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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that he does not like the present composition of the European Parliament? The parliament was elected by people, so what is his beef against it?
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I am in the middle of explaining my beef against the European Parliament. The Government pretend to be pro-small business, pro-enterprise. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said that the European Parliament is pro-enterprise. This proposed law gives the lie to that. The European Parliament is stifling enterprise. Worker participation and worker co-decision in commercially-sensitive areas will stop people making a success of their business. So that is why I have a beef with the European Parliament.
That is but one example of the kind of rubbish of which the presidency conclusions in Annex 1 are so proud, calling the European social agenda,
Article 191 has already been referred to. This article could be used to refuse funding to political parties which do not meet the acceptability criteria at European level. That seems to mean that any party which is rude about Europe will not get any funding. I believe that that is what it means. Perhaps the noble Baroness will clarify the matter in her reply.
Finally, under Article 7, the Council may now decide, by a majority rather than by unanimity, when it deems that there is "a clear risk" of a breach of fundamental rights in a member state, that the state can be ostracised, thereby losing its voting powers and its power of veto. We saw an example of that last year when Austria was effectively stripped of its rights and ostracised. Even members of the Government who were questioned on the matter admitted that Austria had done absolutely nothing wrong. It was thought that Austria might do something wrong, so it was better to ostracise it early on--a kind of pre-emptive ostracisation.
Is that really acceptable? I do not think that it is in any kind of democracy. A lot of hot air is spoken about democracy in the European Union, but the decisions of governments--particularly those elected by universal suffrage--should be respected and not simply overturned because members of the European Union do not like them.
The treaty as it stands simply will not do. The Irish have rejected it. According to the EU's own rules, that, as I understand it, is the end of the matter. So why are
I conclude by reminding your Lordships that whenever the voters of Europe have been asked for their opinion on whether they want more EU or not, their answer has been very clear. First, there was the Danish referendum: Denmark gave the thumbs down to the single currency. There was the Swiss vote in March this year in which 77 per cent of voters indicated that they did not want the Swiss Government even to open negotiations with the European Union. And in May there was the Irish referendum. Those are three very clear messages. Why do we not listen to them?
Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, one of the notorious problems with debates on Europe is the gap between visions (or nightmares, as the case may be) on the one hand, and the often grubby reality of the European Union--or, to put it a little less dramatically, the gap between a discussion of objectives and a discussion of the issue at hand, which is usually much more prosaic.
I would describe myself as a "Euro-realist". I therefore find myself close to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, without wishing to invoke his support for the slightly more colourful language that I am likely to use.
This is not a very good treaty. It is not one that I should like to use in order to persuade people of the great merits of the European Union. It is procedural, and technical. It is hard to explain and often difficult to understand. It is the result of a rather unseemly wrangle. It is a pretty miserable little treaty.
The purpose of some of the key measures proposed is to reform institutions in order "to improve their efficiency" and,
One of the questions that I have asked myself for some time is: "Efficiency and effectiveness for what?". What exactly is it that cannot be done in the European Union unless these minor measures to improve its efficiency are introduced? To put it in historical terms, the last time there was a set of important objectives which many wanted to implement was when Jacques Delors translated the Common Market into the single market, with all the implications of that notion. Did the institutions prevent M. Delors or others who supported the objective from doing what they wanted to do?
I begin to wonder whether the institutional debate about the European Union is taking place almost in a political vacuum; and, worse, whether interest in institutions has taken the place of interest in substance. In these terms, I confess that I even worry about the
If, however, one examines its institutions--contrary to the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, I do not mind doing that every now and then--one sees that the problem of the European Union is not one of efficiency. It cannot be stated too often that the problem is one of democracy. The joke is so well-worn that one almost does not want to repeat it, but it is a fact: if the European Union applied for membership of the European Union, it could not be admitted. Its institutions do not comply with the principles laid down for the accession countries. Those principles describe in considerable detail--and I am pleased about that--the democratic qualifications that countries must have to become members.
I am not naive about democracy in institutions such as the European Union. I would argue that, so far, we have not been able to develop truly democratic practices and institutions for those wider spaces which transcend the space of the nation state. So far, truly democratic parliamentary institutions have worked only within nation states. What we are doing beyond these spaces is almost a desperate attempt to introduce at least some of the principles that underlie our belief in parliamentary democracy in these areas too. Elections to a parliament do not solve the problem of democracy.
