|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
I look forward to the report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Roger Casale) referred. I hope that the whole House will pay careful attention to the constructive proposals from the convention and from his Select Committee about how we can better insert the national Parliaments into the operation of the European Union.
I now want to deal with two important foreign policy matters. First, the middle east will feature on the convention's agenda for sure. Yet again, discussion about it will be overshadowed by a further terrorist outrage: the suicide bombing that took place this morning. As I left the Foreign Office, 17 people had been reported killed and 40 injured, and it is quite possible that the toll is rising. I should like to place on record our belief about the totally despicable nature of this attack, in which so many innocent people have again lost their lives: the detonation of a bomb on a bus carrying schoolchildren is an act of evil beyond words. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in sending out our condolences and sense of grief to the victims' families, to those who were injured and to those who are trying to tend to them.
All of us understand the depth of feeling that exists on both sides in the middle east conflict. In our view, none of us should ever seek to justifyindeed, it cannot be a matter of justificationthe use of terror against innocent civilians to advance a political cause. Yes, I note that the Palestinian Authority has condemned the attack, but it has to demonstrate to the international community that it is making effective efforts to crack down on terrorism and deal with the utterly evil people who organise the suicide bombers. Yes, they send other people to their death, including the bombers, but they never send themselves to death. They are willing to use the deaths of their own people, as it were, as well as the deaths of innocents on the other side, to seek to advance their cause. The last
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): In identifying Opposition Members totally with what the Foreign Secretary has said about suicide bombings, may I ask whether he will advise the House during the next few minutes of what his policy and that of the EU is likely to be on the construction of a fence and trench dividing Palestinian land from Israeli land?
Mr. Straw: We had a brief discussion yesterday on the middle east, including that issue. We decided to delay comprehensive discussion, which will probably take place on Friday at dinner, as we anticipate a major statement by President Bush on the issue. Obviously, we will make a full report, or a full report will be made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on that part of the discussion in his statement on the conclusions of Seville next Monday.
I shall now deal briefly with the other major issueKashmir. I set out our position on Kashmir in a statement to the House on Monday last week. Since the resurgence of violence in recent months, the issue has been high on the European Union's agenda. There has been intense diplomatic activity by the EU countries, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom, and Commissioner Chris Patten visited the region last month. I welcome assurances from President Musharraf that he is taking steps to crack down effectively on cross-border terrorism, and I am pleased that in recent days India has taken significant steps to reduce tensions.
I hope that at Seville, EU leaders will underline the need for Pakistan to take visible, decisive and verifiable steps to seal the line of control, to stop supplies to militant groups and help to restrain their violent activities, and to close the militant training camps on Pakistan's side of the line of control. I hope that EU Governments will also support our call for the Indian Government to improve the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, and to ensure that free, fair and inclusive elections take place there this autumn.
Let me now come back to the central agenda for Seville. The EU has now been in existence for 45 years, and the UK has been a member for two thirds of that period, since 1973. It is a political institution without parallel in history, and has rightly aroused huge debate and controversy here and in continental Europelong may that continue. I am in no doubt, however, that its historic achievement, alongside NATO, has been remarkable. It has secured long-term peace with prosperity across a continent whose previous normal experience was conflict and turmoil. None the less, if the Union is to develop further it has to look forward and respond not to yesterday's problems but to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
The Seville Council is a chance to show European voters that we are determined to deliver outcomes for our citizens within the framework of a Union that can earn and maintain popular support. As usual, we will be working with our European partners to achieve our goals through negotiation, not confrontation. Our experience in
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his choice of debate today, as 18 June commemorates one of the most comprehensive defeats for European integration and the creation of the European superstatethe battle of Waterloo. He may well recall that on that occasion unexpected intervention by one of our European partners helped us to win the day.
Mr. Straw: There is a much more recent anniversary18 June is the thirty-second anniversary of a victory that the Conservative party wishes to forget. On 18 June 1970, Sir Edward Heath won the election that led to Britain going into Europe.
One of the better developments in the six months since we last debated European affairs is the warming of relations between Russia, Europe and the United States. We welcome the new framework of relations between Russia and NATO, which will allow deeper and more fruitful co-operation between the present NATO countries and Russia. Closer ties between Russia and the rest of Europe may lead to greater security but could also act as a catalyst for greater prosperity in Europe and beyond. It was therefore right that the European Union recognised Russia as a market economy.
Also in the past six months, in the Balkans, Serbia and Montenegro have moved peacefully and uniquely towards a new constitutional relationship. Conservative Members welcome President Kostunica's ratification of the new federal agreement between Serbia and Montenegro. Everything possible must be done to help to ensure that Serbia and Montenegro stay on a course of peaceful political development and that the political changes taking place in Yugoslavia are not allowed to stand in their way.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned enlargement. As he knows, we support enlargement and believe that it is one of the most important European developments. Our support stems from our experience in government when the communist bloc in the east finally collapsed, and we made it clear to the peoples of eastern Europe that Britain was their friend. Enlargement is an opportunity to promote peace and prosperity among all the nations of Europe, but it does not come without problems.
Kaliningrad remains a serious problem, and progress on devising suitable arrangements for that Russian enclave seems to have halted. The region already endures enough misery from unemployment, pollution and AIDS without the European Union adding to it by isolating it from the main mass of Russia. We must ensure that that difficult matter does not harm the relations of the Baltic states and Poland with Russia or their economies, nor should we allow Kaliningrad to become a gateway to Europe for crime. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will do all that he can to ensure that that problem is turned into an opportunity both for the European Union and for Russia.
Mr. Ancram: I sometimes wonder whether the hon. Gentleman ever listens to debates in this House, because we have covered this topic on many occasions. Sometimes the Government tell us that the Nice treaty is necessary for enlargement, and sometimes they tell us that it is not. As the hon. Gentleman knows, Nice was about much more than enlargement, and later I shall turn to other matters about which Conservative Members have genuine and justified concerns.
The opportunity that enlargement presents is not guaranteed. Signs of opposition have recently arisen in the European Union, and those reservations must be addressed. If the target of 2004 is missed, many eastern European countries will justly feel that the European Union made promises to them in bad faith, and some may be disinclined to carry on with what is proving a costly and burdensome administrative process. That would be regrettable, and we should seek to reverse that trend.
Time and again we have warned that the current structure of the European Unionthe vast, inflexible mass of the acquisis not conducive to building a wider Europe that delivers the jobs and wealth that its peoples want. Nor does it make accession to the EU easy. It is universally acknowledged that enlargement will be financially unsustainable if the common agricultural policy and structural funding are not reformed. For instance, unreformed enlargement will increase expenditure on structural operations from £20.73 billion to £43.539 billion by 2010. There has still been too little movement towards reform.