Draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Ukraine) Order 2015
Draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Georgia) Order 2015
Draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Moldova) Order 2015

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Andrew Turner 

Barker, Gregory (Bexhill and Battle) (Con) 

Blunkett, Mr David (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab) 

Collins, Damian (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con) 

Cunningham, Mr Jim (Coventry South) (Lab) 

Dakin, Nic (Scunthorpe) (Lab) 

Field, Mr Frank (Birkenhead) (Lab) 

Heath, Mr David (Somerton and Frome) (LD) 

Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) (Lab) 

Lee, Dr Phillip (Bracknell) (Con) 

Lidington, Mr David (Minister for Europe)  

McFadden, Mr Pat (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab) 

Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con) 

Milton, Anne (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)  

Phillips, Stephen (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) 

Reid, Mr Alan (Argyll and Bute) (LD) 

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry (Bradford South) (Lab) 

Willetts, Mr David (Havant) (Con) 

Marek Kubala, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Cash, Sir William (Stone) (Con) 

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Seventeenth Delegated Legislation Committee 

Thursday 12 February 2015  

[Mr Andrew Turner in the Chair] 

Draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Ukraine) Order 2015

11.30 am 

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Ukraine) Order 2015. 

The Chair:  With this it will be convenient to consider the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Georgia) Order 2015 and the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Moldova) Order 2015. 

Mr Lidington:  Mr Turner, it is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. The EU association agreements between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their member states and, respectively, Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova are international agreements. The purpose of the draft order is to declare those agreements to be EU treaties as defined under section 1(3) of the European Communities Act 1972. The draft orders are a necessary step towards UK ratification of those agreements. 

Mr David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD):  For the avoidance of doubt, when we are talking about these three countries in the context of the orders, presumably that also includes those territories that are not within the immediate control of their Governments—that is, Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea—and therefore any entity within those areas will also be subject to the same treaty obligations. 

Mr Lidington:  My hon. Friend is correct. The three treaties extend to the areas of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine that are currently outwith the direct control of the sovereign Governments of those three countries. The reality is that the provisions of the agreements will not apply to those territories until such time as the Governments with which the treaties have been negotiated can secure compliance with the requirements of those treaties. To give him and the Committee the most obvious illustration, the agreements provide for a move towards EU norms in things such as phytosanitary standards. Clearly, that will require a system of regulation in places such as Abkhazia, Transnistria or Donbass, and it is necessary to deal with a Government whose writ runs in those areas. They are covered legally, but it will be a matter of when the sovereign Governments can secure their writ in those territories. On that will depend exactly when the provisions of the agreements apply to those parts of the three countries. 

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Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con):  My right hon. Friend will know that as Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, I have taken an especially active interest in this particular association agreement relating to Ukraine and Russia. We have considered and debated all these matters, but turning the agreements into an EU treaty within the framework of section 1 of the European Communities Act 1972 carries implications that I know he understands extremely well. In particular, although the security and defence aspects would not be directly subject to the European Court of Justice, the other aspects would be, with implications that I am sure he understands. 

My right hon. Friend has just distributed the declaration. He will know that the meeting last night stated that the parties also 

“support the trilateral negotiations between the European Union, Ukraine and Russia in order to develop a practical solution to the issues that deeply worry Russia, concerning the implementation of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement”. 

That was produced only a short time ago. There is a recognition by all the leaders that the association agreement is a matter of profound concern to Russia. I know that my right hon. Friend will have been briefed on that, so perhaps he will be good enough to comment. 

Mr Lidington:  My hon. Friend, with his characteristic, detailed knowledge of these matters, is really asking three questions in one. Let me try to reply briefly to all three. On common foreign and security policy measures, he is right that the European Court of Justice is not involved in determining such matters. It is also the case that the CFSP provisions of the association agreements are not being employed provisionally. 

It is further the case that, in respect of those paragraphs in the association agreement with Ukraine in particular, which concerned members of the European Scrutiny Committee because of the reference made to co-operation on security and defence matters, their content does not go beyond the partnership agreements and provisions that the EU already has with Ukraine and, for that matter, Moldova and Georgia. For example, Ukraine has already participated alongside the EU in Operation Atalanta, the common security and defence policy mission combating piracy off the coast of Somalia. The association agreement does no more than provide the overarching legal and treaty framework within which such co-operation takes place. I emphasise that it is not a collective defence treaty. It has never been intended to be such and that is not what the language says. 

