Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
TUESDAY 10 DECEMBER 2002
MP, MR PETER
60. Precisely. I have not heard anybody exploring
whether or not we could be inviting accession long-term to other
countries around the world.
(Dr MacShane) I think that there is a geographical
contiguity in the case of Turkey. There are countries all over
the world which are part of the European Union by dint of being
fully incorporated, unlike our overseas territories, in the nation
states of Europe, and I welcome that. A good part of the European
space effort is based on the fact that the missiles blast off
from the other side of the Atlantic ocean but they are still within
the European Union.
61. The answer is it has not been thought about,
(Dr MacShane) No, it is discussed regularly. It is
a question of how you define Europe: is it geography
62. Turkey is in Asia Minor, is it not?
(Dr MacShane) The Treaty makes clear that only European
States may apply. Turkey is, I suppose, geographically
63. Hawaii is not the United States, it is not
on the continent of America.
(Dr MacShane) Turkey has got a foot in both continents
according to the classic geographical definitions. I want to make
it personally as much orientated to Europe as is possible.
64. What is Europe is Belarus and the Ukraine.
I understand President Prodi has made it quite clear that it is
not even on the radar screen contemplating as an ambition Belarus
and the Ukraine coming in. Now I understand the political position
in Belarus does not meet the Copenhagen criteria, nor does Turkey
at this moment, I am not putting them in quite the same league
table. Surely we should have ambition. Ukraine, well quasi parliamentary
democracy, looking not too favourable at the moment but these
things rise and wane and there are tides in these things. Until
recent times things looked pretty bleak in Turkish history. Ought
we not to be thinkingboth as a matter of justice but also
out of naked self-interest, particularly from a security point
of viewin terms of trying to offer the carrot to the people
of Belarus and the Ukraine about European Union accession, albeit
score years down the road?
(Dr MacShane) Mr Mackinlay, you are absolutely right,
that is why at the last General Affairs and External Relations
Council on 18/19 November the Council adopted what is called the
New Neighbours initiative to look precisely at Ukraine, Belarus
and Moldova. In the margins of the OSCE Ministerial conference
in Oporto last Friday morning I had a very good talk with the
Foreign Minister of Moldova who was quite clear that the EU was
what his country would be aiming for because they are looking
at Romania now, their principal neighbour, coming towards the
EU. We have not mentioned, of course, the Balkan states where
there are specific road maps again for normalisation and, obviously,
ultimately the entry into the European Union of a fully democratic
Balkan region where respected international rule of law and other
democratic norms is something we need to be looking at.
65. You mentioned the New Neighbours, I understood
there was to be a document prepared, initially it was suggested
at the Brussels Council then it was suggested it should be made
available for Copenhagen. Is there such a document?
(Dr MacShane) The Commission has been asked to review
its policy on the New Neighbours initiative and indeed to come
up with specific ideas.
66. What is the timetable for that?
(Dr MacShane) That work is in progress at the moment.
Right now the principal difficulty with Belarus is that the European
Union has put a travel ban on Mr Lukashenko.
67. Is there a document? If there is not a document
now when will one be available?
(Dr MacShane) I do not have an answer to that question.
What I can tell you is that the focus of attention of EU energy
at the moment is trying to get respect for rule of law and political
democracy higher up the agenda. Can I pass to Mr Featherstone
(Mr Featherstone) A document was produced earlier
in the autumn by Mr Solana and the Commission as a way of facilitating
discussion. As you point out, rightly, there is the promise of
a Commission document further down the track and the UK would
certainly like to see
68. Do we know when that will appear?
(Mr Featherstone) We would like to see that appear
as soon as possible. We have not got a time frame from the Commission.
69. No doubt you note what we are saying as
parliamentarians. I think we would like to see that. I realise
it is not within your gift but I think HMG ought to chase them
because it brings us on to Kaliningrad and, I think to the eternal
credit of the Russian Federation and President Putin, I thought
very generous accommodation was reached on that. It does seem
to me we are going to have in our midst this island of acute deprivation,
appalling health conditions, high HIV etc. If the Russian Federation
want to pick it up or the oblastI think that will be the
term in Kaliningraddo we have some programme, both again
out of our naked self-interest and in the spirit of generosity,
to rebuild society theredecaying fabric of the buildings,
the infrastructure, poor healthand make it at least something
which matches our norms which will surround it?
