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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): It is unfortunate that the Government's revised proposals for the financial perspective 2007–13 were not available yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee yesterday afternoon, but regrettably we did not have an opportunity to go through the revised proposals in detail. I have now been able to read them—

Angus Robertson : Will the hon. Gentleman give way.

Mike Gapes: No, not yet. I will give way later. Please let me make some progress.

I have read the proposals in some detail. I am interested that the position to which the Government have come does not substantially change in the main area that I want to talk about, and that is that we now have 14 EU missions under the common foreign and security policy. That is seven more missions than when Britain began its EU presidency. There is a requirement—there is a proposal within the initial Commission proposal and within the Government's proposal—for a significant increase in funding for common foreign and security policy missions within the EU. My concern is that if we do not get an agreement in the next few days, there will be big question marks about the sustainability and long-term role of many of the important EU developments and activities throughout the world.

Angus Robertson: The hon. Gentleman knows my particular interest in the south Caucasus. To raise the issue of joined-up Government, does he feel that it is regrettable that the Government have cut their funding of conciliation resources for that part of the world, the south Caucasus, before the EU takes up the reins as part of the European near neighbourhood policy? Does he agree that that is a profound lack of joined-up Government in what is an important agenda on improving human rights and democracy in the south Caucasus and elsewhere?

Mike Gapes: I will come on to regions of conflict—I think that there was an Adjournment debate on the issue in Westminster Hall, although I do not recollect everything that was said. Perhaps hon. Members will read the report of the debate in coming days.
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The 14 missions to which I refer include a military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a police mission there; a police mission in the former Yugoslav Republic in Macedonia; a police mission in Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the so-called rule of law mission for Iraq, which is involved in some of the training and activities that are taking place outside Iraq but in relation to Iraq; the mission in the Congo, which is a security mission and in addition to the police mission that I have mentioned; the mission for support for the Africa Union in Darfur; the Aceh monitoring mission in Indonesia, which has been playing an important role; and a police mission to Palestine—which I, with other members of the Select Committee visited two weeks ago when we were at the Rafah crossing. We saw the carabinieri who are in charge of that mission, together with Romanian and Danish police officers, doing a fantastic and vital job in opening up Gaza for trade with Egypt, and potentially leading to the beginnings of viability for a Palestinian state. The members of the Select Committee were very impressed by the work that the EU is doing there.

There is also the border control assistance mission in Moldova. It is important because in, perhaps, two years Romania and Moldova will be the border of the EU. We know that Moldova is a conduit for people smuggling and other crimes, including drug smuggling. We have a European-wide security interest in the success of such missions.

Many bad things have been said about the EU; many criticisms have been made. I want to be more positive, because in all the difficult areas that I mentioned the EU has been playing a positive role in    conflict resolution, conflict prevention and reconstruction. Why is the EU at Rafah? The answer is that the Americans did not wish to do the job. There needed to be a consistent long-term commitment. The EU now has the beginnings of the ability to act in the interests of peace and security throughout the world as a whole, without worrying only about subsidies to agriculture or contributions to the budget.

Having listened to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), one would think that everything about the EU is terrible— that it is declining and failing. Why, therefore, have 10 countries recently chosen to join the enlarged EU? Why do Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey wish to join? Why do countries in north Africa and around the Mediterranean seek association agreements? Some countries want to join the EU even though they are not in Europe. Why do people in Ukraine and other countries regard the EU as the way forward on democracy, human rights, economic development and pluralism? The EU is magnet and a beacon for many other countries.

Although people with mid-Atlantic views think otherwise, the EU is important to Britain's foreign policy. Through our work in the EU we can play a vital role in developing policy and gaining international support and allies, just as we do through the Commonwealth and our membership of the UN Security Council. It is not a choice between being an Atlanticist or being a European—it has always been in Britain's best interests to have good relations on both sides, as Sir Winston Churchill recognised when he was Prime Minister and subsequently.
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Mr. Bone : The hon. Gentleman has made some powerful points, but when he spoke about countries that want to join the EU, he was in fact talking about the Governments of those countries. There were no referendums in Bulgaria and Romania to find out what the people thought, but opinion polls showed that they were against membership.

Mike Gapes: We must wait to see what happens with Bulgaria and Romania as they have not yet joined the EU. In central and eastern European countries that held referendums before they joined, there was overwhelming support for membership. In countries throughout central and eastern Europe, apart from some extreme left and right wingers, there is a vast consensus in favour of EU membership. People may not agree with every aspect of policy—some of them, particularly in Polish agriculture, have received a sudden wake-up call about the need to change and reform agricultural policy. Nevertheless, the younger generation and people who look to the future rather than live in the past accept that the EU is a magnet for those countries and is the way forward. Having said that we wanted to end the cold war divisions of our continent, and as we believe that we should work together and co-operate as a single Europe, we would do ourselves and the rest of the continent a great disservice if we reneged on our commitment to current and future enlargement.

Mr. Walter : The hon. Gentleman spent the first eight minutes of his speech talking about various European security and defence policy operations. Does he think that the enthusiasm of some countries for the 14 missions is connected to the fact that those missions are second-pillar operations and are intergovernmental in nature? The European Commission is not involved in any of them and the European Parliament does not have competence in that area. He mentioned the mission to Bosnia—Operation Althea. One of the largest contributors to that mission is Turkey, which is an applicant state and not yet an EU member. Several other states, including Ukraine, were involved in those missions.

Mike Gapes: I welcome the fact that non-EU member states have co-operated with the EU in a number of those missions. I welcome, too, the fact that the old theological argument about NATO or the EU has been resolved. It was important that SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina was transformed into EUFOR relatively smoothly, with German concerns about national caveats and so on being resolved. In time, the EU may play a greater role in parts of the world from which the United States chooses to step back.

I am not saying that the EU will be in Afghanistan instead of NATO, but we are at the point where European Union countries and other countries—the hon. Gentleman mentioned Ukraine and Turkey, but there are others—can work together in policing, monitoring and even military operations, as we have seen them do successfully in Africa and other parts of the world. There is nothing wrong with that.

Chris Bryant : Is there not another point that we could draw from the instance in Bosnia? The old theology of a divide between NATO and Europe is a false one, as my hon. Friend said—witness the fact that Swedish forces
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are operating alongside British forces in Bosnia, and there are also Swiss forces operating there. The British forces would not have been able to operate very effectively over the past six months without Swiss Cougar helicopters taking them around. However, is not the more important point that in the future it is likely that British forces will rarely work on their own? Consequently, the more closely we can integrate our operations with EU allies, the better.

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