Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monson: I do not see how we can seriously contemplate a common security policy when the interests of each EU nation are so divergent. The other EU countries, in particular the Mediterranean countries, are positively Palmerstonian in taking the view that the interests of their countries are eternal. But they are more ruthless than Palmerston ever was. The Spanish, for example, seriously threatened to block the accession of Sweden, Finland and Austria unless they were granted fishery and other concessions. Yet for some reason the Europe enthusiasts never accuse the Spanish of being bad Europeans. That accusation is reserved permanently for Britain alone.

Recently we have seen how France leans over backwards to placate Saddam Hussein; partly in the hope of gaining valuable trade concessions and partly, no doubt, to keep the skies over Paris unpolluted by anthrax spores.

In an interesting article published last autumn, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, asked how there can be a common defence between countries some of which are wholly within NATO, some of which are precluded from defence obligations and one of which--France--is a semi-detached member of NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, went on to ask:

I never fail to be astonished by the hatred--at any rate, dislike--for the United States manifested by the French political classes: not by the ordinary French people who are reasonably pro-American, but les enarques. If there is one country they dislike more than the United States it is Japan--although how Paris would survive without Japanese tourism I do not know! But the attitude is curious, particularly given the part played by the American forces in liberating France in 1944. It is totally alien to our own view and the view of most other EU nations. Therefore, there can be no co-operation on that aspect.

The thought of closer co-operation with Greece is somewhat worrying. I well remember when the late Lord Gladwyn, a passionate Euro-enthusiast, as noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches will agree, sadly stated from the Liberal Benches more than 10 years ago that in retrospect it had been a mistake to admit Greece to the Community, at least as early as it was admitted, so troublesome had that country been. Although I have come to know Turkey well over the years and have many friends in that country, I do not

26 Mar 1998 : Column 1396

automatically subscribe to the view that Turkey is invariably right and that Greece and the Greek sector of Cyprus are invariably wrong in their manifold disputes. However, undoubtedly Turkey is more sinned against than sinning in the western media coverage it receives. Unfortunately for them, the Turks, like the Ulster unionists, are not nearly as adept at public relations, spin doctoring and switching on the charm as are their opponents. That gives rise to anxiety that the dexterity of Greece in its special pleading might drag us and possibly other western European nations into a conflict which could break out between Greece and Turkey at some time during the next five, 10, 15 or 20 years if the common security policy were to become a reality.

The Earl of Onslow: I was interested to see when we considered the disputes that are actually going on between members of the European Community that there is a row between the English and the Irish over the border; there is a row between the British and the Spanish over Gibraltar; and that there is a permanent row going on between the Greeks and the Turks. I suspect that the Spaniards would take a very different view over the Falkland Islands than we take. That is just within Europe. It also seems to me that it is impossible to expect the Finns to have the same sort of attitude to foreign policy that the Greeks or the Spaniards would take.

When the capital of Germany moves from Bonn to Berlin the psychology of German politics will change from what I suggest would be a Rhine palatinate, almost a Hapsburg view of Europe--or certainly a Burgundian view of Europe--to that of a Hohenzollern or Eastern-Prussian view of Europe. I am not casting any moral judgments here, I am just suggesting that when that capital moves, with the Polish border 80 miles away, that is psychologically bound to happen.

For no other reason than the fact that we have 22 miles of what Black Adder would call "wet, blue wobbly stuff" between us and the rest of the Continent, psychologically we have a different view on foreign affairs. Indeed, we have a different outlook to history and to trade. It is rumoured in newspaper reports that, under the next defence review, the present Labour Government are thinking of producing two fleet carriers with the capability of 40 aircraft. That reflects the attitude of a maritime global policy, but it does not stop us co-operating with Finland on something, with Greece on something else or, indeed, with France on other matters. But to suggest that Mr. Poos should have any control over HMS "Illustrious", the "Indefatigable", the "Ark Royal", or whatever she will be called, strikes me as being a rather dangerous idea; and I put it no higher than that.

We have had the farce of a concerted European policy over Bosnia, which fell between two stools: it meddled, but did not impose; or it just did not let the whole gang of Balkan thugs slit each other's throats, which would have been a Bismarckian approach to such affairs. Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' memories back a little to a splendid remark by Bismarck that the whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. So, for five years, we got our

26 Mar 1998 : Column 1397

Balkan policy completely wrong until some leadership was imposed by the Americans and, I believe, by British and French troops on the ground outside Sarajevo, acting together rather than under the aegis of something in Brussels.