(Dr MacShane) This issue is very high on the agenda
of my talks in Vilnius with the Lithuanian Government because
they are most directly concerned. They were pleased at the agreement
of what is called a facilitated travel document which will allow
the Russians in Kaliningrad to travel principally across Lithuanian
through the Schengen area to arrive in Russia. There are other
discussions about high speed trains, sealed trains. I was not
entirely sure, given the experience of sealed trains in Russian
history, that was such a good idea. Mr Mackinlay, Chairman, is
absolutely right to draw attention to the lamentable state of
70. Is there a master plan in co-operation to
deal with that?
(Dr MacShane) I think it would be going too far to
say there is a master plan yet.
Kaliningrad is part of Russia. President Putin originally wanted
more than what the final agreement came up with. He wanted complete
visa free movement between those two parts of Russia. I think
again, as the European Union borders advance eastwards or north
and east to the Baltic regions, particularly to Lithuania, that
will put a different kind of spotlight on Kaliningrad. I think
it is of deep concern to our Nordic neighbours, to Finland and
Sweden principally, and whether there needs to be a Commission
master plan or just all the neighbouring countries bearing down
and trying to remove the sources for instability, poverty, crime
and health risks in Kaliningrad, I think that is a better way
forward than asking the Commission yet again to produce another
71. Yes butand I do not mean this facetiously
at alllistening carefully to your crafted words thereI
do not mean this sarcasticallyit does seem to me, particularly
in response to the Chairman, there is not a plan, there is not
a document which you could take off the shelf tonight and supply
to this Committee saying either that the United Kingdom bilaterally
or the European Union have got a document of what they are going
to make available, offer to people of Kaliningrad/Russian Federation
and there does not seem to me to be any promise it is going to
be on a particular date. Now I would have thoughtthis Committee
has got to discuss thisthat this is something which will
concern and exercise us when we bring our report. If I am wrong,
do you think you could drop us a note, as it were, saying what
the position is? Amongst my colleagues I want to pursue this.
I think it is in our UK interest that we should avoid this. Listening
to you, and as I say I do not mean it critically, it does not
seem to me there is anything.
(Dr MacShane) Chairman, I do not think this is entirely
fair. Kaliningrad is part of Russia. It is not a separate country,
it is not a separate state. We have a partnership and co-operation
agreement with Russia which sets out certain ways of moving forward
the EU relationship with Russia. Clearly that covers Kaliningrad
and it would be quite wrong, I think, for the EU to tell Mr Putin
that a completely separate programme is needed.
72. It is not a question of telling. What I
think Mr Mackinlay is saying is this. Here we have a great Hanse
port, the old Konigsberg. It has the historic anomaly that
at the end of the war it is left there, as Mr Mackinlay has properly
described, decaying, disease ridden and not fulfilling its potential.
It is not a question of imposing on the Russian Federation but
it is in both our interests to try to improve the quality of life
and the ability of that area which has been described, rather
ambitiously, as a potential Hong Kong, to improve it by mutual
co-operation. Have there been any such discussions?
(Dr MacShane) Yes. Under the partnership and co-operation
agreement and in the meetings that the EU holds with Russia on
a joint EU/Russia Common Strategy. It was at that meeting, if
you recall, where the agreement was reached on the facilitated
travel documents, clearly Kaliningrad featured. I am happy to
assure the Committee that I will keep that under review. It has
to be in the interests of Lithuania and Russia, the other Baltic
states, that Kaliningradforgive me, Chairman, if I am a
bit nervous about reverting to its historic name of Konigsberg,
I prefer Gdansk to be Gdansk and not Danzig and "beef"
not to be "le boeuf". I think in the region the world
is very much seized of the Kaliningrad problem, perhaps more so
than we are in the UK and that does seem to me to be appropriate.
I do not think, if I can be very personal, that you can keep turning
to Brussels saying "produce an action plan on this and a
master plan on that". What we can do is work regionally.
The UK may have a specific contribution to make to upgrade the
quite deplorable conditions of existence for the citizens and
infrastructure of Kaliningrad.
73. I have really exhausted everything. The
only thing is interpretation. A machinery point but actually in
the great cost of things it is enormous. I think at Copenhagen
one is going to be discussing languages. What is the UK's position
on this? It does seem to me we do need a two tier system, obviously
translation where necessary but really we do need to come down
to about four languages, do we not? In fairness, the Irish Republic,
a longstanding Member, does not exercise their right to have Irish
used, other than in a very minimal way.
