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Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) Article 1, other than paragraph 10 (Title V of the Treaty on European Union (provisions on a common foreign and security policy and defence identity)),").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 5, I recognise that we are entering an important debate covering a common foreign and security policy. Given the time and the decision to move on to debate these important amendments, which I welcome, I intend to focus my remarks on the common foreign policy, recognising that it is grouped with defence issues. I am sure that we shall return to the subject of defence on the next day in Committee unless unexpectedly your Lordships complete the debate tonight. But that is unlikely.

I have tabled a number of amendments which are grouped with Amendment No. 5 in order to address some of the revisions made to provisions for the common foreign and security policy by the Treaty of Amsterdam. As your Lordships are aware, the CFSP was established by the Maastricht Treaty to build on the process of European political co-operation. From these Benches, we believe that it is strongly in this country's national interests that members of the European Union should speak and act together as much as possible on the world stage in situations where they have shared interests. Wherever possible, a common foreign and security policy should lead from common analysis through common policy to common action. Since the establishment of a second pillar, the co-ordination of foreign policy has had some success. Under the previous government, Britain played a role in a number of effective common positions and joint actions under the CFSP, as well as important work outside these formal instruments.

We are well aware that common positions have covered areas from Angola to the Ukraine. There has also been joint action from the stability pact in central and eastern Europe; on Rwanda; on the delivery of humanitarian aid in Bosnia; on the administration of Mostar; on assistance to the Middle East peace process, including the organisation of Palestinian elections; on election monitoring in Russia and South Africa; and on the promotion of nuclear non-proliferation.

Nevertheless, against that background, I should like the Minister's assurance tonight that, under this Government, the CFSP will never become an exclusive policy which will replace national foreign policy. I am sure that he will give that undertaking or, indeed, if the noble Baroness is to reply, I am sure that she will do so. However, where specific British interests are at stake, it is vital that we retain our freedom of action and that we are not constrained by collective decisions which we do not support. That is why the CFSP was established as a distinct pillar of the structure of the European Union under Title V of the Maastricht Treaty, under which co-operation is intergovernmental and the role of Community institutions is strictly limited. That is why decisions on CFSP should be taken by unanimity,

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including those decisions to allow the implementation of measures for specific actions to be taken by majority voting.

Under Article J.3 of the Maastricht Treaty, on the advice of the European Council, the Foreign Affairs Council could decide that some matters should be subjects for joint action. The Foreign Affairs Council was empowered to agree by unanimity that certain decisions with a joint action could, in turn, be decided by QMV. This meant that any single member state could insist that there was not majority voting on a particular subject, and that all decisions connected with a joint action were taken by consensus. We were told that one of the Government's aims at the Amsterdam summit was to retain Britain's veto over issues of common and foreign policy, although I have to admit that the Foreign Secretary's pronouncements on this seemed to be increasingly equivocal as the summit approached.

It is true that the provisions of the treaty mean that the overall strategy on foreign policy issues and the most import decisions of principle--common strategies or general guidelines--will remain a matter for unanimous decision-making in the European Council. So, in that sense, we welcome the fact that the Government have succeeded in their aim. However--and I believe that this is the issue upon which we shall focus in the debate this evening and, indeed, when we return to the matter on the next day of the Committee proceedings--the Amsterdam Treaty contains significant changes to the CFSP decision-making process, by providing for more majority voting in the operation of the CFSP.

Article J.13 provides for subsequent decisions on the implementation of those overall strategies; that is, on the adoption of joint actions. The latter are defined in Article J.4 as,

    "[addressing] specific situations where operational action by the Union is deemed to be required".

But that does not apply only to joint actions; indeed, "common positions" are also defined in Article J.5, which says:

    "The Council shall adopt common positions. Common positions shall define the approach of the Union to a particular matter of geographical or thematic nature".

We had a fairly lengthy debate on the concept of xenophobia, but I anticipate that many noble Lords will be focused on exactly what we are talking about in the context of a matter being of a "thematic nature". Article J.13 provides for subsequent decisions on the implementation of the overall strategies, which include any other decisions made on the basis of a "common strategy" to be taken by QMV in the Council of Ministers. Given that a common strategy is separate from the principles of, and general guidelines for, the common foreign and security policy, can the Minister define exactly what is meant by a "common strategy", as it is nowhere defined in the treaty? Can the Minister also tell us what decisions it is likely to result in, which we would then have no power to prevent?

