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The third issue I want to touch on concerns the first ever EU-Pakistan summit, which will take place at UK instigation just before the European Council on Wednesday. Given the range of interests Europe has at stake, the UK has argued long and hard for more strategic engagement with Pakistan. There is a wide range of issues for discussion at the summit, including the following. First, there are the counter-insurgency operations in North-West Frontier Province and the consequent humanitarian situation now afflicting some 2.7 million or 2.8 million refugees, or internally displaced persons. The EU has rightly pledged to make available a sizeable contribution to assist the displaced population, but it will also have a role to play in rehabilitation and reconstruction. Secondly, in respect of governance and democracy, the EU can and should help with institution building both at the centre and in the provinces by providing finance, advice and expertise. Thirdly, on economic development, the EU is Pakistans most important trading partner, so it is right that we should do more to improve access to EU markets. To this end, the summit is looking to agree a step change in the EUs engagement with Pakistan on trade, leading to a free trade agreement in due course.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): I very much welcome that last point about aiming for a free trade agreement with Pakistan, on which I know my right hon. Friend has done serious work. If we can replace guns with goods, as it were, that must make sense for the region. I have read the paper that he has just drawn from, however, and it makes no mention of India. I do not know who will represent the UK at the summit, but not to discuss India in the context of Pakistan is to read out Hamlet without any citation from the prince. Can we have some input from this Government whereby they say politely and gently, You will not solve these regional problems unless India is part of the solution; it should not always be seen as part of the problem?
David Miliband: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. I am sure that he will have read carefully, as I have, the very important speech that the recently re-elected Prime Minister Singh made last week on how he wants to take forward relations with Pakistan. His point, at the heart of that speech, that Pakistan needs to take action against those who were associated with the Mumbai attacks is absolutely right. The fundamental building block of confidence for anyone in Indiafor the politicians and the peoplein Pakistans determination to be a reliable partner lies in its taking action on those associated with the Mumbai attacks. On that basis, I think there is then the prospect of reciprocal action occurring between President Zardari and Prime Minister Singh, and I would certainly like to see that.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con):
Many of us will be pleased to hear about initiatives regarding Pakistan, but there is a question as to where the EUs responsibilities finish and where NATOs responsibilities should really begin. The Foreign Secretary is touching on some areas in which NATO has huge expertise; it has developed relationships through embassies, the military and so on to provide the exact answers about which he is now talking. I wonder whether a bit of mission creep is going on in the EU and whether we should allow NATO, which he has not even mentioned yet, and
which incorporates the Americans and Canadians, who are already involved in Afghanistan, not to mention India, to participate in some of these solutions.
David Miliband: I certainly do not think that there is any mission creep in talking about humanitarian help, governance and democracy, and economic development. However, as we have said many times in this House, the situation in Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan are inseparable. That is why Afghanistan is also on the agenda for the discussion this week. The focus is on NATO work not only to ensure that credible elections are held on 20 August, but to prepare for provincial council elections. These will be the first Afghan-run electionsthey will have NATO supportsince the 1970s. The European Commission, however, is the second largest donor to the UNs election fund for Afghanistan, and we hope that the EU will also be able to send election observers. Holding elections is a massive challenge that requires major, hard, military support from NATO, but it is also right to say that the wider international community, including the EU, does have a role to play. I do not see that as mission creep; I see it as genuine complementarity. The previous US Administration were absolutely insistent that Europes external security and defence policy sat well with NATOs strategic concept. The new American Administration support that view, as do our Government. I do not see those things as being in conflict; I see them as being in partnership.
Mr. Ellwood: I understand where the Foreign Secretary is coming from, but as someone who has just come back from NATO, I can tell him that when I learn that NATO has no formal agreement on how it operates with the EU it demonstrates to me a massive clash between two organisations and how they seek these solutions. He says that this is not mission creep, but this work is exactly what NATO is good at doing and all these things are being repeated. These skills are having to be learned afresh by the EU; NATO has been doing this for an awful long time.
David Miliband: I have a lot of respect for the hon. Gentleman, and I would be happy to talk to him after the debate. Two words have to be used, unfortunately, when it comes to understanding why there is such difficulty in establishing coherent structures between the EU and NATO. Those words are Turkey and Cyprus.
David Miliband: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman knows that. The one thing I would say to him is that co-operation on the ground is often better than the lack of institutional co-operation that exists in Brusselsthat can be seen in Kosovo, for example. I hope that he does not take away from his visits to Brussels the view that because the institutionalised dialogue that he would like to see is not taking place, NATO and the EU cannot be wholesome partners.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The Foreign Secretary mentioned democracy: may we have some in Europe? Why do the Irish have to vote again, when their verdict was very clear? Why cannot we have a vote in Britain? And what did he not understand about the Eurosceptic majority in the European elections?