(Dr MacShane) There is a lot of discussion on this.
I am a bit reluctant to be the Solomon who decides which language
is thrown away. I am proud of Europe's diversity and I think it
is worth making an effort and yes it does cost a bit of money
for interpreters and translators to keep the right of different
people to have their languages. Certainly I would not like to
take part in the voting on I think Mr Mackinlay mentioned four
(Dr MacShane) Well, you know, five or six or three,
somebody has to throw a few out of the window and I expect, if
I may say so to Mr Mackinlay, who is a well known friend of Poland
in this House, our Polish colleagues might be less happy.
75. Slovak language.
(Dr MacShane) English, French, German, Spanish and
Polish. Now, Mr Prodi, I presume, would like to talk in his own
language now and then so that is a sixth, you see the direction
we are going in. There are some proposals called request and pay.
There are some ideas of having a limited standard interpreting
regime. I think we are going to have to work at this but I think
it is one of the glories of Europe that we are a diverse linguistic
Chairman: Not today anyway.
Sir John Stanley
76. Minister, just in the closing minutes, could
I just come back to two items which have been raised which are
very important and neither of which appear to have made it to
the agenda for the Copenhagen Council as far as the British Government
and indeed other governments are concerned. The first is one raised
by Mr Mackinlay which is this issue of corruption in relation
to the existing EU Member States. As we are all aware we get the
annual report of auditors each year. Every year they report that
billions of euros have been misappropriated, mismanaged, gone
missing, the figure does not seem to go down, it goes on year
after year. Despite the efforts the British Government and perhaps
others have made so far we do not seem to be getting any improvement.
Since we last took evidence from the Foreign Secretary on the
EU issue we have had what I call the dismal case of Ms Marta Andreasson,
a senior EU Commission official in the budget and accounting area
who had the temerity and indeed I think, frankly, the public responsibility
to expose the fact that the EU Commission's basic accounting standards
were way below those of any other international organisation,
let alone private commercial practice. It is handling huge sums
of money with basically wholly inadequate budgeting and accounting
systems. Can I return to you on this. Is this an issue which the
British Government is just going to continue to shrug its shoulders
on or is the British Government going to make a further determined
effort to try to get rid of what is obviously a serious blight
on the perception of the EU amongst taxpayers right across the
length and breadth of the EU? Is the British Government with other
governments going to really start talking tough to the Commission
and say "You either sort this out or otherwise we are going
to have to take some serious measures against the Commission"?
(Dr MacShane) I think, Sir John, there is widespread
concern on that and I think it reflects also the distorting impact
of the Common Agricultural Policy absorbing 48% of the total EU
budget. Very often it is at the end of where sheep get sold across
borders, where pigs are double counted, where tobacco and wheat
and wine disappears into the wonderful world of agricultural accounting
that an awful lot of this fraud takes place. Indeed there are
a number of cases against British citizens in respect of EU fraud,
I think principally because we have got a much more rigorous and
tougher approach generally in terms of public auditing in the
UK. Yes, I share your concern. I think it does immense damage
to the EU's good name. Certainly it is something I want to look
at as a Minister, finding the exact mechanism to clear this up
is not easy. I do not doubt the good intent of the commissioners
who have been looking at it in recent years, any more than I doubted
the good intent of commissioners who looked at it ten or 20 years
ago. As far as I can remember this accusation has been laid at
the EU's door, particularly the Commission's door and Brussels'
door since we entered the Commission. Again, it is quite hard
in the time of Enron and Arthur Andersen to assume that private
companies are immune to corruption and fiddles. As I say, we have
an enormous National Audit Office, I do not know what its total
employment is but it may well be as many if not more than all
of the full-time functionaries employed by the Commission in Brussels
just to try and bear down on fraud in our own country. Every month
I hear its distinguished Chairman, Mr Leigh, on the Today
programme announcing some immense boondoggle they have uncovered
involving corruption and fraud within this really remarkably honest
and rigorously policed, in accountancy terms, public sector in
the United Kingdom.
