The enlargement of the EU is not new. It was enlarged in 1973, when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined what was then the European Economic Community. Greece joined the European Union in 1981, Spain and Portugal joined in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995. Significantly, the enlargement anticipated in 2004 will be bigger and more ambitious than any we have seen before: it is hoped that eight countries from central EuropeLatvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Sloveniaplus the islands of Malta and Cyprus will join the EU.
The other three candidate countries are Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Negotiations with Turkey have not yet begun because it does not meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria, and Romania and Bulgaria are some way behind the other applicant countries. Although Romania and Bulgaria will not be joining the EU in 2004, we should not forget about them because progress is being made in both states. Equally, we should not link them because differentiation is vital. Bulgaria is way ahead of Romania in its negotiations and the number of chapters that it has closed in anticipation of entry.
You may wonder, Mr. Deputy Speaker, why I have elected to debate enlargement. Some may think that it is an esoteric subject, and others may think that it betrays the obsessions of the European anorak brigade. However, the enlargement of the EU is of tremendous importance to both this country and the present EU, and its importance cannot be exaggerated.
I am passionately in favour of enlargement for three reasons, the first of which is economic. Enlargement will create a huge single market, the size and significance of which will dwarf the United States and Japan put together. It will have more than 500 million consumers. There will be huge economic benefits for us. It has been estimated, for instance, that the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom alone will increase by £1.75 billion as a result of enlargement. It has also been estimated that, through enlargement, 300,000 new jobs will be created in the present European Union, the economic worth of which cannot be legitimately doubted.
Secondly, I strongly support enlargement because it will give us an opportunity to develop broader policies for co-operation and co-ordination on a pan-Europe basis in a way that has never before been possible. As we
My third and final reason for believing that the process is so important relates to the need for peace and stability throughout the European continent. It is opportune to end the artificial division between western and eastern Europe. The appalling events of recent years in the former Yugoslavia emphasise the need to work consistently and diligently for peace and stability in our continent. Enlargement alone will not achieve that, but it will make a huge contribution.
Enlargement is in the mutual best interests of the citizens of the European Union and applicant countries. We may discuss the process of enlargement and how we anticipate and hope that it will happen in 2004, but the reality is that the process of bringing people closer together is already happening. Yesterday, I was in Poland where I addressed a conference in Sopot just outside Gdanz. The conference examined how links can be developed between local authorities and other local organisations in Poland and Britain. I learned that 36 twinning projects between local authorities here and in Poland already exist, and the number will increase with enlargement. Nottingham is linked with Poznan, Southend is linked with Sopot, where the conference was held, and in Wales links are being established between the National Assembly for Wales and Silesia, two areas with much in common, not least their previous reliance on heavy industry. The British Government are actively pursuing various links and some senior civil servants are regularly seconded to help Poland and other countries prepare for enlargement.
Although I am a fervent advocate of enlargement of the European Union, I recognise that others have reservations. Some fear "floods" of people coming to the EU from the east, but the reality is that most people in central Europe want to stay in the countries where they were born and brought up, and have no great desire to migrate. When enlargement takes place, transitional phases will ensure that the free movement of people is introduced gradually.
Some people fear that footloose capital from the EU will move eastwards and we must acknowledge that some firms have relocated from Britain to central and eastern European countries. South Wales has experienced that. However, that process is the result not of anticipated enlargement but of globalisation. We must seize the nettle and ensure that our industries are truly competitive and our work force have the skills and adaptability to ensure that we retain capital investment and attract more inward investment. We must face that challenge whether or not enlargement takes place.
Some people have expressed concern that present recipients of structural funds in the European Union and particularly in this country will lose out as those funds are reallocated to central and eastern European countries. However, after 2006 there will be an opportunity to renegotiate the financial perspective and
Those are some of the reservations that have been expressed about enlargement. However, the obstructionists who have seized on the issue and attempted to raise obstacles to enlargement have raised two issues in particular. The first is the ratification of the Nice treaty. I believe that that is a sensible treaty for taking Europe forward. It contains a realistic extension of qualified majority voting and a re-weighting of the votes in the Council of Ministers that benefits the United Kingdom. It takes reasonable and moderate steps to ensure that smaller states cannot outvote larger ones. Those measures are necessary for the enlargement process to take place and be successful. I hope that the Irish people will endorse the Nice treaty in their forthcoming referendum.
As well as opposition to the Nice treaty, there has been an attempt to suggest that the common agricultural policy must be reformed before enlargement takes place. I am sure that none of us questions for one moment the need to reform the CAP. Changes have been made, but more radical ones are required. However, we cannot make CAP reform a precondition for enlargementif we do, enlargement will not take place for a generation. That is the clear fact of the matter. That would be tremendously detrimental to this country's national interest and to the interest of the whole European continent.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North): My hon. Friend suggests that we should not reform the CAP before enlargement. Can he say whether the CAP will apply to new member states, or whether they will be insulated and kept out of its arrangements?
Mr. David : There will certainly be transitional arrangements. Some negotiations on the most difficult chapters have begun, agriculture being one of those. The European Commission has proposed modest subsidies for farmers in eastern Europe, which are contentious in terms of Poland, which has the greatest concentration of farmers. However, transitional arrangements are being negotiated and, at the same time, a marker is being put down, not least by our Government, about the need radically to change the CAP in the future.
