Mr. Straw: Our support is not unqualified, nor do the Government or people of Turkey want it to be unqualified, for the Erdogan Government are a reforming Government, content to see pressure for reform coming from outside Turkey as well as inside. We should applaud the phenomenal progress that the Government of Turkey have made in the past two years on human rights and on economic and social reform. The condition of qualification for membership is that that progress continuesI believe that it will.
Mr. Straw: Although there is much further work that we can do to deal with terrorism, the position of the EU on it has strengthened, and there is great concern in the EU about the current position of Syria. I have arranged for that to be put on the agenda as a key item for the first meeting of Foreign Ministers that will be held in two weeks' time. Iran's support for terrorist organisations is one of the items constantly on the agenda in the negotiations that take place between France, Germany, the UK and Iran.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, following the precedent of the Swedish presidency, it is a matter of discretion for the presidency as to whether Council of Ministers meetings are held openly, certainly when legislation is discussed? Will he make a commitment to the House that, under the British presidency, Council of Ministers meetings will be held openly when legislation is being discussed?
Edward Miliband (Doncaster, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that during our presidency our message should be that where we seek economic flexibility we do so not at the price of fairness but as a route and accompaniment to it, and that we in the UK are building our own version of a social model, drawing on good practice in Europe and elsewhere? Finally, I should like to tell my right hon. Friend that Doncaster will welcome him during our presidency, or we will book for 2018.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) (Con):
Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether he thinks that the high degree of co-operation with France to which he referred will genuinely lead to reform of the sugar regime to one in which, once and for all, French overproduction, which is largely the cause of the problem, is addressed? A much better document from the European Union was published last week. Will the Foreign Secretary ensure
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that it is taken forward and that there is genuine decoupling of compensation from production, which did not happen in the last round of CAP reform? Will he ensure that the reference price is big enough to ensure that production continues not only in the UK, but in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that export their cane sugar to us?
Mr. Straw: What I guarantee is that, first, we have to negotiate with the French; they are key partners and if we just shout at each other we shall not reach agreement. We have to negotiate with them. Secondly, I was talking to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this morning about exactly that issue: sugar prices and export subsidies for sugar. She is involved in detailed discussions with her French opposite number, because reaching agreement with France is key to reaching overall agreement. Thirdly, we actively support the Commission proposals.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): The White Paper says that the new fundamental rights agency will fill a gap in the current system. What will the agency do that the Council of Europe does not do already?
Mr. Straw: The Council of Europe is a different institution and its work is different from that of the European Union. If my hon. Friend is asking that we ensure that the agency does not duplicate the work of European and national bodies, the answer is yes, I have been discussing that very issuethat we ensure it adds value to fundamental rights rather than simply duplicating the efforts of others.
Dr. Julian Lewis : What prospect is there of the British presidency being used to encourage other EU members to take action in respect of the prospect of the Iranian nuclear bomb under a newly elected hard-line, fundamentalist President?
Mr. Straw: When I began work with France and Germany negotiating with Iran in what is now called the E3, there was much scepticism about whether European consensus would hold. It has held. My French and German counterparts and Javier Solana have been as firm as me in negotiating on the dossier. At each stage of the resolutions at six meetings of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency there has been unanimity led by Europeans. Following the election of the new President, we shall work with Iran on the basis that he will meet and keep the commitments to which his predecessors kept. We shall begin negotiations with him on that basis; if that changes, our position has been made very clear.
: First, I thank the Foreign Secretary for his previous answers, in which, as I understand it, he gave a firm commitment to hold a series of glamorous and high-profile meetings in the great city of Birmingham, on whose behalf I offer many, many thanks. Secondly, in the context of Turkish accession, does he have any words for our Cypriot constituents, who have a history of sensitivity about Turkey, as well as a sense that they have not had quite the support that they hoped for from the Labour Government?
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The situation regarding Turkey and Cyprus is a sensitive issue for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots in equal measure, albeit for different reasons. The best hope of resolving the problems on Cyprus in the long term and achieving its unification is through Turkey's accession negotiations because Turkey knows that that issue must be resolved before it can become a member of the EU.
Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend's comments about Turkey because enlargement of the EU has been a great successdoes he agree? Will he comment on the progress that might be made over the next few months on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU?
Mr. Straw: The date of accession for Bulgaria and Romania has been set for 1 January 2007, but they must meet certain criteria before then. I hope that that will happen, but if it does not, accession will probably be delayed by a year.
I agreed with my right hon. Friend when he identified the middle east peace process as a key policy area in which the European Union has a unique and distinctive role to play. What can the European Union do to ensure that any opportunities presented by Gaza withdrawal are not closed off by the chances of a viable Palestinian state being removed by continued settlement building in the west bank and the construction of an illegal wall in the occupied territory? My right hon. Friend has made it clear that he is opposed to those things, so will he tell us what the European Union can practically do to change the situation, rather than simply protesting about it?
Mr. Straw: A great deal, not least by working in the Quartet of the United Nations, EU, the Russian Federation and the United States, with which we work especially closely, as we have to, and, above all, by ensuring that the withdrawal by the Israelis from Gaza that is due on 16 August takes place in such a way that we see the creation of the beginnings of a separate and viable state of Palestine that is, above all, capable of running its own security. If we can achieve thatwe are giving active and practical support to the Palestinians for itthere will be a strong international consensus on the next stage laid out in the road map of moving towards a viable totally separate state of Palestine. Many of the issues on which my hon. Friend and I agree can be resolved in the course of the final-status negotiations.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op):
Turkey is of course an important ally in NATO, so I am pleased that paragraphs 79 and 80 of the White Paper outline the development of the European security and defence policy and give an assessment of the successes that it has
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already had in Bosnia. However, there is an outstanding difficulty with the relationship between NATO and the EU relating to Turkey, so will my right hon. Friend give a pledge that our Government will continue their strenuous efforts to try to resolve those difficulties so that we can get more effective security in our continent?