I wonder whether we may have to settle for unsatisfactory or half-satisfactory institutions. The rule of law is of critical importance. It is highly desirable that the European Union should be described as a union of law and that it should practise adherence to law. But there are other issues. Transparency is important. I find it unacceptable that a legislative agency--the EU Council of Ministers--can legislate in private. There may be other things that the European Council has to do, but as a legislative body it should accept at least the basic first principle of democratic government; namely, to be observed in what it does. There are other checks and balances to be discussed, but I argue that it will remain democratically unsatisfactory, and that what we invent will be second-best. That is why I agree with those noble Lords who have insisted on the role of national parliaments in scrutinising and controlling decisions that are taken beyond the space of the nation state.
That is in some sense by the way, because none of these issues appears in the treaty that underlies our debate. The efficiency argument is most often related to enlargement. I sometimes wonder whether the historic moment has not gone. When I visit my friends in Poland or in other countries of east/central Europe, I realise that they have gone quite cool on some of the demands made by the European Union and on the EU more generally. There are now those who say: "It was more important to join NATO first and we can now think about the European Union at our leisure". I definitely agree with those--notably my noble friend
I think that President Prodi probably spoke the plain and rational truth when he questioned whether we needed to have the Treaty of Nice to achieve enlargement in the early phase. But I am also convinced that the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, used an important term; that is, "political perception". Now that the political perception, not the rational reality, is that without the ratification of the Treaty of Nice we cannot go ahead with enlargement, we are faced with a different set of facts and we have to react to that different set of facts. Political perceptions are themselves important facts.
While I cannot see from reading the text that any great harm would be done to the European Union or to member states if the treaty did not come into force, I appreciate that political perceptions suggest that ratification is necessary. Therefore, I propose to shrug my shoulders, let it pass and turn to other more important matters such as the completion of the enlargement or accession negotiations and the principles of democracy in their application to the European Union and other decisions taken in international spaces.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I believe that by now the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, must be aware that right across the House great pleasure is felt at her new office. I gladly add my good wishes to those already expressed.
As others have commented, it is a different world we live in after 11th September from the one in which the Nice treaty was formulated. But the very changes in our world reinforce the need for this treaty which brings about the necessary changes to the EU's institutions and procedures to enable enlargement to proceed as planned to admit the first wave of new members by 2004. As it was not known exactly when and in what order the applicant countries would join the Union, the new distribution of seats in the European Parliament, the new composition of the Commission and the new definition of qualified majority within the Council are all determined by the Treaty of Nice for a Union of 15 member states. The treaty restricts itself to setting out the principles and methods for changing this system as the Union grows.
Enlargement is not just about the economic and general political advantages that have been well aired in various debates here and in another place and in the media, but enlargement also brings stability and cross-border co-operation in the fights against terrorism which we now have to wage probably for years to come.
EU members are already tackling cross-border crime and the smuggling of drugs and people. They have agreed a European arrest warrant, speedier
There are many aspects of the Nice treaty which one could treat at length at Second Reading, but, in addition to enlargement, I should like to touch on two other subjects: enhanced co-operation and common foreign and security policy (CFSP). The Nice treaty amends the arrangements for enhanced co-operation (which is a procedure introduced in the Amsterdam Treaty) to allow groups of member states to co-operate within the EU treaties in a specific area. The Nice amendments extend the scope of the enhanced co-operation to the implementation of the common foreign and security policy, although not to defence. They require the participation of at least eight member states. The enhanced co-operation can be launched by a decision of the Council by QMV, must not undermine the single market and must be open to all member states wishing to participate.
It is therefore the case that the provisions have been comprehensively overhauled although the essential characteristics of enhanced co-operation are largely unchanged, such as the principles whereby enhanced co-operation can be undertaken only as a last resort and must be open to all member states.
I find those changes entirely positive. They will allow flexibility inside an enlarged European Union for a substantial group of member states--at least eight--to proceed in subjects without everyone being required to join in. In fact I agree with my honourable friend Denis MacShane who said in another place on 17th July that the improved enhanced co-operation arrangements are a valuable feature of the treaty. Along with my noble friend Lord Grenfell, I believe that the Nice treaty makes the provisions for enhanced co-operation easier to use while strengthening the safeguards.
I turn to the common foreign and security policy. The only element of the European security and defence policy (ESDP) to be included in the Treaty of Nice is the establishment of the Political and Security Committee (PSC) under amended Article 25. I shall confine myself therefore to speaking about the PSC and not the wider subject of the ESDP or other EU military structures or the Rapid Reaction Force which I have expanded upon before in this House and which are subjects about which I care a great deal but which are not covered by the Bill before us today.
