Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


5.50 p.m.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak immediately after my old friend, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who made a characteristically optimistic and well-informed speech. It has been a remarkable debate. It started with two interesting and challenging speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Wright of Richmond and Lord Healey, and has continued largely at the same level.

The Carnegie Commission recently launched at Chatham House its report on Preventing Deadly Conflict. It came to the conclusion that what causes deadly conflict within and between states is injustice and frustration. That statement is self-evident to all who

28 Jan 1998 : Column 275

have given the matter any attention. That is why justice is not an optional element in security and stability and why frustration can never be eliminated or even silenced by the use of force.

Before I talk about Europe and the Middle East, I would point out that the Carnegie maxim applies also to international organisations, and perhaps especially to world organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the proposed multilateral agreement on investments. If these bodies impose social injustice and the abandonment of national autonomy, and thus of national democracy, they will be actively promoting frustration. If their doctrine sends to the wall those who have nothing to sell, they are machines for the creation of injustice and frustration and therefore, eventually, of deadly conflict. Let us hope that that is not how history turns out.

Our debate draws attention to the role of this country as the current president of the European Union. It will be a test for us to do that well, given the long-standing differences between the United States and most of the continental members of the European Union about Iraq.

The crux of the question is whether the existing UN Security Council resolution on Iraq is sufficient to legitimate a renewal of military action, or whether another is required. The United States is sure that it is sufficient. Russia is sure that it is not. France is strongly drawn to the Russian position and, considering the successes in recent years of Franco-Russian diplomacy, one can see why. I understand that decisions may even have been reached this afternoon, and I would welcome news about that at the end of the debate if possible.

In the Middle East injustice flourishes. It is harboured, and sometimes energetically pursued, by some governments there as both national and international policy, more cruelly and dangerously than elsewhere. Consequently, frustration also flourishes there and those whose frustration leads them, in the language of the Carnegie Report, to violence and confrontation see further violence being ceaselessly urged against them.

What are ordinary Iraqis to do except despair? And the Kurds? Bombing chemical and biological weapons factories and stores is not going to help much.

The present grim situation did not come out of the blue. All people are blind, and none so blind as the supremely powerful. Part of the American blindness, with which we so often align ourselves, is that we divide up situations which are closely linked, which are even identical in some respects, each of which separately embodies injustice and frustration and thus produces deadly conflict. Thus we limit the breadth of our vision and the ease with which we can recognise injustice and frustration.

Overall, there is an American tendency to embrace the Huntington thesis--which Lord Wright has effectively demolished this afternoon--that a war of the civilisations is on the way: the West (including both Christendom and Judaeoism) against Islam, for instance. This frankly idiotic piece of futurology is being promoted by those for whom conflict--because they

28 Jan 1998 : Column 276

make and sell the weapons and can avoid having their own blood shed--is an acceptable, even an agreeable vista.

The greatest concentration of the situations is in the greater Middle East. This vast area includes, above all, the new Caspian oil province and Turkey; therefore, the oil pipelines; therefore, Greece and Cyprus; therefore, the European Union. It is also bedevilled by the expansion of NATO's presence into central Asia. Here is the overall context of both the UNSCOM/Iraq dispute and the United States' approach to Iran.

Then there are the "rogue states", our supposed enemies. The United States lists Iraq, Iran and Libya as rogue states to be feared and disciplined. They engage in international terrorism and torture; they threaten and attack their neighbours; they seek weapons of mass destruction and platforms from which to deliver them and they embrace religious fundamentalism. Today, objectively, Israel is therefore a rogue state, engaging conspicuously and freely in all those activities. But the United States will not say a harsh word which is publicly audible.

There is the peace process--Oslo--in which the Palestinians' rights to land and autonomy, neglected for nearly 50 years, were at last accepted and signed for by Israel on the White House lawn. This has now turned into an ignoble barney between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Netanyahu. The real situation--the one in which Israel imposes injustice and frustration on the Palestinians, on the Lebanese, on some Syrians and on the Jordanians--is ignored.

