|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
We could, of course, say that progress has been made on Kosovo, although at the same time there are divisions within the EU. Some countries, including Cyprus, have objected via what they call a constructive abstention. Even though the majority in the EU recognises the independence of Kosovo and even though there has been an important development regarding EU-led forces going into Kosovo, individual member states have the right not to participate in those forces and have decided
not to do so. They have even publicly registered their reservations or opposition to it. That could continue, too.
Foreign policy will not, therefore, necessarily be hamstrung. I would go further. I urge the Government to try to minimise the extent to which any of our EU partners get distracted from these practical issues by discussions about the institutional framework. I strongly agree with the Foreign Secretary that we do not need to bully or press. First, as he said, we need to give the Irish time to decide how they should cope with what this means. Secondly, the European Union needs to discuss the practical issues with which it must deal, many of which relate to foreign policy matters. I hope that means that, in the context of climate change, the opening of negotiations with Russia and the ongoing deployment of the European Union mission in Kosovo, most of the energies of Foreign Ministers and officials will be devoted to practicalities rather than discussion of possible blueprints, constitutional changes or measures of the kind that we have seen over recent years.
Again, I would go further, and suggest that uncertainty over the institutional framework of European Union treaties is no barrier to enlargement. In the past few days, some rather worrying remarks have been made. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said that the European Union needs the Lisbon treaty in order to think about further enlargement. On Monday, President Sarkozy told the central European Governments in Prague that the treaty was needed for any opening to Croatia and the rest of the western Balkans.
That is not true. It is not legally true, and it is not politically true either. It is not legally true because all enlargements involve at least some minimal institutional adjustments to accommodate new member states in EU bodies, which are always agreed in the relevant accession treaty. It does not matter which EU treaty is in force for that to take place. Indeed, accession treaties can accommodate uncertainty over which treaty is to be applied. We have seen that happen in the past. The accession discussions that would lead to an EU with 15, then 25 and then 27 members took place in the context of a pre-existing treaty arrangement that subsequently changed. There is no legal reason why accession negotiations cannot be continued, or launched, on all technical policy areas apart from the final institutional matters: institutional issues are traditionally left until the end, and at that point there will be an accession treaty.
I strongly believe that enlargement of the European Union to include Croatia should continue without delay. The process should be maintained, and positive signals should be sent to the other countries in the western Balkans, including Bosnia and Herzegovinawhich has just signed stability and accession agreementsand Macedonia, provided that the name issue is resolved with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The discussions with Greece are proving very difficult, as I know from a meeting that took place in the European Parliament a few weeks ago. Every single Greek representative appeared to have been born in Thessaloniki, which, as the Greeks pointed out, was in Macedonia.
Mike Gapes: If there is to be enlargement of the European Union in future it must clearly be agreed by all member states, and if Greece chooses to operate a veto, that will be impossible. However, I understand that at this moment representatives of the two Governments are discussing ways of resolving the issue. I hope that it will be resolved, because instability on the Greek borders and in the Balkans is not in the interests of either Greece or the EU in general, and I think that instability will result if there is no further enlargement to bring the western Balkans as a whole into the European Union.
Having dealt with the legal objections to the arguments of the German Chancellor and the French President, I should add that I consider the argument that further enlargement requires further institutional reform to be wrong on political grounds. Since the Nice treaty, to which reference has been made, the European Union has had several years in which to adjust to the enlargement that has already taken place. A number of people thought that gridlock would result if the EU did not bring about massive institutional change, butalthough the process has been difficult, and has not always worked smoothlythere have been incremental adjustments in the way in which the EU has worked over recent years.
the business as usual picture is more convincing than the gridlock picture as regards practice in and output from the EU institutions since May 2004.
Even under the procedures of the Nice Treaty, the enlarged European Union is functioning fine... there isnt an institutional crisis that is more serious than what existed prior to enlargement.
On that basis, there are grounds for thinking that even the EUs existing institutional arrangements would be able to accommodate further member states, although it would not be very easy and the resulting structure would not be very efficient. We would have too many commissioners, the European Parliament would be a bit of a messbut then, whats new?and there would of course be inefficiencies, as there are today. However, I do not think it impossible for the European Union to proceed with further enlargement even without the Lisbon treaty, although the treaty would make it work better. The ability to be more efficient than it is at present would clearly be important to the way in which it functions.
No, I am not suggesting that at all. I believe it is right for this country to ratify the treaty, and I believe it is right for all countries to conclude the ratification process. I also recognise that, as has been made very clear, unless all 27 member states ratify the treaty it will not come into effect. I am arguing both that incremental steps should be taken to establish what can be done practically without the treaty, pending its coming into effect, and that, if it does not come into effect, we must try to cope with the situation as we find it. I do not think that we should halt the process and embark on a so-called period of reflection lasting for
one, two or however many years, becoming obsessed with institutional structures and not dealing with the real issues.