The PSC is the new designation of the political committee and may be authorised by the Council, in order to manage a crisis and for the duration of that crisis, to take the appropriate decisions under the second pillar in order to ensure the political control and strategic leadership of the crisis management operation. It has been rightly commented that the establishment of the PSC is the first time the EU has
The PSC and the North Atlantic Council (NAC) met for the first time on 5th February 2001 and the PSC and the NAC met again in March to discuss the safety of EU monitors in southern Serbia. The PSC has been actively involved with NATO in dealing with clashes between Albanian rebels and Macedonian forces on the Kosovo/Macedonia border.
The Secretary General/High Representative--currently Javier Solana--may chair the PSC, especially in a crisis, and during an operation would keep the Council informed through PSC reports. The chair of the European Union Military Committee (EUMC)--currently General Gustav Hagglund of Finland--will attend PSC meetings when necessary.
I am pleased that the British Government supported and argued for the proposals on the PSC. I agree completely with the argument for the creation of a permanent committee based in Brussels to act as the primary forum for preparation of advice to Ministers on common foreign and security policy matters.
Ratification of the treaty seems to me to be self-evidently in the interests of this country economically, politically and for our future security and indeed in the interests of both our current fellow member states and our future partners in the European Union. The treaty paves the way for a widening and a deepening of the European Union and as such should be heartily endorsed.
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on her election. That is the first statement that I shall make that evokes a positive response from all of your Lordships. The second is that, given the hour, I intend to be brief. I fear that that exhausts the statements that fall into that category.
I shall begin by offering the criteria that I think are useful for assessing a Bill of this nature. There are essentially five criteria for judging any Bill dealing with the European Union. First, does it provide for the accession of new member states? Secondly, does it constitute a significant shift towards achieving European integration? Thirdly, does it address fundamental faults in the structure of the European Union? Fourthly, does it address the democratic deficit in the EU? Fifthly, does it provide for some incremental but necessary adjustment to the existing arrangements of the EU? That fifth criterion should not be seen as independent or free-standing. It must be accompanied by the fulfilment of at least one of the other four criteria. The first four thus constitute the principal criteria for assessment.
The Nice treaty is not an accession treaty. It therefore has to be judged against the other three principal criteria. I shall take each in turn. The second criterion--making a significant move towards European integration--is a contested one. There is a fundamental divide between those who favour greater
It is possible to find the treaty objectionable without accepting that it marks a significant shift--certainly not a paradigmatic shift--towards achieving further integration. If one objects to decision-making competences being transferred from national governments to the EU, the Nice treaty is objectionable because it marks an extension of that development. If it marked a novel departure on the road to European integration, it would be even more objectionable than it is. However, it is an amending treaty, not a primary one. As such, it does not meet the second criterion.
Whereas the second criterion is a contested one, the other two principal criteria are not. Few could object to attempts to address structural faults in the EU or to diminish the democratic deficit. To what extent does the treaty address basic structural faults in the EU? It clearly makes some adjustments to the existing institutional arrangements of the Union to facilitate enlargement. However, when we look in detail at the provisions, one has to ask to what extent the treaty adds much to that which it appears could have been achieved in the negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Nice treaty is designed to deal with the leftovers of Amsterdam, but it is not clear what has been achieved that could not have been achieved earlier. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us.
The treaty is obviously the product of compromise. Some see that as a virtue that is necessary to make progress. However, I see two particular inter-related problems with this particular compromise. First, it may not be the best compromise for the purpose of facilitating enlargement. We can infer that from the response to the Irish referendum on the treaty. The Minister has conceded that this particular treaty is not necessary legally to allow negotiations for enlargement to proceed. Signor Prodi and others concede that a treaty will be needed, but not necessarily this treaty.
The second and related problem is that the treaty does not address basic structural problems in the EU. We know that from those responsible for its negotiation. The intention is that the next IGC should address those problems. Speaking in the other place on 4th July, the Foreign Secretary said that, for the purposes of the 2004 IGC, we must ask certain questions. He said:
We thus have a treaty that changes the institutional arrangements of the EU, but does so independently of any fundamental consideration of what the EU is for and what form its structures should take in order to meet the needs of the peoples of Europe.