None of these peoples were responsible for the original appalling injustice against the Jews which led to the founding of the state of Israel. Moslems--Syrians, Saudis and Iranians--all believe that the Jones/Lewinski affair is promoted by the "Friends of Netanyahu". Mr. Netanyahu was indeed visiting his various friends in Washington last week before his meeting with President Clinton. This belief could be pure paranoia or it could be a true perception--we shall not know for quite a while--but what matters politically is that it is believed and makes life harder for all those who want peace.

Next, Iraq and UNSCOM. Iraq's nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction have become part of a battle between the Security Council and Iraq, though the nuclear part is now apparently won. Israel's failure to get rid of its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction--mostly funded by or from America--and its failure to abide by UN resolutions are forgotten by the United States. They are remembered by all of Israel's neighbours. They are the cause of Saddam's drive for weapons of mass destruction in the first place and any others there may be or have been in the Arab world.

Again, we choose to wash our hands of the collateral damage done to ordinary Iraqis by our embargoes, about which the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, spoke so eloquently a couple of days ago. Clearly, there are those in the United States who wish to use military force against Iraq. Iraq is not poised to attack at the moment, so this would be either punitive for past actions, which the UN Charter does not allow, or it would be what the

28 Jan 1998 : Column 277

Pentagon calls pre-emptive counter-proliferation; that is, an attack on facilities thought to be part of a potentially proliferatory capability.

Do we want the United Nations Security Council to go down the road of pre-emptive counter-proliferation without further thought? I believe not, for its other name is aggression. Before that, there must be a new discussion and a new resolution in the Security Council that does not provide a precedent for pre-emptive counter-proliferation.

6 p.m.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I want to address in particular the need for a common European foreign and security policy, and for coherence between all the external responsibilities of the EU. It is just as well that we have an opportunity to debate the CFSP today, since we will not have it when we debate the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, giving effect to the Treaty of Amsterdam, because that Bill does not include Article 1 of the Amsterdam Treaty, which relates to amendments to the Treaty on European Union--the one which covers the CFSP. Nor does the Bill include the protocol on the relationship between the CFSP and the WEU and Nato.

The research paper of the other place on that Bill carefully notes:


    "To add [the new treaty] as a whole would, in some respects, be tidier but this would breach the principle so far upheld by British governments, that it is important to maintain the distinction between the 'intergovernmental' and 'Community' aspects of any European treaty".

What does that augur for progress under the British presidency towards greater substance for the CFSP, greater coherence for EU external action as a whole, or achieving public support for an effective common policy?

It is made clear in the treaties since Maastricht that the Union's objective in external policy is to:


    "assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy, including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence".

Those are strong words: the EU is expected to "assert its identity" on the international scene. The challenge now is to translate those words into action and realise the full potential of Europe's weight in the world--indeed, to assert a European security and defence identity. Until now the problem has been that the intergovernmental procedures have been better suited to the co-ordination of national policies than to the stated purpose of implementing a common policy. That is different.

There has also been a stunning lack of political will, leading to failures, such as in Bosnia. Member states have taken positions determined more by the type of Europe that they wanted than with the purpose and scope of a European foreign policy. It would be encouraging to think that the new Government might concentrate on the needs of that policy, and not, "pontificate on procedure", in the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd.

28 Jan 1998 : Column 278

I had the privilege recently of hearing the Italian Prime Minister, Professor Romano Prodi, speak at the LSE. He outlined all the substantive economic and political reasons why:


    "Europe will play an increasingly significant role on the world stage",

and:


    "will have to develop a truly global vision".

He thus lamented:


    "the Common Foreign and Security Policy has not yet really started".

I read that a Union-wide action plan on Kurdish refugees was being formulated between diplomats and experts in police co-operation, immigration and asylum, for approval by foreign ministers on Tuesday. That must have involved both Community competence and intergovernmental competence under the Maastricht provisions on the CFSP and police co-operation. There is no doubt already a great deal of employment for Foreign Office lawyers in working out the legal bases and format of any decisions. So far as I can see, it could be even more, not less, complicated in future, because the UK has opted out of the Amsterdam Treaty's shift of immigration and border control powers into Community competence.