There is also an acknowledgment in all central European countries, not least Poland, that the CAP must be reformed. That is because of pressure from not only the European Union but the World Trade Organisation. The old agricultural regime simply cannot continue in the modern world, as most people now recognise. A momentum for change is undeniably building up, and it will ensure that the CAP is fundamentally changed once and for all.
Mr. David : Tough negotiations on the agricultural chapter are quite rightly taking place. However, if enlargement is to proceed according to the timetable set out, we must recognise the need to accept the acquis communautaire and the rules that currently apply, including agricultural regulations. Equally, as part of the negotiation process, an earnest debate is taking place on how those regulations can be reformed. We must move away from a common agricultural policy based on subsidy and encouraging overproduction to one more akin to a rural policy, which will bring about the transition of rural economies, making them more efficient and more realistic about the demands of the modern world.
I commend members of our Government who went to Poland and engaged in that debate, while those negotiations were taking place. The current twin-track approach is a realistic way forward to secure enlargement and bring about meaningful change at the same time.
Progress is being made on that and on other contentious areas. The negotiation chart that was drawn up at the end of last month shows that, of the 10 countries that are actively engaged in negotiations, eight have closed some 23 of the 29 chapters that have been opened. That is very significant. I take great comfort from the fact that Poland, which is the largest of the applicant countries, has successfully completed one of its most difficult chapters, which dealt with land ownership and the free movement of capital. Colleagues who were in Poland only a few weeks ago were involved in some of the detailed negotiations. We know full well the sensitivities at issue, so the agreement that has been reached with European Union negotiators on that extremely contentious matter is a huge success that bodes well for the future.
Informal as well as formal negotiations are taking place. Applicant countries must adapt their social and civil infrastructure to ensure that they are able to implement EU policies, and there has been a great deal of success with that as well. However, although it is right and proper for the EU to negotiate a whole raft of policies and, inevitably, for us to take into account our own national interests, we should also bear in mind that the applicant countries, as well as securing a deal with us through negotiation, must sell the package to their electorates in referendums.
Generally, recent Euro barometer opinion surveys show that support for EU membership among applicant countries is holding firm. However, there is cause for concern in some countries. For instance, only 33 per cent. of the Latvian electorate are in favour of joining the EU. Much will depend on the terms that their Government are ultimately able to negotiate with the EU. If we are genuinely committed to the enlargement process, we must keep in mind not simply our own needs and negotiating positions but the need to secure the support of the applicant countries' citizens.
I am optimistic about the enlargement process. There is a very strong chance that it will take place in the near future, probably in 2004. All of the applicant countries already engaged in the process of developing links with EU countries are also contributing to the debate about the future of Europe, which focuses on the work of the convention. A little while ago, our Prime Minister made a statement with the Prime Minister of Poland, which was published on The Guardian website, if not in the newspaper itself. It set out several areas of common ground between Poland and Britain. For example, both Prime Ministers emphatically said that they did not want a European superstate, that intergovernmental co-operation was very important and that the role of national Parliaments was absolutely central to Europe's development.
Leading politicians in Poland are contributing to the debate about the future of our continent. One of the most significant speeches about the future of Europe that I have read for a long time was made last month in the Royal Palace in Warsaw where, in 1791, the first European constitution was officially launched and published. The President of Poland said:
In echoing those fine words, I believe that the enlargement process offers us a monumental challenge and a huge opportunity. It gives us the chance to create a European continent built on the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and good governance. It also gives us a chance to create a peaceful and prosperous Europe. Let us ensure that we grasp that opportunity.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): I praise the spirit in which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) moved his address. He recognised the number of problems relating to the successful integration of applicant countries into the European Union. Part of my case is that if the EU moves too quickly with its agenda of more centralised power and an ambition to cover an ever-wider number of policy areas in greater detail, the task of applicant countries will become more difficult.
During the EU's development there has always been tension over whether it should open its doors more widely to countries that are properly part of the continent of Europe, or whether a limited number of countries should rapidly press on with centralisation to create a type of grand federal Germany at EU level. That tension is seen today: on one hand we have a convention under way that is trying to create a constitution for the European fifteen; on the other, there are the detailed and difficult negotiations of several applicant countries, which have been sketched by the hon. Member for Caerphilly. Those would dearly love stronger links with our democracies and our prosperous
I remember being moved at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s when the Berlin wall came down and many brave people led peaceful, but decisive revolutions for freedom, enterprise and democracy in eastern European countries. At the time, I was privileged to be a Minister of the Crown, and went on several journeys to welcome peoples and their interim Governments into the community of European democracies. The first thing that touched me then was that, on more than one occasion when I was travelling in an ambassadorial car that was flying the United Kingdom flag, people saluted or even kissed the flag because they were so impressed that this country had stood against Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s, and against communism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. They loathed those systems, as I do, because they both eclipse freedom, damage prosperity and make the lives of people who wish to have independence of thought and movement a misery.
I was impressed by the first impulses of those countries as they began to grasp the heady atmosphere of freedom. They wanted two things before anything else: the restoration of their national flags because for so long they had not liked being under the Soviet colours; and, however small the countries, the restoration of their old national currency, because that was seen as a symbol of more control over one's destiny. Small countries decided that the rouble monetary union was not a good idea for them, and that they would rather have control over their own independent monetary system as an expression of their national sovereignty. I urge Her Majesty's Government to understand those feelings. I am keen that we should extend the European family and community ever more widely.
