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Andrew Mackinlay: Not my hon. Friend, who is an outstanding Minister for Europe and one of the longest serving of the many Ministers for Europe in the Government. I hope that my commendation does not put his job in jeopardy.
Everyone acknowledges that the hon. Member for Stone feels strongly and passionately about Europe, but it was deeply depressing to listen to his speech because he seems to lack a vision of what Europe could become and he does not see what has already been achieved. In 1992, when I entered the House, the Gracious Speech referred to the possibility of enlarging the EU. In my maiden speech, I spoke of my hope that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic would be able to join both the European Community and NATO, so it was profoundly moving for me and, more important, for many others when on 1 May those countries entered the European Union. For them, in many ways, it was the culmination of world war twoa long journey from 1 September 1939 to 1 May 2004, when they finally achieved true independence in the EU. We should take great pride in that.
When the history of our time is written, our Prime Minister will be given credit for two important things: his diligence and perseverance on Ireland and his vision for the European Union, with which I am proud to be associated because it will be one of his lasting legacies. Opposition Members who constantly disparage the EU should pause to think. They should remember that we are not the only members of the EU; we are not alone in following the rules, regulations and the acquisso do 24 others. It is mutual; there is shared sovereignty.
Above all else, the beauty of the EU is that it has become a vehicle for the minimisation and resolution of conflict. People aspire to reach and achieve the Copenhagen criteria, and adjust accordingly. That adjustment is often painful and difficult; for example, the Baltic states had to ignore the scars of 30 years of Soviet occupation and come to an accommodation with their Russian minorities. It is to their credit that they did so. Those are great achievements.
It is worth looking at recent history. I have a passion for world war one. A student once asked whether it had affected my view of politics. I replied, "No, not at all",
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but on reflection I decided that perhaps I was wrong, because standing at Tyne Cot cemetery on the Ypres salient or at Langemark, the German cemetery in Flanders, one cannot help but be profoundly moved. We realise how small a village western Europe was and how much pain and trauma it suffered for hundreds of years. The European Union has resolved many conflicts.
The hon. Member for Stone is extremely proud of his late, gallant father and his contribution to the defence of democracy in world war two and I acknowledge that. However, as he went on to traduce the Republic of France, I remind him that in the early summer of 1940 Winston Churchill offered the French Government an indissoluble union. Things have moved on, but I mention that fact because Winston Churchill recognised that the future interests of the United Kingdom and the Republic of France were indivisible and that we had to move forward with common purpose. It is important to bear it in mind that a man of some vision recognised that although France had a republican system and Britain a monarchist system, and although there was a history of conflict, those two great countries, separated by a small channel, needed to work together.
Mr. Cash: Very simply, I would recommend that the hon. Gentleman read the biography of Churchill by Roy Jenkins. About 10 pages are devoted to this one question, as a result of which Roy Jenkins concluded that Churchill's position had moved very substantially indeed by the time he became Prime Minister. He said, "associated but not absorbed".
Andrew Mackinlay: There has been no absorption at all, and it is absurd to suggest, as the hon. Gentleman doeshe goes on and on and on, like a Duracell batterythat somehow there is this absorption. He cannot bring himself to give any accolade to the European Union for its achievements, yet it clearly has been the source of great conflict resolution and it is the hope of Europe.
Sometimes we are asked by constituents, "Why are you interested in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia? These are faraway countries." It is our European backyard, and not only have we suffered conflicts in the past decade in that region but there is the potential in some areas for them to flare up again. I think that all Members share the view that we need to do everything we can to avoid future conflict in our backyardin the Balkans. Even if we cannot be persuadedI think most people areof the need to do it for humanitarian reasons, we need to do so out of naked self-interest, because when there is conflict in south-eastern Europe all of us will have the traditional problems of refugees, asylum seeking, the great burdens that exist and the heartache that we have to deal with in our surgeries and so on.
We now need to get the European Union, with all its energies, offering the carrot to Serbia and Montenegro and to the people of Kosovo that their future can be in the European Union, and the future of the European Union will of course mean that many of the causes of conflict will be at least diminished. The very fact that people can live in one community and work in anotherthe free mobility of labourin what was the former Yugoslavia is itself one of the great resolvers of conflict.
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I hope that the Government will redouble their efforts through all the international agencies and through the European Union to do what they can not just to persuade the states of the former Yugoslavia to comply with the international tribunal, which clearly is a precondition of EU entry negotiations, but to make it clear again and again that if there is compliance there is the prospect of being able to join other countries that have now acceded from the former Yugoslavia into this European family.
I also want to say to the Minister, as we are talking about European affairs, that all those in the House will be shocked by the limitations on democratic campaigning in Ukraine. I think that there has been insufficient interest by the European Union, and to some extent by the British Foreign Office, in that region in recent years. The Minister looks a bit shocked, but I have raised the subject of Ukraine and Belarus in the Foreign Affairs Committee on a number of occasions. The response has been that these are faraway countries with which we should not be primarily occupied. If the Minister thinks that is wrong, I would love him to amplify on the point.
The House is united in its concern about the lack of democracy in Ukraine, but we treat it differently from Belarus. I do not think that there has been a qualitative difference between the regime in Belarus and that which has existed hitherto in Ukraine, and I think that we need to have a fresh approach on Belarus. It has 10 million people. It is very close to Poland. It could be absorbed into the European Union, if only there was a change of regime. I think that the cold freeze in which the European Union has put Belarus is not the best tactic.
Andrew Mackinlay: I think that could very well be so, but I also think that sometimes we do not see the inconsistencies in our approach. The failure of democracy in Ukraine is not dissimilar from the situation in Belarus, but we have been much more tolerant of Ukraine and President Kuchma, which is wrong. Our tactics in relation to both those countries should be reassessed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) spoke about Turkey's accession, and I think that I am in a minority of one in the Chamber because I am very unhappy about the present course. I do not oppose Turkey or, indeed, any other country joining the EU. In fact, in the very long term, we should allow countries that are strictly not in Europe to join if they meet the criteria. Hawaii is clearly not part of the continent of America, and I cannot understand why places such as Kyrgyzstan should not aspire to join if they so wish in years to come.
Turkey has two problems, which Her Majesty's Government choose to ignore. First, it is not yet a robust parliamentary democracy. There is a long way to go before it can demonstrate that it reaches anywhere near the Copenhagen criteria, but even if it does, we must
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have regard for scale. It is a country of approximately 80 million people, but Turkey does not know exactly how many people it has in its population. The nature of records and censuses is much more limited in that country. It also has common borders with Armenia, Syria, Iran and Iraq. That is a serious problem for us all, because even if Turkey met the Copenhagen criteria, its geography is extremely difficult in terms of commercial security and combating terrorism, given the need to police those vast expanses of border.
Of course, such problems could be overcome in time, but that will not be easily achieved in the next decade. That will leave us vulnerable to all the problems of people smuggling, drug trafficking and threats from terrorism. When Estonia and Poland acceded to the EU, we rightly stipulated that they must have good, robust national boundariesthey are also our EU boundariesand I do not believe that that can be achieved in the foreseeable future in relation to Turkey's boundaries, given all the countries to which I have referred.
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