We are a grown-up country. We are much too settled to have a sort of committed foreign policy, with all the inherent dangers it brings, set in tablets of stone and which becomes the law of the Medes and the Persians in an unrepealable treaty. For heaven's sake, let us co-operate and let us be friends and, on occasions if we have to, go to war alongside German soldiers, if that is in the interests both of Germany and of England--or, indeed, French soldiers. Let us not tie the hands of Her Britannic Majesty's Foreign Secretaries for generations to come.

Lord Renton: I wish to draw attention to the strange evolution which has taken place within the European Union on the question of co-operation with regard to foreign affairs. The Rome Treaty put forward no arrangements, except perhaps by implication. However, if the integration which is envisaged as the long-term aim of that treaty were to be fully implemented, there would have to be some such co-operation. It was not until the Single European Act that we had anything written into any treaty about it. That legislation put the emphasis this way:

    "The Member States shall endeavour jointly to formulate and implement a common European foreign policy".

But the Maastricht Treaty carried evolution a stage further. Instead of just referring to member states, it referred to,

    "the Union and the Member States".

It said that they were to,

    "define and implement a common policy to cover all areas of foreign and security policy".

Now we have Amsterdam which does not refer to member states at all; it refers simply to "the Union" and says:

    "The Union will define and implement the policy".

What we have to be careful to consider is how it will do so: who will take the responsibility? We get the answer from paragraph (1) of Article J.8, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, has already referred, which says:

    "The Presidency shall represent the Union in matters coming within the common foreign and security policy".

It refers to the "Presidency". That is not a description of an individual; it is a description of a condition, a state, in which an individual may be involved. We know now that the individual will only hold that position for six months and that it will change every six months. Paragraph (3) of Article J.8 says that the "Presidency shall be assisted". One would have hoped that would be by the Foreign Ministers in the Council of Ministers; but no, it is not so:

    "The Presidency shall be assisted by the Secretary-General of the Council who shall exercise the function of High Representative for the common foreign and security policy".

26 Mar 1998 : Column 1398

So, instead of having member states being consulted, getting together and co-operating, the Amsterdam Treaty requires that we delegate the whole of that responsibility to whoever occupies the presidency for a period of six months. Admittedly, the Secretary-General will provide a bit of continuity because he holds the job for some years, but is that a satisfactory situation?

When introducing the debate today the noble Lord, Lord Shore, referred to "consultancy". That is what we need. There is no evidence in Article J.8 to show that there will be any prior consultation. Indeed, there seems to be a complete delegation to whoever happens to hold the presidency for six months. That is not a satisfactory situation. It could lead to extremely difficult consequences, and I believe that we should be very wary of it.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: This is an important part of the treaty and I am glad that we are devoting attention to it. Of course, much of it is not entirely new. It represents in part an evolution of what we have been engaged in since we joined the European Community some 27 years ago--indeed, Britain began to take part in European political co-operation in mid-1972, well before we joined the Community proper--and part of what the current treaty represents is a regularisation of activities which are already under way.

I have sympathy with part of the purpose of the amendments which we are discussing. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some assurance on my next point. Much of what has happened has not been reported to national parliaments. All that is covered under the second pillar is that which is least subject to national scrutiny. I note that the European Communities Committee of this Chamber now has a sub-committee--of which I am proud to be the chair--which covers the third pillar but does not cover all the activities which come under what is now called CFSP.

I am old enough to remember Jim Callaghan--now the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan--when he was Foreign Secretary telling us how useful he found foreign policy consultations when he first occupied that office in 1974. The great achievement of European political co-operation at that time was the Helsinki process, the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. It was one of the ways in which the west Europeans, as a group, managed to persuade the Soviet Union that pan-European consultations on security issues and on human rights and civil liberties were part of an East/West process. It was a time when the United States was not actively interested in European affairs.

I remember the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he was Foreign Secretary pressing, under British presidency, for a report to strengthen foreign policy consultations, which was of course the London report of 1980. I remember Michael Heseltine when he was defence Minister introducing a particularly useful initiative for the strengthening of the Western European Union because of the desirability--as it seemed to him--of strengthening European defence consultations and in particular of feeding through European defence

26 Mar 1998 : Column 1399

consultations into a more common view about what kind of weapons we wished to procure. So there is nothing immensely new in this. I did not recognise the rather Churchillian picture of Britain as a world power surrounded by countries that did not look beyond their boundaries that the noble Lord, Lord Shore, presented to us. That is a very "East of Suez" depiction of the world. One of the questions we shall discuss when the strategic defence review is produced is where Britain's defence stands--

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page