Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, I suppose that one cannot be a maiden twice. So I cannot call this a maiden speech, nor would I dare to compete with the two excellent maiden speakers that we have heard this afternoon. But this is my first speech from the Cross Benches and I wish to begin by thanking my former noble friends—and, I hope, continuing friends—the Liberal Democrats, for the hospitality which they have extended over the past eleven years to someone who is not a member of their party and holds his own, often contrary, views on many issues. I have enjoyed the company of the group, although I cannot help observing that it has, in recent years, along with, perhaps, the whole House, become more partisan in its ways. That is far from improper in a parliament, yet it made me feel increasingly out of place, and relieved that your Lordships' House has the unusual institution of the Cross Benches. I am particularly grateful to my new noble friends on these Benches for receiving me with such generosity.

One of the subjects about which I wished to be free to express my views is Europe. It is mentioned twice in the gracious Speech, once in connection with the UK presidency of the European Union beginning next July, and once to announce that,

24 Nov 2004 : Column 68

I, for one, would have been pleased if there had also been space to confirm that Her Majesty's Government would support, at the Council meeting of 17 December, the Commission proposal to begin negotiations about the accession of Turkey, with a view to bringing about full membership of that country in the EU. Turkish accession and the Constitutional Treaty are two tests of how we see the future of the European Union and Britain's role in it.

The motives for setting in train the process of European co-operation and, in some respects, integration after the Second World War have often been cited. They were two: first, to put a lasting end to the centuries of intra-European warfare and, secondly, to create stable conditions for economic growth and welfare throughout Europe. Peace and prosperity are still important motives, as the reference in the gracious Speech to,

reminds us. But those objectives no longer suffice to move Europe forward. The constitutional convention has struggled with the issue of what organized Europe is about, but it has never succeeded in finding a common denominator for the incompatible visions of a United States of Europe, on the one hand, and a co-operative alliance of nation states on the other.

At the same time, a debate has begun, above all in countries of the European continent, which wants to place Europe in a global context. It is, in essence, a debate about the United States of America. Significant sections of Europeans see the European Union today as the nucleus of a power which somehow provides a counterweight to the US. Sometimes, as in President Chirac's dream of a "multi-polar world", this is wrapped in glossy global paper, but for many Europe is indeed what the American author William Kagan had in mind when he coined the phrase:

"Venus" in that context means staying out of violent world conflicts and holding on to the welfare state.

Perhaps I may say, without ifs and buts, that I do not wish to live in a Europe which defines itself as a counterweight to the United States of America. My own notion is very different. The nation state is, and will be in the foreseeable future, the safe place for democracy and the rule of law. However, important decisions have emigrated from the nation state to as yet undefined spaces. We need ways of applying the principles of the liberal order to those wider spaces. I was pleased that my old friend and now noble friend Lady D'Souza chose precisely that as the subject of her maiden speech. Europe, the European Union, could be a step in that direction. Indeed, as far as I am concerned, its success or failure will be measured by its ability to provide an example of democracy and the rule of law for the world.

Clearly, that is not exactly what the European Union is known for. Perhaps I may, however, highlight one achievement of the EU which has received too little attention: the so-called Copenhagen criteria. In June 1993, the European Council met in
24 Nov 2004 : Column 69
Copenhagen. It decided on a paper which was written in simple, clear language and spelt out the political criteria for membership. Those were, stable

as well as,

Moreover, countries must not only,

by setting up the necessary institutions, including an independent judiciary, an impartial police and an accountable system of public administration.

The Copenhagen criteria fit on two or three sheets of paper, but they have been of transforming significance for new member states—dare I suggest, more so than the Constitutional Treaty is ever likely to be? In the post-communist countries it is those criteria which have guided people through the valley of tears which so often follows the initial euphoria of liberation. In Turkey, it was those criteria which provided the backbone of the reforms which enabled the Commission to suggest that the time had come to open negotiations for that country's membership of the EU.

It may well be argued that there is nothing uniquely European about the Copenhagen criteria. They may not be from Mars, but they are not from Venus either, especially when they are coupled with the promise of membership of the EU, which is probably the only hard power that Europe possesses. The Copenhagen criteria would not come amiss in Iraq. The United States of America could certainly subscribe to them. My point is that that is entirely as it should be. Europe should set an example of how the principles of a liberal order could be applied, not only within nation states, but beyond them. European developments should be judged by their contribution to one free world, in the sense that Timothy Garton Ash defined in his book with that title.

