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The Council called for the priority measures in the Commissions action plan on energy efficiency to be implemented rapidly and endorsed the setting up of a
network of energy security correspondents early next year. The spring 2007 European Council is due to adopt a prioritised action plan as part of an integrated approach for a secure, environmentally friendly and competitive energy policy for Europe. We also agreed that European energy and climate change policy will be discussed by the European Council on a regular basis in the future, beginning with an integrated debate on those issues at the spring 2007 meeting.
On Africa, we welcomed the progress report on the implementation of the EU strategy The EU and Africa: Towards a Strategic Partnership and called for the implementation of the priority actions for next year that are identified in that report. We also reaffirmed our commitment to working towards a joint EU-Africa strategy, which is to be adopted at the second EU-Africa summit in the latter half of 2007.
On the globalisation agenda, we asked the Commission to take a number of concrete steps to promote further innovation in Europe. They included presenting a comprehensive intellectual property rights strategy in the course of 2007, working up proposals for industry-led joint technology initiatives with a view to launching the most advanced ones next year, and, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, coming up with ways in which to improve the working methods and overall resources of the European standardisation bodies. We also agreed to do further work on the idea of a European institute of technology.
On justice and home affairs, the Council agreed to consider options for strengthening the framework for decision making in order to respond effectively to the current challenges in the areas of freedom, security and justice.
On migration, we agreed that we needed to strengthen our efforts on the global approach and to make sure that we addressed migration in a comprehensive manner. The Council agreed on the next steps that the EU should take in 2007, including detailed action in three areas with regard to illegal migration: first, strengthening and deepening international co-operation with third countries of origin and transit, for example by doing more to integrate migration issues into aid policies and working more effectively with third countries to combat human trafficking; secondly, strengthening co-operation among members states, for example by intensifying measures against illegal employment and developing identification technology at borders; and, thirdly, improving the management of the EUs external border, for example by finding sustainable and effective ways to enhance the capacity of Frontex. The Council also agreed to have a common European asylum system in place by the end of 2010, starting with a preliminary evaluation of its first phase next year.
The Council issued separate declarations on Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran and Africa issues. On the middle east peace process, the European Council set out how it would engage with a legitimate Palestinian Government who adopted a platform reflecting the Quartet principles.
The European Council quite rightly concentrated on areasnot least enlargementin which the European Union can make a real difference to the lives of the people of Europe. The progress that we made at the Council, and, perhaps just as importantly, the dangers
that we avoided, demonstrate again the benefit of having a UK Government with not just a clear strategy on Europe, but the strong influence, based on consistent and close engagement, to see that strategy through. I commend the outcome to the House.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): The focus of the summit, as the Foreign Secretary said, was enlargement, which has been the European Unions greatest achievement. We join in welcoming Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union. As she said, we have long supported Turkeys membership of the EU, so we have much agreement with her on that. However, does she still agree with us that, as she put it before the summit, the measures proposed, and indeed agreed, were too harsh on, and possibly counter-productive towards, Turkey? She obviously agrees that Turkey must work to resolve the dispute over access to its ports, but that is a challenge to overcome, not an opportunity to deny Turkey membership in the future. To resolve these matters, what will the Government and our European partners do not only to end the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots, but to ensure that there is movement over time towards Turkeys eventual recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and on other measures necessary to bring about Turkish membership?
A larger Europe should mean a more flexible Europe, not a less flexible one. It is thus right that proposals to abolish vetoes over criminal justice and to move that area from an intergovernmental pillar to full Community jurisdiction were not adopted. Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that any such proposal in the future will be rejected by Britain? A Government spokesman apparently said at the summit:
We are prepared to give up the veto on some security issues.
it is vital that there should be no doubt or equivocation about the Governments position?
[Interruption.] I use the Committees form of words. Are the Government in fact willing to give up the veto on some of these issues? Does the right hon. Lady accept our view that that would be a serious mistake that would limit British sovereignty in a sensitive area?
Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House why the employment chapter is being used to introduce EU legislation on migration? Should that not be done through immigration provisions or not at all? Why is the EU now extending its powers into Community integration, in paragraph 24 of the Council conclusions? Does not a common asylum policy run the risk of losing national control in that area?