77. Can I come back to the other major item
which has not made it to the agenda, which is Zimbabwe. If I can
just put this to you, Minister. As Sir Patrick, who led off on
this, indicated in that country, with which the EU has a clear
foreign policy position and therefore has assumed a measure of
responsibility, we have gross abuses of human rights that have
been carried out in Matabeleland, we have imprisonment without
trial, we have basically state authorised violence against individuals,
we have access to food, therefore starvation, being used as a
political weapon. We have huge numbers of Zimbabwean black farm
workers who have been dispossessed of their livelihood, dispossessed
of their property, dispossessed of their possessions as a result
of the government's policy of expropriating the white farmlands.
Can you assure the Committee that although sadly, deeply regrettably,
I would say frankly deplorably, it has not made it to the agenda
for this Council that before we get to the Greek Council, the
end of the Greek Presidency, the British Government is really
going to make determined efforts to get this up the agenda as
far as our EU partners are concerned?
(Dr MacShane) Of course, Sir John. I repeat the assurance
and statement I made earlier that to my knowledge no Foreign Secretary
has spent more time raising the issue of Zimbabwe with his European
colleagues than the present one. I do not say that out of loyalty,
I say that out of sitting every morning at the meeting when all
ministers gather when they are in London at nine o'clock in his
office and Zimbabwe and the contacts and discussions he has had
with his European colleagues is there again and again, as are
the reports by Baroness Amos. I think even this week the Foreign
Secretary was planning to discuss this because there is talk of
an EU-Africa summit next year in Lisbon and the question then
is of Zimbabwean participation and if the Zimbabweans are barred
from entering does that mean that the other African Union countries
will refuse to come. These are big issues. Britain is in the lead
but, my goodness, how much easier it would be if this was a pan-European
issue and if our own papers could just give up the trivial rubbish
they have been filling their pages with in the last few days and
concentrate on this and other pressing world issues.
78. Minister, I would like to end by building
on the question which Mr Mackinlay raised with you about the New
Neighbours and, to use the term which you have used several times,
the road map for Europe. We know that in May 2004 the ten Laeken
countries should become members of the Union. We know that if
all goes well Romania and Bulgaria will become members in 2007-08.
You have spoken yourself of the real possibility that perhaps
after ten or 12 years Turkey itself will be a member. I would
like to know where you think along that road map other countries,
and I think particularly the Balkan countries, are likely to fit
in. No-one can doubt, for example, that Croatia in terms of its
culture, its values, increasingly its economy, will be a fit and
proper member of the Union within a reasonable period of time,
so there is Croatia. The Balkan countries are concerned that by
some form of failure to differentiate some will be held back,
perhaps Croatia, because other countries, be it Macedonia, be
it Serbia, be it Albania, will not fulfil the criteria. Are you
prepared to speculate as to where along that road map between
2004 and Turkey some other countries, which are clearly within
Europe, are likely to be inserted into your road map?
(Dr MacShane) I think it depends very much on them,
Chairman. At the Faro European Council it was concluded Albania
and four countries of the former YugoslaviaBosnia, Croatia,
Macedonia and Yugoslaviawere all potential candidates.
We have worked and I have worked as the Minister responsible for
the Balkans in supporting those aspirations and helping to bring
technical expertise to upgrade the European Union aspirations
of all those nations. Certainly there is an exceptionally good
European Integration Office run as part of the Croatian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. At the same time I am faced with the dilemma
that that country, as with Serbia, refuses to comply fully with
the international tribunal in The Hague, in transferring indicted
alleged war criminals for investigation. They are protected, either
formally or informally, by the government or by the military machines
within those nations. Again and again I have said to them that
the road map for their European aspirations lies in part through
The Hague. I completely agree with you that it is in their hands.
I think we need some differentiation as well because going a bit
further east, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, all have different
levels of both political and economic development. They will look
now at the ten countries coming in this week, those will be the
models to emulate Bulgaria and Romania a bit further down the
track and Turkey we hope starting hard negotiations soon and upgrading
its political and economic ability to be a full European Union
Member. This is how Europe should work, in an osmotic effect,
a benchmarking effect, an effect of models for others to adapt
79. Minister, we began by saying that we regretted,
because he was held up in Brussels, the Foreign Secretary was
not here. We are delighted that you are here in your own right,
the first time as Minister for Europe, and we are very pleased
that you have been able to assist the Committee so well. Very
(Dr MacShane) Thank you very much, Chairman.
11 See Ev 18-22. Back