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9 Dec 2008 : Column 420

That means a more joined-up civilian-military strategic level planning structure in Brussels to ensure greater coherence between the EU institutions, civilian and military planners, and the EU and NATO. It also means measures to encourage investment in the right kind of capabilities, and a new ESDP ambition to reflect the wide range and complexity of the missions that Europe is increasingly undertaking, whether through the EU or NATO—involving not only soldiers, but policemen and judges, aid workers and customs officials.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD): Perhaps the Foreign Secretary could read the quote a third time because it shows the disarray in the Conservative position on defence policy, especially with respect to the new Administration in Washington. May I take him back to his point on the middle east? He did not refer to an issue that I thought he would mention—the Government’s policy and what they have argued in Brussels on the trade agreements between the EU and Israel, and exports from the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. What is the Government’s position on those exports?

David Miliband: The Government’s position is to defend the EU-Israel trade agreement of 2000, as amended in 2004, which offers preferential trade for Israeli goods. It also offers—or should offer—preferential trade for Palestinian goods. It does not offer preferential trade benefits to goods from settlements. We are defending that agreement because it is the right thing to do—in legal and political terms. I hope that hon. Members of all parties support that position.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): The Foreign Secretary gave me the lead that I needed when he mentioned civilian involvement in some of the issues that he described. I want to ask him about Russia and Georgia. Will the summit take the opportunity to discuss the continuing issue there, because EU monitors are involved? If we are to make a contribution, is it not essential that those monitors have access to both sides of the de facto border? We must also realise that violence is starting again and unarmed monitors may not be the long-term solution.

David Miliband: On the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, I completely agree that there must be proper access, and not just for EU monitors, but for Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitors. The OSCE summit last Thursday in Helsinki, which I attended, addressed that issue directly, including with the Russian Foreign Minister. It is vital that all sides respect all aspects of the August and September agreements. The European Union has dispatched its monitors with good speed and they are ready to take their place alongside OSCE monitors. However, the OSCE monitors are not being allowed into South Ossetia and are certainly not being given the freedom of manoeuvre that they should be given.

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Foreign Secretary give way?

Mark Pritchard rose—

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David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman says that he is the chairman of the all-party group on Russia and on that basis I am happy to let him in.

Mark Pritchard: I am grateful that the Foreign Secretary is so well briefed. On Russia, clearly the Sarkozy plan should be implemented, so why are the British Government, despite the fact that four of the six points of the plan have not been implemented in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, offering rewards without repentance and, potentially, an EU partnership deal? Why are the British Government going soft on Russia?

David Miliband: That really is a foolish way to describe the position. The Government are not going soft and we are not offering rewards without repentance. First, the partnership and co-operation agreement to which the hon. Gentleman refers is in our interest—it is the European Union that wants it. Secondly, the partnership and co-operation agreement has in its preamble precisely a reference— [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman should listen to my answer before he starts shouting back. The preamble precisely includes a reference to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, which means that we can properly discuss it. Thirdly, on the position of the British Council, on which he has supported the Government in the past, the culture section of the partnership and co-operation agreement allows us to raise the issue. Far from rewarding Russia, we are addressing the issues of concern that exist between us.

Mike Gapes: The Foreign Secretary referred to civilian missions, but he has not yet referred to what has happened in Kosovo. Yesterday, the European Union rule of law mission in Kosovo, or EULEX, took over responsibility for policing. However, as I understand it, that mission is status-neutral with regard to the position in Kosovo. How does he think it will be able to operate in practice, including in Mitrovica and the other Serb-populated areas of Kosovo?

David Miliband: My hon. Friend has anticipated the exciting denouement to my speech and my paean of praise to the European Union rule of law mission, which is the largest European security and defence policy mission ever. However, I will address the issue now—and thereby take away the excitement of the conclusion to my speech—because he asks a specific question to which I want to give an answer. Just to be clear, the rule of law mission is deploying across the whole of Kosovo, with unanimous support from the UN Security Council, the Kosovo Government and Serbia. That is thoroughly welcome and will help the region’s progress towards eventual membership.

My hon. Friend raised the issue of status. Status is for nations to decide. It is up to our country to decide whether to recognise Kosovo. We have done so, along with 52 other countries. UN resolution 1244 was status-neutral. If he looks at the wording of the agreement that was signed two weeks ago, he will see that it refers to the status-neutral nature of resolution 1244. However, EULEX is there to protect individual citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, and not to decide on status questions. Therefore, although the text of the agreement has been carefully gone over, it is important that confusion does not arise. I hope that my explanation today—that EULEX is there to offer individuals protection, whatever their
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ethnic origin, and not to decide on questions of status —is understood in the context of status-neutral UN resolution 1244, which set the stage for the political process, which eventually led to the declaration of independence by Kosovo.

