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It is also vital that we do not lose sight of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burma, which has disappeared from the headlines but remains a very real issue. The UK is the largest bilateral donor and aid is now filtering throughalbeit very belatedly. We welcome the leadership demonstrated by the UN and the Association of South East Asian Nations in tackling the crisis, but we want the European Council to underline the importance of lifting all remaining obstacles to the flow of aid.
Foreign Ministers will also discuss the situation in the Balkans. Since Kosovo declared its independence on 17 February, 20 member states have recognised it, and the Government in Pristina are getting on with running the country. They have begun implementing legislation to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of communities and their members, the effective decentralisation of local government and the preservation and protection of cultural and religious heritage. Last week, on 15 June, Kosovos new constitution entered into force, and I am pleased to say that it committed Kosovo to a stable, democratic and multi-ethnic future for all its people.
Just before the constitutions adoption, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced his intention to reconfigure the UN mission in Kosovo in response to the changed situation on the ground. At the Security Council, the Government will support Ban Ki-moon in taking forward that reconfiguration rapidly, both to reflect the Kosovo Governments new responsibility for administering the country and to create the space for the EU to play a major supporting role.
The European Council will reaffirm the EUs commitment to playing a leading role in assisting Kosovo as it moves forward. The EU has sent a special representative to Kosovo to provide political support and assistance; it is deploying a European security and defence policy mission, EULEX, to assist with policing and justice sector reformthe largest EU deployment of its kind; and, in line with the EUs perspective for the region, it will provide about €400m in financial support over the next three years to Kosovos political and economic development.
Kosovos independence is of course an important step for the regionthe last piece of the jigsaw from the former Yugoslavia. However, it is worth mentioning the recent progress that Bosnia and Herzegovina has made. It meant that the General Affairs Council was able to sign the countrys stabilisation and association agreement on time.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): May I remind my right hon. Friend that this debate is on European affairs, not on European Union affairs? Too often in this Chamber, we elide Europe and the European Union, but they are different. Many countries in Europe are not members of the European Union. I hope that later in his speech, having already dealt with the Balkans, he might find time to say a little about the European countries that are not members of the European Union and the relationship between the United Kingdom and such countries.
David Miliband: I fear that I may disappoint my hon. Friend. I think that the western Balkans is the best that I can do as regards the European countries that are not yet in the European Union. Turkey is not on the agenda, and neither is Ukraine or Georgia. However, he will have noted the discussion that we had about Russia. There is an interesting discussion to be had about whether Russia is a European country; perhaps we can have that on another occasion.
In the context of the European security and defence policy, it may be worth noting that yesterday President Sarkozy published an important white paper on French defence and national security policy, which included his very strong commitment that the French
armed forces are and will remain national. They will not be integrated into any supranational force.
Of course, I am happy to give that commitment on the part of British forces as well. Our forces do not belong to NATO or to the EUthey belong to us, and they always will. However, it is important to state that the Government strongly support the emphasis in the French white paper on capability development across Europe, greater civilian-military co-operation, and the development of modern operational systems for bringing together capabilities right across Europe.
It is important to emphasise in this respect that confusion has arisen in relation to European military operations. There is already a European security and defence policy co-ordination capacity comprising about 100 people in Brussels. It works to a British general. It is not a military operation headquarters and will not become one, but it provides advice to the Political and Security Committee and to the General Affairs and External Relations Council in advance of decisions on European deployments in Chad and elsewhere.
It is significant that the French white paper should commit not only to French membership of NATOfull re-integration into NATObut to the idea that EU and NATO activities should be complementary. It makes that very clear. I, for one, believe that that is not only consistent with our interests but strikingly consistent with what the US Administration, from the President down, have been saying. President Bush himself said at the NATO summit on 2 April:
Building a strong NATO Alliance also requires a strong European defence capacity.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Does the Foreign Secretary accept that this is one of the key strategic considerations for the Baltic nations, of which I know Estonia the best? The Estonians consider that their internal security is best served within membership of the European Union, but even though Estonia is a small country, Estonians are willing and eager to be strategic players on the world stage. The only way that they can possibly become that is through a collective approach on the basis of the European Union. Does he agree that that is not only a sensible but an essential element, especially for smaller countries who want to play their part on the world stage?
