheese slice between the position of the Foreign
Secretary and yourself. Could I ask a brief couple of questions
about France and Germany and where you perceive the UK to be in
relation to the European Union at the moment. A number of people
have suggested that there has been a recent rapprochement between
France and Germany, particularly over defence and the CAP reform.
Basically the Franco-German axis is back in the driving seat of
the European Union. First of all, do you accept that and where
does this leave the UK?
(Dr MacShane) I welcome strong Franco-German co-operation
and joint papers, just as I would welcome strong British-French
or British-German or British-Spanish or British-Swedish ideas
and papers. What I would say is that the European Union is a team
of 15 and I do not know of any team of 15 that means there are
just two people playing. The ideas being put forward by France
and Germany are linked to the fact that next January they will
celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the historic Treaty of the
Elysee fashioned by General de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer.
I think certainly there is a burst of energy on the Franco-German
front. To take CAP reform specifically, it is true that they agreed
a joint position that the amount of money given to CAP would not
rise until 2013 and would be spread over 25 countries, not 15,
but then the German Government was strongly in line with our position
that, notwithstanding that, in terms of freezing the amount of
money going to CAP and spreading it more thinly it actually was
not a bad deal. The Germans, the British and the majority of other
European Union Council Members insisted that the Mid-Term Review,
the proposals put forward by Commissioner Fischler, should remain
on the table and in the actual communique, the declaration from
that Council meeting, there was reference to the Doha round, and
of course as we know under the Doha round agricultural subsidies
have to be discussed. I do not think it is much of a secret to
announce that elements of the French Government would have preferred
neither to have the reference to the Doha round nor to the Mid-Term
Review. There the German position was a bit closer to that of
the United Kingdom.
45. Can I tempt the Minister, therefore, to
be an outrider for Blairism by suggesting that we will not be
at the heart of Europe as long as we remain outside the euro and
that it is very much in our interests to join it as quickly as
(Dr MacShane) I have said consistently, before becoming
either Minister for Europe or a Minister at all, that there is
far more to Europe than the euro and to reduce the question of
Europe to its currency, significant as it is, does a disservice
to an important debate. We have to get the economic tests right.
The Prime Minister has made very clear that for Britain there
are no political or constitutional objections to entering the
euro system. We want it to succeed. It is in the interests of
all of Europe to succeed. As the Chancellor said, and I do not
know, Mr Pope, if you were at the meeting of the Parliamentary
Labour Party last week when he outlined the five economic tests,
he said, also, and I quote, "If they are passed we will go
out and win a referendum". When the Chancellor says he will
go out and win something then I take heart from that. It is right
that we analyse this in the most rigorous dispassionate way because
the economics are extremely important.
46. Back to President Prodi. Clearly the reform
of the Council is on the agenda and with the additional countries
there is a danger that Europe will be less able to act decisively,
hence the Prime Minister has put forward his favoured option of
an elected President of the Council, elected by the Heads of State
and Government. What sort of response have we had to that? Has
it been totally negative from the smaller countries?
(Dr MacShane) Chairman, if I may I will just correct
you, what the Prime Minister called for in his speech in Cardiff
was not a President
47. A president.
(Dr MacShane)which in English at any rate implies
a very dominant figure, but a chair or a Chairman. The thinking
is one needs a Chairman of the European Council who can be there
for a given mandateI have seen figures of two and a half
years or five yearsand carry the work of the Council forward
from Council to Council.
48. So there is a continuity.
(Dr MacShane) To maintain continuity and a historic
sense of where the Councils have got to, to act as an explainer
of what the European Union is doing, particularly what the Council
is doing, to all of European citizens, to participate in some
of the bilateral discussions we have internationally now with
Russia and China but to do so in partnership with a strong President
of the Commission.
49. What has been the response?
(Dr MacShane) The response is positive from a number
of countries. I think there has been a very distorted, I would
almost be tempted to say propagandistic, presentation of this
idea that somehow it is a gang-up by big countries against small
countries. My own view, and it is a personal view, is it would
be quite acceptable to imagine that this elected Chairman would
be a former Prime Minister or former senior leader of a smaller
country, one perhaps that was used to consensus building, a lady
or gentleman who spoke two or three languages and knew how to
knit Europe together and to be an effective spokesperson for Europe.
