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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, fundamental questions had to be faced by those European leaders who gathered at Nice to negotiate a treaty which would manage institutional decision-taking in a Union almost twice as large as it is at the moment. Many of those issues went to the heart of national pride and to ideas about national influence.
Throughout our debates on the Bill, many have complained that the Treaty of Nice is not a pretty agreement and that it provides a hotch-potch of solutions to the problems that have been raised. Yes, some of the solutions are inelegant, but from these Benches we would argue that inelegance is a small price to pay for making enlargement a success. Enlargement is an historic prize and I feel that it is important to remind ourselves of why enlargement is so big a prize for us all to focus on. Not only will it be the final nail in the coffin of the hugely damaging divisions between east and west, it will also actively contribute to peace and stability in Europe. Enlargement will certainly do that, although the noble Lord may doubt whether the Bill before us contributes to it.
Enlargement will consolidate democracy, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human and minority rights across our continent. Furthermore, it will mean that the biggest single market in the world will be formed, with increased prosperity for current
It is a prize worth winning. We believe that it is our duty to ensure that the European Union is in a state to receive new members. The Treaty of Nice delivers the reforms that will enable us so to do.
Some noble Lords have relied on the argument that Nice contains certain provisions which are not directly related to enlargement, but I am bound to say that that does not affect the simple kernel of the argument; that is, that the Nice treaty is primarilyalthough I grant not exclusivelyabout the reforms that are necessary for enlargement.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned in his remarks a few moments ago the issue of defence. I should like to make a point about that issue once more. It is absolutely vital that the Government make it plain once again that the security and defence policy is nothing to fear. It is a capability, it is not a permanent force or army and is designed to complement NATO, not to compete with it. There will be no rival structures and no competition over managing any operations. It is enormously important to put again on the record the fact that NATO remains the cornerstone of European defence.
A number of noble Lords have mentioned the Irish question. I fully anticipated that some noble Lords would do so and I say once again that the Government respect the outcome of the Irish referendum and it is clear that the Irish people certainly had concerns about the treaty and quite possibly about the EU in general. Clearly those needs will have to be addressed but, as I would remind noble Lords, the Irish Government agreed, along with all other EU governments, that following the referendum the ratification process should continue while they consider how those concerns should be addressed.
Now is the time to look forward. The Nice treaty has laid out plans for further reform. We have discussed the means by which we shall take questions forward. That is because when the noble Lord pointed out a few moments ago from the Front Bench opposite that the Bill failed to touch on what he described as the "crucial issue" of legitimacy in the European Union, I had some sympathy with those words. But then the Bill was not designed to discuss those crucial issues. That is the debate that is designed to be taken forward in the IGC in 2004. I stress to the noble Lord that, while we have set out in the declaration a number of indicative subjects, many of which we have addressed many times in your Lordships' House, they are subjects inter alia and thus may be added to, as we have discussed in this House when I have been questioned on that point.
It is the Government's view that Nice sets out on the road to positive reform. However, its main achievement is to deliver successful enlargement through sensible reform. That is not the price of enlargement, it is one of the benefits. The Government
I, too, wish to thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate. I thank those who have made tireless efforts to keep us all up to the mark. I make no distinction between those who are thought to be Eurosceptics, Eurorealists or Europhiles or those who object to those terms. I say to all noble Lords that they have worked enormously hard to thrash out the arguments. All have done so painstakingly and, I believe, driven by the genuine motive of the public good. Although at times our debates have been lengthy, they have been unfailingly good-humoured. I should like to thank in particular noble Lords on my own side for their support during the debates.
Finally, I should like to thank my Bill team. Long hours are no strangers to a Bill team. The team has provided me with timely ammunition as and when I have needed it. Often that has been delivered by a reassuring nod, sometimes by raised eyebrows or by a timely note. Essentially, they have been a source of enormous expertise not only, perhaps I may say, to the Government Front Bench but also to a number of noble Lords who have raised questions with them. They have been an exemplary Bill team and have done a truly splendid job.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development. The Statement is as follows:
"The conference lasted from 21st to 22nd January, and was attended by Ministers and representatives from 61 countries and 21 international organisations. It was co-chaired by Japan, the US, the EU and Saudi Arabia. Chairman Hamid Karzai led a strong delegation from the Afghan Interim Administration. I led the UK delegation. There were delegations from the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the UN agencies. Kofi Annan also attended and addressed the conference. In the margins of the conference,
"Chairman Karzaiwho performed impressively throughout the conferenceoutlined current and future priorities for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. A 21-member commission is being set up to oversee the emergency Loya Jirga process, leading to the establishment of a transitional government in five months' time. The Interim Administration's priorities for the next few months will be to expand emergency assistance programmes, to establish an effective government administration, to provide peace and establish the rule of law, to ensure that as many children as possible, particularly girls, are in school when the new school year begins on 1st March; to begin to reconstruct the country's shattered infrastructure, in particular roads, electricity and telecommunications, to rebuild an agricultural system and eliminate poppy cultivation, and to accelerate mine-clearing. The conference was clear in its conclusion that women's rights and women's empowerment should be fully honoured and mainstreamed through all programmes during the reconstruction process.