David Miliband: I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is important to emphasise that the collective response that he mentions is based on national decisions about whether and when to participate. That is certainly the basis of European security and defence policy.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that although making individual national decisions to co-operate is undoubtedly the way forward, confusion about whether there is a desire for a united European force is created by having regalia such as European flashes on soldiers uniforms? Does he agree that it would be much better if there were not an insistence on such joint insignia, which unnecessarily confuse matters and arouse anxieties?
David Miliband: I do not think that there is any confusion, in this Government or elsewhere, about the fact that deployments are made on the basis of our own decisions, or that the question of insignia raises doubts. Whether in Chad or in Palestine, it is a good thing that these forces are working together without any loss of their national identity. The British forces remain proud of having the British flag on their uniforms, but it is reasonable for them to choose to have other insignia as well.
On Iran, on 2 May I chaired a meeting of E3 plus 3 Foreign Ministers in London, which agreed a renewed offer to Iran of economic, scientific and political co-operationthe second half of our dual-track sanctions and incentives approach. This was delivered to Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki and its nuclear negotiator Jalili on Saturday by five political directors and Javier Solana, the high representative for the common foreign and security policy. We look to Iran to ensure co-operation with the international community, including on civilian nuclear power, or face continued and growing sanctions.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Has the Foreign Secretary seen the report in The Daily Telegraph on Monday 9 June, which refers to the Iranian Government getting their assets out of western banks via Dubai with the co-operation of some Dutch banks? Will he take urgent steps within the European Union to ensure, through whatever measures are necessary, that the sanctions on Iran, if they are imposed, are effective?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which is basically the point that I made in the discussion on Iran after Javier Solanas report to European Foreign Ministers on Mondaythat the implementation of resolution 1803 on the Iranian nuclear programme goes forward, as does the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has expressed serious concern about the continued Iranian nuclear programme.
Mr. Davey: Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that the package of incentives for Iran that has been put forward is to be published, and will he ensure that it is placed in this House so that colleagues can have access to it? That is apparently one of the main distinctions between these proposals and those put forward in 2005, which were not placed in the public domain.
David Miliband: The proposals were published in Tehran on Sunday and sent to all members of the UN Security Council, and they are on the Foreign Office website. I will check whether they are in the Library. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The key to this is for people in Iran and in the international community to see that Iran is not the victim of a western vendetta but the author of its own misfortunes. There is a serious offer of collaboration and co-operation with the Iranians if they are willing to abide by international rules. Iran can be treated as a normal country if it behaves like one and accepts the responsibilities of the international community as well as the rights that go with them.
The European Council also has an opportunity to push forward on the millennium development goals, which is an important issue across the House. Huge progress has been made since 2000, but seven years on we are not on track to meet the targets that were set. Last year, the Prime Minister issued his call to action, and the UN Secretary-General has designated 2008 a year of action. However, rising food and commodity prices are making the task harder. That is why the millennium development goals are a top priority for the UK at Fridays European Council. As the worlds largest aid donor, providing close to 60 per cent. of all aid, it is right that the EU plays a leading role on the MDGs. It has set itself a collective target for 0.56 per cent. of gross national income to be used for official development assistance by 2010. That would, in effect, mean a doubling of aid to more than €66 billion. We want the European Council to reaffirm that commitment and to agree how this money can be best used to support the MDGs in an agenda for action that sets out specific milestones, actions and time frames in key areas such as education, health and agriculture.