On my hon. Friend’s second point about the provisional application of the deep and comprehensive free trade area arrangements, I will say a few words about the language used in the statement made overnight in Minsk a bit later in my speech. On that particular point, though, some months ago President Poroshenko requested not that the DCFTA be abandoned or changed, but that the implementation of the provisions should be delayed. To some extent that was just a recognition of reality, because there was no way that Ukraine, in the permitted period, could introduce rapidly all the EU standards that would be required of her to take advantage of the free trade agreement in full. It also provided a breathing space within which Ukraine, the EU and Russia could sit down and work out whether, on the one hand, what Russia wanted was genuinely to find a way

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to make the Commonwealth of Independent States free trade arrangements compatible with the deep and comprehensive free trade area agreement with the European Union, or whether, on the other hand, Russia really wanted to wreck the DCFTA, which is not something that we would welcome. At the end of the day, it is up to the sovereign, democratically elected Ukrainian President and Government to decide whether they want to continue with that. 

On my hon. Friend’s third point about the language used in the declaration, I think he is concerned about protecting the sovereignty of this place and about the current delineation of competences as set out in the treaty. The language in the declaration made by all member states and the European Union institutions was clear that nothing in the agreements with Ukraine or the other two countries should be interpreted as implying any change in the current balance of competences laid down in the treaties between, on the one hand, the European Union and, on the other hand, its member states. We chose to reinforce that in our minutes statement. 

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have all chosen to pursue closer ties with the EU. They have decided of their own free will to sign association agreements in order to support their own reform programmes and to seek closer political association and economic integration with the European Union. The British Government fully support those sovereign choices by the Governments of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, and we believe strongly that no third country should have any kind of veto over their decisions. 

The association agreements, with their accompanying deep and comprehensive free trade areas, are wide ranging. They provide mechanisms through which to deliver security, democracy and prosperity. They commit Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to deep and meaningful reforms, to more closely aligning their legislation with EU norms and to focusing on support for core reforms, including economic recovery and growth, good governance and improved respect for the rule of law and human rights. The agreements will allow for the closer integration of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova with the EU and will promote increased prosperity and stability in the European neighbourhood. This is in the interests of not only those three countries but Europe as a whole, including the United Kingdom. 

The ratification of the agreements is not an end in itself; it forms part of a process to drive forward continuous reform in all three countries. The European Commission will prepare an annual progress report for each country, to reflect their strengths and highlight areas where improvement is needed. The scope and nature of the three agreements is very similar; that is why we are considering all three draft orders together. However, we should bear in mind that each country faces slightly different pressures and has its own distinct priorities for its relationship with the EU. 

I want to say a few words about the latest developments in Ukraine, and then a bit more about the Ukraine agreement before coming on to the other two agreements. As the Committee will have heard, an agreement on a ceasefire to be effective from 15 February was reached in a Normandy format meeting in Minsk earlier this morning. Full details have yet to be made public, but we expect the agreement to provide for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, both by the Russians and their separatist protégés and by the Ukrainian forces, to a set zone a

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certain distance from the demarcation lines. We expect the agreement will include provisions embodied in the original Minsk agreement of September 2014 for fresh elections in the breakaway separatist-held areas and for change to Ukrainian law to provide for a more decentralised system of government in that country. 

I hope that all Committee members have now seen the declaration by the leaders that was issued overnight in Minsk; it is publicly available. I undertake to make available the full text of the agreement as soon as we have confirmation that it is in the public domain. I will ensure that copies are placed in the Library and the Vote Office. 

Sir William Cash:  My right hon. Friend referred to the provisional nature of aspects of this association agreement with the Ukraine, which is what I want to concentrate on. Article 7, and indeed article 10, contain very specific questions. Irrespective of whether the European Court of Justice has jurisdiction—I accept what he said on that, and I agree with him—the question is whether in the most recent EU summit, which dealt with this issue a few months ago, as I recall, the EU as a whole reaffirmed its commitment to the EU-Ukraine association agreement in its entirety. Will my right hon. Friend tell us the extent to which the provisional arrangements relating to CSDP in articles 7 and 10 have in fact been taken out and put to one side for the time being; or are they actually implemented, as the EU summit seemed to indicate? To what extent is the declaration distributed to the Committee, which talks about practical solutions to the concerns raised by Russia, actually being implemented? The DCFTA is a matter of concern, but so are articles 7 and 10. I hold no brief for Mr Putin; I am just trying to find out what is really going on. 

Mr Lidington:  The texts of the association agreement and the DCFTA remain unamended and as agreed by the EU and the Government of Ukraine. What has been delayed, at the request of President Poroshenko, is the original implementation of the DCFTA. Nothing else has changed. Nor has any proposal been made to change the text. The EU has said to Russia that it is open to a conversation about what its concerns may be. So far there has been no detailed response from Russia, to explain exactly what those concerns add up to or what a satisfactory remedy for them might be. 