Our view is that the EU should concentrate on where it can add value to its peoples priorities, so we welcome what the Council agreed on climate change. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the EU does not need new powers here but must make better use of existing ones? Europe is not on track to meet its Kyoto target, so will
the Government ensure that the revision of the EU trading scheme receives urgent attention?
On global poverty, the Council discussed the Africa strategy; it is right to make that a priority. But does the Foreign Secretary agree that many of the EUs policiesthe common agricultural policy, trade barriers and so oncontinue to make poverty in developing countries worse? Nevertheless, climate change and global poverty are real, tangible issues on which the European Union should be concentrating.
The Foreign Secretary, however, failed to mention one thingthe European constitution. It was on the agenda and a summit has been called of the 18 nations that have ratified it. Her predecessor, who is sitting next to her, the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), said that
it was hard to argue that the Constitution is not dead.
Mr. Hague: The right hon. Gentleman nods. The Dutch Government have said that the constitution is dead. But some people are now arguing for its resuscitation, so will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that the Government have no plans to ratify the constitution and will not revive such plans? Her predecessor stated that the Government would not bring in any part of the constitution through the back door, so will the right hon. Lady guarantee that any new treaty that contains any significant part of the constitution or increases the EUs powers in any way would merit the promised referendum?
The European Union has the potential to be a great force for good in the world, but if it returns to the old ways of deeper integration, the constitutions failure will be repeated again and again. So is it not the Governments urgent task to lead that debate and convince our partners of the need for an open, flexible, modern European Union which all its nations need?
Margaret Beckett: First, to pick up on what the right hon. Gentleman said about Turkey, I recognise and much appreciate the common ground in the House on that issue. On the relationships between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus, he may be aware that one of the declarationsthe presidential statement that accompanied the Council conclusionshas encouraged a return to the United Nations process to begin to resolve some of the issues. I sincerely hope that that will indeed be successful.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the need for greater flexibility as the European Union becomes larger, and I agree with that, but he also spoke about what he was reluctant to call the passerelle on justice and home affairs issues. I am not aware of the statement that he quoted from a Government spokesman. I simply repeat what we have said to him before: there is flexibility on this issue in existing treaties and we do not rule out, as a matter of principle, ever exercising such flexibility. Certainly there are no proposals at present to which we are particularly attracted, but given that that flexibility is in existing treaties, it would be a mistake automatically to rule out its use. We would discuss and consider issues on their merits and make a decision on that basis. I feel
confident that this will be an ongoing exchange, but I remind the right hon. Gentleman yet again that no Labour Government have given up the principle of the vetothat was done under Lady Thatcher.
On asylum, we understand the right hon. Gentlemans concern. We are anxious to preserve the right kind of flexibility on the issue, certainly in the United Kingdom, where we believe that that can be achieved. I share his view that the European Union should increasingly concentrate on areas where it adds value. He touched on the emissions trading scheme, and I hope that the House is aware that the United Kingdom is the only member state to have its proposals for the next round of the emissions trading scheme accepted. Everyone else was told that their proposals were not sufficiently stringent, so we are making progress and are heading in the right direction. I share his view that we must look at our wider policies, including the common agricultural policy, if we are to deal with global poverty, not least through trade.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman says that the constitutional treaty is dead, but in my first debate on the subject as Foreign Secretary, we had an interesting theological discussion in which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who happily is present this afternoon, defined the treaty, theologically and very accurately, as being in limbo, on the grounds that that was the place for the unborn. That is certainly incontestable. As to bringing things back, whether through the front or back door, there is no suggestion that we would do any such thing, but we will see what proposals are put forward.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): May I also welcome the statement? The Foreign Secretary referred to keeping commitments to all the countries involved in the enlargement process. Was there a detailed discussion of the situation in the Balkans, in light of the forthcoming election in Serbia and the negotiations about the final status of Kosovo, and does the European Union still have as firm a commitment as it did to enlargement to include south-east Europe?