Finally, this weeks European Council meeting of Heads of Government is the chance for a preliminary discussion on the Irish referendum result among Heads of State and Government. [ Interruption. ] I knew that hon. Members were on the edge of their seats waiting for this part of the discussion. I am happy that they have stayed so long to enjoy it. Let me pick up three points from the debate that followed my statement on Monday. First, the question was raised of why the Irish should be given time. The answer is simplebecause they have asked for it. The Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, said on Friday that
we need to pause to absorb what has happened and why, and to consult widely at home and with our European partners.
it is far too early for proffering...solutions or proposals.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con):
Does the Foreign Secretary admit to deep concern that in the only three referendums that have taken place on
these mattersin France, the Netherlands and Irelandthe peoples of those countries have rejected the further integration proposed in the successive treaties? Will he accept that we have come to a watershed in the history of the European Union? Given that there are many in Europe who want further integration, as well as many who do not, will he recognise not only the desirability but the inevitability of an ├ la carte Europe? That would mean all member states accepting certain core responsibilities, while for proposals on further integration, there will be not just an opportunity but a right to opt out for any country that believes such proposals to be against its national interest. Is that not the only way in which the peoples of Europe can give genuine democratic consent to continuing involvement in the European Union?
David Miliband: I am happy to associate myself with the first part of the right hon. and learned Gentlemans question about the serious concern that anyone should have about the resultsor at least the concern that anyone in favour of the results should have. However, I do not recognise the picture in the second part of his questionthat there remains in the European Union or among European countries a drive for integration. That may have been the picture in the mid-1990s, but the exhaustion associated with the Lisbon treaty, and the exhaustion of the integrationist project that he fears, is significant. The Lisbon treaty drew a line, not least in the 10-year moratorium that it posed on further institutional change. The flexibility in the current arrangements for the European Unionpeople are in the euro area, or in Schengen, but it is their choice whether to be thereand the choices extended to us on justice and home affairs policy give the lie to the idea that there is one centralised model for the future of the European Union, and that it is the only one available.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): In the many hours that I listened to the excellent Minister for Europe take us through the Lisbon treaty, he made it absolutely clear that if the House rejected the Lisbon treaty, it would be dead. Why is it that when the Irish reject it, it is not dead?
David Miliband: I am grateful for the hon. Gentlemans very nice words about the Europe Minister; the fact that they mean the end of his political career is obviously a matter of some regret. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find a way of withdrawing his kind compliments at some stage, although I fear that Labour Members were watching and may have heard his remarks. However, I wholly associate myself with them. I hope that that provides a degree of mitigation for the death sentence that has been handed to my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman and I are in agreement, however. Unless all 27 countries pass the treaty, it will not come into force. It is as simple as that.
Chris Bryant: Should the Foreign Secretary not point out to the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), who is a former Foreign Secretary, that he has got his facts wrong? There have not been just three referendums, but five. The most significant one was in Spain, where 77 per cent. were in favour of the treaty going forward. Have not many countries in Europe actually shown extraordinary forbearance throughout this process?
David Miliband: It was an excellent intervention because my hon. Friend puts an important fact on the record. I am not sure about forbearance; I think that those countries showed patience and a determination to bring the institutional wrangling to an end. The way for the European Union to make itself relevant is not through further institutional reform, but through getting on with addressing the main agenda.
The second issue raised in Mondays debate was a re-emphasis of the fact that there was no question of bulldozing the Irish, and it is not just the UK that is saying that. Throughout the European Union, Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers have promised to respect the Irish vote, and there is simply no way that the EU could ignore the Irish vote. The rules are clear: all 27 member states must ratify the treaty for it to come into force. Ireland cannot be bound by changes that it has not ratified.
National sovereignty means that each nation decides its own position. The Irish no vote is determinant of the Irish position, but it cannot decide the position of other countries. That is not just the UKs view. The Dutch Prime Minister, Balkenende, has said that
the Irish No does not mean that we or other member states should stop our ratification processes.
ratification process will of course not be affected.
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