We would have no power to prevent such decisions, although it is true that we could abstain. Article J.13, paragraph (1), provides for a constructive abstention

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mechanism. Countries who use this mechanism and who make a formal declaration explaining the reasons for the abstention will be able to opt out of the implementation of those decisions, while allowing the majority of countries to press ahead. However, abstainers would also have to accept that the decision committed the Union as a whole and they could not undermine or seek to thwart it subsequently. According to Article J.13, paragraph 1,

    "in a spirit of mutual solidarity, the Member State concerned shall refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede Union action based on that decision".

If past experience has taught us anything, it is that constructive abstention is a tool best used in a "can't, not "won't" situation, when a country agrees with a decision, but for domestic reasons is not able to participate in its adoption. Can the Minister assure the Committee that the Government do not envisage this article being used to persuade a member state against acting in its national interests if it goes against the views of the majority? Can the Minister tell us if constructive abstention is an adequate and appropriate mechanism to deal with real disagreements between countries over foreign policy decisions? If it is not, it would appear that the Euro train will be repeatedly stopped and delayed as its passengers pull the "emergency cord". The Prime Minister is proud of this "emergency brake" mechanism contained within Article J.13, whereby a country will be able to exercise a national veto and prevent a vote being taken, if there are,

    "important and stated reasons of national policy"

which cause it to oppose a decision. Can the Minister tell us what will constitute an important, stated reason of national policy, and who will arbitrate on the matter, and whether the action of a member state in this position would be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice?

Furthermore, if a number of other states can achieve a qualified majority on the decision, is it not the case that the adoption of the decision would be regarded as postponed? For the matter could then be referred to the European Council for a decision to be taken by unanimity, which the country in question would have to veto. Given that the number of decisions taken by QMV in the Council of Ministers will ultimately be determined by the number of common strategies decided upon by consensus in the European Council, and by the political will of a particular presidency to try the QMV procedures on decisions of a secondary nature, what vision do the Government have for the practical operation--I am focusing here--of qualified majority voting? Does the treaty text not indicate that the use of the national veto would be seen as a last resort and that countries will not be encouraged to express dissent in this way, even when their national interests are affected?

Let us take an example. Can the Minister tell the Committee what would happen if a decision on a common strategy had been agreed by unanimity to take certain action--against Iraq, to use a still topical example--if then a qualified majority decision was taken that that action should stop short of the use of force? Could such a decision be taken by QMV, so that if this country wanted to use force it would be debarred

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from doing so by the qualified majority voting provision? The treaty clearly provides that decisions having military or defence implications will be taken by unanimity. I understand that clearly. Therefore, a decision to use force would certainly be taken by unanimity, but it is not clear whether a decision not to use force could be taken by QMV, in which case a country who thought the use of force was justified would effectively be prevented from acting independently.

We on these Benches do not accept that the previous unanimity provisions for CFSP were a constraint on its development, nor that CFSP has been strengthened by the introduction of voting models which could override the key concerns of member states. If there is no collective will within the European Union to act, it is unwise to try to force action through artificial voting procedures. The member states have already agreed, at Maastricht, that they should not try to stand in the way of a given policy which has majority support. The CFSP will only carry weight internationally if it represents a genuinely common policy and not a majority one.

I therefore would like an assurance from the Minister that the Government agree that the CFSP should be a complement to national foreign policies, not a replacement for them, and that this does not represent a move away from the intergovernmental approach and a true common foreign policy agreed by all towards a common foreign policy agreed by most. Such fears are raised by even seemingly small changes. For example, Article J.1 began in the Maastricht Treaty with the words,

    "The Union and its Member States shall define and implement a common foreign policy and security policy, governed by the provisions of this title and covering all areas of foreign and security policy".

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, is right in Committee to concentrate on the importance of nuances. In the new version, in the Amsterdam Treaty, we lose "and its member states". Those words are now omitted. It is now no longer,

    "the Union and its Member States shall define and implement a common foreign policy".

It is,

    "The Union shall define and implement a common foreign policy".

