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Let me briefly rehearse the position that the UK Government will take over the months ahead. First, resolution 1244 provides a legal base for international activity, and the decision by NATO Foreign Ministers on Friday to confirm the presence of KFOR is vital in that regard. Secondly, the Ahtisaari proposal for supervised independence continues to provide the best basis for moving forward in the absence of agreement between the parties. Thirdly, the EU needs to take responsibility for the problem in its own backyard. Inaction means something worse than continued limbo; it means a festering problem that will become dangerous if there is
no way forward. Fourthly, there needs to be a European security and defence policy mission working in close co-ordination with NATO forces. Fifthly, there needs to be the significant outreach that I have described, to the Serbs in Kosovo, to guarantee their rights, and to Serbia. That position can command consensus in the EU in the months ahead.
The second major foreign policy issue for discussion on Friday will be Iran. I hope that there is consensus across the House on that issue. Iran has every right to be a proud, respected member of the international community; it does not have a right to set off a nuclear weapons race in the middle east. Last weeks US national intelligence estimatethe NIEjudged that Iran had a nuclear weapons programme up until 2003, when it halted one aspect of it. If true, that is good.
However, the report does not answer the questions of the international community, which have been expressed in successive UN Security Council resolutions, about Irans activities and intentions. That is why it is so important for Iran to come clean on its past activities, including on the nature of any weaponisation programme, past or present, that would be a serious breach of the non-proliferation treaty.
The facts remain stark. Despite demands from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council, Iran is still pursuing an enrichment programme that has no apparent civilian application, but which could produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Iran is still denying the IAEA inspectors sufficient access to enable them to verify whether the nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. The head of the IAEA, Dr. el-Baradei, whom I shall meet on 7 January, has said that the IAEAs knowledge of Irans nuclear programme is actually diminishing. Dr. Solana has reported on behalf of the E3 plus 3 that his talks with Irans nuclear negotiator failed to produce a positive outcome. As a result, we will be pressing for further action in the UN Security Council.
At the same time it is vital that the European Council should send a clear and unambiguous message to the regime in Tehran that it has a choice. Either it can co-operate with the IAEA and comply with the demands of the UN Security Council, paving the way for a genuine transformation of its relationship with the whole international community, including the US, or it can continue on its path of confrontation, resulting in further sanctions and isolation.
Ms Gisela Stuart: Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether, in the UK Governments assessment, Iran already has the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons? Is it only Irans ability to produce them that is the problem, or do we doubt whether it has the ability to deliver, as well as whether it possesses such weapons?
David Miliband: I know that my hon. Friend has recently visited Iran, and I look forward to discussing the visit made by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs with the Committee. As my hon. Friend suggests, there are three aspects to any nuclear weapons programme: the weaponisationwhich was addressed by the NIEthe enrichment and the missile. We know that missile tests are being carried out, and I would not want to say more about our judgments on the Iranian programme in respect of its missiles.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): We all know that the action that the European Council could take to which the Foreign Secretary refers is the imposition of sanctions to match the American sanctions. He is signing a treaty that elevates the prospect of a European common foreign policy yet further in the EU, but what is the possibility of getting agreement on this vital issue among the member states of the EUleast of all Germany, which seems extremely reluctant to sign up to any sanctions against Iran?
David Miliband: The prospects are reasonably good. The leaders of the EU countries will send a clear message on Friday. Of course, existing EU sanctions involve Germany. I think I am rightand if I am not, I shall be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman to correct myselfto say that EU trade with Iran in the year up until May 2007 fell by 34 per cent. That is one consequence of the sanctions regime, in which Germany is playing a part. I am happy to try to find a breakdown of countries contributions to that 34 per cent. reduction. I had a conversation with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor, at last weeks meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, which also took place in Brussels. From that conversation, I know that there is a strong German commitment to being part of a sanctions package.
The third important issue for the Council concerns international development, about which there is now helpful agreement across the House. Since the UN millennium summit in 2000, the world has repeatedly promised to spare no effort to free men, women and children from extreme poverty, but we are not moving fast enough.