The fourth criterion is the extent to which the Bill addresses the democratic deficit. That there is a democratic deficit is widely conceded. That recognition is at the basis of the debate about the future of Europe and it will underpin the 2004 IGC, although I strongly share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, on the approach likely to be taken by that IGC. That the problem underpins the next IGC is apparent from the declaration in Annex IV of the treaty. The IGC will consider how the treaties can be simplified in order to be better understood. It will also be an opportunity to see if national parliaments can be given a more defined role. The Foreign Secretary said in the other place:
The Minister may well say that the Bill is not intended to address the democratic deficit. She would be right. However, the problem is that the Bill exacerbates the democratic deficit in two ways. First, far from simplifying the arrangements of the EU, it adds to the complexity. The decision-making process of the Union is extremely complex and difficult to follow at times, even for those who are engaged in the process. We now have further complications, including in the method of voting in the Council of Ministers. The 62 per cent rule adds to the complexity of the rules, as do the provisions governing voting in the event of accession or non-accession by applicant states. Those new complex rules will take effect in 2004 and 2005, at the time of and following the IGC that has the task of simplifying the treaties.
The second way in which the treaty exacerbates the distancing of the EU from the peoples of Europe is by its very existence. It constitutes one more treaty amending the existing treaties or creating new structures and powers. For the past 20 years, there has been no significant steady state period--no time when
Given that, one has to ask whether the changes to be made by the treaty are really worth it, bearing in mind the potentially negative consequences that I have just identified. Indeed, the Bill appears to fail the four principal criteria that I have identified. The treaty makes some adjustment to existing arrangements but, as I said, I believe that this should not be a free-standing criterion. It needs to be allied to one of the principal criteria.
My reasoning for that is implicit in what I said about those criteria. There are significant dangers of distancing people from the EU if treaties are negotiated on an apparently relentless basis. I also believe that member states cannot continually be asked to ratify treaties. We need to address fundamental problems within the EU and, having done that, we need to seek some stability--cruising speed, perhaps--in institutional arrangements.
I fear that this treaty is neither one thing nor the other. It does not really advance much beyond what could have been achieved at Amsterdam. It does not address the fundamental questions to be tackled at the next IGC. It is a holding, compromise measure, and not a very good one at that. I know of the argument that the treaty is necessary for the applicant states. But I believe that in this measure we have not done our best for those states; we certainly have not done our best for the people of the European Union.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, this is the first speech that I have made in your Lordships' House since I was summarily suspended from the Labour Whip on 16th July. Therefore, noble Lords should be aware that I am speaking from these Benches as an independent Labour Peer.
One person whom we have missed this evening in our debate is our former colleague, the late Lord Shore of Stepney. His death has robbed British public life of a decent, upright, intelligent man, dedicated to the improvement of the lot of ordinary people attained through fairness, freedom, democracy and self-government. The Eurorealist movement, in particular, has lost a great leader whom it will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace.
I thought that the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, that the EU, or its treaties, are Trotskyist was one of the best that I have heard. It is true that perpetual revolution is occurring; it never seems to stop. And the Nice treaty is just one further part of the continual revolution which never ends.
What we must ask--many noble Lords have already asked this question and I shall ask it again--is: why is this Bill before us today? Why was it rushed through the House of Commons on a guillotine? All constitutional Bills seem to go through on a guillotine no matter what government are in power. There is no real need for hurry because, as we have already heard from many speakers, the people of the Irish Republic have voted in a referendum against ratification. There may be no resiling from that under the Irish constitution. Until that decision is reversed, the treaty cannot come into force. There is no question about it. Mr Prodi has told us that that is the case; therefore, it must be right. It cannot come into force, so there is no need to rush along the road for ratification.
We are now open to the charge that we are pressurising the Irish people to change their mind. As we know to our cost, the Irish people do not like to be pressurised, and they resist it. They have been resisting certain pressure for hundreds of years and we should keep that in mind. As Mr Prodi told the Irish people, eventually they will have to reverse their decision. But, unfortunately, he does not know the Irish people, and they may very well not listen to what he says. By rushing this Bill forward, not only are we insulting the intelligence of the Irish people but we are appearing to behave like Prodi's poodles. I do not believe that that is good for this country or for democracy.
Noble Lords have said tonight that the Major government introduced the Maastricht treaty Bill before the second Danish referendum had taken place. I am not sure that that is true. I believe that the Major government delayed the introduction of the Maastricht Bill until that referendum had occurred. I may be wrong, but that is what I believe to be the case. I hope that we shall be able to check that fact. However, I believe that we should have delayed the introduction of this Bill until the outcome of a second referendum in Ireland.
Therefore, the haste cannot be justified on the basis of urgency. Again, we have heard that ratification is not necessary for enlargement to proceed. Nothing that I have heard in the debate has convinced me otherwise. Indeed, our friend Mr Prodi confirmed that it was not needed for the purposes of enlargement.