I have already made the point that the provisions on CSDP in the association agreement have not changed. Twelve EU member states—nearly half of them—have already ratified the association agreement, so we are not first in the queue. 

Before I leave the subject of the latest meeting in Minsk, while a ceasefire is obviously welcome, for the Government, the real test of whatever agreement has been negotiated in the past 24 to 48 hours will be its implementation. The Government’s position remains that while we welcome declarations, agreements, and promises of ceasefire and an end to the violence, and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and respect for its border, we want action on the ground to deliver those promises in practice. Russia made promises last September and they were never put into practice. Implementation counts more than signatures on any bit of paper, however welcome those are as a first step forward. 

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For Ukraine, the association agreement represents a clear public commitment by both the EU and Ukraine to a deep relationship and close co-operation, and the continuation of much needed, deep-rooted reforms. Although the provisional application of the DCFTA has been postponed to 1 January 2016, the provisional application of important areas such as the rule of law and the fight against crime and corruption came into force on 1 November 2014. 

Georgia has been watching closely as events have unfolded in Ukraine. The Georgian Government and public have drawn parallels with the 2008 conflict with Russia. The Georgian Government are extremely concerned about the situation in Ukraine and its implications for their country, and have lobbied EU member states actively to ratify the association agreement as soon as possible. 

We remain clear, however, about the importance of Georgia’s continuing with its reform programme and fulfilling its commitments on signature of its agreement. Strengthened respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law are an integral part of the process of moving closer to the EU. While not without setbacks, Georgia’s progress in democratisation and economic reform over the past 10 years has been impressive. 

The agreement will further help to encourage Georgia to drive forward with genuine commitment and energy the reforms necessary for the country’s long-term security and prosperity. The European path has widespread support across Georgian society and that commitment is shared by the country’s main political parties. Since Georgia’s parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012 and 2013, which witnessed the first peaceful transfer of power in Georgia—itself a rarity in the former Soviet countries—the Georgian Dream coalition Government have remained committed to and continued the pro-EU trajectory set by their predecessor.

The wider South Caucasus region is strategically important to this country and the EU. Continued stability in that region is also important for our prosperity and energy security goals. It is therefore strongly in our interests that Georgia continues along its EU path. Since the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, the EU has played an important role in conflict resolution through its special representative for the South Caucasus and an EU monitoring mission that provides an effective monitoring presence along the administrative boundary lines between Georgia and both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Closer political association and greater economic integration into the EU is the most effective way to promote reform and modernisation in Georgia, as well as contributing to conflict resolution. 

Moldova held parliamentary elections on 30 November 2014. We expect a new coalition Government to be formed in the coming days. Moldova’s association agreement should help to keep on track and even, we hope, speed up the progress that the country has made since 2009 on administrative reform, improving the independence of the judiciary, combating discrimination and ensuring that democratic processes and respect for human rights are more deeply embedded in Moldovan society and more able to resist pressure from destabilising outside forces. 

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The protracted conflict in Transnistria remains unresolved, largely because of the malign role of Russia. Despite attempts by the European institutions, EU member states and the Government of Moldova, the de facto authorities in Tiraspol refused to engage meaningfully in negotiations over the association agreement. Nevertheless, an increasing share—now more than half—of Transnistrian exports go to EU countries. Many businesses in the Transnistria breakaway region have a strong interest in positive relations with both Chisinau and the EU and could be a positive influence for change. 

These association agreements will be supported by continuing financial and technical support from the European Union. The EU provides funding to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova under the European neighbourhood instrument. The Commission’s current plans are to allocate between €2.1 billion and €2.6 billion over the period 2014 to 2020 to support Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Exactly how much money is disbursed will depend on the pace of reform, but that allocation amounts to a significant increase on the previous multi-annual financial framework period for all three countries. 

We firmly believe that the implementation of the association agreements will bring mutual benefits to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova and the EU. However, we all need to be clear and honest with ourselves that this change will not happen overnight. The region is complex. There are no easy solutions to the crisis in Ukraine. Both Georgia and Moldova have protracted conflicts and disputed territories within their borders. The association agreements have the potential to make a positive impact on the region and on those conflicts as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine become more economically successful and politically stable, which I believe would also be to the advantage of Russia. However, we, along with our EU partners and the EU institutions, will need to stay closely involved to ensure that the agreements fulfil their potential and bring maximum benefits to that region of eastern Europe. 

I welcome the opportunity to debate this subject this morning and I commend the order to the Committee. 

11.54 am 

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab):  Thank you for your chairmanship, Mr Turner. I want to make a couple of points to the Committee and to the Minister about the agreements. The first point—an important point—is that with these association agreements, the countries involved must have a free choice as to whether to reach such agreements. Of course, no country should be forced to enter into such an association agreement, but neither should free and sovereign states be pressured into not doing so, either by force of arms or by other forms of intimidation. 