50. Are any of the smaller countries supporting
(Dr MacShane) Certainly Sweden is in favour and in
my discussions, because frankly amongst the applicant countries
remember they are all Members of the Convention and they want
to have their word in the Convention process even if they are
not full Members of the EU, they have been focusing strongly on
the accession negotiationsquite rightly sothey have
not had a chance to turn their mind to the other ideas on the
table. We are not in a tick-off stage yet of saying "Here
is an idea, hands up those who are in favour of it". I believe,
certainly, very strongly, the more I have been thinking about
this since taking up this post, the idea we can have a single
Mr Europe is a nonsense. We need a strong Commission President,
we need somebody representing the European Parliament, we need
a Council Chair and, of course, we could have the Presidents and
Prime Ministers of all the European countries who would be the
men or women that other world leaders phone up as and when. We
should not seek this idea of a unified, what has sometimes been
called, European family. Europe is going to continue evolving
and I think the Chairman proposal is a very good one, as I think
the team presidency proposal is a good one. They have had a lot
of support for that because otherwise countries are going to have
to wait 12Ö years before they ever get a chance, as it were,
to exercise rule in Europe.
51. We believe the Chairman of the Council for
continuity and other reasons is a proper course. Are we trying
actively to sell it to other countries?
(Dr MacShane) Yes. The agenda is there. The Prime
Minister's speech which our embassies have translated and which
has been circulated to all governments, I am circulating it also
to many Hon. Members, to opinion formers in other countries, not
just in the English but in a translation with a covering letter,
and puts forward very clearly this idea that we want an effective
Chair of the European Council as well as a strong Commission under
a dynamic President to add to the coherence of the European Union,
in particular since the Council represents the national governments
and through them the votes in the national parliaments of all
the citizens of Europe. We feel very strongly that the Council
is not working as it should and the idea of a Council of 25 without
some reform I think everybody agrees would be unworkable. I can
tell the Committee I believe strongly in this idea. I think it
has support from a number of countries. I do not think it has
been well enough explained up to now and I will continue to advance
it in my work as Europe Minister.
Chairman: Mr Mackinlay, you have a number of
other areas to cover.
52. Yes. The Barnier Working Group on defence,
what is your position on that? The way I understand it is that
it fully recognised the rights, sovereignty of the national governments.
It expressly minimises the involvement of the European Union Parliament,
which I would have thought would have been welcomed here. I wonder
if you could just give us your reaction to those proposals on
the European Union collective defence doctrine?
(Dr MacShane) They are being discussed and examined
and that is one set of ideas that has emerged in a snapshot way
at the moment. The key players on defence to some extenthere
one might as well be honestare those that can really put
effective amounts of men and material in the field, notably France
and the United Kingdom with other countries contributing as well.
If I may, Mr Mackinlay, I would like to call in Mr Ricketts on
this. He is Political Director. I know, again prior even to taking
up the Europe Minister's slot, the very hard detailed work that
he has done, the to-ing and fro-ing and discussions on European
defence. He could probably give a fuller answer at this stage
than I can.
(Mr Ricketts) Thank you, Minister. As you say, the
Barnier Working Group has produced a second revised draft of its
report now. It is an evolving document and will continue evolving
through the Convention. It incorporates already a large number
of UK ideas from the contributions that the UK has made and particularly
I draw attention to the idea that ESDP should develop now beyond
where it was in the initial St Malo blueprint. We should take
into account the evolution of challenges that the European Union
faces. We should build in some aspects of stabilisation of what
we call defence outreach, of using the European Union to help
development and progress in the doctrine of armed forces of other
countries in the neighbourhood. It looks at the issue of what
ESDP and other aspects of the European Union can do to help in,
for example, a terrorist attack against a Member State, aid to
the civilian power in an emergency. It puts further pressure for
capability improvements and floats the idea of convergence criteria
to encourage countries to spend more on capabilities and it sets
out thinking for incorporation on armaments in the second pillar,
the inter-governmental pillar, of the European Union, again with
a view to the most effective use of defence funds that Member
States have available. There are many good ideas in the paper
which originate in UK thinking and we will continue to participate
reactively as that develops.