It is in order to express those concerns, and to elicit a response from the noble Baroness when she sums up at the conclusion of consideration of these amendments, that I have tabled new Clause 41, which seeks to give Parliament an enhanced role in the consideration of the decision-making arrangements for the common foreign and security policy. I welcome the Minister's comments on these issues and the opportunity to hear the rationale behind the Government's acceptance of these changes to the decision-making procedures of the CFSP.

I turn briefly to the creation of the position of the High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy. I congratulate the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, Jurgen Trumpf, on his appointment as the High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy in accordance with Article J.8. However, I wish to ask to whom he will be

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accountable, and what will be his role in promoting decisions where there have been constructive abstentions? The terms of the reference for his office, I hope the Government will agree, clearly need to be carefully drafted to make sure that the high representative is fully answerable to the Council of Ministers and is representing the collective views of member states, not deciding them. Furthermore, when there are constructive abstentions, will those countries going ahead have, for example, access to European Union institutions and funding, which of course are paid for by all member states, even those which abstain?

Again, I shall attempt to be as brief as I can, but there are many issues to be covered under this collection of amendments. Perhaps I may touch on the planning and early warning cell. In the Amsterdam Treaty we see the creation of the planning and early warning cell. I welcome the treaty's provision to set this up under the declaration on the establishment of a policy planning and early warning unit, which I hope will provide improved planning for the CFSP in the form of policy papers, analysis and options for crisis situations. In order to have a more active, effective and coherent CFSP which maintains its inter-governmental character, we need to develop co-ordination between the member states in planning analysis and implementation of common policies. However, I should like clarification from the Minister on the requirement for member states and the Commission to provide,

    "to the fullest extent possible, relevant information, including confidential information",

to the unit. What best efforts will be made to prevent leaks of such information? How will this affect our unique shared defence and intelligence arrangements with the United States?

Today the nations of Europe live together in a state of interdependence within a framework of collective standards and disciplines set by a number of international bodies including the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. No negative connotations should be attached to the possession, and indeed the active promotion, of our national foreign policy interests, even when they quite naturally differ from those of our neighbours. I believe that we have reached a time when the "national interest" can be defined as the collective expression of the democratic process in each of our countries: it represents the guiding spirit of democracy. It is for that reason that our foreign policy should be decided here, with the Foreign Secretary answerable to the House.

Moreover, the CFSP is still a fledgling. Its machinery is still running in. It has much potential and, where it acts with the grain of our national traditions and represents the coincidence of our national interests with those of our European partners, it will succeed. But where the CFSP is forced into the rhetoric of solidarity and unity when, whether for geographical, political or historical reasons, that does not reflect reality, it will surely fail.

For example, can the Minister explain how the Government envisage that Article J.9 will work in the future? That article obliges member states to

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co-ordinate their actions and policies at international gatherings to a greater extent than previously, including the requirement that the permanent members of the UN Security Council (for example, Britain and France) must defend the positions and the interests of the Union. But, for example, how should we have fulfilled the requirements of that article during the recent Iraq crisis? In that situation, when we did not always see eye to eye with France on the means to resolve the Iraq crisis, which country would have been deemed to be defending the position and interests of the Union within the Security Council?

No one disputes that close and effective co-operation with our neighbours should be pursued when it is in the interests of the people of Britain, but achieving common positions must not become a goal in its own right. I beg to move Amendment No. 5 standing in my name and the names of other noble Lords.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: First, perhaps I might congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on setting out very clearly the position of his party and asking a series of very important questions about the common foreign and security policy. During my brief remarks, perhaps I might take a somewhat different approach to this issue, and then invite the Minister to adjudicate between those positions--which will not be easy.

It seems to me that the European Union is necessarily the anchor of stability for the whole of the Continent of Europe--a continent that goes beyond the member states of the European Union to include a very uncomfortable, and often very unstable, periphery. We are all very much aware that there is at the present time a critical situation in Kosovo and that there is a very troubling situation in Albania. We are all certainly aware that Bosnia is far from having reached a settled state of mind following the Dayton Agreement. There are many commentators who believe that, once--if indeed it happens in the near future--the NATO force is removed or removes itself, we should quite rapidly move back to a very troubling situation in Bosnia.

