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Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con):
I did not intend to ask a question, but I want to follow up that asked by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman). I fully support Turkey's membership of the European Union for all the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and my other hon. Friends. But I do not think that we quite got to the bottom of what will happen when we reach the point at which Turkey's accession has to be decided on. May I press the Foreign Secretary? In his opinion, is it conceivable that Turkey will be allowed to enter the EU fully if, as has been stated, the Cyprus issue has not been settled?
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Mr. Straw: Leaving aside my opinion, which I have expressed in clear terms, the Union itself made that clear in the declaration issued when the negotiations began. The declaration by the European Community and its member states said:
"Recognition of all member states is a necessary component of the accession process. Accordingly, the EU underlines the importance it attaches to the normalisation of relations between Turkey and all EU Member States, as soon as possible."
It is worth drawing attentionas my colleague the Irish Foreign Minister did recentlyto the Irish-UK parallel. When we and Ireland joined what was then the European Economic Community 32 years ago, the Republic of Ireland laid claim to the sovereignty of a significant part of the United Kingdom. There was an unresolved claim of sovereignty to part of our territory, and it was many years after we had both joined that that was resolved. This is a complicated situation and the EU has made its position clear, but we are not going to resolve an historic conflict on the island of Cyprus without the good offices of the Secretary-General of the UN and without a clear understanding of the need for a compromise on all sides.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Is not Turkey's application to join the EU the best possible incentive for that country to continue to improve its human rights record, as it has been doing over a number of years? To be blunt, is not some of the opposition to Turkey joining the EUfrom Austria, a former French President and one or two othersnothing to do with Cyprus or human rights, but probably anti-Islamic? Should we not recognise that?
Mr. Straw: They would say that it was not, but in parts of Europe there is a much narrower conception of what the EU is. As some have said, the idea is that it should be, as it were, a Christian heritage club, but that is not the view of this country, or of this House.
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): Will the Foreign Secretary accept the support of my party and the Scottish National party for Turkey's accession to the Union? However, does he accept also that accession is contingent upon not only the resolution of security, democratic and human rights issues, as well as the Cyprus question, but the emancipation of the Kurdish language and culture? How does he view the recent substantial setbacks to Kurdish-medium education only a few weeks ago in eastern Anatolia?
Mr. Straw: As I have said, progress has been made, but there have been some setbacks, including the recent prosecution of a novelist and other things that have been happening in eastern Anatolia. However, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and their Parliament understand the direction in which they have to go. The EU Commissioner Olli Rehn and his colleagues will be monitoring closely the progress that is made. As I said in my statement, 35 chapters have to be closed; agreed, in other words. These cover a range of issues, including human rights, that will be monitored by the Commission and by the Turks themselves.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab):
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his efforts on this
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important process, but it is a continuing process. I know that he does not underestimate the difficulties in persuading public opinion in Europe. My right hon. Friend made a profound case as to why Turkey's long-term entry into the EU is in our national interest and in the interest of the whole of the present EU. Will he make sure that that message is communicated clearly not only in this country, but across Europe? Turkey must be invited to become a party to delivering that message, which will assist those in Turkey who want that country to be brought up to the standards of fitness of a member of the EU.
Mr. Straw: Yes, we will. What was striking about the long discussions in the General Affairs and External Relations Council during last Sunday, Monday and the early hours of Tuesday was the leadership demonstrated by Governments whose populations were in many cases not as keen on Turkish accession as we are in the UK. In the end, the decision was not reluctant: it was a positive decision that recognised the strategic importance of having Turkey in the EU. We all now have a big job in trying to convince citizens across Europe that Turkey's membership will prove a benefit to them, but I believe that we can do that.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Would the Foreign Secretary kindly clarify the position of Turkey's and Croatia's accession with respect to the treaty of Nice? Am I right that the treaty will have to be amended to enable those countries to enter and, if so, when will that happen?
Mr. Straw: Not soon. The voting system is currently dependent on the treaty of Nice and the voting weights would have to be changed for Croatia and Turkey. Though many issues were discussed in the negotiations, that was happily not one of themmay the Lord be praised! My guess is that the matter would be dealt with through the accession treaties, which would have the same force as any other treaty in the EU.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May I urge the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) to temper their remarks, which give credence, albeit unintentionally, to the idea that the existing EU is somehow a Christian club, when we should be reinforcing the view that it is a secular body? There is a danger of these repeated remarks giving credencealbeit unintentionally, as I saidto the discomforting notion that the EU is a Christian club that should not therefore allow an Islamic country to join it. Should not the Copenhagen criteria be centralhaving a robust parliamentary democracy, a market economy and the capacity to fulfil the acquis? Given that Turkey borders Azerbaijan, Georgia, Syria, Iraq and Iran, I also want to ask the Foreign Secretary how those porous borders will be policed after accession.
Turkey's border is not porousfar from it. Indeed, it is completely closed in respect of some of its neighbours. Whatever other worries we may have, we do not need to worry about a porous border. As Turkey
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moves towards becoming a full member of the European Union, it will become a remarkable exemplar to its neighbours and act as a real force for good.
As to the notion of the EU as a Christian club, I used it twice, but only in response to others who used it. The EU is a secular, treaty-based organisation, but we must care for our own history. Anyone who understands the history of the EU knows that some of its very conceptssubsidiarity, for exampleare drawn from Roman Catholic canonical law. We must be alive to that and also alive to the danger of the EU retreating
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has said this afternoon, but may I press him further on the timetable for the accession, particularly of Turkey? While recognising the complexities, is there not nevertheless a danger that the 10 to 15 years that is being spoken of could provide time both for the present hostility of some EU states to Turkey's accession to increase and for the enthusiasm within Turkey to wane? Can the Foreign Secretary envisage circumstances in which the timetable could be foreshortened?
Mr. Straw: It is really a matter for Turkey; there is no set timetable. What is set is that accession will take place when the 35 chapters, or sub-headings, have been completed. If Turkey could complete the process earlier, it would come into membership earlier. That depends on Turkey.
Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): May I add my congratulations and welcome for the process that will now commence for Turkey and Croatia? However, does my right hon. Friend recognise that there is substantial concern that the amendments to the Annan proposals that were put by Turkey made the result acceptable to Turkish Cypriots but left the people of the Greek Cypriot community unable to accept it? It included, I believe, the troops remaining on the island, perhaps for a very long time. I ask, in a spirit of helpfulness, whether it is possible for the Annan mission, when it starts again, to revisit some of the late amendments to its proposals on Cyprus that went to the vote.
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