Mr. Hopkins : Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that when other member states join the European Union, they will be less willing to join the single currency because they would want to retain their own currencies as a symbol of their modern freedoms?
Mr. Redwood : If one consulted their people, many would remember the very deep and strong feelings that they had some 10 years ago when they grasped their freedom from the Soviet empire. I am suggesting that our Governmentabove all others in the current 15should be sympathetic to that and understand that the single currency is becoming a barrier to the successful conclusion of a wider union rather than an open invitation. After all, the Government welcome the single currency in principle, and believe that it is a good idea.
We have suffered under, or enjoyed, this Government for five years and they are still unable to pop the question to the British people because they understand how unpopular the idea of the single currency is in Britain. Many people deeply understand that controlling the currency is not just a symbolit is not just about keeping the monarch or Head of State on the coin of the realmbut something very real concerning democratic political power. It gives current and future Ministers the opportunity to control interest rates and have an influence on borrowing or the exchange rate, and therefore to influence imports and exports. That control and influence would be lost if our currency were taken away.
If the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins) will forgive me, I do not wish to get diverted into a debate on the euro. The debate is about European enlargement, and the euro is one of many hurdles that the European Union is placing in the way of the applicant countries. The hon. Member for Caerphilly said, quite rightly, that there were questions to be resolved concerning agricultural policy, and possible movement of capital and people. I share his vision of agricultural policy getting away from subsidy and over-provision that causes considerable expense to the taxpayer. Indeed, if I can believe the Government's policy statements, it is one that they share. Unfortunately, the Government are unable to deliver it given the current configuration of the European Union.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly should understand that we cannot leave the common agricultural policy on one side. The CAP is the biggest, most important and most expensive EU policy. That leads one to question how many more of those centralised policies we want, given the infernal mess that the EU has made in recent years of many parts of the agricultural industry in Britain and on the continent. The CAP is expensive to the taxpayer and to the consumer. That is a remarkable contribution of bad luckwe pay twice. People pay more in the shops and as taxpayers, and the policy is not very good for British farmers either.
Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): I am not an advocate of the common agricultural policy in its present form. However, does the right hon. Gentleman at least recognise that changes are taking place in the European Union? For example, a year ago there was a change of agriculture ministry in Germany, which made a significant difference in pushing the reform debate forward. Does the right hon. Gentleman welcome the fact that the rural development part of the CAP is growing? We must ensure that it grows at the expense of the traditional part. Rather than being defeatist about the matternot to say that the right hon. Gentleman isand saying that we cannot secure change, we should be part of the great momentum for change that exists.
Mr. Redwood : I am suggesting that we should be more forceful and persuasive because change is much needed. I welcome any changes on the continent that move in the right direction, but as the right hon. Lady conceded in her intervention, it is relatively easy to set up another subsidy scheme on top of the scheme we already have, which is not working. It is far more difficult to tackle the underlying problem: a subsidy scheme for farming based on wrong propositions, which conspires to be bad for taxpayers, consumers and farmers in a relatively advanced agricultural society like the United Kingdom, whatever its impact might be elsewhere.
Bob Spink (Castle Point): Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the CAP were fundamentally reformed to make it less intrusive on the taxpayer and on countries in Europe, that would open the door for even further enlargement and put a light at the end of the tunnel for countries like Turkey? That would add to the great benefit of Europe about which the hon. Member for
Mr. Redwood : I agree that the lower we can make the barriers, by reducing the cost and complexity of common policies at federal level, the easier it is to bring other countries in. My ideal would be a European Union of independent national democracies co-operating together. That is a good alternative model, which the UK should advance at the constitutional convention. It is wrong for us to give credence to the idea that tame proposals are likely to emerge from that convention; that the aim is not the creation of a superstate. We all know that the agenda is to create an EU-type state, modelled along German constitutional lines. The lines might be perfectly democratic, but it will be a superstate. We should say that Europe is not ready for thatit is not suitable for all its different peoples, nations and traditions and that we shall get on better together if each country has room for its own national aspirations and forms of democratic expression.
It is crazy that the people of the countries that we seek to invite into our midst risked and gave so much to recreate their old nations some 10 years ago, yet we now expect them to take on an enormous amount of central power in Brussels, designed by countries at different levels of development and with different attitudes. The tension that occurs in enlargement negotiations is always resolved in the EU by going for more centralisation. The centralisers, or federalists, always say that if more participating countries are brought in, that will slow the thing down. Therefore, they say, we must at the same time take more central powers to avoid such slowing down. Indeed, they often aspire to speed it up.
What are they trying to accelerate? What are they trying to prevent from slowing? They are trying to stop the deceleration of the great legislative machinethe centralising machine that trundles on day by day. I have sympathy with those who wish to slow down or stop that machine. There must come a point where there is enough European law. My constituents do not wake up in the morning and write to me saying, "We feel that we need more European laws. Please prod the Government into getting more," whereas I often receive letters from people who say, "We do not want a European law on this or that. We want to trade with our partners in Europe and to be friends with them; we want to see whether we can reach agreement on mighty matters relating to foreign policy or the environment, but the last thing that we want is a legislative machine churning out hundreds of directives and regulations."