Of course our debate today takes place against the background of the unfolding situation in Ukraine. Overnight, we have heard that a ceasefire agreement has been reached. We might call it Minsk 2. The Ukrainian Government have said that they hope to secure their international border during the course of this year, but there are also areas close to the ceasefire line that are still under dispute. So, while an agreement appears to have been reached and that is welcome, all is certainly not yet clear. 

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All of us here hope that the agreement sticks and that the bloodshed stops, but that is not certain because Minsk 1, the agreement reached last year, failed to hold. The proxy war continued, the aggression increased, and Russian-backed rebels expanded the territory under their control. However, now we have this new ceasefire agreement brokered by Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. 

Even if this ceasefire holds, there remains not only the question of implementation, to which the Minister alluded, but the longer-term question of what happens to the areas that have been seized by the Russian-backed rebels. Will they be part of Ukraine in the future, or ultimately will the aggression that has taken place be rewarded with the creation of a new statelet of some kind, perhaps unrecognised by the international community and yet to all intents and purposes no longer really part of Ukraine? 

At the moment, we cannot say for sure what will happen, but it is clear that the integrity of a European state has been systematically undermined by force of arms. That raises important questions for us about what war is in the 21st century. Mr Putin has been described as a quintessentially 20th century figure and that may be true in terms of his aims, but his methods are a little different from those pursued in wars of the 20th century. The fostering of insurgency; deniability, however implausible, about the troops and weapons involved; some pretence at separation in decision making between those directly involved and their backers, and constant psychological assessment of what opponents will and will not do: here we have 20th century aims of taking over territory mingled with 21st century techniques of insurgency, rather than open invasion and war between recognisable armies. It is incumbent on us all to analyse this situation very carefully and think through how we will respond to it. 

The association agreement between the EU and Ukraine has been cited by some people, including some in this House, as a provocation that led, at least in part, to this proxy war in eastern Ukraine. The argument is that the EU, in negotiating such an agreement, poked the bear with a stick and that signing such an agreement was an act of recklessness by the EU. However, as the Minister pointed out, when the House debated these matters in December it was agreed that that was not the case. The EU association agreement with Ukraine was not rushed, was not a surprise and was not a provocation. It had been under discussion for seven years and had been supported by the previous pro-Russian leadership of Ukraine under President Yanukovych. The whole point of such agreements is to give a country access to the European market in exchange for reforms that encourage a democratic, honest and legally robust framework for that country’s future. 

Mr Heath:  The right hon. Gentleman is making a very important point. I think that we in this country should reject any equivalent of the 19th century concept of spheres of influence. It is simply not acceptable to say that countries that border Russia are somehow within the Russian sphere of influence, and therefore fair game for Putin’s machinations. Having said that, does he agree that it is also important that those countries recognise that they should never appear to disregard the Russian ethnicity, the Russian language or the Russian Orthodox Church within their borders, giving separatists a pretext to pursue their aims?

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Mr McFadden:  We must be careful in responding to this. If we talk to members of the EU with sizeable Russian-speaking populations, they will be clear that the human rights of all their citizens, including the Russian-speaking ones, are respected. I would emphasise what the hon. Gentleman said about spheres of influence: we cannot have a situation where free and sovereign countries are somehow subject to veto over their policies from Russia. 

The point of the association agreements is to give access to the European market in exchange for reforms. Given Ukraine’s economic and corruption problems, reforms in the direction of transparency, the rule of law and proper democratic accountability are hugely important. That is the path the Ukrainian Government want to pursue, but they will need help. 

To some extent, the Minister covered the timetable for reaching these agreements and their partial implementation, and I do not want to go over that ground again. However, I want to stress that it is not the association agreement that has caused the situation in eastern Ukraine, but Russia’s desperation to avoid Ukraine’s pursuing a path of democratic and economic reform, and its desire to keep Ukraine weak and dependent. 

On Georgia and Moldova, a similar argument applies. If they want to pursue these agreements, and if we are clear about the governance and economic reforms required, they should be free to do so. The reforms required as part of these agreements are not always easy for new democracies, but they are very much in their interests. I would like to ask the Minister, as I have before, what assistance we and the rest of the EU are offering countries as part of these association agreements to help them reach the goals on governance, transparency, honest accounting and anti-corruption measures. 

As I said at the beginning, we cannot have a situation where Russia tries to exercise a veto over the actions of its neighbours or to threaten consequences similar to those that have been visited upon Ukraine. 