I hope that Croatia will conclude its accession negotiations with the EU next year. I also hope that following the political progress that has been made in Serbia, it too will eventually join the EU. I have already referred to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to Macedonia. The future of Kosovo will be complicated, but it is essential to the overall stability. If we are to deal with such issues as people smuggling, migration and secure borders, it is vital that there are no non-legal holes in the Balkans where a framework is absent. The best solution is for all those countries to come into the European Union.
Turkey has also been mentioned, and I strongly support its membership of the European Union. There are political difficulties there, but we hope that the democratic forces will eventually triumph over the revanchist authoritarianism that exists in the military. It will be a few years before Turkey is ready to consider coming into the European Union in any practical way because many changes and reforms are necessary. However, importantly, the prospect of those reforms will be strengthened if Turkeys joining the European Union is still on the horizon. If we, because of our institutional failures, block off the future enlargement of the European Union, we will do a disservice to the democratisation and reform process in not only the Balkans but Turkey.
I will conclude by making a few remarks about what is going on in the structures of the European Union. I strongly agree with Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, that the Irish vote means that the European Union
cannot take time out from its...accession policy.
Mr. Rupel, the Slovenian Foreign Minister, who holds the presidency of the Council of MinistersI am wearing the Slovenian presidency tie to show solidarity with his remarkswas absolutely right to say:
Croatia could become a member regardless of the Lisbon Treaty.
Slovenia has done a very good job of being a presidency country. The Slovenians were not responsible for the result in Dublin, and they must be congratulated on what they have done over the past six months.
I urge the Government and the Minister for Europe, who is in the Chamber, to reinforce the line that is being taken by Commissioner Rehn and the Slovenian presidency. In their discussions with the French and German GovernmentsI understand that the Prime Minister will meet President Sarkozy soonI urge them to emphasise that we believe that this is the time not to put barriers in the way of enlargement, but to send out positive signals to countries that have not yet joined the enlarged European Union.
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD):
The forthcoming Brussels summit is important for many reasons. It is incredibly important that the EU take the opportunity to try to deal collectively with the problems of rising oil and food prices, given the impact that those problems are having on the living standards of our constituents, the people of Europe and the world as a whole. The summit is also important because it gives us the chance to hear from the Irish Government how they
view the future of the Lisbon treaty. It will allow the discussion of many foreign policy issues raised by the Foreign Secretary, such as Zimbabwe, Iran, Burma and the western Balkans. I will come to all those in turn.
Let me pick up the theme of the Slovenian presidency from the speech made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes). Slovenia has done a good job, and I hope that all Front Benchers will put on record our admiration for, and thanks to, the Slovenians. Slovenia is a small country and a relatively new member of the European Union. It represents one of the success stories of the EU and points the way to the future.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the enlargement process not being stopped whatever happens to the Lisbon treaty. Enlargement is critical to the EUs future and there is broad consensus on the policy in the House. However, the process has caused great consternation among the peoples of Europe. Some would argue that part of the message from the referendums in France, Holland and Ireland was concern about the effects of enlargement, because in a European Union that is about the free movement of people, enlargement means that foreigners might migrate to different parts of the EU to work, to live and to set up businesses. I support that, as a liberal, and I think that many hon. Members support it. However, we, the European Union and its member states must recognise that the process causes tensions.
Hon. Members who knocked on doors during the recent Crewe and Nantwich by-election know that there were concerns about the increase in the Polish population in that constituency. We must tackle those concerns head-on and argue for an enlarged European Union that sees the benefits of the free movement of people. Anyone who supports enlargement should be prepared to do that, and that should be a key message in response to several of the problems before us.
It is worth focusing on the benefits of enlargement with regard to the Slovenian presidency. The treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon were partly designed to try to deal with tensions and difficulties involved with enlargement, albeit with greater focus on the institutional issues. To put our different positions on the Lisbon treaty to one side, if, as we seem to do, we all believe in the continuation of the enlargement processif we want Croatia and countries in the western Balkans to come in, and if we want to contemplate Turkey becoming a memberwe must deal with the tensions and concerns that enlargement causes among the peoples of Europe and the strains and stresses that it puts on the way the European Union operates.
Ms Gisela Stuart: If the hon. Gentlemans real concern is that we should get grass-roots support for enlargement, and thus acceptance that membership of the European Union is a good thing, why did he not take the opportunity to make his case to the people of Britain in a referendum on the Lisbon treaty?