The centralisers always say that we need more laws in order to complete the social or environmental area or the single market, to have a common foreign policy or to prepare for a single army. They fear that the admission of different countries such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic would get in the way of the pursuit of their agenda of more laws and more central control, with more trappings and more power going to the superstate in the making. I should like the British Government to say that this enlargement should be different. We should say that we joined a common marketthe British people voted for that and British Governments past and present have been supporters of
That brings me naturally to the curious case of the treaty of Nice. The British Government have consistently argued, often in a partisan spirit, that the treaty of Nice contains the minimum that is necessary to complete the arrangements for the applicant countries, but anyone of independent mind who reads the treaty can see that it is mainly concerned with giving more central power to European institutions. It is about removing vetos that we currently enjoy and replacing them with qualified majority voting. It is about creating a series of new common policies, some of which are set out in the recent Government document, "Realising Europe's potential: Economic Reform in Europe", and there are parallel measures for the common foreign policy and the common military policy that is being evolved.
The treaty of Nice is more about centralising than about enlargement. Of course, some items in the treaty are necessary for enlargement. It is necessary to rebalance votes and determine the numbers of CommissionersI do not disagree with that; it is a necessary part of enlargementbut because the treaty goes so much wider and includes chunks of centralising agenda, it hit the buffers when it was put to a vote in Ireland. Who would have thought that Ireland would object to such a treaty when Ireland has been a great beneficiary of subsidies and trade with the European Union, which one would have thought would overwhelm any demerits that Irish people might see in the scheme? However, the Nice treaty was so centralising and claustrophobic that the Irish decided that they could not live with it. I hope that member states will learn from that lesson and understand that free peoples and democracies are likely to respond "No" to such a centralising treaty. The British Government would not dare to put the treaty of Nice before the British people because they know that we would run a rattling good campaign against itmaking the points that I have made, that the treaty is about not only enlargement but centralising and grabbing powerand that we would win.
Mr. Redwood : I would have liked it to be. As the hon. Gentleman may remember, I resigned from the then Government over several issues, including the handling of the single currency and the Maastricht treaty, which I wanted to be put before the British people. However, I was very pleased that we obtained an opt-out from the main point of the Maastricht treatyjoining the single
The Government should understand that the people of western Europeand, I suspect, the peoples of eastern Europenow desperately need a voice in the powerful councils that meet behind closed doors in Brussels and other leading centres to say that they do not want more centralised power, but want their national democracies to be respected. We think that we can get on better with each other if we are allowed a little freedom and some looseness, rather than having everything controlled centrally.
The Minister may like to comment on how he sees the negotiations on agriculture going, because he must concede that, far from settling all the important issues that must be resolved before enlargement, the Nice treaty leaves out the most important issues: the handling of agriculture and of the budget. We need to know how much enlargement will cost existing members. What are we prepared to pay for it? We all want to enlarge the Union, but we need to know whether the own resources ceiling will be increased and whether there will be big tax increases for people in Britain, France and Germany. If there is not a big tax increase to pay for enlargement, we need to know which elements of the budget will be cut. As soon as we bring new and poorer members into the Community, they will naturallyon the basis of proportionality and populationreceive more than their fair share of money for agriculture, transport and infrastructure projects from the social fund. That will mean less money for the western countries. While that may be perfectly fair, I would like to see the numbers.
I would far rather achieve enlargement by amending the budget than by a big tax increase. I do not think that a big tax increase for the western European peoples would be a good idea at the moment. There may be more to be said about that tomorrow, once the tax-raising Chancellor has disclosed his domestic requirements. If, on top of domestic requirements, we are to face a big requirement for enlargement, we should at least know the numbers and have an opportunity to debate such an important matter.
Will the Minister use the opportunity for renegotiation that enlargement offers to sort out fishing? There are some sensible words on fishing in the Government's latest document. However, the British fishing industry is being destroyed. The common fisheries policy is another example of a centralised common policy that does not work for Britain. Now that everything has to be renegotiated because we are considering proper enlargement, can we please dig in and get some common sense and a better deal for our fishermen?
Will the Minister tell us what that package is likely to comprise? We are now well advanced into 2002. Are the negotiations well advanced? How many more new taxes will emanate from the European Union and how much control of our tax policy is envisaged under the new tax proposals? Those matters will make it even more difficult for the applicant countries, because they will now learn that they are joining a club that has not only very centralised agriculture, fishing and social policies but substantial ambitions to transfer some of the powers of taxation from national democratic assemblies to the centre, the federal core, which may or may not become more democratic.
Will the British Government on this occasion speak the truth and speak out for a Europe of nations where we respect each other's differences? Will they speak out for a Community in which we do things together where we wish to do so and are able to reach voluntary agreement? Will they speak out against a more centralised Community? Will they speak out against a Community that wishes to tax us more and involve us less? Will they speak out against a Community that thinks that the treaty of Nice is the answer to enlargement, when the real answer is sorting out difficulties such as the budget and the common agricultural policy?
Will the Government speak out for a Community that believes that democracy, freedom and enterprise can best be spread by making more decisions locally than centrally and by encouraging the brave, democratic forces in the eastern European countries, rather than trying to take powers away from them and give them to bureaucrats at the centre? Above all, will they take on board the message of the Irish referendum and be prepared to face the British people on the issue by putting the resulting package to a sensible referendum test?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Frank Cook): Order. I remind right hon. and hon. Members that it is the custom in Westminster Hall to start the three final speeches 30 minutes before the end of the debate. As you will see, there are 17 minutes left and four Members seeking to catch my eye, so I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind the lack of time in terms of their own delivery and when considering whether to accept interventions.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) on securing this debate. I also congratulate him on choosing this subject and on the way in which he introduced it, with which I strongly agreed.