Margaret Beckett: First, I should say that on this occasion there was no particularly detailed discussion of the issues surrounding Serbias potential moves towards the European Union, as there has been a lot of detailed discussion of the subject on previous occasions, and nothing has changed. There was not that detailed discussion, but it is still our firm intention to keep open the door for future enlargement, not least because we believe that that will be a strong driver towards reform. Again, I think that that is common ground, shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD):
This was hardly the most spectacular of summits, but in its own way, I suppose that that may be regarded as a triumph. In this country, there will be a broad welcome of the intention to focus early attention on climate change, and to consider ways of achieving greater co-operation and co-ordination on migration. There is also support on both sides of the House for the reaffirmation of the enlargement process as regards Turkey. It was right for the summit to emphasise that
all applicants must meet the tough entry requirements in full, but is the Foreign Secretary confident that the new impact assessments will not simply provide the opponents of enlargement with a new method of blocking Turkey?
On the middle east, we welcome the Councils recognition of the deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the occupied territories, and of the extension of the temporary international mechanism for a further three months. Will she clarify what funding the British Government and their EU partners have pledged in support of that extension? On the wider peace process, how will the Prime Ministers latest efforts in the region be linked to the new European initiative agreed at the summit, and what other British input will there be? Finally, given the approach of the 50th anniversary of the treaty of Rome, can we expect, sometime soon, an updated White Paper on the necessary reform of Europes institutions to cope with current and future enlargement?
Margaret Beckett: First, may I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome on some of the issues? One must always view such matters with caution, but I am reasonably confident that having rigorous requirements that are properly monitored will not necessarily prove to be just a stumbling block and an obstacle to any future enlargement, whether in respect of Turkey or any other applicant state. There was a discussion on precisely that issue. The overwhelming majority of the member states have ruled outat least three times so far, in my experiencethe idea that we should introduce some kind of new conditionality. There is a clear recognition among member states, just as there is across the House, of the value of applications in driving reform.
On the extension of the temporary international mechanism, I am not carrying in my head the latest figures, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman both that the European Union as a whole has put more money than last year into helping the Palestinian people through the present crisis, and that the UK is the largest donor to that overall EU funding. If we obtain information in the near future about what the extension will mean, I will let him know.
With regard to the Prime Ministers present visit, the House is aware that he is hoping to communicate support and concern for moves towards the middle east peace process and towards the road map, and to hear from those on the ground what the latest position is and what, if anything, the UK or the EU can do to help.
Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned enlargement. She is aware that next year we will see the presidencies of Germany and of Portugal, followed by the presidency of France. Would it not be appropriate during their presidencies to seek a deeper integration of the present Union in relation to promotion of the Lisbon agenda and the services directive, so that we are in a better position to face the global challenges of India and China?
My hon. Friend, who I know has long taken a great interest in these matters, makes an
interesting point. With regard to the Lisbon agenda, progress is certainly being made. It is the intention that all the countries of the European Union will work more closely together and seek areas where we can co-operate, and at the same time look for areas where we can be genuinely effective and genuinely add value, as opposed to merely duplicating what is happening elsewhere, as is sometimes the risk.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I have just returned from a visit to Berlin with the European Scrutiny Committee. Would the Foreign Secretary endorse the idea, which we heard there quite a lot, that the acquis is inviolable? Would she rule out in principle the idea that Westminster legislation should be passed in the House to override the European Communities Act 1972 as and when required, and to require the judiciary to give effect to it?
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May I join others in congratulating my right hon. Friend on pursuing the enlargement agenda and making sure that the train carrying Turkey is kept firmly on track, despite efforts by others to derail the process? In respect of the justice and home affairs agenda, can she confirm that notwithstanding the retention of our veto, which I welcome, we will continue to co-operate with our EU partners and our agencies will work with their agencies in order to deal with those who wish to traffic people or drugs or behave in a manner that could help terrorists?
Margaret Beckett: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He is entirely right. The House will always be extremely cautious about any movement on the veto in such a sensitive area. I agree with the point made by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). One of the reasons why I have always approached the matter with considerable caution is that there are some very difficult issues of cross-border crime, people trafficking, narcotics and so on, on which we need stronger and deeper co-operation. If we ever came to the conclusion that that required some change, we should not rule it out.
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