A debate about these agreements, which were reached last year, seems, in a sense, a little out of time, given the extent to which events have moved on, as well as the events of recent days. However, they are still relevant, because they are about countries being able to choose their own path. 

On the declaration issued last night, and the reference to concerns raised by Russia, I am sure that Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and, indeed, our own Government are happy to discuss any concerns with Russia, but I hope that that does not mean recognising or admitting that Ukraine’s reaching this agreement was an illegitimate act or something the country did not have a right to do. There is a great difference between recognising concerns and being willing to discuss them, and recognising some kind of veto. I hope the Government will not go down that path—indeed, I am sure they will not. 

To conclude, countries have chosen to enter into these agreements. It is symptomatic of the way we discuss such things in Parliament that we are debating these agreements some time after they were reached. I am sure there is a better and quicker way to do these things, but that is probably an issue for after the election, rather than before. For today, however, I can say that the Opposition do not intend to divide the Committee and that we support the ratification the Minister outlined. 

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12.4 pm 

Sir William Cash:  I am not officially in a position to vote on this matter. In fact, I do not know that it will be necessary to do so. However, it is quite clear from the speech we have just heard that the shadow Minister for Europe takes the view that there was no provocation whatever by the signing of the agreement. I have taken a close interest in this and have done so over several years. I have no brief for Mr Putin or for the Russian view, but, if we want stability, harmony and good relations throughout the European region, it is important that we do not do things that have inevitable consequences. 

I have just come back from Riga. I was there over the weekend and I met those responsible for these matters in the Latvian presidency. I was there the previous weekend as well with the other chairmen of the national European affairs committees of the 28 member states. These matters were discussed exhaustively on both occasions for very good reasons, because they are not simple matters and it is not necessary to over-complicate them. I said on 13 March last year and in subsequent remarks to the Foreign Secretary and others in the House that the European Union has been naive in these matters. I am speaking now specifically about the EU-Ukraine association agreement, not the other two. 

I wrote a letter that appeared in The Times on Monday when I was in Riga, in which I mentioned that, as far as I was concerned, the EU had been ham-fisted in the manner in which it had gone about these questions. It is interesting to note that the agreement has not been mentioned so far at the talks in Minsk, but of course the United Kingdom is not actually at the talks. We do not have time to go into all that now, but there is an indication that the situation is a matter of uncertainty within the European Union itself. 

I ought to mention that when I was in Riga a very senior member of the Latvian presidency—I will not mention his name, because we were in a private meeting, but I will tell the Committee, because it is important—stated unequivocally, when I raised the nature of the EU-Ukraine agreement and those parts that related to the CDSP, which is the common defence and security policy, that a very serious mistake had been made. The shadow Minister for Europe should take note. When it was suggested in the Bucharest discussions in 2008 that Ukraine should be made part of NATO, the senior member of the Latvian presidency conceded that it was a serious mistake. 

The idea that the agreement, whose articles 7 and 10 and also 4 and 5 contain specific matters relating to political dialogue, has nothing to do with foreign and security policy is to distort the argument beyond recognition. In fact, title II of the association agreement is entitled, “Political Dialogue and Reform, Political Association, Cooperation and Convergence in the Field of Foreign and Security Policy”. Article 4 talks about promoting 

“gradual convergence on foreign and security matters with the aim of Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area.” 

Article 4(2) refers to increasing 

“political and security policy convergence”. 

It goes on to talk about developing dialogue and deepening 

“cooperation between the Parties in the field of security and defence”. 

Article 5 talks about holding meetings that would cover the same sort of area. 

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Article 7 states: 

“The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the…CSDP…and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and arms export control as well as enhanced mutually-beneficial dialogue in the field of space. Cooperation will be based on common values and mutual interests, and shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral, international and regional fora.” 

No one could doubt that that covers a wide range of military and other co-operation—it just does. It is there in the agreement. 

Again, article 8 on the International Criminal Court says: 

“The Parties shall cooperate in promoting peace and international justice by ratifying…the Rome Statute of the…ICC…of 1998”. 

Article 9, which I will not go into, also talks about working together for the peaceful settlement of regional conflicts. All that is very worthy, but the reality is that the shadow Minister has completely avoided mentioning those matters. 

Mr McFadden:  The hon. Gentleman mentioned the word “inevitable” when talking about the consequences of this action. Does he think it inevitable that Russia will carry out a proxy role in Georgia and Moldova? 

Sir William Cash:  I do not know. I have made it entirely clear that I hold no brief whatever for Russia or for Putin in this context. I am concerned about the opening of a window of opportunity by creating circumstances that have enabled him to take certain actions. It started in Crimea—by the way, my article of 13 March was written before the events in Crimea, not afterwards. What has happened in Donetsk, which has made things even more critical, is a very serious and dangerous situation, and not just between Russia, Ukraine and the neighbouring area; it is a matter of grave concern to the Baltic states. I met many representatives from those states when I was in Riga, and they are deeply anxious and worried. However, they have article 5 to fall back on. That is not the case for Ukraine. 