The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) mentioned the tremendous exhilaration and hope that we all felt when the Berlin wall fell at the end of the 1980s and wonderful, undreamed-of changes took place across our continent. We have moved on
I could not quite tell from the contribution by the right hon. Member for Wokingham whether he was in favour of enlargement; he certainly emphasised all the problems. Although it is right to be realistic about them, we must maintain a sense of purpose and a commitment to enlargement, which practically everyone across our continent is in favour of.
Although enlargement is a complex issue, good progress is being made. The European Commission is making good progress through its structured approach of breaking down the policy issues into different chapters. Several applicant countries have also made good progress, despite the huge legislative programmes and administrative burdens that they have had to adopt to meet the enlargement criteria. We should congratulate them and recognise the progress that they have made, but we should also ensure that they properly tackle issues on which further progress is needed. There have been welcome changes in their approaches to nationality and minority issues, although their records are not perfect, and one or two countries still need to make progress. None the less, the overall balance sheet is increasingly positive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly rightly referred to issues that are likely to influence public debate in applicant countries and EU member states. If enlargement is to be successfully completed, there must be a positive outcome in member states and applicant countries, which are trying to show their populations that EU membership is a positive move. That is particularly true of countries that hold referendums.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly raised some tricky issues. On immigration, he was right to stress that people on the whole want to live and work in their countries of origin. We should recognise that previous enlargements have successfully ensured that that has happened. When Spain, Portugal and Greece joined the EU, many people used emotive language to express their fears about waves of immigration into existing EU member states. In fact, the opposite has happened, and it has been good to see those countries make economic progress and become increasingly able to provide satisfying living and working conditions for their people and to welcome people from other member states and elsewhere.
My hon. Friend was right and honest to say that there are worries about structural funds, particularly among present recipients. In negotiations on the issue in 1999 in Berlin, however, the Government achieved a good settlement for Europe and the United Kingdom. That resulted in good transitional arrangements and good settlements for objectives 1 and 2. People in Ireland have had difficulty with that, , but we must be realistic about the fact that entitlement to funds cannot remain exactly the same as countries rise up the prosperity leaguethat is the honest approach. However, I would not be happy if enlargement meant that no structural funds remained for existing member states. Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for regional policy, said that
Agriculture has been mentioned, but, given your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall not discuss it in great detail. I merely express the hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will work with other Governments to ensure that the rural development funds available for applicant countries are used more effectively than they have been up to now. Rural development is the way forward for the common agricultural policy, and it is important that we make better use of those funds, here and now.
I refer to a remark made by the right hon. Member for Wokingham. He seems to regard the convention on the future of Europe as a centralising plot, whereas it is much more complex than that. Rightly, it includes representatives from all the Governments, from national Parliaments, the European Parliament and from the kaleidoscope of political parties that make up the European Union. [Interruption.] I am being reminded that some members of the convention take a critical view of the existence of the European Union itself. I see no reason why the convention should not consider areas that are over-regulated in the European Union.
The agricultural policy is one area in which greater flexibility is needed for countries and for regions within countries, and in which there has been too much centralising. However, it is unjustified to approach the convention with the fear and dread implicit in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am glad that the candidate countries are associated with that convention process, as they will be able to play their part in the reform process.
Finally, I cannot believe that the applicant countries are interested in creating a European superstate. They value their newly-won freedom and independence too much for that, and they know that they are entering an association in which they can play their full part, so they would not want to be subjugated by some superstate based in Brussels.
I welcome the enlargement of the European Union. When I was a student at the London University School of Slavonic and East European Studies, it would have seemed incredible that some of the countries now applying could be in such a position. Some of them were not even independent countries. The advances made in democracy in those countries amaze me, and anything that we can do to help preserve those democracies will be welcome.
I am not an expert on agricultural policy, but I take the view that the inexorable move to industrialisation of agriculture, caused in part by the common agricultural policy, has resulted in the deterioration of the environment in many countries. That has happened in the United Kingdom, western Europe and Hungary, which I often visit, and it may well be happening in Poland, too. We must be careful of that as we progress towards enlargement.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said, the danger of enlargement is that if we are not careful we shall fall between two stools: either it will become too easy to join the EU, in which case it will become a meaningless organisation; or the EU will become too restrictive and centralised, in which case it will become an exclusive club. The peoples of those countries and their Governments see membership as a positive move not only for economic reasons but to preserve and strengthen their relatively recently found democracy.
It will become important for small statessome of which are already applicant countries and others of which, such as Macedonia, will hopefully apply much further down the lineto be members of the EU if they are to exist as states. I also hope that Yugoslaviait may well be the Republics of Serbia and Montenegrowill apply in a relatively short time. I hope that the Minister will tell me that the Government will support Yugoslavia's application to join the Council of Europe. I have studied Yugoslavia and have spent much time there. One of the problems in Yugoslavia, which was after all a federation, was that it was too centralised. Old rivalries and hatreds ran very deep, and it might be necessary for that region to be encompassed in the EU to solve some of those difficult problems.
Those countries must not regard EU membership as a panacea, otherwise people will be disappointed when some of their dreams do not become reality, and disappointment will become resentment. As my right hon. Friend said, we must recognise that there is a strong feeling of nationhood and independence in those countries. We must work together to make sure that we preserve that feeling of independence.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): Three minutes is insufficient time in which to do this subject justice. I have some interests to declare: my father-in-law, who was a member of the Polish air force, flew with the Royal Air Force during the second world war. I strongly believe that this country owes a huge debt of honour to him and his fellow veterans. I also want to tell hon. Members that his uncle was President of the Polish Government-in-exile.
