Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



Sir John Stanley

  80. Minister, can you confirm that it remains the policy of the British Government that Cyprus can have accession into the EU as a fully-fledged EU Member State, notwithstanding the fact that at the point she comes into the EU she may be still, in political terms, a divided country?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

  Sir John Stanley: Thank you.

  Mr Mackinlay: Following that up, how would it work, because there is no precedent for that? If you look at Germany, first of all, it was not the European Union, and my recollection is that anybody who would get to the Federal Republic of Germany, ipso facto, was in then the European Community. But, in this case, if the Cyprus Republic, and their constitution claims their territory to be the whole of the island of Cyprus, what is our relationship to people who are in the North, who wish to enter the European Union, to come and work, free mobility of labour, will they be citizens of the European Union and deemed to be citizens of the Republic of Cyprus? Because it seems to me that, what would be the logistics for sort of saying, "No, you cannot"? I do not know if I am explaining myself badly, but it is the case of the Cyprus Government, the applicants, that their country is the whole of the island, we admit perhaps the de facto South, but, nevertheless, there might be somebody sitting in the North who says, "Well, actually, I am very pro European Union"?


  81. Minister, how do you identify such people?
  (Mr Vaz) These are obviously problems. I am going to ask Mr Featherstone to deal with the point on citizenship and freedom of movement. But, before I do so, Sir John has stated, quite clearly, and correctly, what the Government's policy is. We want to see a united island joining the European Union, but it is not a precondition, and, therefore, if it remains divided at that point, it will still be admitted; and that, of course, will create a number of issues that need to be resolved. Mr Featherstone, I wonder whether you can assist Mr Mackinlay.

Sir John Stanley

  82. You may just want to check, by a slip of the tongue, you did say you wanted a united island to join the European Union?
  (Mr Vaz) I can assure you it was an `s', not an `r'.
  (Mr Featherstone) I think Mr Mackinlay's questions are difficult to answer with any certainty, because, collectively, within the EU, we have not discussed these hypothetical situations. It is because of the very valid questions that have been asked, that is one reason spurring us on to try to make sure that the talks are successful, but, as the Minister has made clear, the Helsinki conclusions have clarified that those settlement talks reaching a satisfactory conclusion are not a precondition. How that works out in the very specific areas you have raised is something which has not yet been discussed in the EU.

  Chairman: Before I go on to Sir David and another matter, I think, Dr Godman, you wanted to talk on this theme?

Dr Godman

  83. Just very briefly, Minister. The question of German concern, some of the free movements of labour, that is causing great concern in Parliament, is it not? I seem to recall, a few years ago, that the German gastarbeiter was placed in an inferior position to other citizens of the European Union, in that he, or she, was denied this freedom of movement amongst countries. I can see something similar in relation to the accession of Poland?
  (Mr Vaz) This is a very important issue, and, of course, has been raised, as Dr Godman has said, by the Germans. A paper has been issued by the Commission this afternoon, and, indeed, I think all I have seen is, Dr Godman, literally seen, the heading `Executive Summary'; but what I will do is make that available to the Committee, so that you can read it at your leisure. Our position is that we understand what Germany is saying, that we are actually not sure that the argument for a transition period on this issue has been demonstrated. We will look at what has been put forward, we will study what Germany has done, obviously, we will study the paper that the Commission published literally as I was on my way from the Foreign Office. We believe in one concept, Dr Godman, and that is a concept of first-class citizens, only one class of citizens in Europe.

  84. But we accepted the second-class citizenship of the German gastarbeiter and the French immigrant worker?
  (Mr Vaz) You raise that point, but what we want to deal with—

  85. I know, in a technical sense, they are not citizens of those countries?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes. What we want to deal with is this view that somehow, Mr Chairman, if these applicant countries, or, I should say, when these applicant countries, join the European Union, there will be mass flows of people in, into the United Kingdom or into Germany. I do not believe that this will happen. This is exactly what they said about Spain and Portugal, they said, "Once you let Spain and Portugal in, there'll be masses of Spanish and Portuguese people all over Britain and France, etc." It did not happen, because, basically, people prefer to stay in their own homes.


  86. In any case, you will let us have sight of that paper?
  (Mr Vaz) Indeed.

  Chairman: Back to Cyprus.

Mr Maples

  87. I want to ask you two things about Cyprus. One is that I believe I am right in saying that the Cyprus constitution says that Cyprus cannot join an international organisation unless both Greece and Turkey belong to it, and that was an objection that Turkey was raising for quite a long time; are they still raising that objection, and do we think it is a valid objection?
  (Mr Vaz) I am sorry, I do not know about the constitution.

  88. Do you know, Mr Featherstone?
  (Mr Featherstone) There are certainly concerns which Turkey raises about those issues, but the Helsinki conclusions made clear what the EU's position is on these issues.

  89. So it is the view of the British Government that that clause in the Cyprus constitution is not a bar to membership of the European Union; is that correct?
  (Mr Vaz) We cannot tell you.