53. From the United Kingdom's point of view,
what we understand to be the thrust of the Barnier Working Group
is very helpful?
(Mr Ricketts) There is a lot of helpful material in
it. Not every sentence in it I am sure the UK Government would
agree with but there is a lot of helpful stuff in it.
54. So we are winning. I am not sure this is
under the Barnier Working Group, this concept that there should
be the equivalent of an Article 5 NATO doctrine, an attack on
one is an attack on the whole, should come into the European Union.
Personally I have never seen a problem with that because it seems
to me implicit that you could not tolerate it, an external invasion
of one might be deemed to be an attack on the whole. Where are
we on that? Is there a problem on that? Do we have a problem on
that? It seems to me a self-evident truth.
(Dr MacShane) I think that is contained in NATO. I
think it is contained also in the WEU.
55. Yes, but in relation to the EU.
(Dr MacShane) Obviously the EU takes us into the area
of neutral states. You may not be completely comfortable with
that. Where I think the thinking is is a common approach to EU
security, for example in the sense of a terrorist attack or a
major disaster, in which the military would have to play a role
in putting things right. There is not a lot of stomach out there
for duplicating the principal role of common defence that is there
in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. Again I defer to Mr Ricketts
as a real specialist in that field.
(Mr Ricketts) Minister, I agree entirely with what
you have said.
(Dr MacShane) Good.
(Mr Ricketts) I always agree with the Minister. We
have always said that ESDP should not undermine or duplicate NATO.
We do see a real risk that if we start having collective defence
guarantees in the European Union Treaty that would cut across
what NATO's core purpose is for. To answer your question, it does
indeed cover that issue but it makes clear that there are different
views amongst different Member States on it and our position has
been that it is best to keep collective defence guarantees with
the integrated military structure to deal with them, which is
56. Okay. It seems barmy but anyway. Turkey.
The British Government fully signed up to this repeated declaration
that we would like Turkey to be in the European Union. There is
some implied or inferred criticism of the comments of others who
are more reticent. I have to say, and I want to bounce this off
you, we do not even know the true population of Turkey. It bounds
numerous states, I think it is something like six, including Iran
and Iraq. Are we teasing the Turkish people by holding out even
this medium-term prospect of them coming into the European Union?
The capacity to digest Turkey bears no comparison with any of
the other Laeken 10. What say you on that?
(Dr MacShane) Chairman, Mr Mackinlay, I disagree profoundly.
It is a huge challenge. It is a huge challenge for the Turks themselves
in accepting the road map to Europe to ensure that they fulfil
all the Copenhagen criteria: rule of law, human rights and so
(Dr MacShane) That can make the most profound difference
internally. In a sense the opposite position, which is of Turkey
looking eastwards, away from Europe, away from modernity, away
from democratic reforms, away from respect of human rights, for
me would be far more alarming. There are two groups in Turkey.
They are not necessarily formally right or left but there are
those who support Europeanisation, modernisation and those who
do not. General de Gaulle called for a Europe from the Atlantic
to the Urals.
58. That is right.
(Dr MacShane) The last time I checked, Ankara and
Istanbul lie to the west of the Urals. It is a challenge, an enormous
challenge, but I think a very exciting one and one I am very glad
this Prime Minister has picked up and taken the lead in arguing
59. One of the things which is made quite clearin
case there is any misunderstanding I fully subscribe to thisis
Turkey should not of itself be excluded because a lot of it is
in Asia Minor and because it is predominantly Islamic that should
not be a consideration at all, and we are agreed wholeheartedly
on that. If we are agreed upon that, the word "Europe"
is not magic, has there been any contemplation in the remotest
corners of the Foreign Office thinking that the Union could be
extended to even include the Caribbean countries of some states.
(Dr MacShane) It does already, Mr Mackinlay. All the
French Caribbean countries are part of the European Union.
10 Foreign Affairs Committee, The Barcelona European
Council, HC698-i, Session 2001-02, Qq 12-22. Back