I do not declare those interests lightly, and I speak as a member of the all-party Polish group, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) is also a member. Along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin), we visited Poland in January. The changes that I saw in Poland compared with my previous visit 10 years ago with an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation showed how determined that country is that EU enlargement will go ahead. We have heard a great deal this morning about historical background, such as the
We have heard a great deal about agriculture, and I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to take into account the wealth of information, not least that supplied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West, who was formerly a Minister with responsibility for agriculture. We need to use all information, expertise and specialisationespecially environmental specialisationto make sure that a twin-track approach is taken in reforming the CAP while ensuring that it will be relevant to Poland.
I was heartened to see that great progress has been made in respect of the chapter on the judicial system. Poland has increased capacity, so those concerns no longer exist. I hope that we can secure a resolution on that matter, so that Poland can take part in the European elections in 2004. If all goes to plan, Poland will be a fully fledged member of the European Union and will take its place alongside other Governments. I think that Poland will be a particular friend of the United Kingdom. We must work closely with fellow EU members, via all the twinning arrangements, to take account of Polish interests and ensure that our vision of European enlargement makes practical sense in terms of delivery in the United Kingdom and Poland.
Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): This has been a very important debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) on securing it. As others have remarked, he made a genuinely upbeat presentation of the benefits and importance of enlargement, which I endorse.
We have heard the usual wide-ranging set of opinions about the meaning of enlargement. We all seem to agree that it is a good thing, even if our analyses of what it means for the European Union vary significantly. The Liberal Democrats have been strong supporters of the process of enlargement for a long time. We recognise the historic role of the European Union in advancing security, democracy and prosperity throughout a part of the world that has characterised most of its modern existence by fighting bloody wars. It has lived through many forms of government, with too many parts of it living under regimes that are other than democratic for a long time. As the cold war fades from memory, it is important not to lose sight of the progress that has been made.
Enlargement is important for longstanding members of the European Union, such as this country. The negotiations cannot be taken for granted. As with everything in Europe, the process of the negotiations has been slow and, at times, painful. Undoubtedly, more pain will be experienced. In recent weeks, the Minister has been responding to parliamentary questions, explaining how the different chapters of the negotiations have been successfully concluded. However, we appreciate that the timetable is pretty unforgiving, and many issues have yet to be resolved. Before we get to that point, there is the small matter of the ratification of the treaty of Nice. The conclusion of that process is fundamental to the success of enlargement, but we cannot ignore the fact that last June's Irish referendum result represents a major stumbling block to the process. European Union leaders confidently stated after the referendum result that the enlargement process was irreversible, but it is important that we hear from the Minister today how he anticipates the Irish can be persuaded to reverse that decision. There is an election campaign in the Republic, and he may pray that in aid for not meddling in another country's affairs, although we know that he is a brave Minister who often pushes matters further than some of his colleagues want. Perhaps I can tempt him this morning to comment on that issue.
Mr. Redwood : Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it is a good democratic principle that if people vote no in a referendum, they must vote again, but if they vote yes the result is accepted? Does he recognise that as being democratic?[Interruption.]
Mr. Moore : As the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) said, it is for the Irish to decide how they want to proceed, but I suspect that that helps his argument for independence in Scotland, so I shall not push it too far.
If the Irish reject the treaty a second, third, fourth or fifth time, there will be a serious problem. We know that it is technically possible to get around enlargement, but what will happen if ratification is not forthcoming? The difficult issues in the Nice treaty will be academic for applicant countries if negotiations are not concluded. A number of issues affect individual countries and the whole European Union generally. Three broad categories of eligibility criteria cover politics, the economy and administration.
With the exception of Turkey, candidate countries have passed the political test, but they have demonstrated mixed success with their economies and administration of judicial capability. Political eligibility is sometimes taken for granted, but we must not
The economic position in each country varies, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the economic opportunities are at the heart of the appeal of EU membership. I shall touch on a couple of issues that have been raised in this debate.
Agriculture was the focus of earlier contributions and there is no doubt that the common agricultural policy is a key focus for all negotiations. We are in the early stage of those negotiations and the gloss may be wearing off for some applicant countries. Great concern has been expressed in recent months about the way in which they might be integrated into the CAP, the nature and time scale of entitlement to subsidies and the period preceding their eligibility for full membership. My view is that an unreformed CAP is damaging and unsustainable for existing member states and those who seek to join. A mid-term review of the CAP is under way, neatly seeking to dodge the French, if not the German, elections this year, which will be fundamental to the conclusion of negotiations with candidate countries. Again, it would be useful to understand the Government's attitude to that. They have not earned a great deal of credibility among Britain's farmers in recent years for their commitment to agriculture and for what they seek to do about it. It is important that we understand their attitude to the agricultural policy.
On regional funds, I echo the point made by the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin). Unless we look seriously at how British regions will be affected after enlargement, there will be much difficulty in selling that proposal to the UK.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) on initiating the debate. He has a very considerable knowledge of, and interest in, European Union enlargement.
Enlargement is not only about economic benefits or politics; it is a moral obligation. For years, the European nations east of Stettin and Trieste were excluded from the freedom and prosperity of the west. Thanks to the west's victory in the cold war, through the firm leadership of such people as my noble Friend Baroness Thatcher and the American Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and through the bravery of such people as Lech Walesa and Václav Havel, eastern Europe is now free.
