Previous SectionIndexHome Page


4. Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): What recent representations he has made to the Turkish Government on the equal rights of Turkish citizens from ethnic minorities. [190317]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): We have consistently raised, at the highest levels, the need for Turkey to ensure that the democratic rights of all its citizens are protected, regardless of their ethnicity. The Lord Chancellor and I raised this with the Turkish Justice Minister during his visit to the UK in July. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary also urged the Turkish Government to sustain the momentum of reform during his visit on 7 October.

Bob Russell: Does the Minister agree that Turkey has no place in the EU if it does not give equal rights to its Kurdish minority?

Mr. MacShane: The fact that Turkey is an enthusiastic supporter of EU entry—which sets it apart from one or two political forces in our country—has caused it to improve considerably its laws in respect of the Kurdish minority. For example, new laws allow Kurdish people to study, broadcast and register their own names. The situation for Kurds in Turkey is improving steadily, as Turkey seeks to join the EU.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I welcome the decisions taken in Brussels last Thursday, and the statement by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Ankara on Friday that the EU must keep its side of the bargain. However, does the Minister share my concern about the forces of reaction in Europe, which try to assert that Turkey will not join the EU until 2019? Will he confirm that there is no question that a referendum on Turkish membership of the EU will be held? Will he also confirm that the UK will give Turkey every assistance possible to ensure that it meets the terms of the Copenhagen criteria, and any other assistance necessary to allow Turkey to join the EU as soon as possible?

Mr. MacShane: The answer to all those questions is an unequivocal yes. It would be helpful if Britain could be united in supporting the Turkish application for EU membership, and even more helpful if the Conservative party and other parties on the centre-right in the rest of Europe also supported that application. However, while the Turks want in, the Tories want out. The Opposition have no locus in Europe, and no presence or status with their sister parties. I urge Opposition Members to stop their lurch to the right and to give up camping after UKIP votes. They should support the national interests
12 Oct 2004 : Column 136
of Britain and Turkey and ensure that both countries work for a successful EU and a successful Turkey in the EU.

Mr. Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood) (Con): Does the Minister agree that consideration of Turkish membership of the EU is an important negotiating tool when it comes to improving civil rights in Turkey? However, does he also agree that it is essential that that does not become an excuse for delaying consideration of Turkish membership, artificially and unnecessarily?

Mr. MacShane: Yes.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that this case offers an example of how the EU leads the promotion of human rights? The Turkish Government are adopting more progressive measures in respect of their Kurdish minority in part because they want to join the EU. That is one of Europe's missions that should be continued as more member states join, and it is a very welcome aspect of the EU.

Mr. MacShane: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The EU exports its values—its democracy, its open market and its liberal traditions—osmotically, as it were, and during the adult lifetime of everybody in this Chamber we have seen considerable advances in many European countries, which were in a very different situation not so long ago. It is all the more sad that we hear relentless anti-European propaganda and see the move to the right by the Opposition. We also hear constant talk of breaching solemn treaty obligations on fisheries and social policy—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I welcome the decision on Turkey and I also agree with the comments made so far about Kurds. I would also highlight the situation of Armenians in Turkey and of Armenia itself. Will the Minister encourage Turkey to improve Armenian relations, including making progress on resolving outstanding historical differences?

Mr. MacShane: I am a Foreign Office Minister, not an historian, and there are times when history should be left to history. Turkey wants to look to a better future in the European Union and that will require it—as it requires of all member states—to look with tolerance and sensitivity at some of the problems of the past. Sometimes the past is best dealt with by ceasing to rake it up incessantly.

Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister is correct to say that human rights in Turkey have improved, but when he says—as he just did—that it is now possible to register one's name and to broadcast in one's own language in some circumstances, it illustrates how far Turkey has to go before it can be genuinely a part of the European Union.

Mr. MacShane: I accept what my hon. Friend says, although such developments also illustrate how far Turkey has come. It seems like only yesterday that I was listening to complaints about the treatment of Kurds,
12 Oct 2004 : Column 137
which we all agreed was unacceptable. Now Turkey has made substantial legislative reforms, with implementation right down through the police and other systems. The very act of preparing for engagement with the EU is a powerful pressure on all Turkish society and its political leadership to conform to the values of Europe. That is why anti-Europeanism has no place if we want to help Turkey over the next few years.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): I thank the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues for their kind words for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram).

The Government have rightly supported the accession of Turkey to the EU, and we welcome that. The Minister has said that Turkey must continue to implement improvements in human rights for all its citizens. Is it also the Minister's view that Turkish accession to the EU should give Turkish citizens, of all ethnic groups, the immediate right to free movement within the EU and the UK—or will the Government seek a derogation with regard to Turkey, just as France, Germany and others did for the countries of eastern Europe that joined the EU this year?

