Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 18-19)




  18. Minister, welcome again. It is good to see you back. Thank you for taking the time. Welcome also to Mr Kim Darroch, who is with you. We have just had a very instructive hour with the Greek Ambassador on the Greek presidency and their ambitious programme, and we now look forward to talking with you about what happened in Copenhagen and one or two other matters that we have listed for you as topics of interest and concern to us. Would you like to make an opening statement, Minister?

  (Dr MacShane) My Lord, if it is convenient to the Committee, shall we go straight into questions? I prefer a conversation rather than listening to myself.

  19. First of all, let us go straight to the question of what happened at Copenhagen. In particular, I would like to ask you, since enlargement was very much the main topic, whether you see any major problems looming between now and when these countries join in 2004.
  (Dr MacShane) I do not think so, my Lord. The Copenhagen moment was a wonderful moment in European history, and that certainly was the way the new Member States, if I may call them that, expressed it. I had the honour to sit in briefly when one or two of the central European prime ministers and heads of government were making their short speech of welcome at the European Council, as the Prime Minister had to be out for a press conference. The Polish Prime Minister was there, and he said this marks the end of Polish history since 1945 and a great new opening for Poland, and that was generally the feeling there. Now, of course, we have to move on to the accession treaty which we sign in Athens on 16 April, and which will be a high moment in the Greek presidency, assuming, of course, that it is endorsed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Perhaps the slight question we all wait to see an answer for is the ratification in the referenda of the nine incoming countries—10, of course, if there is a Cyprus settlement—and that will require a commitment by the leaders of the new Member States to ensure that we get a "yes" vote in those referenda. I do not know if there are going to be separate questions on Cyprus. We want it to accede. We want it to accede as a united island. We very much welcome the UN proposals, and we welcome the commitment by the Greek and Turkish governments to support those, and we hope that the Greek and Turkish Cypriots themselves will negotiate with a view to meeting the deadline set by 28 February, and then we will have two new members of the Commonwealth in the European Union, namely Malta and Cyprus, two important Mediterranean islands. I think a new enlarged Europe will gain from its Mediterranean neighbours.

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