David Miliband: I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has brought me on to this topic, because there is unfinished institutional business in the European Union. Since the Irish people voted no in their referendum on the Lisbon treaty on 12 June last year, the Irish Government have been deciding on their next move. In December, the European Council agreed, on the basis of Irish proposals, that the EU would give Ireland the legal guarantees it wanted on the issues of concern to its electorate. In December, as the Prime Minister reported to the House, the European Council conclusions set out what the Irish guarantees will coverno change in EU competence on tax; no prejudice to national security and defence policy; and guarantees on provisions in the Irish constitution on the right to life. The December conclusions also record the high importance attached to the issues, including workers rights.
There are now detailed Irish proposals for these commitments to be agreed as legal guarantees, for a declaration by the European Council on workers rights and social policy, and for a national declaration by Ireland. We are assessing these texts against the two objectives that we have consistently set out to Parliament and to EU partners. The first is to ensure that the Lisbon treaty comes into force on the basis of support in all 27 member states. To do that, the EU collectively has to address the concerns of the Irish people to the mutual satisfaction of Ireland and other member states. The second is to ensure that the content of the Lisbon treaty as it affects the UK is not changed.
David Miliband: Very simply, in the same way as the Conservative Government did in 1992 with a decision on Maastricht. On all these issues, the UK will be at the heart of the debate. That is more than can be said of the Opposition. First, their policy on Lisbon is in tatters after the interview given by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) on Sunday. The shadow Foreign Secretary has promised not to let matters rest in the event of the passage of the Lisbon treaty. So did the Conservative European manifestoit was at the heart of their campaign. In an interview with The Times at the end of April, the right hon. Gentleman said that, if the treaty had been ratified, a referendum might still be promised in a Tory manifesto. He said:
We would not rule anything in or out.
I want to change things and reform things and thats why we need to start by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.
If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clearthat the treaty will not be reopened.
I dont think anybody in Europe...is in the mood for any more tedious debates about treaties, which have gone on for far too long, which is why this needs to be resolved.
Too right, we say on the Labour Benches, and too true for the good of the Opposition. I look forward to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) giving Parliament and the British public a clear answer to a simple question: in explaining Conservative policy on the Lisbon treaty, who is telling the truth, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe or the Leader of the Opposition?
Sir Malcolm Rifkind: The Foreign Secretary must be fair if he is going to quote selectively from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). The Foreign Secretary quoted correctly, but my right hon. and learned Friend went on to say that what the Conservative party is pledged to do is seek the repatriation of certain powers, quite apart from the Lisbon treaty, and that discussionshopefully, negotiationswould have to take place with the European Union. If the Foreign Secretary wishes to play politics on this issue, it is no benefit to the debate to misrepresent what my right hon. and learned Friend said.
David Miliband: The right hon. and learned Gentleman does himself no service. He is a former Foreign Secretary. He talks about renegotiation, and what did his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe say in that interview? He said that it would be not a solemn negotiation, but just a friendly discussion. The right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) has sat in the Foreign Office; he knows that if one wants to renegotiate ones relationship with Europe, one cannot do it on the basis of a friendly discussion that is not solemn. The truth is that the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe has said very clearly that there is not a cat in hells chance of getting 26 other member states of the European Union to support Conservative policy on this matter.
The second aspect of Conservative disarray concerns the influence that the party expects to exercise in the European Union. The shadow Foreign Secretary needs to explain why his party is trying to seek a divorce from the French UMP, led by President Sarkozy, which has 29 seats in the European Parliament, and the German CDU, which has 42 seatsnever mind the Greek New Democracy party, which has eight. Instead, the Conservatives have sought a new marriage with the Czech ODS, whose founder has described climate change as a global myth, and the Polish Law and Justice party, whose members believe homosexuality is a pathology and which warned that President Obamas election would mean
an impending catastrophe, the end of the civilisation of the white man.
Then there is the motley collection of other fringe parties that the Conservatives are courting to try to make up their numbers: the three MEPs from the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom party, which celebrates the Latvian unit of the Waffen SS troops; the two MEPs from the Danish Peoples party, which has warned that Muslim immigration would mean the end of European civilisation; and two more from the Dutch Christian Union, which previously banned women from being party members. Those will be the Oppositions new bedfellows in the European Parliament, if they can get seven of them together. It is little wonder that the Oppositions own MEPs have denounced their policy as
either ridiculous or barking. Christopher Beazley MEP has said that under a Conservative Government, this country would head for the rocks.
The European elections confirmed that the EU is not popular in the UK. I do not deny that. It is, however, the most successful regional institution in the world. It is a source of jobs and rights for our workers. It provides protection for our environment and stability for democracies on our borders. It is a voice for European values and interests in the world, and this Government will argue for its merits as well as for its reform.