The EU is the worlds biggest aid donor. If the millennium development goal targets are to be met, it needs to act as a driving force. Following his call for action in July, the Prime Minister is determined to use this and future Councils to push forward EU action to achieve the millennium development goals. We want the Commission to produce a full account of progress so far, and to make recommendations on how the EU can accelerate its efforts. If that work begins now, the EU will be able to lead the rest of the world by example.
Any strategy will be incomplete without trade and trade deals. The EU-Africa summit agreed an action plan with trade at its heart. We are working hard for a conclusion to the Doha trade round, and economic partnership agreements have an important role to play. A significant number of African countries have signed EPAs, and I hope others will follow before the end of the year, providing better access to EU markets and helping Africa trade its way out of poverty.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Would the Foreign Secretary agree that much of the poverty in Africa is caused by EU trade barriers? He talks about setting an example, but would not this country be able to set a much better example if we had control over our trade policy? We could set an example to the other European countries if we had that, whereas at present we have Peter Mandelson determining our trade policy for us.
We know that the hon. Gentleman speaks with passion as a member of the Better Off Out campaign, but we would not be better off out of
the EU. Indeed, we would be worse offas would African countries, since it is Britains liberalising instincts in the EU that make sure that we have a progressive trade policy.
Kate Hoey: Before the Foreign Secretary moves on to other matters, will he say whether the Council will discuss the EU-African summit, and Zimbabwe in particular? Why was the sanction lifted, allowing Mugabe to strut into Lisbon and swan around listening to one or two mild criticisms when the media were not present? He was able to laugh at this country and the other EU nations. Does he think that the Council at the very least should discuss the nonsense that was the lifting of that ban, and that all the leaders should have followed the example set by my right hon. Friend the Prime Ministerthat is, stayed away and called Africas bluff?
David Miliband: I completely understand the passion that my hon. Friend feels about the matter, and it is shared by the Government and the whole House. I am sure that we will reflect on the lessons of the EU-Africa summit. Like her, I think that the Prime Minister was right not to attend, as his absence highlighted what is happening in Zimbabwe. The extensive discussion of Zimbabwe, including the contributions made by Baroness Amos, and the extensive media coverage did not represent the political triumph that Robert Mugabe sought.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way; he is being most generous. At the Council, will he raise the question of the European gendarmerie force? Will he confirm that the force is now heavily armed and can recruit personnel from any EU member or candidate country, including countries such as Turkey? Will he give an undertaking that it will never be allowed to operate on British soil?
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): On the question of economic partnership agreements, is the Minister aware that both Namibia and South Africa have refused to sign an EPA with the EU, on the grounds that the agreements are unbalanced? What action should Britain take to make sure that both countries continue to have access to European markets?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend knows that if EPAs are not signed by 1 January 2007, the current regime lapses and the benefits that countries such as Namibia and South Africa receive are lost. That is why we are pushing hard for EPAs to be signed on a fair basis, and why the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), was with me at the European Council yesterday, discussing how to make progress with the Trade Commissioner. I shall be happy to get an update on any further developments for my hon. Friend during the debate.
The Council will also address key matters on which European and wider global issues come together. Britain has benefited enormously from the single market and freer international trade. The Lisbon agenda from 2000 was designed to boost momentum on that, and the Council will take stock of progress.
It is right for the EU to take a lead on climate change. The Council will take place at the same time as the conclusion of the Bali conference, and will seek to respond as appropriate to any developments.
In respect of migration, on which the UK has an opt-in to all measures, the EU needs to work with countries beyond our borders to tackle illegal migration, manage legal migration and strengthen border control.
On enlargement, the General Affairs and External Relations Council agreed yesterday to continue to pursue policies in line with its enlargement strategy. There will be an accession conference with Turkey and Croatia next week. In the case of Turkey, it will open two new chapters in the accession negotiations.
The new focus on those important matters is a stark contrast with the enduring debate at successive European Councils in the past few years on institutional reform. Two further initiatives later this week will consolidate that new forward-looking agenda.
First, the EU will adopt a globalisation declaration. That will make it clear that the agenda for the future is: jobs; climate change and energy; economic stability; trade; and migration and developmentnot institutional tinkering.
Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset) (Con): I share the Foreign Secretarys views about institutional reform, but he has not mentioned one of the disasters of the past couple of months: the failure to put together the EU force to go to Chad. If that will not be discussed, as he appears to imply, what will be the future for the European security and defence policy, given the embarrassment caused in connection with it by through European nations failure to stump up?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, which he has raised in the House before. Yesterday, an extensive discussion took place in the margins and round the table at the General Affairs and External Relations Council about getting the helicopters that are needed. I share the hon. Gentlemans feelings of urgency. The links to Darfur and the position of the comprehensive peace agreement are also important. I therefore assure him that the matter is being addressed.
I said that a reflection group would be established to take a long-term look at the challenges that face the Union, and that its focus would clearly not be institutional reform. The contents of the treaty are being closely studied in the House, and I am happy to recognise the work of the European Scrutiny Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee on the detail.
As the treaty is studied in detail, the myths are being exploded. For example, there is the myth that we will lose control of our foreign policy. That will not happen. As the European Scrutiny Committee says,
the largely intergovernmental nature of the CFSP and ESDP will be maintained, with no significant departures from the arrangements which currently apply in the EU Treaty.
The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) peddles the myth that there is a hidden plot for the position of President of the European Commission to be merged with that of the new President of the European Council
The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks peddles the myth that there is hidden plot to merge the position of President of the European Commission with that of the new President of the European Council, thereby creating some sort of tsar of Europe. That is nonsense. The treaty specifically states that members of the Commission cannot have another job in the manner that the right hon. Gentleman suggests.
we accept that the UK retains the final right to choose
We accept that provision is made for the UK to exercise a right to opt in in relation to measures which amend or replace existing EU measures, to measures which amend existing Title IV EC measures and to those which build upon the Schengen acquis.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Bless the very young Foreign Secretary. However, he has not mentioned the greatest myth of allthe Labour partys pledge to hold a referendum on the constitution. What happened to that? We still substantially have the constitution. Among all the myths that the right hon. Gentleman has found, where are the British people invited to express a view on something that is profoundly important to their future and well-being?
It is the constitution that has been abandoned, and it is because it has been abandoned that we are not having a referendum. The referendums in France and Holland in May 2005 led to a process,
and to the constitution being abandoned. That is not my word; it is the word of 27 heads of Government. Today, the newly elected Conservative Prime Minister of Denmarka country that has a more far-reaching version of the treaty than we dosaid:
The Lisbon Treaty does not transfer new powers to the EU, and is an amending treaty that is fundamentally different
is an amending treaty that is fundamentally different to the Constitutional Treaty. The Government does not, therefore, find it necessary to put the Treaty to a referendum.
[Interruption.] A Member asks from a sedentary position, What does Giscard say? I would have thought that the position of todays Prime Minister of Denmark is more relevant than that of Giscard DEstaing, who for all his distinction is very much a former President of France.
Mr. Binley: I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way. I want to test his remarks about there being a myth about us losing control of foreign policy, because it seems to me that that is exactly what will happen. It is my understanding that article 19 of the treaty gives the EU high representative the right to represent the EU on the Security Council when it discusses, for instance, Zimbabwea subject that we have talked about beforeand also that the UKs representative cannot attend that meeting or take part in it. Can the Foreign Secretary tell me why that is not the case? Most experts tell me that it is.
David Miliband: I want the names of those experts, because their advice is, frankly, embarrassing. Any expert who tells us that Britains seat on the UN Security Councilwhether it is filled by me as Foreign Secretary or by our permanent representative at the UNis threatened by the fact that the new high representative will be able to address the Security Council is not living in the real world, because the EU is already able to address the Security Council. In fact, under the German six-month presidency in 2006, it did so eight times without any threat at all to the position of either myself, the UK vote or the UK permanent representative.
Ms Patricia Hewitt (Leicester, West) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned the contribution of the new Conservative Prime Minister of Denmark just today. Given the position of the new Danish Government, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is highly unlikely that that political party will join the Leader of the Opposition in the absurd new grouping that he proposes to create in the European Parliament?
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