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Mr. Spring: Several issues are covered under this group of amendments, as the Nice treaty makes a number of changes to the treaty on European Union. I shall touch on just a few of those issues.

Amendment No. 40 concerns the so-called early warning mechanism agreed at Nice. Under the revised article 7 of the treaty on European Union, the treaty of Nice allows the EU to "address appropriate recommendations" to a country if there is a risk—I repeat, a risk—of a serious breach by a member state of the fundamental principles listed in article 6(1) of the treaty on European Union: liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

Does the Minister agree that that runs the risk of damaging and divisive interference in the internal affairs of member states, on the basis of mere speculation? Of course, as the House knows, under article 7 countries can already take action if there is a "serious and persistent breach" of those principles by a member state.

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How exactly will the new provision work? It is no secret that it was formulated in response to recent events in Austria. Presumably, when they signed up to the article, Ministers had an idea when it might be used, so perhaps they will now tell us what the intention is. Would the provision have been exercised in the case of Haider's inclusion in the Government of Austria? If so, what would the recommendations to the Government have been, and when, if ever, would the mechanism have come to an end?

How will the article 6(1) principles be assessed, both under the new mechanism and under the existing article 7 provision? In particular, will the Minister guarantee that those principles, which include respect for human rights, will not be interpreted through the prism of the charter of fundamental rights? For example, article 19 of the charter states:

If the charter will affect national law only in so far as it implements Union law, what is the point of that particular article?

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Let me cite one example. Will the Minister assure the House that the provision that the Government agreed at Nice will not be used to decide that a member state that intends to extradite a suspected murderer to the United States is in danger of contravening article 6(1) principles and will therefore be given recommendations by QMV, under revised article 7 TEU? I am sorry that those are technical points, but they must be explored.

The second issue that I want to speak about is the European defence identity. We heard an absolutely outstanding speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip–Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). I was especially pleased that he referred in some detail to Turkey, which feels concerned about the recent developments in Nice. As the House will appreciate, although European defence policy is not contained in the treaty, some changes were agreed to pave the way for it.

First, references to the Western European Union in article 17 TEU have been deleted. Amendment No. 41 would deal with that problem by removing paragraph 2 from article 1 of the treaty. Secondly, article 25 TEU, as amended by Nice, provides an enhanced role for the Political and Security Committee. Under the authorisation of the Council, the committee will exercise

and may, with Council authorisation, take decisions in that context.

Finally, declaration 1 of the final act of the intergovernmental conference, which does not form part of the Bill, relates to European security and defence policy, which it says will become operational quickly. It foreshadows a decision to be taken by the European Council no later than the Brussels summit.

New clauses 7 and 8 would ensure greater parliamentary scrutiny of those developments. New clause 7 would require a report to be submitted to Parliament on their effects on NATO and the WEU, and new clause 8 would require a Bill to be introduced before any decision on common defence is taken.

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The House has debated those issues several times, and I do not intend to cover familiar ground for too long, but I should like to make some specific points in relation to new clauses 7 and 8. The background to the debate is that the Conservatives strongly support greater European defence co-operation and a stronger European commitment to NATO. Indeed, it was a Conservative Government who started that process. We genuinely believe, however, that the European defence policy that is currently being developed represents an evolution towards a European army in all but name. The documents agreed at Nice and elsewhere make it clear that the force will exist outside NATO, which flatly contradicts repeated assurances made by Ministers and confirms the major reservations of the Americans. We believe that the structures agreed at Nice will weaken and undermine NATO.

I have some specific questions for the Minister. First, how does he reconcile the removal of references to the WEU in article 17 TEU and the decline of the WEU with what the Prime Minister said to the House four years ago? He said that

Does the Minister accept that although changes to the WEU were agreed at Maastricht, it was developed as the forum for expressing European defence interests within NATO and was formally recognised as such by the EU? The idea was that the WEU was to be balanced halfway between NATO and the EU. Its development posed no threat to NATO and all the units available to it were either to be borrowed from NATO, or if they were outside NATO they were available to it in an emergency.

Does the Minister not accept that the establishment under the Nice treaty of the Political and Security Committee is another sign that, by creating new, stand-alone EU structures, the European security and defence policy duplicates existing NATO structures? What is the point of doing that unless it is to rival NATO, with all the consequences that flow from that?

Despite assurances from the Prime Minister that planning for military operations would happen in NATO, the Nice accords and the statements of the Secretary of State for Defence make it crystal clear that many operations can and will be planned outside NATO. National headquarters can be used under the auspices of the EU. The Nice accords further make it clear that there is no onus on the EU to involve NATO at any stage of a crisis. It is evident that a defence entity that is a clear rival to NATO is being established. It could undermine the Atlantic alliance and the United States' commitment to Europe's security.

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer) made a thoughtful contribution. I emphasise to him that the Americans want burden sharing, and they are not getting it. Our anxieties are shared by the head of the EU's military staff, Major General Messervy Whiting, who said earlier this year that the EU's rapid reaction force would start to compete with NATO when it acquired a full range of strategic military assets. He said:

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In the light of such issues, we have tabled new clauses 7 and 8. One attempts to provide for analysis of the developments that I have outlined and their effect on NATO and WEU. The other proposes a mechanism to provide parliamentary scrutiny by means of a Bill. The changes have serious implications for the future of NATO, and I trust that the Minister for Europe will understand the need to be open about them so that the House can hold a rational debate on the matter. The future of NATO and our relationship with it are crucial to the continued security and stability of Europe.

Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 and new clause 33 deal with Eurojust. After the Tampere summit in October 1999, when Eurojust and related measures were discussed, the Conservative party made it clear that we supported moves to improve co-ordination. We do not intend to oppose Eurojust if co-operation and co-ordination are involved. However, we seek a guarantee that we shall not go beyond that, and that the Bill does not pave the way for harmonisation. New clause 33 would provide for a report from the Attorney-General about the implications of Eurojust for the criminal and judicial processes of the United Kingdom.

Perhaps the Minister will take the opportunity to update hon. Members about developments on Eurojust since the Select Committee on European Scrutiny published its sixth report in February. The Committee welcomed the Government's view that they could not accept any wording on Eurojust's remit that accorded the Commission any operational role in national investigations or prosecutions. However, it expressed anxiety about what is described as ambiguity in the draft documents, which related to the amount of influence that Eurojust is expected to exercise.

The report stated:

I trust that the Minister can reassure us on the latest discussions.

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