Let me conclude. I will not have time today to talk about the very important eastern partnership that the EU has now developed—with countries to its east, obviously—as part of the European neighbourhood policy, but we can talk about that tomorrow if it is of interest to hon. Members.

At the summit, the UK will continue to be an advocate for a reformed European Union, honouring its origins as a grouping of nation states who choose in some areas to share power. That means that the Government of Ireland will be able to decide for themselves whether and how to follow up the decision of the Irish people in their referendum on the Lisbon treaty earlier this year. Our position on this is clear: the treaty can come into force only if backed by all 27 member states, and we do not propose to reopen this Parliament’s passage of the Lisbon treaty.

The advocacy will also continue for a complete overhaul of the common agricultural policy. That is worth mentioning in the light of the recent health check, which will end half the remaining coupled payments, direct more money towards activities to address the new environmental challenges, help to level the playing field on modulation, and simplify the rules for farm payments. But it did not go far enough. In next year’s budget review, we will be pushing for a complete overhaul. Direct payments should be phased out, because markets should provide farmers with their incomes, and we should instead focus subsidies on delivering the environmental benefits that markets cannot deliver.

This European Council agenda demonstrates that the EU is now a critical vehicle for the UK to pursue its international agenda for the benefit of the British people—

Daniel Kawczynski: Never!

David Miliband: There is the voice of the modern Tory party. Actually, the hon. Gentleman wants to pull out of the European Union. He says “Never!”— [ Interruption. ] I am happy to clarify— [ Interruption. ] I said that the European Union—

Daniel Kawczynski: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I do not think that this is going to be a point of order, but let me hear it.

Daniel Kawczynski: May I state for the record that I have not called for a withdrawal from the European Union? It is highly irresponsible of the Secretary of State to insinuate that.

Mr. Speaker: That is a matter for debate, not a point of order.

David Miliband: Let us, for the record, be absolutely clear that what the hon. Gentleman said “ Never” to was the claim that the European Union should be a critical vehicle for the UK to pursue its international agenda for the benefit of the British people. That is what he said “Never” to, and we thereby know where he is coming from and where he wants to go to.

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The truth is that, to forge an effective global response to the economic downturn, to drive a successful low-carbon economy to curb climate change, and to address the security threats that we face, from Russian aggression in Georgia to piracy off the coast of Africa, we have to work with the EU and our European allies. It is only through co-operation and engagement that we maintain the level of influence that we do in Brussels.

The Finnish Foreign Minister was recently in London, and he met the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). The Finnish Foreign Secretary said that

in Europe. He added that

That is— [ Interruption. ] The Conservative Finnish Foreign Minister is being jeered by the Conservatives. That tells us a lot about the modern Conservative party. This is how—

Daniel Kawczynski: They are a bunch of communists.

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman says that they are a bunch of communists. That says a lot about— [ Interruption. ] What he is in fact saying— [ Interruption. ] I did hear the word “communists” correctly. I now understand that he is talking about the socialist group. What the hon. Gentleman should realise is that, in the left-of-centre parties, the Euro-communists are terribly right wing by comparison with the social democrats. His knowledge of left-of-centre politics should tell him that.

I do not want to leave the Finnish Foreign Minister yet, however. This is what he concluded:

We would not have a voice on the leading edge of Europe; we would be on the hard shoulder of Europe. The truth is that this Government have a vision not just for Britain in Europe, but for Europe in the world. The Conservative party offers only a path to Britain’s isolation in Europe, and to a Europe with less power and influence on the world stage. The choice is simple: deal with the realities of an increasingly interdependent world or deny them. I look forward to the debate, and to the decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

4.19 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): There has often been a ritualistic air to our six-monthly debates on European matters, and the closing moments of the Foreign Secretary’s speech were a reminder of that, although it was not so ritualistic to confirm that Euro-communism is on the right of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, which puts some of the positions and views of Labour MEPs into perspective. The Foreign Secretary quoted what the Finnish Foreign Minister said to him—

David Miliband: And in public.

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Mr. Hague: And, indeed, what he said in public a few weeks ago. However, the Finnish Foreign Minister then came round to my office and I have to tell the Foreign Secretary that the Finnish Foreign Minister and I concluded that there was plenty of scope for easy co-operation between the Finnish Government and a Conservative Government after the next general election, so the Foreign Secretary needs to be a little careful with his quotes.