Mr. Davey: The hon. Lady wants to take us back to something that we have debated many times in the House. Such tensions existed before the Lisbon treaty. The accessions that took place before the Lisbon treaty involved issues surrounding immigration and migration that were not addressed in that treaty, as she knows.
Daniel Kawczynski: Surprisingly, I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point: we must be careful in what we say about EU immigrants coming to this country because that could stir up tensions and additional concerns about the European Union. I spent a great deal of time helping during the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. The Labour party was very guilty of whipping up resentment towards, and fear about, the Polish people living in Crewe. That was an absolute disgrace, and the Compass group of Labour MPs says the same thing.
Mr. Davey: I will not comment on that, although Labour Members may do so if they wish. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on recently arguing in public that people should welcome the Polish people who come over here because they benefit our country.
Mr. Cash: Many of us believe in enlargement, but the enlargement of what? I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the enlargement of the present undemocratic European Union, which, for example, does not recognise the Irish vote, gives us an indication of why the Irish took the position they did and why there is so much resentment among the ordinary people of this country that they have not been given a votethanks to the Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Davey: One of the ironies of the position taken by those such as the hon. Gentleman is that one of the major ideas behind the Lisbon treaty was improving the democratic accountability of EU institutions [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman might not agree, but that was our analysis and that of many others.
I never understand the hon. Gentlemans vision of a Europe in which the European Union has been dissolved. Let me take him through some of the practical matters with which a Union of co-operating countries must deal. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) talked about the importance of trading standards and international trade and prosperity. If there is to be effective trade, there must be an international body to deal with trading standards and health and safety issues for consumer goods and food. One of the advantages of the European Union since the Single European Act, which I think the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) probably opposed, is that it has been able to do that in a proper way with due process.
Let me point the hon. Gentleman toward measures in the Lisbon treaty that would have helped us to ensure that we can manage some of the problems that come from enlargement. For example, on justice and home affairs it would have made it easier to deal with the problems caused by convicted sex offenders who have served their sentence and are now able to travel round the European Union and apply for jobs in this country. One of the ideas behind some of those policy areas was to have a proper, due legal process to enable countries to share information about convicted sex offenders who have been released. At the moment, we do that very imperfectly. If we can take that path, we can ensure that the free movement of people does not put our peoplethose whom we are sent here to representat risk. There are many such issues, including drug trafficking and the illegal importing of guns and knives. Those are key law and order issues, and we have to have a process for dealing with the potential problems that come from allowing the free movement of people, which I believe the hon. Gentleman supports. That is why some of us thought that the Lisbon treaty actually had many benefits.
Mr. Cash: I did in fact vote for the Single European Act, although I did suggest in an amendment that we should absolutely guarantee the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament, which I still hold to. In essence, my argument is that we should renegotiate these treaties, and it should be European trade, yes; European government, no. That is the difference that I have with the Liberal Democrats.
Mr. Davey: It is always interesting when people go on this flight of fantasy. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the history of the union of the United States of America, he will see that it came together because of the way that trade regulations and trade were managed throughout the states. That is how the federal Government in the United States evolved and developed. I am not suggesting, by the way, before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, that we should have that model for Europe. I do not want the European Union to become like the United States of America because, he may be surprised to know, I believe in individual sovereign member states co-operating through the European Union. However, that still requires an international form of government operating through due process to deal with all the issues thrown up by trade. The fact that he seeks to deny that undermines his case. I am delighted that he voted for the Single European Act, as that is the cause of many of the regulations that he says he opposes.
Mr. Hague: While the hon. Gentleman is on the Lisbon treaty, may I point out that he and I had many disagreements, of course, during the passage of the European Union (Amendment) Bill through this House? However, the one thing that we were absolutely united on was the passerelle or ratchet clauses. We both argued in our speeches in this House that they should be subject to primary legislative control in Parliament, and our parties both voted that way together in this House. He can imagine my surprise when, on the matter coming before the other place and a similar proposition being put forward, the Liberal Democrat peers all voted against it. Can he explain why that was the case?
Mr. Davey: I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was surprised, and for this reason. If he had read the Lords Hansard of the debate on those issues, he would know that the Liberal Democrat peers achieved a serious victory, having worked with colleagues in all parties, including his own, in Committees such as the European Union Committee and the Constitution Committee. We ensured that Baroness Ashton of Upholland was able to tell peers in the other place about a whole series of measures that would ensure that the accountability proceduresnot just those in the other place but in this Housewould be significantly increased, with annual reports at the beginning and end of each parliamentary Session on what was planned in the European Union and what had actually happened, with extra information
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|