Mr Heath:  I am wondering what the pretext was for the virtual annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the recognition of Transnistria, none of which were provoked. It has been a doctrine of Russian foreign policy since the year dot to destabilise, weaken and create instability and political and economic weakness in its neighbours. I do not believe that we should stand by and allow that to happen, or simply recognise it as being a fait accompli. 

Sir William Cash:  I find that interesting, because it was the hon. Gentleman who raised the question of the Russian language situation. If he has been following events as closely as I have, he will know that the Russian language issue—by the way, it is a cause of extreme concern in Latvia and other Baltic states as well, because of the Russian connection, culturally speaking—is very hot. That has a great deal to do with this matter. The enforcement and imposition of the Ukrainian language on Russian-speaking Ukrainians is dangerous. That was proposed, although as far as I am aware not actually

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completely implemented, under the arrangements that followed the situation in March last year. It was part and parcel of the discussions that were going on. 

The Russian language situation in general is very sensitive, as the hon. Gentleman has mentioned himself. That is not to say that the Russians do not have ambitions. I do not dispute some of the aspects of the situation that he has referred to. What I have said and will repeat, going back not just to the past couple of years, but, as it happens, right the way back to—[ Interruption. ] Further back; it goes back to the Crimean war and 1855. This situation is not uncommon in that part of the world. The bottom line is that struggling to maintain peace and stability in that area presumes a degree of judgment and statesmanship that I am afraid has been sadly lacking from the EU in the way that it has treated the matter. 

For example, last November, a senior diplomat even proposed that the Ukrainian leadership would have to come to the EU on their knees if they did not do what it wanted. That is what was said. I have mentioned that in the House before and no one has challenged it—it is in documentation that I have in my files. The reality is that making serious mistakes of that kind does lead to a degree of provocation. I do not know why the shadow Minister is smiling, because, frankly, there is a heavy responsibility on all Governments to try to ensure the stability and security of the area. What was done at Bucharest was extremely naive and ham-fisted. 

My right hon. Friend the Minister has still not given a clear view on this, so perhaps he will be good enough to tell us. I have here a document that my office provided to me; it is the text of declaration, which refers to the issues that deeply worry Russia concerning the implementation of the Ukraine-European Union association agreement, but the declaration he has put before the Committee refers only to the deep and comprehensive free trade area agreement between Ukraine and the EU. There appears to be some uncertainty. I am not accusing anybody; I just want clarity. 

Are the articles of CDSP a matter of concern to Russia or not? That is what I am asking. Looking at their content, it would be slightly surprising to discover that it had no interest at all. I see that my right hon. Friend has been seeking advice on the matter, so perhaps he can give me an answer now. 

Mr Lidington:  I am happy to give my hon. Friend an answer. When Russia, very much at the last minute in the weeks immediately before the Vilnius summit in 2014, started to twist President Yanukovych’s arm and raise objections to the association agreement and the DCFTA, those objections were based entirely on claims that this would harm Russia’s economic interests. The CSDP references were not raised by Russia then, nor have they been raised in any of the seven years during which the association agreement has been negotiated. 

Sir William Cash:  I hear what my right hon. Friend says and no doubt we shall continue to examine this, but, from what I heard in Latvia, there is no doubt at all that the Bucharest agreement, which was an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, was clearly stated in front of other members of the Committee as having been a serious mistake. I see that one of the advisers looks

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puzzled. She may not know that that is the case, but I am telling her and the Committee that is what we were told. 

Mr Lidington:  My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to take the view that he does of the NATO conclusions at its Bucharest summit in 2008. What we are addressing here is not a NATO agreement, but an EU treaty. The EU CSDP is utterly different from the provisions of the NATO treaty and, in particular, the obligation under article 5, which he described in relation to Latvia. 

Sir William Cash:  Indeed. It is the convergence of the arguments whereby the EU moves towards NATO engagement that is part and parcel of the problem. All I would say is that this does not seem to be very wise when it is clear that there is a degree of interaction between the EU and NATO, whatever my right hon. Friend might say about the precise boundaries set out in the respective treaties. I have conceded—in fact, I have stated—that article 5 applies to the Baltic states, but it does not apply to Ukraine. Nor, at this moment in time, is Ukraine part of the EU. 