The Conservative party feels its obligation towards accession with particular strength because of its experience in government at that time. I echo the sentiments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) on that. I pay tribute to previous Ministers and Foreign Secretaries who did everything possible to ensure that the peoples of Europe knew that Britain was their friend in those difficult times. That has greatly redounded to Britain's credit. I freely acknowledge that this Government have carried on that process, but I have been personally touched by the gratitude expressed to me by so many diplomats, politicians and others from the accession countries who have acknowledged the special role that we played. They know of our continuing, passionate but practical commitment to the enlargement process.
We can all be well satisfied that in this country, unlike in some member states, there is virtually no opposition to enlargement. Of course, we can expect enlargement to impact on the British economy. Because of the lower wages typical of many candidate countries, there can be little doubt that some sectors of the British economy will face stiffer competition after enlargement. We are all interested to hear from the Minister what steps the Government are taking to ensure that British business and the British public are prepared for the impact of enlargement, despite the transitional arrangements in place. I do not believe that the British public are as well informed about enlargement as they should be. I look forward to hearing how the Government will help prepare the country for that development.
Let me turn to some of the obstacles to enlargement. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that the broad outlines of common agricultural policy reform be agreed before 2004? We cannot afford for that failed, costly system to carry on as it is, never quite at the top of the EU's priorities. Unreformed, we know that the CAP will be an unsustainable burden on our budgets as European enlargement unfolds.
No one wants the accession of the candidate countries to be hindered by the mess that current member states have made of the CAP. None the less, the problem must be resolved, and soon, if the great task of enlargement is to succeed. To that end, can the Minister explicitly assure us that reform will be under way by 2004? Does he agree that the Commission's phase-in proposals can be no more than a holding line? I appreciate that CAP reform should not become a central negotiating issue for enlargement, but the Government must recognise the dangers inherent in lack of reform in the longer term.
Several hon. Members have discussed structural funds. Here, too, the Commission is proposing only a temporary solution for dealing with the problems that enlargement throws up for EU subsidies. Without reform, expenditure on structural operations will increase from about 32,000 billion euros to more than 68,000 billion euros by 2010 because of enlargement. I hope that the Minister agrees that we cannot afford such growth in expenditure. What are the Government doing about that particular aspect of enlargement? We look forward to the Minister's comments. He expressed his interest in the matter last month in European Standing Committee B, but we have heard little about it from the Government.
We expect a third report from the European Commission early next year. What do the Government desire to see in the report? We need a reformed system of structural funding that is fair to existing member states and to those in the accession process. There must be no second-class members of the European Union.
The Minister will reiterate the charge that, by opposing the Nice treaty, the Conservative party is against enlargement. We warned when the treaty was made that hastening integration rather than preparing the EU for enlargement was not helpful to the candidate countries, and I believe that we have been proved entirely right. The Irish may ratify the treaty, but there is no guarantee that they will. Given the importance of enlargement, what will happen if the Irish again reject it? It would be intolerable if enlargement were held up yet further because of a lack of a plan B. I assure the Minister of our unqualified support for provisions that are genuinely necessary for enlargement, such as the redistribution of votes in the Council of Ministers.
The imminence of enlargement brings our attention to what may lie beyond. What are the European Union's potential limits? Do we foresee a day when Belarus and the Ukraine, or countries such as Russia and Georgia, have closer links to the EU? When the matter was brought up in European Standing Committee B last month, the Minister declined to discuss it, but the issue is becoming more and more important. Clearly, there will have to be closer engagements with neighbouring countries as the EU expands eastwards. We should take as an example the positive and constructive discussions on 9 April at Weimar between Germany and Russia about Kaliningrad.
I wish to mention the issue of the accession application of Cyprus. It is one of the best prepared of the candidate countries, but there is an unhealed split between the island's two communities. We hope that discussions between the leaders of those communities will bear fruit. The split should not be a barrier to the country's entry into the European Union. We welcome Turkey's intentions to become a member of the EU and call on it to use its influence to help construct a process that will solve the problem of Cyprus divided. An end to the tragic conflict would be another most welcome by-product of the enlargement process and must be a priority for Britain because of our historical and present links with the island, because it is a fellow member of the Commonwealth, and because of the importance of the Greek and Turkish communities in the United
The process of embracing the countries of central and eastern Europe into the European family of democratic nations has been long and difficult, but I hope and believe that we are almost there. The architecture of an enlarged European Union is hugely important, but that is an argument for another day.
The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain) : I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) made a very good speech. I agreed with most of it, but he will not be surprised to hear that I did not agree with his comments on the Nice treaty.
This year, 2002, is the year of enlargement, and I welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) in holding this debate. As he said, it is one of the great issues of our time. He was the distinguished leader of the European parliamentary Labour party when he was an MEP, and he has done much work with Bulgaria, which is a candidate nation. I agree that it is ahead of Romania on its track to European Union membershipit has already closed 14 chapters. We hope that such progress will be encouraged.
I welcome the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley). I had the privilege to meet her father-in-law, who was a distinguished wartime pilot in the battle against the Nazis. She spoke eloquently about Poland's application, which we strongly support. Under the new Polish Government, the country has made much progress and has closed 22 chapters. We hope that that will accelerate.