Mr. MacShane: I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new post as shadow Minister for Europe. I look forward to as positive and friendly a relationship as I had with his predecessor. When Turkey finally joins the EU—which, frankly speaking, will take some years of negotiation—we expect that it will have the same rights as other countries. I regret and deplore the campaign in the winter against Poles, Hungarians and Czechs led by the Opposition and the isolationist right-wing press. I hope that when Turkey finally does enter the EU, the Opposition will have changed their spots and will support our partners in Europe, instead of campaigning against their being allowed to work in the UK.


5. Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Government of Uganda on the security situation in that country. [190318]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): I discussed the security situation in northern Uganda with President Museveni and senior members of his Government during my visit in August. I also visited camps for people displaced by the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army in the north of the country.

Mr. Robertson: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Given the coverage that events in Iraq and Sudan attract, does he agree that the ongoing war in the north of Uganda is the forgotten war? Does he acknowledge—I am sure that he does—how many children have been taken into the LRA? That is bad enough in itself, but the way in which those children are used causes the spread of AIDS. The health service in northern Uganda is collapsing, many people are dying of AIDS and the Government are struggling to cope. Does the Minister agree that the best—albeit difficult—way forward is to hold multi-party elections as soon as possible?

Mr. Mullin: The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the dire situation in northern Uganda.
12 Oct 2004 : Column 138
There has, I am glad to say, been some progress in recent months, because Sudan, where the LRA previously sheltered, is no longer giving it shelter and has given the Ugandan army licence to operate in the south of the country. As a result, there has been quite a large number of defections—if that is the right word—among people in the LRA, including one or two senior leaders, although I would not want to overstate the position. The LRA remains a serious threat and it is a truly evil organisation. The difficulty in dealing with it is that it has no ideological agenda with which one can engage, but our view is that there is no purely military situation. A combination of amnesty, dialogue and military action is probably the way forward, and I am glad to say that that is making progress.

On the question of multi-party elections, the Ugandan Parliament and people are shortly to take a decision on a move to a multi-party system, and we welcome that.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): Have the atrocious activities of the Lord's Resistance Army not gone on for far too long—about 18 years, I believe? The LRA seems to have no popular support, but nor do the people of northern Uganda trust or welcome the intervention of Government troops, so is there not a case for some international intervention or for a third-party force of some kind to put an end to the atrocities in northern Uganda and give that part of the country the security that it deserves?

Mr. Mullin: There has been no request from the Ugandans for outside intervention, although the international community, particularly the donor community, in which we play a leading part, engages closely with the Ugandan Government on that issue. We have been arguing that there is no military solution; as my hon. Friend says, the situation has been going on for 18 years and military activity must be combined with an amnesty and some form of dialogue, although, as I mentioned, such dialogue is rather difficult. By and large, however, that is happening and it is beginning to produce some results, so the situation is not entirely bleak. However, my hon. Friend is right to say that there is a much wider issue that will have to be addressed in due course—in fact, the sooner, the better: the marginalisation of the Acholi and Langi peoples.

Mr. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): Further to the Minister's answers to the previous two questions, it is clear that the LRA—the rebel activity in northern Uganda—has been barbaric and inhumane. I hope that the whole House will join me in condemning those atrocities, especially the appalling atrocities against children. Given recent evidence of support for the LRA from the Sudanese Government, what are the British Government doing to ensure that Sudanese resistance is eradicated and that it is not resumed in any volume? What pressure can the Government put on the international community to ensure a solution to the problem, so that that part of Africa is not forgotten while attention is focused on the nearby Darfur region?

Mr. Mullin: With respect to the hon. Gentleman, whom I welcome to his place, there is no such thing as Sudanese resistance. In the past—we think that it
12 Oct 2004 : Column 139
stopped about two years ago—the Sudanese were supporting the Lord's Resistance Army; they have given it shelter in southern Sudan and supplied it with arms and food. As far as we can tell, that has stopped. We have continued to talk to the Sudanese about the matter and they have given us clear undertakings on that point—I was in Sudan last month. They have also allowed the Ugandan army to operate in the south of Sudan, which has had an enormous impact on the LRA's ability to function. Considerable progress has been made recently. It is not a forgotten war, but hon. Members are right to draw attention to it, as the situation is dire and serious. About 1.6 million people have been displaced, but there is scope for mild optimism—I put it no higher than that—about the way in which events have moved. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) a moment ago, there will be a long repair job to be done afterwards to deal with the wider issue of the marginalisation of the Acholi and Langi peoples.

Next Section IndexHome Page