"Chairman Karzai stressed the Interim Administration's commitment to responsible economic management, transparency, efficiency, and accountability. He was also clear, and we strongly agree with him, that Afghan ownership of the process of reconstruction will be vital to its success and to the full implementation of the Bonn agreement.
"We have the best opportunity in a generation to bring about development and lasting stability in Afghanistan. Learning the lessons of previous efforts to reconstruct failed states such as Cambodia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and East Timor, it is clear that the United Nations must play a pivotal role. We must continue to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the UN system. The conference recognised and greatly appreciated the role that the special representative of the Secretary-General, Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, has played and his continuing role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. We shall need to continue to support his efforts and those of the United Nations Development Programme who have been appointed to co-ordinate the early recovery efforts on behalf of the UN system. It will be crucial to maintain and enhance the existing humanitarian effort while also putting in place arrangements for long-term reconstruction. UNICEF will lead the effort to re-open schools. The World Health Organisation and UNICEF will work with the Red Cross to improve healthcare and the UN Mine Action Service will lead and co-ordinate the de-mining effort. The World Food Programme will continue to supply food for six million people, and will develop food for work schemes across the country plus feeding schemes in schools focused particularly on encouraging girls' attendance.
"We need also to make an urgent effort to strengthen the Interim Administration and build its capacity to lead the reconstruction effort. In order to take this process forward, a common trust fund will be established, and we shall work to try to encourage co-ordinated support for the interim authority's strategy rather than a proliferation of donor projects.
"The preliminary needs assessment undertaken by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the UNDP to prepare for the conference concluded that Afghanistan's funding requirements would amount to just over 10 billion dollars over the next five years. At the conference, 4.5 billion dollars from 36 countries was pledged, including 1.8 billion dollars for 2002. I announced a commitment from the United Kingdomfunded from the DfID budgetof £200 million over the next five years. In addition, DfID will make substantial contributions through the EC, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. This commitment is additional to the £60 million that we have allocated in the current financial year for humanitarian and recovery assistance.
"Since my last Statement to the House, a lot has been achieved. The conference in Tokyo was an excellent example of how the international community can achieve results when it works collectively. But there is still a great deal to do. The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains fragile, and it is not yet clear whether there will be a fourth year of drought. I believe that we should strongly congratulate the United Nations system, and particularly the World Food Programme, in having averted a major humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. We must be clear that these efforts will have to continue for some time while arrangements for long-term reconstruction are put in place.
"The most urgent issue that now needs to be addressed is the need to provide security across Afghanistan, and to begin the process of demobilisation and disarmament and the building and training of an Afghan army and police force. As a first step the UK has offered to work with the Afghan Interim Administration on a scoping study. The greatest danger to the future of Afghanistan is the risk of mounting disorder, criminality and faction fighting.
"In conclusion, with the Taliban removed, the Interim Administration in place, and the widespread commitment by the international community to the future of Afghanistan made clear in Tokyo, there is real hope for a better life for the people, and especially the children of Afghanistan. We must not fail to grasp this opportunity".
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Statement repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. We thank him for his courtesy in making available, in advance, a copy of the Statement.
We share the Minister's belief that there is now a new opportunity for a better future for the Afghans, provided that the solution is looked at in the context of the whole region. That is as important in this part of the world as it was with Kosovo. Only today, the government of Kyrgyzstan resignedan illustration of the fragility in the area.
There are four points that I should like the Minister to clarify. The first relates to control over spending. Given the fact that £3.1 billion has been offered to Afghanistan, does the noble Lord agree that there needs to be clear monitoring of each project that is being supported? Can the noble Lord tell the House which bodies will be scrutinising the aid provided to Afghanistan? Who will monitor where the aid is being allocated? Is any institution in place to bring co-ordination to the aid being provided by countries as diverse as Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the EU and Saudi Arabia? Is the noble Lord confident that the aid being dispersed via the EUworth £500 millionwill be dispersed quickly and effectively?
The second point concerns the civil service. Does the Minister accept the difficulties facing Afghanistan at the moment and that reconstruction will fail unless the basic infrastructure of the new government is in place? Given the Secretary of State's high praise for Hamid Karzai, does the Minister agree that the first priority for reconstruction should be to legitimise his government in the eyes of his people to help bring the necessary political stability to Afghanistan? Such reconstruction is something that you do "with" a country and not "to" a country.
My third point concerns the refugee problem. The Minister will be aware that there are more than 4 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. Since 1998, the UNHCR has repatriated 4.6 million Afghan refugees. Can the noble Lord confirm whether there is provision in the reconstruction package for the repatriation of refugees?
Fourthly, the Secretary of State twice mentioned the need to stamp out the opium production. Does the noble Lord agree that installing new irrigation systems would help the possibility of growing alternative crops?