It is a characteristic of a gracious Speech that it is not only laconic but, in a sense, dogmatic. A programme is announced, but no reasons are given for its parts and pieces. That has long been the case, and, far be it from me to object—as far as institutions are concerned, I am a defender of history and tradition, rather than an enthusiast for everything modern. But it will be important to tease out why the Government and those who oppose them take their particular lines on Europe. My own criterion in assessing European policies is simple: will those policies contribute to spreading the liberal order beyond familiar political spaces? The case of Turkey is simple from that point of view. The case for the Constitutional Treaty, however, still needs to be made and, for that reason, if for no other, I look forward to the ratification debate in Parliament and in the country.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf was undoubtedly right in saying that his was not a maiden speech, but it was his
24 Nov 2004 : Column 70
first speech from these Benches. He has just demonstrated that he lost none of his brilliance and intellectual rigour when he moved from the Liberal Democrat Benches to our own.

The coming year, 2005, will be an important one for Britain's foreign policy. It will be one when many issues could go right or wrong and when choices made could set a pattern for a considerable period ahead. It is not only a matter of Britain holding in succession the G8 and the EU presidencies—occasions which, frankly, tend to be overstated both by government spokesmen and by the press, since, when all is said and done, the scope for influencing those organisations from the chair is relatively limited—but the shape and texture of the transatlantic relationship, which has been, and remains, under considerable strain, will be decisively affected by its handling both by a re-elected President Bush and by the European chorus, which has tended recently to sing in anything but harmony. And the future of the United Nations, its effectiveness and the changes needed to secure its relevance will be on the table with a wide-ranging set of proposals from the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel, on which I had the honour to serve, ready for decision from the time of their presentation to member states next week. We shall be moving all through next year towards a decision that will crucially affect Britain's place and role in Europe, even if the actual referendum vote on the Constitutional Treaty does not come until early in 2006.

The future of the transatlantic relationship depends, of course, a good deal more on substance than it does on tone and texture, but that is no reason to ignore the atmospherics. Since 2002, there has been a cascade of statements from both sides of the Atlantic whose recklessness have done untold damage and have stirred up feelings of alienation among the wider publics. A mere cessation of such statements would be a mercy.

More importantly, governments need to get it across that Europe and the United States, for all their genuine differences, still share a huge common agenda; that much of that agenda can be successfully achieved only if we work at it together; and that, if we are at cross purposes, the most likely outcome will be mutual frustration. It is not a matter of getting back to the old Cold War certainties, when the glue of a common adversary held us together—those days are gone; it is more a question of building a new partnership of respect and shared interest and of learning to manage our differences, when they arise, as they will do, with sensitivity and moderation.

As to the substance of that agenda, the issues are crowding in on us already, and I shall mention only three. The end of the Arafat era surely represents an opportunity which needs to be seized and not fumbled. It is one where working together within the framework of the quartet and on the basis of the road map offers the only chance of making progress. This issue is a key also to making progress on so much else: in the war against terrorism; in the development of democracy and respect for human rights throughout the Middle East; and in securing a stable and prosperous Iraq. And we need a negotiating process which is not
24 Nov 2004 : Column 71
capable of being derailed by acts of violence and which is therefore not a hostage to those whose choice is conflict rather than peace.

Secondly, and without moving entirely from the Middle East, we are clearly at a difficult and critical point in our relations with Iran. Last week's agreement is a step in the right direction but only a modest and short-term one. The Europeans seem to me to have the right policy—a balance of sticks and carrots, and a willingness to look beyond the nuclear issue to the wider relationship of Iran with the West. But, importantly, they do not have all the cards in their hand; nor do they have the clout to deliver a successful outcome on their own. Surely it is time for the United States to join the dialogue and to bring within its scope issues such as trade sanctions, Iran's bid to join the World Trade Organisation, the security of the Gulf region and the renunciation of pursuing regime change by force. I myself believe that it is time to do that, and I hope that the Minister can say whether our Government are prepared to advocate such an approach in Washington.

