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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I support this amendment tabled by my noble friend. I realise that it affords this House an opportunity to survey further the common foreign security policy scene, although we
It might be worth commenting in passing that, nowadays, in the modern state about 70 per cent. of all external affairs--what used to be called foreign affairs--are to do with trade and investment. We have of course handed over responsibility lock, stock and barrel to the institutions of the European Union for trade and investment. So it is inevitable, whether we like it or not, that very large sections of what might appear to be foreign policy--to do with sanctions, trade and the promotion of commercial interests around the world--are not in our hands any more. They are guided by men of considerable ability and world prominence such as Sir Leon Brittan, and Karel van Miert, the competition commissioner. That explains why on the world scene we hear a good deal more about those two gentlemen than we do about many a Foreign Minister, or indeed the other external commissioner, Mr. Marin, or the high representative who emerges from the Amsterdam Treaty. So one needs to start from the fact that a large chunk of the external affairs of this country operates under a completely different system which will not be very much affected by the machinery or intricacies of joint actions and qualified majority voting in the narrow foreign policy area. Nevertheless, it is the narrower area of various issues of more traditional foreign policy, which do not include trade, on which we must concentrate; and presumably they are in the minds of those who want Europe to speak--as we just heard from the noble Baroness--with a common voice.
There is a good deal of nonsense talked about the apparently desperate need for the European Union to reach a common view, and have a common or even single (a terrifying prospect) foreign policy. It is one of those needs that is alleged to exist, and a lot of rhetoric surrounds it as to how Europe cannot be itself and find its destiny unless that is done. I believe that we need to be fairly cautious in assessing these fine speeches.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan is absolutely right to warn us, as he did very clearly in his excellent speech, about the dangers of trying to search for a common foreign policy for its own sake and then creating an artificial foreign policy where it would have been rather wiser to have allowed the normal bilateral allowances and associations to form--or possibly even a common position to come together, but not driven by some imperative that there has to be a foreign policy. I am worried for the future that the alleged imperative--that somehow a common strategy and common positions must be established in this issue or that--will lead to more divisions and difficulties in the handling of those sensitive world issues. I am worried not merely for vague reasons but because the record tells me that that is likely to happen, and has happened in the past.
The history of the past 10 years of European searches for foreign policy has not been a happy one. I know it has led some people to conclude, "There you are. We told you so. Why did we not have a more effective machinery and we could all sing from the same hymn
The most recent event where there was an attempt to have a common foreign policy, which fell to bits in some disarray, and where it might have been more dignified not to have attempted it in the first place, was the handling of the latest Iraq crisis. I wish to turn in a moment to a further serious crisis, the handling of which we need to think about extremely carefully. However, further back, before Iraq, there was the Bosnia tragedy, where there was great difficulty on the part of EU members in getting together a common position. Again, some said that we should have had better machinery and others asked: why did we try?
Before that, as noble Lords with longer memories will recall, there was the absolutely disastrous example of an attempt at a common policy leading to the worst outcome. I refer to the German-driven insistence that there should be recognition of Croatia, despite statements in the Badinter Report that the independence of Croatia and its recognition failed on every legal principle. Nevertheless, it was so deemed by the Germans. Because the pressure was on for a common policy and for all EU members to fall into line, and it was believed at the time that by agreeing with the German insistence there would be some trade-off and benefits elsewhere, the independence of Croatia was prematurely recognised, with catastrophic and bloody results. So one has to be very careful indeed about pushing ahead on these fronts.
The more serious issue now developing is one which your Lordships may wish to discuss more fully when we come to the subject of enlargement. It is partly an enlargement issue and partly a foreign policy issue. I refer to what is now happening in Turkey and Cyprus. There we have the makings of a first-class crisis emerging which demands foreign policy handling of the utmost sensitivity by all EU members as well as by the EU collectively. It has a role because the matter of Turkey has been raised by enlargement.
I was interested in the quotation which my noble friend Lord Moynihan produced yesterday at Question Time in your Lordships' House. It was by Mr. Richard Holbrook, who is a somewhat disappointed man after his visit to Cyprus. He found great difficulty in getting any agreement off the ground. He found no movement in Cyprus between parties. Indeed, he found movement backwards towards dangerous tensions which may lead heaven knows where.
Mr. Holbrook is not everyone's friend, I know, but he knows what he is talking about. The mistake is one for which we will pay dearly, in its effect of embittering Turkey and exposing it to all the turbulence of the growing Moslem minority, soon to be majority. There
It is a dangerous position, a dangerous moment, when European Union foreign policy needs to be handled not by automatic machinery but by the most sensitive and careful discussion between foreign ministers. Hitherto they have not handled it well and that has created the situation which Mr. Holbrook rightly says is a mistake. I believe it will be an extremely violent and hot crisis before long.
I have nothing against the sensible idea of our European neighbours and ourselves in the European Union seeking to establish in certain situations common positions vis-a-vis Chechnya, aspects of central Asia and the handling of China in some matters. Common positions are sensible enough. It is when we are told that there must be elaborate machinery to press us on towards common strategies, a much bigger matter, and common policies, which are bigger still, that I become alarmed.
In my experience, when we were dealing with foreign policy issues in another place whenever we discussed common foreign and security policy with our European neighbours, they were tremendously in favour in general of the machinery doing it all. However, when it came to specific items, it was hard to find one on which they were prepared to go along with their own recommendations. Practically every serious issue had a rider attached to it, namely, that it was a vital interest and therefore could not be subjected to the machinery of joint action, as with a common foreign and security policy. Alternatively, if it involved the military, the Germans fought strongly on it. They said, "We could never contemplate exposing any policy which involves our military to a CFSP machinery. The issue of using our military is so sensitive, so central and difficult to handle inside German politics that it would have to be under our complete control".
I complete a brief intervention by saying: let us have sensible allowances and co-operation among the European powers and work with the troika system that we had in the past. Let us have common positions, but beware of creating useless machinery, which like the sorcerer's apprentice, would develop its own momentum and press us towards common and, as my noble friend rightly says, artificial positions.
We can and do work effectively with our European neighbours, with France on certain matters, with Germany on certain matters and with Italy on certain matters. We can somehow manage to square the circle between the WEU concept and the NATO concept, both of which are important to us.
I believe that too much searching for too much machinery for a common foreign and security policy will, as with EMU, which we were discussing earlier, start by being an alleged instrument for unity and end by being a violent instrument for division.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I congratulate him on his thoughtful and probing analysis. However, does he agree that a large part of the problem is that foreign policy is an essential attribute of a state? It is in the European Union's quest for statehood that we see its desire to meddle and interfere all over the world. Does my noble friend agree with that? It is an important part of the analysis. I agree with him; I do not think that bad workmen should be given newer and sharper tools until they have proved that they can use the ones they had before.
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