In the last few years, the EU has magnified our influence on the global stage, helping to entrench peace in Kosovo and leading the global drive on climate change. At the same time, it has delivered concrete benefits for British citizens, cutting mobile phone charges and airfares and slashing business administrative costs. Over the next 12 months, it faces vital tests on the single market, on enlargement to embed stability in the western Balkans, and on leading the world to the ambitious deal that we need on climate change to replace Kyoto. That is why the Governments position on Europe is one of active engagement in working to shape the debate, forge an ambitious agenda and pursue necessary reform. That is why it is of such great concern that the Opposition are so steadfast in their determination to reverse that progress.
The truth is that the Government have a clear, positive agenda for Britain in Europe. We will use our membership to deliver concrete benefits for the people of this country and to forge global solutions to the problems we face. The Opposition have nothing but a confused wrecking strategy, which would cost this country dear, in terms of both our interests and our influence. The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe came close to acknowledging that in his BBC interview on Sunday. It is about time that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, who speaks for the Opposition on these issues, did so too.
Let me begin by taking him up on the discussion of some of the wider foreign affairs issues that he mentioned, particularly the immediate issue of the situation in Iran, which will clearly be discussed at the meeting this weekend. In particular, I want to endorse the overall approach to Iran that he explained. The situation there is clearly extremely tense and fluid. Two huge rival protests are planned in Tehran this afternoon, with a possibility of a repeat of the violence that claimed seven lives last night. I want to support the Foreign Secretarys calls, repeated by his French and German counterparts, for the Iranian authorities to address allegations that the vote was rigged. We trust that Europe will continue to send a united message to Iran that the use of force against peaceful protestors is unacceptable.
The underlying factors in the international communitys dispute with Iran remain unchanged. As we know, President Obama has given Iran until the end of this year to respond to his offer of engagement. We acknowledge that that is a calculated gamble given that, whatever else Iran does in the coming months, it seems highly likely to use this breathing space to push ahead at full speed with
its nuclear programme. Nevertheless, we think that that is the right approach. Exploratory dialogue and laying the basis for successful negotiations will take some time, but my point is that European countries should be using that time well too.
now is the time to back American outreach.
If the Iranians do not respond in a positive way, we can then ensure that further steps are taken.[ Official Report, 6 May 2009; Vol. 492, c. 172W.]
I agree with that too, but I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not neglect to try to ensure that American outreach is backed by EU countries by demonstrating to the Iranians that their situation would be worsened significantly if they rejected negotiations. The best-case scenario now would be for European nations to agree in the coming months on a detailed set of sanctions to be implemented if Iran did not come to the negotiating table, which would affect Irans relations with Europe across the board. Although that looks unlikely, given the past record on agreement on sanctions, at the very least we should be trying to win the argument for such sanctions now, to ensure that no time is lost if their implementation is required.
Economic self-interest in some countries has prevented Europe from agreeing tough sanctions in the past. We hope that that will change, because if the EU does not muster the will to be tough on Tehran, we may find that it is too late to prevent the regime there from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
I very much support what the Foreign Secretary said about support for President Obamas initiative in the middle east, and we support continued EU engagement in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We welcome the first ever EU-Pakistan summit tomorrow, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, and hope that it will turn into a regular fixture. It offers an opportunity for the EU to define a joint strategy with Islamabad to help fight extremism, provide assistance and help entrench democracy, all of which are important priorities for us.
The Foreign Secretary also spoke about Burma, which I too want briefly to mention. Of particular concern and cause for alarm at this time are the ongoing trial of Aung San Suu Kyi for breaching the terms of her house arrest, and the renewed offensive in eastern Burma that has prompted thousands of civilians to flee across the border into Thailand. We are now seeing gross abuses of human rights in Burma, including the continued detention of political prisoners and the suppression of all forms of democracy and freedom. Although we welcomed the EUs decision in April to extend sanctions against the Burmese regime, I hope that the Minister winding up the debate will tell us what assurances can be provided that the existing sanctions are properly implemented throughout the entire EU, and that he will also say what mechanisms are in place to ensure that that happens.
These international issues, and the other EU issues to which I shall turn in a moment, all merit a co-ordinated approach in the EU. They all require experience, concentration and focus in the Foreign and Commonwealth
Officea subject that brings me to the reshuffle of Ministers, including those who deal with European matters, that has just taken place.
This debate is the first opportunity that the House has had to comment on the resignation letter of the former Europe Minister, the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint). That letter will not be forgotten in a long time, for its perfect embodiment of the truth that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. In her letter, the right hon. Lady told the Prime Minister that she was
Mr. Hague: The right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) was sacked as Europe Minister, but the right hon. Member for Don Valley resignedwith a little more dignity. She told the Prime Minister that she was
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