Thirdly, Europe and the United States need to drive forward the Doha Development Round of negotiations for trade liberalisation with a determination to bring them to closure—at the latest by 2006.

Like the transatlantic alliance, the United Nations, too, has been going through a rough patch. Yet its indispensability is not really in doubt. It has 60,000 peacekeepers deployed, mainly in Africa, and that figure is rising. Its role in the fight against pandemic diseases and against poverty and environmental degradation is essential. But it remains under-resourced in men and money and in political backing. Too often, its decision-making powers are paralysed or it moves with the speed of an arthritic tortoise. It is frequently accused of double standards, and sometimes rightly so.

Next year, there will be a real opportunity to remedy those failings. I cannot anticipate publication of the High-Level Panel's recommendations but I can assure the House that they will be far-reaching. They will also be controversial, and much will depend on the willingness of the UN's members to give a high priority to taking the necessary decisions. I hope that Britain, whose role as a permanent member of the Security Council remains central, will be in the vanguard of those pressing for the changes required to make the UN more effective.

I come now to the third part of the triptych: the European Union—as always, the part about which there is least agreement among us but the one which, I believe, with time becomes ever more central to the conduct of our foreign policy. In 2004, we saw two major steps forward with the successful enlargement of the Union to 25 members and the conclusion of the negotiations on a Constitutional Treaty which contained important provisions for strengthening the conduct of a common foreign and security policy. But that year also saw a step back as the poison of the dispute over Iraq continued to circulate through the Union's veins.
24 Nov 2004 : Column 72

Historians will, I believe—a number of other speakers made this point—regard enlargement as one of the most powerful and effective foreign policy instruments ever fashioned. It has brought peace, security and prosperity where formerly there was tension and oppression. The next step down that road lies just ahead with the decision on the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey due to be taken in two weeks' time. I trust that it will be a positive one. The tremendous effort made by Turkey deserves no less. Beyond that lie the countries of the western Balkans—certainly not ready yet for membership but just as certainly needing the magnet of eventual membership if they are to turn their backs once and for all on their unstable and sanguinary past.

What lessons should we draw from the experience of Iraq and what should we be aiming at in a common foreign and security policy? The main lesson surely must be that, when Europe is divided, its voice counts for little—in Washington or elsewhere for that matter; and nor does the voice of its individual members, as we know to our cost when we look back on the catalogue of errors which followed the initially successful military operations in Iraq.

That does not mean that Europeans are compelled to agree among themselves or that we can be forced to do so. That is not how any common foreign and security policy, present or future, can or will be conducted. It is certainly not how the Constitutional Treaty is constructed. We have a choice between enhanced effectiveness, if we can pull together, and marginalisation if we cannot. I do not believe that we should be aiming for an "all or nothing" foreign and security policy, but in many areas of the world—in the Balkans already; in the Middle East, as I have suggested; in Africa, where Europe and not the United States has the biggest stake and the greatest responsibility; in Europe's neighbourhood to the east; and in strengthening the United Nations—we should be able to make common cause and to pool our efforts.

What we must avoid, however, is an ideological dispute over concepts such as unipolarity and multipolarity. The extent to which the post-Cold War world has the characteristics of unipolarity is considerable but, in fact, very far from complete. Militarily it is so, but in the attributes of what is called "soft power"—influence, aid, investment and culture—it is not, and it is certainly not so when it comes to trade policy. Probably, over time, the world will become less unipolar than it is now, although that may take quite a long time.

To make of multipolarity an organising principle of Europe's foreign policy would surely be a mistake. It would certainly not help to make the multilateral institutions, by whose effectiveness Europe sets such great store, more effective and work better. More likely, it would paralyse them and paralyse, too, the European Union itself. Europe needs, I would argue, a severely non-ideological approach to foreign policy. It needs to learn to apply on a day-to-day basis the precept of the Duke of Wellington that "interest never lies". To do that, it needs to become better at identifying and defining its
24 Nov 2004 : Column 73
interests in each set of circumstances that comes along—hence the need for a better capability at the centre, as is envisaged in the Constitutional Treaty.

That is quite a menu for 2005, but it is not an impossible one. As usual, success will depend less on brave words spoken at the outset than on determination and perseverance when the going gets a bit rough.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page