The treaty is simply the latest in a long line which have increased the scope and powers of the European entity. First, it was to be a common market, and that was what the British people voted to remain in at the referendum. Then it became the European Economic Community and, after that, the European Community. Now we have arrived at the European Union. Whether or not that is the final stage, I do not know. Indeed, the Single European Act started us on the path on which we are now embarked. That path is not towards a federal Union. Let us not be under any illusions about that. The path upon which we are embarked is for a European unitary state.
The ensuing treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice were consolidations and extensions of the powers conferred by the Single European Act. The Nice treaty, which is promoted as being only a small tidying-up treaty, devolves further powers from national governments and parliaments to the institutions of the European Union. That means less accountability of government and the House of Commons to the people of this country who elect them in the belief that it is Parliament and the Government who make the major decisions affecting their lives.
With every new treaty, including this one, decisions on major parts of our economic, social and political life are being transferred to a group of states which can outvote the British Government but which are not accountable to the British people in any way. Indeed, they may be of a political colour of which the British people would never approve. We should keep that in mind. As we have already heard, it is completely undemocratic that decisions are taken in secret so that the British people and, indeed, the British Parliament do not know what is happening. They certainly do not know the details of the discussions which led to those decisions being taken.
Although this is not the time to discuss the treaty in detail, it is necessary to counter the idea that it is of little consequence. For example, the treaty abolishes about 30 vetoes. I shall not go into the details because we have already discussed them. There is one article that concerns me and it should concern other noble Lords; namely, Article 100, which concerns the financial assistance that may be given to member states facing severe financial difficulties. There is much concern about the fact that the treaty could be used to finance pension deficits in many European countries, whose deficits in relation to pension accounts sometimes amount to as much as 120 per cent of GDP. Our pension liabilities amount to only about 20 per cent, and we could find ourselves helping to finance the deficits of those other countries. That may not be so, but the threat is implicit. I hope that the Minister can offer some reassurances in that regard.
Also foreshadowed, but not part of the treaty, is the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. It will become a treaty if other countries have their way. That will be tantamount to the imposition on this country of a written constitution. That is inimical to the English and the United Kingdom constitution, which evolved over many centuries.
I understand that there will be a constitutional conference to prepare for the 2004 IGC. What arrangements will be made to have representatives who are opposed to further integration and who wish significant powers to be returned to individual nations? I sincerely hope that those views will be represented at the constitutional conference; it is important that they should be. After all, opinion polls in this country have consistently shown that 33 per cent of the British electorate would come out of the EU if they were given the chance; on occasion, that figure has been even higher.
I turn to the military annexe to the treaty. I had better not refer to a European army; otherwise, I should get into trouble with the Minister. When I was her noble political friend, she smashed me around the Chamber when I dared to mention the European army. Unfortunately, we again come back to Mr Prodi. On 4th February--not long after the relevant Question was taken on 26th January--Mr Prodi's comments appeared in an article in the Independent under the heading:
Who is right? Is my noble friend the Minister right? She is nodding her head, and I sincerely hope that she is right. If she is, she should go to Brussels and take Mr Prodi apart in exactly the same way that she took me apart on 26th January. Then I should be satisfied. I hope that she will report to me that she had a very satisfactory and positive result with Mr Prodi. I also hope that she will write to the Independent and tell it about the matter.
This treaty is more important than it seems; we should make no mistake about that. I sincerely hope that the House will have the time and energy to ensure that the treaty receives the proper treatment--it should be dealt with properly in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading. It did not receive such proper treatment in the House of Commons. I hope that the House will not be impatient with those of us who want to probe the treaty very closely indeed. I sincerely hope that in this regard we will be led by the Official Opposition, who have made known their opposition to the treaty.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, In her absence, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the party that had the good sense--it does not always demonstrate such good sense--to elect her as its leader. I always knew that my noble friend Lord Stoddart, who has just spoken, was independent but I never knew that he was an "Independent Labour Peer". I agree with him in one respect--in relation to Lord Shore, who was a close friend of both of us. He was my first Secretary of State and I shall always cherish his friendship, as I know my noble friend will.
At the beginning of the debate, the Minister asked a very pertinent question that no noble Lord has properly answered. She asked: how would applicant countries view the rejection of the Nice treaty? That was not answered by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, who was devastating in his criticisms of the Nice treaty--he skilfully side-stepped that question. However, one cannot side-step it for ever.
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