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Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and thank him for his congratulations to my right hon. Friend and me. I am grateful to all the staff as well, because this was a huge collective effort.
On Croatia, the offer was made just in time, but the Croatian Government thought that it would be profoundly embarrassing if we started negotiations with Turkey, but not with Croatia. The proposal was helpful in concentrating the mind of the Croatian Government and security forces. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct about the need for good faith on all sides, and I agree that there should not be any cavilling technicalitiesa point that we kept making to some of our European colleagues, although in the end they all accepted the proposal.
As for economic progress, the European Union is not just about a customs union. Turkey already has a customs union, and much else by way of close association with the European Union. That is one of the
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reasons why the idea of a preferential partnership was not in the real world. What Turkey wants is membership. It knows that that will require even more changeson the groundin its governance, the full nature of its democracy, the control of its military, human rights and the operation of its judiciary. Prime Minister Erdogan's Government and his AKP party are in the vanguard of recognising the importance of change to Turkey itself, and using the prospect of membership to secure that change.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his pertinacity in pressing for negotiations for Turkey's entry into the European Union, on his success in securing them, and on noting the significance of the fact that the Cypriot Government did not oppose the commencement of negotiations. Will he confirm that before Turkey becomes a full member of the European Unionwhich most Members, including me, consider desirableit will be an indispensable requirement for her to recognise Cyprus and withdraw her armed forces from the island?
We must not see just one side of the issue. It is two-sided. The history of the conflict on the island of Cyprus is very complicated. We need each side to recognise the other with dignity and within a unified single Government.
I have already made it clear that in the European Union it would not be possible for us to operate if members did not recognise, de jure, the states around the table. That does not mean, however, that the obligations to achieve that position rest entirely on Turkey or on the Turkish Cypriot community. They rest equally on Turkey, the Turkish Cypriot community and the Government of Cyprus, as well as on the international community. That is made absolutely clear in a number of Security Council resolutions, including resolution 1250.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on a statement that has achieved near-consensus so far, on a non-controversial subject. I welcome his announcement for all the sound geopolitical reasons that have been well propounded on both sides of the House. Does he accept, however, that he will have to maintain support for Turkey's eventual accession over the next 10 years? There is a serious danger that a public backlash may begin to develop across Europe as people concentrate on their fears as opposed to the advantages.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this is really analogous to our admitting Greece, Portugal and Spain, and more recently the eastern and central European countries, for geopolitical reasons, but that we see in the medium and longer term a great accretion of strength to the Union, bringing economic and political benefits? Does he agree that it would be wrong to allow anyone to encourage some people on the continent to go any further in their protectionist, cautious, restrictive fears? This is a very long-term project, but we need to persuade
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people that it has positive advantages for Britain and the rest of the European Union, not just for the Turkish population.
It is striking that in the United Kingdom, because of the leadership shown by all parties, there has been not a whiff of hostility to Turkey's membership of the European Union. Far from it: there has been very active support, and we should thank ourselves for having achieved that.
Mr. Straw: Yes, the whole of Europe should be winners as a result of Turkey's accession. In my judgment, the hostility towards Turkey that has emerged in recent years has nothing to do with the prospect of its joining the European Union, and everything to do with a lacklustre economic performance in the countries concerned, with people blaming others for problems within their own borders.
We know from the successive waves of accession that the Union and its existing members have always benefited from the widening of the Union's borders. Let me pick up a point made by the shadow Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox). What we must say to European citizens is "Think of the alternative". Of course there will be a process of adjustment as Turkey comes in. But if we were to push Turkey away, we would not be in a stable state. That alternative would be far worse not only for Turkey, but for the security, prosperity and peace of all Europe.
Frank Cook (Stockton, North) (Lab): As chairman of the all-party group on Turkey, I thank my right hon. Friend for the report offered to the House today; the group as a whole will doubtless have been delighted to hear it. On the Opposition's reference to the recent hostilities and to the prospect of a backlash, I ask my right hon. Friend to point out to those who have that thought in mind that we owe two debts of gratitude to Turkey. First, for decades, Turkey effectively, efficiently and readily offered itself as a bulwark against the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. Secondly, after the cold war it has readily, and so far effectivelyand with an Islamic party in governmentoffered itself as a bulwark against the most extreme elements of Islamic fundamentalism. We will owe that debt for a long time to come.
Order. The hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) should not make faces at me. It is very rude indeed to do that, and it leads to his not getting called.
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Mr. Straw: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook). I simply say that when we needed Turkey as the eastern flank of our defences, no one said at that stage that Turkey was not European. People across Europe need to remember that.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Con): What progress does the Foreign Secretary want the Turkish Government to make during the accession process in terms of a positive relationship with the Kurdish community in that country?
Mr. Straw: We expect the Turkish Government to make significant progress in that regard. They have already recognised the language, and they are seeking the further emancipation of that part of Turkey. By the end of this period, we need to see that the Kurdish minority in Turkey is being treated the same as equivalent minorities are treated in any full member state of the European Union.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab): I was not too satisfied with the answer given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman). May I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that there should be no question of opening negotiations with Turkey until Turkey itself has not just promised to end the occupation of northern Cyprus, but actually done so? If Turkey really wishes to be a member of the European Union, that is the least that we can expect of it. It is no good securing feeble promises; we need something specific on the drawing board concerning the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island.
Mr. Straw: I understand that my hon. Friend takes a particular and partisan view of this issue, but doing so does not help. There is a complicated history on both sides, which we can debate another time. Recognition of the current Republic of Cyprus Government simply was not a precondition of beginning these negotiations. The EU has always recognised that this process had to run in parallel with the good offices processthe processes are not directly linkedrun under the auspices of the United Nations. Moreover, I remind my hon. Friend that the Government of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots on the island of Cyprus voted in favour of the Annan plan, and that it was rejected not because of their efforts, but because of what happened in the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus.
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