I believe that the significance and seriousness of events over the past six months make our present debate a little different from usual. Since our last debate on these matters, the economic downturn has intensified, there has been war in Georgia, the situation in the Balkans has in some respects deteriorated and the Lisbon treaty has remained becalmed after Ireland’s rejection. All those matters require some examination in the debate.

The Foreign Secretary raised some broader issues that I hope to turn to if I can catch your eye again tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, in the Queen’s Speech debate on foreign affairs and defence. For now, let me refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech about Zimbabwe and yesterday’s discussion among EU Foreign Ministers. We—and, I imagine, all quarters of the House—very much welcome the discussion and the agreement to add 11 more regime officials to the EU travel ban and assets freeze list. However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if the bans are to carry any weight with the regime, they must be scrupulously enforced by all countries of the EU. Banning more than 100 officials from the EU had very little point when Mugabe himself was welcomed to Lisbon last December, notwithstanding the fact that all the bans were supposed to be in place. I know that the Government felt as strongly about that as we did and the Prime Minister did not attend the summit.

The Foreign Secretary was also right to seek to take this matter back to the UN Security Council—he referred to that in passing today—and to say that African countries now have a particular responsibility to bring about positive change in Zimbabwe. We certainly welcome the robust statements of the Governments of Kenya and Botswana, urging Mugabe to go. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke yesterday to Botswana’s Foreign Minister, who has called for a ban on fuel supplies to the Zimbabwean army and police. We hope that the Government will lend their support to such proposals that target the regime and urge African countries to implement them.

We also hope that the Foreign Secretary will intensify the preparations, for which we have called, for the days after Mugabe, so that when a new Government are in place in Harare, arrangements will already be in place, backed by EU nations, for the massive programme of aid that will be needed, for the establishment of a contact group to provide diplomatic support and for assistance to rebuild the economy, reform the security services and so forth. We particularly hope that Ministers will raise with African nations the need to develop the capacity to deploy a humanitarian force in Zimbabwe at short notice if required—an over-the-horizon force that would be ready to make sure that the basic functions of the state could continue and that aid reached those in need.

Mr. Davey: I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks about Zimbabwe, especially his point about post-Mugabe preparations. Does he agree
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with us, however, that one thing that the Government could do right now, here in the UK, is to give Zimbabwean asylum seekers, pending the decision on their cases, the right to work so that they can gain experience of employment, earn some money and engage in education and training? Will he support our call on that?

Mr. Hague: I think that the hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case about Zimbabwean asylum seekers, but I would want my home affairs colleagues to make any Conservative party commitments. The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful case, as I said, but this and future Governments will have to ensure that any decisions are made in line with a robust overall asylum policy. We should have regard to what the hon. Gentleman says, but all cases have to be considered on their merits.

The severity of the economic downturn’s impact on each country has depended on how well the Governments of each country have prepared for less easy times—in other words, on whether they fixed the roof while the sun was shining, which did not happen in this country.

When he was Chancellor, the Prime Minister used to enjoy lecturing other European Governments on how to run their economies, and was notorious at ECOFIN meetings for his patent lack of interest in anything that they had to say. I hope that when he goes to the summit on Thursday he will show a bit of humility and contrition. I know that there is very little chance of that: I merely express a hope that the Prime Minister will begin to show those attributes.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts that Britain will experience the steepest rise in unemployment in the G7. The European Commission has said that this country will experience the deepest recession of any nation in the G7. After 16 years of global economic growth, the United Kingdom has entered the present downturn with a larger budget deficit than more than 100 other countries, including countries such as Kazakhstan and Uganda.

According to the European Commission’s autumn economic forecast—the Foreign Secretary quoted a few percentages and statistics—Britain’s cyclically adjusted budget balance will be minus 5 per cent. next year and minus 5.5 per cent. in 2010, compared to minus 0.3 per cent. in Germany and a surplus in Germany subsequently. That might be why Mrs. Merkel was not at the meeting yesterday.

Each European Union member state’s appropriate response to the downturn is determined by its domestic situation and, of course, domestic views. The European Commission was absolutely right to emphasise that in its announcement on economic recovery, when it said

Such a sharply pointed reminder that Governments who failed to put public finances on a sound basis now have very little room to manoeuvre ought to have caused some pain in Downing street.

Mr. Redwood: My right hon. Friend is correctly defending the German position, which is more prudent. The draft conclusions that the Government will be invited to accept include a reference to

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