Finally, if we are to look at the long-term rehabilitation of Afghanistan, the international community will need to consider the issue of debt relief. Can the Minister give assurances that he will urge the Secretary of State to look imaginatively at ways of helping the new Afghan government to deal with the issue of debt relief?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches also welcome the Statement. The House will remember that among the problems which led to the arrival of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was the failure of the United States and other countries to remain involved after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, and the failure to spend as much effort on reconstruction after the war as on support for the war itself. Nation building is absolutely something which we and other countries have to do, a subject to which the House will return in the context of a different continentAfricaon Wednesday.
I note with pleasure that there are some very warm words in the Statement about the role of the United Nations. How far beyond current plans do the Government intend to move in terms of strengthening the United Nations? There is much in the Statement about the need to strengthen the United Nations. The UN peacekeeping operations department has been embarrassingly weak for far too long. Progress on reform and strengthening has been painfully slow. Sadly, we may anticipate that Afghanistan will not be the last country in which there will have to be a multilateral effort to rebuild, and it should be very much part of the British and European contributions to ensure that the UN is better equipped for these tasks from now on.
It is excellent that Mr Brahimi is leading in this role. After all, the Brahimi report was about the need to strengthen the UN's capacity in this area. Can the Minister saynow or laterwhat effort the British Government are putting in to make sure that the Brahimi report will at last be implemented?
As Clare Short has said on many occasions, the provision of security is essential to any form of national reconstruction. There is presently an interim force in Kabul and, I understand, Mr Karzai has been talking about expanding the role of that force across the rest of the country. It would useful to know more about that and whether any expansion of that force's role will carry implications for the British, who are now playing a large role in that force.
The British have a worthwhile tradition in the provision of educational assistance to countries in need, and the entire educational systemfrom primary to higher educationwill need to be reconstructed in Afghanistan. In the tradition of joined-up government, has the Department for Education been brought in on this?
Lastly, this cannot be about Afghanistan alone. There are problems with Afghanistan's near neighbours and we need to make sure that Iran and Pakistan are fully on board. There are a number of other extremely weak states to Afghanistan's north. The heroin trade from Afghanistan to Europe came through Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and elsewhere. Can
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I appreciate the continued support of both parties opposite, as expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for the Government's efforts, through the international community, to honour our commitment not to walk away from the people of Afghanistan. Both Front Benches opposite sought reassurance that that would not happenthat the Government's commitment and the commitment of the international community would continueand I can certainly give that assurance as far as it is within my individual power to do so. It is certainly the intention of the Secretary of State and the British Government.
Both speakers drew attention to the fragility of the area as a wholethe "Stans", as the neighbouring states are referred to. It is acknowledged that we are dealing with a difficult situation in a fragile area of the world. It will take all our skill, determination and continuing commitment to deal with it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked about refugees. At least 100,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran since last November, and thousands of internally displaced persons have also started to return to their homes. The Department for International Development has provided £3 million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to support its operations in response to the current crisis. This has included technical personnel, material and financial support.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred to security in Afghanistan. This was specifically referred to in the Statement and the Secretary of State attaches enormous importance to it. The delivery of aid and the establishment of good governance is preconditional on having a secure country in which to deliver that aid and to begin the process of reconstruction. The interim government of Afghanistan attaches great importance to that issue, as does the United Nations, which is overseeing the operation.
The noble Baroness referred to control over spending and supervision of EU funding. I can assure her that those matters were discussed at the conference and are of great importance. However, I should emphasise two of the strengths of the way in which this on-going situation is being handled. First, there is the abiding importance of the United Nations and its involvement from the start. The Secretary-General's special representative, who has done tremendous work, has been there at all stages, and that has been vitally important. Secondly, there is the crucially important issue of the "ownership"I do not particularly like the word but the House will know what I meanof the operation by the people of Afghanistan and the Interim Administration which
Reference was made to opium production. The vital point is that we should not lecture people but give them an alternative continuous and on-going source of income. That is precisely what the intention of the international community and the Interim Administration has been.
It may be helpful to the House if I re-state the six priorities set out by the Afghan Interim Administration, as they cover many of the issues raised. The first is enhancement of the administrative capacity, with emphasis on the payment of salaries in the establishment of government administrationpoints raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. The second is education, especially for girlsan issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. The third is health and sanitation. The fourth is infrastructure, particularly roads, electricity and telecommunications. The fifth is the reconstruction of the economic system. The sixth is agriculture and rural developmentand relates particularly to the dependence on opium production.
I repeat that the welcome for the Statement from both Front Benches is greatly appreciated. We have moved an astonishingly long way since the dreadful events of last September. It is barely believable that after just five months we are talking about, as we hope, a rather more optimistic future for Afghanistan. That is what the Government and the international communityled by the United Nations and principally by the people of Afghanistan through the Interim Administrationwill continue to do.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I strongly endorse the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, in referring specifically to the monitoring of projects and how the money is spent in Afghanistan. Will my noble friend check with officials in the department that post-project evaluation reports will be used as the means to ensure that money actually gets through to the projects that we want to support? I refer in particular to projects to support women. Much of the international support for the coalition came about because of the problems faced by women in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Many people in this country will want to know that money will get through to women's projects, and that the expenditure will be properly monitored.
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