It is monumentally naive—I am not accusing my right hon. Friend specifically; I mean the EU as a whole—to assume that from Russia’s point of view there is no interaction or connection between the issues presented by the association agreement within the EU framework, including articles 7 and 10, and the NATO issue. That, obviously, also involves article 5, but there is bound to be an interactive engagement as far as Russia is concerned. Perhaps he has not seen a vast explosion on that subject from Russia specifically, but the idea that there is no interactive engagement between those situations is extremely naive. 

I hope that the ceasefire will hold. I hope, too, that lessons will be learned. My right hon. Friend might be entirely optimistic about the outcome of the discussions. Minsk I did not work. There are some very hot issues at the moment, which have not gone away. We can only hope that the discussions produce a satisfactory result, but, unfortunately, the provisional nature of the proposals relating to articles 7 and 10 has not been clarified as far as I am concerned. 

I had understood from the summit that the entire agreement—I think my right hon. Friend said this—had been subscribed to by 12 member states. He did not tell us, or I cannot recall, whether the United Kingdom was one of them. 

Mr Lidington:  If I may clarify, I think my hon. Friend will see, when he looks at the report of the debate, that I said 12 member states have already ratified the association agreement. Obviously, as we are going through the process of ratification, that does not yet include us. 

Sir William Cash:  That is encouraging, because it means that we may yet have some leverage if there is any reason to exercise it in what is an extremely delicate situation. That does not make it any better that, as far as one can judge, we have effectively been excluded from the discussions. Angela Merkel has been off to see President Obama. I can understand how concerned people are, but President Hollande and Angela Merkel have made the front running. Whether the exclusion

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was deliberate or by agreement I would not know. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that? Were we actually excluded or did it just happen—that we thought it would be better for things to be dealt with by Germany and France? Will he be kind enough to answer that question now? 

Mr Lidington:  I would prefer to do that in my closing remarks. 

Sir William Cash:  I thank my right hon. Friend. The situation remains a matter of deep worry and the EU bears a significant responsibility for the way it has handled the matter. There has been considerable provocation and it would be better off if it were to learn lessons from the way it has gone about this. 

12.23 pm 

Mr Lidington:  I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone for their speeches. 

I thank the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East for his support for the agreement and his robust approach to the policy that the Russian Government, to our great regret, seem intent on following. I agree wholly with what he said: it is ultimately for the sovereign independent countries themselves to decide what sort of agreement they want or do not want with the European Union. No other state—Russia or anyone else—should exercise any kind of veto. 

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the parts of Ukraine that are currently beyond the control of the Ukrainian Government in Kiev will continue to be part of Ukraine. I draw a distinction there, in terms of the Minsk language, between the Donbass situation and Crimea. 

In respect of Donbass, the published declaration, which has been issued on behalf of President Putin as well as President Poroshenko, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande, says that they all reaffirm their full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Later on in that declaration by the four leaders, there are references that go back to the Minsk protocol of September, which of course provided for fresh elections to be held in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution and Ukrainian law. 

The words that have been agreed by President Putin and others indicate that they all accept that Donetsk and Luhansk should be part of Ukraine. It is a statement of fact that Russia is so far refusing to even hint about any compromise over its illegal annexation of Crimea. I think that there is a difference. It is obviously the position of the United Kingdom and that of all other EU member states that we do not and will not recognise that annexation. 

Sir William Cash:  It is not a question of whether we like the fact that Crimea is now being, as it were, de facto—or whatever the words are—incorporated into Russia. Of course, the Minister knows perfectly well that Crimea was handed over by Khrushchev in 1954 as a gift, so we are told. However, the question arises, as a matter of statesmanship, if I may use the expression, what are we to do when everybody who the Minister has

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described is saying that, although it is now annexed illegally by Russia, at the same time—despite the statement mentioning territorial integrity and all that sort of thing—there is no certainty and no apparent means whereby Crimea could be returned to Ukraine? What is the end game? Does he really believe, as I put it to the Foreign Secretary, that it will be returned to Ukraine or not, and how? 

Mr Lidington:  I am being tempted beyond the parameters of the debate. However, let me say briefly that my hon. Friend has rightly built himself a reputation as a champion of national sovereignty and independence, and that is an important principle. What happened in 1954 is as he stated, but Russia subscribed to the Helsinki Final Act, which obliged all signatories to drop any thought of changing European borders by force. At the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia solidly entered into a number of international treaties and agreements that recognised Ukraine within the boundaries of the Ukrainian Republic as they stood at the time of the dissolution of the USSR. As recently as the Sochi winter Olympics, the Ukrainian team marched into the arena and, as with every other team, a map of their country went up on the screens—in their case showing Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine. 