  90. Would you like to write to us?
  (Mr Vaz) We will write to you.

  91. Could you; thank you. The second thing I wanted to ask was, I understand the view, because I have talked to them about it, of the Cyprus Government, the Greek part of the Cyprus Government, because, obviously, they want to join the EU and they say, and maybe they are right, that this might help to resolve the internal difficulties in Cyprus. But if Cyprus were to join with the present status quo, we would then actually have a part of European Union territory which had an army in occupation of part of it, and the army of a non-EU state, I hesitate to say a foreign army, but Turkey is not a member of the EU, so we would have the armed forces of a non-European Union state occupying part of the European Union. Does that not present really quite serious problems for the European Union, and actually do we feel that Cyprus can join in these circumstances, or is it part of the sort of sub-agenda to try to make sure that that issue is resolved before Cyprus actually joins? I see just enormous instability, and I cannot see the issue being resolved in the time-frame, actually?
  (Mr Vaz) Sir John is nodding his head, and I have to agree with his nod, though I am not sure whether he is agreeing with you or me. This is an issue, frankly, it is of secondary importance to the one overriding concern, and that is that we want to see Cyprus join as quickly as possible. We know that this is different from the other applicants, and we know it has a lot of difficulties attached to it; but, as I said when I went through the summary of what the countries have achieved, Cyprus has done better than any other country, of the 12 applicants, with the exception of Estonia, despite all the difficulties that it has got, and I think that that is something that we should be pleased with and try to support.

  92. I wholly understand that, but, of course, it is very, very much in the interests of the Greek part of Cyprus to meet those conditions, so that they can join, because they feel it will help to force the situation over Northern Cyprus. Now maybe that is correct, but what I am saying is, does the British Government, are you sanguine, or relaxed, about Cyprus joining the European Union in its present state, with the Turkish army occupying Northern Cyprus?
  (Mr Vaz) The British Government is never relaxed, it is always, actively, trying to seek solutions. This is not a perfect situation, which is why, in answer to Sir John, I was very clear what our preference would be; our preference would be a united i s l a n d—if I can spell it out so there is no misunderstanding of what I am saying—should join, and that is what we would like to see happen; but it is not a precondition. If we reach the position where we are given that—

  93. (- Inaudible -) we would consent to the accession of Cyprus, in the present state of things?
  (Mr Vaz) Yes.

Sir David Madel

  94. Minister, can I ask you about the future of Kaliningrad if the surrounding countries join the European Union, and whether there have been talks between our Government and the Russian Federation as to how things might develop?
  (Mr Vaz) Mr Featherstone is going to take the Kaliningrad question.
  (Mr Featherstone) Kaliningrad will become a Russian exclave in the EU, once Poland and Lithuania join the EU, and under the Swedish Presidency the Commission have tabled a recent communication on Kaliningrad, which we think, helpfully, set out some of the particular challenges which will face that exclave once Poland and Lithuania have joined. So far, we understand that the Russians have given a rather cautious welcome, but that is because they are still considering their formal response; and once their position is clear, the EU and the Russians will no doubt take forward discussions of this within the partnership and co-operation agreement.

  95. Do you think the Russians are conscious of the environmental damage there is in there and the organised crime; in other words, are they fully conscious of things that are manifestly very wrong in Kaliningrad?
  (Mr Vaz) When we have had discussions with the Russians, and, as you know, President Putin is due to come to the Stockholm European Council in a fortnight's time, and I am quite certain these issues will be raised with him, there is an acknowledgement that this whole issue causes concern amongst EU members; so they are conscious of that, yes.

  96. And you do not think they are in a suspicious mood; do they think we are trying to help, which we are?
  (Mr Vaz) I think they do, yes, I think they do understand that this is a difficult issue, but I think they do understand that we are trying to put forward constructive proposals. Certainly, in the discussions that I have had with my opposite number, that is what we hope to achieve.

  97. Do we have any evidence they are putting more defences into Kaliningrad?
  (Mr Vaz) I have no fresh information to give you on that.

Mr Mackinlay

  98. Slovakia. To my dismay and the hurt of Slovakia, the United Kingdom put visas on Slovakia, or reintroduced visas, two or three years ago. Now, putting that behind us, it seems to me, either they have remedied what we perceived to be lack of controls, haemorrhaging, and so on, and illegal immigration, either that has been maintained and controlled, and, I think, particularly thinking of the Roma population, or something like that, I do not know what the justification of the Home Office was, putting on visas, it is for them to justify it, but, it seems to me, either that matter has been resolved, or that is a major impediment to their failure to deal with this, in terms of coming to the European Union. Basically, what I am saying is, did this now not ought to be lifted, because clearly it is offensive to them, and, presumably, the problem has been remedied, or should be on its way to being remedied? Perhaps I explained myself badly.
  (Mr Vaz) You do explain yourself very clearly, Mr Mackinlay. This matter was not raised to any great extent when I went to Slovakia. As Minister for Entry Clearance, obviously, I am very concerned to make sure that we have a visa regime that is fair but also firm. There was a problem, there remains an issue that needs to be looked at, that is why there is a visa control. Our entry clearance officers and managers look very carefully at all applications that are being made; we are not planning to review this.[3] Obviously, when they come in, it will not apply; but, at the moment, this is the right approach to deal with the problems that have existed.

Dr Starkey

  99. Can I just pursue that issue, on the Slovakian one. There was a serious issue of human rights, in relation to the Roma population in Slovakia, and the apparent inability of the Slovakian Government to stop them being harassed by other Slovakian citizens. That clearly would not be acceptable, if they are to become part of the European Union. Have you got any evidence that that is being dealt with in Slovakia?
  (Mr Vaz) I think the Slovakian Government is making an effort, and, as we do with all our visa regimes, we are very mindful to review them in a way that is acceptable to our immigration policy but also acceptable to countries that are our friends. And what we are doing, in respect of Bulgaria and Slovakia, in the light of the decisions on the common visa list, is to look at the situation; but, in respect of all the applicants, we have always kept this under review, and we will look at this, as we have promised to do in the past.

3   Note by witness: In response to Q998, the Minister subsequently clarified that the government is planning to review the situation in respect of Bulgaria and Slovakia n the light of decisions on the common visa list. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 10 April 2001