Any future discussion may involve five headings: Community competence for trade and economic matters; Community competence for asylum; UK opt-out of Community competence on asylum; Union intergovernmentalism on foreign policy; and Union intergovernmentalism on police co-operation. We should try to explain that to the public.

If the present Government are no better than the previous one in wasting energy, nit-picking over competence, they will not make progress towards the treaty goals of strengthening the security of the Union, preserving peace and strengthening international security. Surely there can be no "People's Europe"--the Government's goal--without working to achieve security for our citizens at home and internationally, enabling our citizens to understand what the EU is doing along the way.

Security, as other noble Lords have said, needs to be interpreted in the widest sense--to cover not just defence or even confidence-building or arms-reduction measures under the CSCE or the UN; it should encompass and co-ordinate policies on free trade, economic prosperity and financial stability, environmental sustainability, migration, tackling crime, and furthering democracy and human rights, including women's rights, all of which are goals of the Union under the treaties. We need what the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, in the context of domestic policy called "joined-up policy".

I should like to see the British presidency anticipate the ratification of the Amsterdam Treaty in two respects, which would promote coherence. It could encourage practical implementation, in advance, of the future duty on the Council of Ministers and Commission to co-operate in helping the Union,


    "ensure the consistency of its external activities as a whole in the context of its external relations, security, economic and development policies".

28 Jan 1998 : Column 279

Previously, noble Lords may be surprised to hear, there was no duty on those two main European institutions to co-operate.

The UK presidency could also encourage shadow implementation of the new powers under the treaty to decide on "common strategies" under the umbrella of which the common positions and joint actions will be drawn up. Developing common strategies is a power of great potential value. It is one which could be exciting and far reaching in its impact, not merely in co-ordinating Union activities in the various fields, but in hooking public opinion into the debate on Europe's role. Would it not be an excellent application of the "People's Europe" concept if, at the beginning of each presidency, there were an open televised debate on perspectives for progress in the CFSP, perhaps with foreign ministers meeting Members of the European Parliament and national parliaments?

For foreign policy to be effective, the policies must enjoy popular support. The political capital currently perhaps squandered on defending some EU activities which are of a dubious relevance could be regained by showing how effectively Europe could be a force for good in the world. What better time than now, while the world holds its breath to see whether Britain and America will take military action against Iraq, to achieve a European code of conduct on arms sales with real teeth to stop arms sales to repressive and dangerous regimes and real parliamentary accountability. What better atonement for past British mistakes in weapons sales to Saddam Hussein, and apparently showing his officials how to make weapons with anthrax.

It would surely not be difficult to rally public opinion to the idea of much closer working between the EU and the WEU to undertake humanitarian, peacekeeping, even peacemaking tasks--the so-called Petersburg tasks.

I shall not speak about the Middle East because others have done so, but what better time than now to develop a long-term strategy on relationships in the Mediterranean area, especially fostering the economic progress of the Maghreb and encompassing the improvement in understanding between Christianity and Islam. The most fertile recruiting ground for the extremist terrorists in Algeria are the slums of Algiers, with their millions of disaffected and unemployed young men.

Looking at Asia, surely the priority is not to sell more weapons, capable of internal repression, to the discredited regime of President Suharto in Indonesia. It is to do all that we can to stimulate trade, to secure respect for human rights and democracy, and to stabilise exchange rates by punching our collective weight in international forums such as G8 and the IMF. Such weight will increase hugely once we have a single currency which will start to match the dollar. One of the best moves the UK Government could make under their presidency is to make real progress towards Britain jointing the Euro.

Finally, foreign and security policy under the British presidency of the EU would be improved were Gordon Brown to announce in his March Budget a significant

28 Jan 1998 : Column 280

increase in funding for the BBC World Service, to include funding for its co-operative broadcasts with other European external services, so that the voice of the EU is heard more loudly and convincingly throughout the world.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page