On the question about Ireland from the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore), I remind him that at last month's Barcelona summit the Irish asked for a statement during the Seville summit in June that would address the concerns that were raised by many at the Irish referendum, specifically confirming that the Nice treaty does not affect Irish neutrality. I am confident that such assurances can be given and that an opportunity will be paved for a fresh referendum should the Irish Government choose to call one. I hope that they do, because Ireland must ratify the Nice treaty for it to come into force.
I acknowledge the work that my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin) has done with Belgium. She has done valuable liaison work with the Belgian Government and the Belgian political system. I also acknowledge the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) who does similarly valuable work with Romania and Slovakia, two accession countries that we want in the European Union.
We want the European Union to conclude accession negotiations with as many countries as are ready by the end of this year, which is in eight months. That will be the culmination of many years of hard work by this Government, andabove allby candidate countries that have transformed their economies and societies in the aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin wall. They
The Government have been a champion of enlargement and I acknowledge that the Conservatives in government were far more constructive than they have been in oppositionI freely acknowledge that they moved enlargement forward. However, negotiations with the first candidates began under our Government during the British presidency in 1998. To remain on target, candidates must keep up with their reforms, not only by introducing new laws and systems required for membership, but by making them work on the ground. We need to know that our citizens' rights will be protected by the police forces, and upheld by the judiciaries, of new member states. The food circulating in the wider single marketthe largest single market in the worldmust be safe for our citizens, and border controls must be effective. Candidates have made huge strides in those areas.
We have bilateral action plans with each candidate country that will finance projects designed to support the accession process. Under the EU's twinning programme, British experts have been involved with more than 100 projects, and many of them have been seconded to work alongside their counterparts in candidate countries to help implement European legislation and standards for border management, the environment and tackling corruption and crime.
Enlargement is good for Britain and for Europe. We are doing a favour not just for the candidate countries but for ourselves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly argued so eloquently, enlargement builds peace and stability in our continent. In preparation for European membership, candidate countries have had to build good neighbourly relations and respect for their minorities, from Russian minorities in the Baltic states to Roma minorities in central Europe. Their performance in such areas is monitored closely. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West said, there is considerable progress as a result of the succession momentum.
Last week, I saw for myself in Cyprus how the prospect of enlargement is encouraging both sides to try to mend historic divisions. The hon. Members for West Suffolk and for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale asked about progress. There is progress. I said to Mr. Denktash that he must get more closely involved in the detail of the negotiations, rather than just in the meetingsat which we welcome his presencebecause that is his best opportunity to get a deal for the Turkish minority on the island that protects their security and their interests. Equally, when I met President Clerides and Foreign Minister Kasoulides, I said that it is important for the Government of Cyprus to continue to make progress on the negotiations and to come up with constructive ideas. They are doing so. We want a united Cyprus to come into the European Union. It would be damaging for all concerned if that were not the case.
The prospect of enlargement has helped to resolve causes of tension and conflict. It has created stable, democratic partners for the future. It costs European citizens far less financially, politically and socially to help a neighbour country to make the transition to democracy in a market economy than it does to rebuild it after conflict. One need only consider the contrast between a candidate country such as Slovenia and Milosevic's Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, both parts of the former Yugoslavia, to recognise that truth.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) invited me to comment on the prospects of Serbia and Montenegro for EU membership. We see them as potential candidates. I hope that that will accelerate modernisation and democratisation in that part of the world.
Enlargement will enhance prosperity. Every enlargement has given a boost to EU economies, including Britain's. This one will boost our economy by about £1.75 billion, or some £100 for each British household. That is a great opportunity for us. British exports to central Europe increased by 19 per cent. between 1999 and 2000 in anticipation of enlargement, and by as much as 25 per cent. to the Czech Republic and Hungary. It is estimated that enlargement will create 300,000 jobs across the EU, including thousands in Britain, as companies take advantage of trade opportunities.
Enlargement will enhance co-operation, helping us to tackle problems that do not recognise borders, such as pollution, drug smuggling and people trafficking. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West was right. The same fears were expressed about the accession of Spain and Portugal. In fact, the reverse was the case. People went back to Spain and Portugal as those countries gained prosperity through membership of Europe.
Industry in the candidate countries is starting to implement EU environmental standards, improving the air that we breathe and the water in Europe's rivers and seas. The beaches in Cyprus, which attracted some 1.5 million UK tourists last year, will have to meet EU standards for cleanliness and safety.
The candidates are not just our partners of tomorrow. They are already our partners today. We co-operate with many of them on the European convention, in respect of which I represent the Government, to shape the European Union of tomorrow. Having found their own sovereignty, they are in no rush to lose it. Like us, they want to keep decision making at national level wherever it is best to do so.
I welcome the contribution of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood). He is an under-used talent on the Conservative Benches. However, it is important that we dismiss his idea that enlargement will create a grand federal Germany. It will not be anything like that. We are building a European Union of freely co-operating, independent nation states. That is the Government's vision and the vision of all the candidate countries that have recently gained their national independence, free from the Soviet yoke of oppression. They are in no rush to give up that independence, and we share their vision.
We look forward to all the candidate countries joining us in a Europe of full employment and social justice, a Europe that can master the threats to our environment, a Europe of stability and prosperity, peace and security, that guarantees food safety and consumer protection, a Europe of human rights and independent nation states, not a federal superstate, a Europe of the people, for the people, by the people, in which every candidate can take its place proudly as an equal among equals.