For all those reasons, there is another danger as great as that outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan; namely, the danger of not adopting common foreign policy positions. For it is important to say that the European Union is quite widely regarded by those who wish us well, including some of our most prominent allies, as a relatively ineffective form of co-operation between the member states of the European Union.

As some noble Lords know, I have spent a good deal of my life recently in the United States. One of the opinions that has been visited upon me time and again in various seminars and conferences in which I have taken part is the sense on the part of American administrations, and in particular of the State Department, that the European Union is a relatively uncoordinated and ineffective ally. The criticisms addressed to Britain and France over Bosnia reached a very sustained level for a number of years before finally the Dayton agreement was virtually imposed upon an unsettled situation. Even today, the United States has

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made it plain on more than one occasion that it would welcome a much more co-ordinated policy on the part of the European Union.

We have the Petersburg declarations. We have the fact that the European Union is by far the main source of aid and economic assistance to the whole of its periphery. That is so, even if we extend it to include a major country like Russia, the Ukraine or the countries that lie in eastern Europe and that are not yet part of the enlargement process. In almost all these areas--and I can extend that to the Maghreb and the Middle East--the European Union is the crucial economic actor.

But that economic influence is not paralleled by political influence in anything like the same way. One has the impression that the European Union has up to now simply not been able to speak with an effective voice. That is a matter of great seriousness, because all around the edges of the European Union are areas of profound and troubling instability, of which the Middle East and the Maghreb are but two further instances.

For all those reasons we have to look at the instrument that is being forged in the treaty and ask whether it is an instrument that could possibly work. I have to say that there are so many ways out of any kind of foreign policy that I do not believe any noble Lord in this House should be in the least concerned about the possibility that a common foreign policy could be imposed. We have constructive abstention under J.13. We have the right to ensure that one will not be part of any joint operation. We have the right to state that for compelling national reasons no qualified majority vote can be taken and the matter must be referred to the European Council and that the European Council must reach its decision by unanimity. Frankly, in a situation of crisis such an elaborate and complex way of reaching a decision is tantamount to reaching no decision at all.

In addition, we have the right of any nation not to take part in a particular operation, to stand outside it. Then there is only the rather minimal requirement that it does not oppose that operation if it finds itself in a minority. If that minority is one-third, then immediately again, even under qualified majority voting, any joint operation can be blocked by that minority. For all those reasons, I am surprised that anyone should be much concerned about what appears to me to be an extremely weak title of the Treaty of Amsterdam. It is a much weaker title, in my view, than a title that concerns internal security and home affairs.

Before I conclude, I once again remind the Committee that we are in an extremely serious situation because of our inability to co-ordinate European foreign policy, even on a basis of limited mutual consensus. Allow me to give one example. In the past two years we have seen in parallel a proposal to expand NATO and to enlarge the European Union. That expansion and enlargement engaged almost all, though not invariably all, the same countries. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and others were all involved in NATO expansion and in European Union enlargement. Both of them have set out on that parallel path.

However, I was certainly shocked to discover that there had been virtually no discussion at all between those who led NATO and those who led the European

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Union; that the European Union had made assumptions about the financial cost of enlargement--incidentally stringent assumptions--without regard to the cost of meeting the requirements of NATO and NATO had decided to embark upon expansion without even considering the issues of enlargement. It seemed to me that in anything except a calm period, for such a total gap to open up between allies with similar goals was an extraordinary occurrence and could in certain circumstances be a very dangerous occurrence. Even today the joint burden of enlargement and expansion in fragile economies in central and eastern Europe is, in the view of a number of us, considerably greater than they themselves recognise.

In concluding what I have to say, let me draw attention to the downside of a failure to create at least a minimum common policy; to the downside of failure to create a serious dialogue between the European Union and the United States on issues like the expansion of NATO. I hope, in responding, that the noble Baroness will tell us what steps can be taken to strengthen the prospects of European common foreign policy, not least in fields like the Petersberg declaration, which concerns mainly humanitarian issues, and in the complex and largely unsatisfactory inter-institutional agreement about how to finance joint operations, which seems to end in a rather dying form by saying, "If there cannot be agreement, we don't know what to do, except that it cannot be any more than it was last year". That is hardly an adequate base on which to erect a serious degree of common foreign policy.

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