This claim by Russia was devised in the early months of 2014, to demonstrate its power and to appeal to nationalist sentiment in Russia. The danger here is that acquiescing in that annexation would set a serious precedent for the redrawing of borders by force elsewhere in Europe and, indeed, elsewhere around the world, where some countries, for various historical reasons, are unhappy with internationally recognised frontiers as they currently exist. After all, we in the United Kingdom, under successive Governments, refused to recognise Russia’s annexation of three Baltic republics for more than half a century. A principle is at stake here, not just a matter of realpolitik. 

Sir William Cash:  Will the Minister give way? 

Mr Lidington:  No. My hon. Friend has had a fair go. I want to make some progress. 

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East made a good point in asking what was the nature of war on the 21st century. I refer him back to the declaration and conclusions at the end of the NATO Wales summit last year, when all allies committed themselves to look urgently at hybrid warfare and how NATO should configure or calibrate its response to such threats. 

The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the help being offered by the United Kingdom and the European Union. In the next three years, in addition to the macro-financial support through the EU budget and, more importantly, the international financial institutions, the EU will focus on three broad priority areas for reform in Ukraine: public administration, agriculture and rural development, and the judicial system. I am happy to write to any member of the Committee who is interested in further detail about Ukraine or about Georgia and Moldova. 

The UK, bilaterally, is providing £10 million in technical assistance to support economic and government reforms in Ukraine and to provide humanitarian assistance. The Foreign Secretary and I have also said in our meetings

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with Ukrainian leaders that, if they have specific requests, in particular for technical assistance—the deployment of the kind of know-how that we did successfully in the years after the collapse of the iron curtain—then we are keen to look at any such proposals. 

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone asked me a number of questions. On previous occasions, we have debated how and why Russia came to object. My view, which I think is shared by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East, remains very much as I have expressed it before. I do not accept the thesis that the EU poked the bear with a stick. The negotiations for an association agreement had gone on for seven years. When I went to Kiev in October 2013, I met President Yanukovych’s chief of staff, his Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister, all of whom told me that the President had taken his decision and that they wanted to sign, they wanted to sweep obstacles away and they wanted to get on with things. Only at the last minute, because of intervention by the Kremlin at the most senior level, did President Yanukovych change his mind. 

We have also debated CSDP before. I simply say to my hon. Friend that, yes, I would very much welcome closer work between the EU and Ukraine on arms control, arms exports control and non-proliferation. We should all welcome that, just as we should welcome the contacts and conversations that continue even now between the United Kingdom and other western countries, and Russia about those same subjects, whether in a United Nations context or otherwise. Furthermore, if Ukraine wants to take part in CSDP missions and to send people to take part in police training in Afghanistan or to contribute to the EU CSDP mission in the Central African Republic or Mali, I do not see why we should be fearful of that prospect. 

Sir William Cash:  A simple point: I have a text of the declaration that my office provided to me, but the text that the Minister provided refers specifically, as he said, to the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. The other text, which I have, refers to the agreement as a whole and not only to the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. I want to know as a matter of fact. 

Mr Lidington:  I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that. The text referring to the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, which is the one that I distributed in Committee this morning, is the text that has been published. I have had my officials check during the sitting that the one that we distributed referring to the DCFTA is the authoritative text. Now, whether Russia’s political objections to the association agreement

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run more deeply is a matter that President Putin needs to answer, but the declared concerns of Russia deal with the DCFTA provisions. 

My hon. Friend asked about the Russian language. It is true that in a foolish and hot-headed moment after the flight of President Yanukovych, the then Verkhovna Rada in Ukraine voted to remove the special status of the Russian language. I think that it is fair to say that the status that it wished to repeal had only existed for a couple of years in Ukraine, but nevertheless the important point is that the acting President, Mr Turchynov, immediately vetoed further progress on the law. In spite of that, the removal of special status was used by Russian propagandists as a way to blacken the Government and the President before and after the 2014 elections. 

Similarly, Russia has talked continuously about the presence of fascists and anti-Semites in Ukraine, although the neo-fascist parties got a risibly low proportion of the vote in both presidential and parliamentary elections, and members of Ukraine’s Jewish community have been serving in government in senior positions in the country over the past 12 months. Such actions remind us that we seem to have a specific Kremlin policy of deliberately soiling the reputation of a democratically elected President and Government in Ukraine. 

The agreements that we are debating are in the interests of the United Kingdom, as well as in those of Europe as a whole. I hope that the Committee will endorse them. 

Question put and agreed to.  


That the Committee has considered the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Ukraine) Order 2015. 



That the Committee has considered the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Georgia) Order 2015.—(Mr Lidington.)  



That the Committee has considered the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Association Agreement) (Moldova) Order 2015.—(Mr Lidington.)  

12.37 pm 

Committee rose. 

Prepared 13th February 2015