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Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he will accept that he made a Freudian slip just now. He referred to our "EU partners and competitors". Is there not a certain inconsistency between being both a partner and a competitor at the same time?
Lord Harrison: No, my Lords. I strongly believe that the virtue of the single market is the fact that it brings us together so that we can create a market within which we can then be most actively competitive. That is what makes us competitive on the wider global field.
For my part, I have to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, on the report produced by this committee. I should like not only to congratulate the noble Lord personally on the way in which he conducted the committee but also to congratulate all the Members of your Lordships' House who participated in its proceedings. I have found the report most instructive. I believe--this phenomenon of thinking has not been confined to myself--that it has made all of us who have read it think a little more deeply than we might otherwise have done. Perhaps I may add a final, friendly admonition to my noble friend, who is passionate about these matters. When presenting a case, it is often better to emphasise the positive advantages that will accrue by reason of following what one believes to be right than to harp on the dire fate, or fates, that will confront us should we not do what we are told. One is a little positive, the other is a little negative. I have learnt a great deal from the report. I repeat my congratulations to all Members of this House who participated in the committee's proceedings.
Behind all these exchanges, which are often related to obstruse matters-- I shall return later to how obstruse they are--it is easy to arrive at facile decisions. One has to be very careful indeed before one reaches a conclusion. I do not altogether share the roseate views that have been expressed about the abilities and in some cases the integrity of those who govern our affairs in Europe. I do not believe that one should pay all that regard in the final analysis to them. But it is perhaps necessary to remind your Lordships of the most alarming histories regarding the actions of Herr Kohl of Germany and Monsieur Mitterrand, whose standards of performance in the political sphere, including those in Europe, were rather lower than one would have expected from people occupying those positions.
Similar observations apply to the Commission. The Commission contains many excellent people, some of whom are our own citizens and some not. The Commission has not exactly covered itself in glory over the past four or five years. Even now, the accounts presented to the European Community have been denied certification by the Court of Auditors in the form prescribed by the European Parliament some five or six years ago. So, while taking into account what the Commission may say or what it may want to do, one has to exercise a little caution as regards from whence some Commission rhetoric comes: it does not always come from self-interest; it does not always
I read with great interest the contributions of a colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern. She made some interesting comments. She ventured to bring us down to earth as to what the Commission and the Parliament were trying to do. I refer to pages 121 and 122 of the report where the noble Baroness asked a question of the witness, Mr Dimitrios Tsatsos, MEP. She said,
What we are really discussing is the wording of documents. How are these documents relevant to the peoples in the little streets of England or in other parts of the United Kingdom? How are they to understand all the words that are being concocted, with varying views attached to them, throughout the IGC that has been going on intermittently since the beginning of the year, first of all under the friends of the Portuguese presidency--they are numerous, varied and largely unidentified--and then under the friends of the French presidency which succeeded it? What have they been talking about--the construction of a sentence here, the configuration of a paragraph there? What does it all mean in the end? We certainly know one thing; namely, that in the mouths of people willing to quote them these words are attributed the meaning given to them by the person uttering them at the time. But none of them is relevant to what happens in the little streets of England, or, for that matter, in the little streets of other countries which have much greater problems of mere existence and of their people living below the poverty line. What contribution is made to the fates and lives of ordinary people by these endless conferences and mindless mumbo-jumbo of the treaties? Is it likely to get any better?
During the Recess a document was published under the auspices of the Foreign Office. I believe that, thanks to the noble Baroness who will reply to the debate, I eventually received a copy of the proceedings leading up to the conclusion of the 1972 treaty--the original treaty which we signed. I received a complete
The document reveals something quite extraordinary. It gives a list of the documentation and the diary of daily events from the beginning of the negotiations. I discovered that on 13th January 1932 the British government were handed 32 files of secondary legislation which were part of the acquis communautaire which they had to accept. No one knew about those files or the true nature and extent of the detailed acquis communautaire which we were required to, and did, accept. The document gives a lurid picture of what happened. We were required to give way on practically every major point. The Community stipulated that as a condition of belonging. However, the matter was presented at the time as a real triumph, as it is today.
I repeat that it would do greater justice to those who want further integration--by that I mean essentially the single currency for the time being--to explain in detail the positive benefits that would accrue to us should we take the political step of joining the single currency rather than seeking to frighten us by threatening dire consequences if we do not. I hope that lesson will not be lost; it would be a pity if it were.
For my own part--which has often been called into question with regard to these matters--I recall that I gave an undertaking to your Lordships' House when I was first sent to the European Parliament in 1975 that I would do my best to try to make the whole thing work. I regret that in four years of fairly devoted effort--I think that is generally agreed--I came to the conclusion that it was not possible to make it work. That remains my opinion, but nevertheless wiser counsels--it certainly does not take much for counsels to be wiser than mine--will come to the conclusion that much more can be done without giving way to the French/German diktat which has riddled itself into practically the entire document.
I hope that that will give rise to a calm re-examination of the position and that we shall find that increased co-operation, not coercion, in a number of fields, particularly in environmental fields, is absolutely necessary. In themselves they would almost justify our membership of the European Union.
I hope that those endeavours by responsible member states will be followed constructively, often unobtrusively, by our own Government. Whichever government may be represented, now and in the future, I hope that we shall never lose sight of our right to hold views about our own self-determination without impinging on anyone else's. When one listens to some debates these days, one often thinks that people who are all for a further headlong fling into
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and his colleagues on the production of the report. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said, it has been extremely educational. I thank, too, those noble Lords who have made such interesting speeches, ensuring a good debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, followed by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell.
When the noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke of the centuries of friendship between ourselves and Denmark, it sounded right. However, I wondered whether he recalled that my great-great-great grandfather, George Canning--by some accounts he was probably the greatest Foreign Secretary this country ever had--demonstrated his friendship for Denmark by bombarding Copenhagen. When considering my reference to that event in my speech, I realised that the noble Lord is right. George Canning bombarded Copenhagen to stop it becoming part of a united Europe. He wanted to stop it coming totally under the Napoleonic sway. We displayed our friendship to Denmark in that way; and a very good thing that was too. I agreed with so much that the noble Lord said.
It is said that in his later life M. Monnet wished that, when founding the united European Union, he had not had to play the economic card but instead could have played the cultural card. He could not do so because he had to continue from the Coal and Steel Community. However, the situation would have been very different if he had. The Green Party believes in a Europe which resembles more the Council of Europe, on which I, with other Members of your Lordships' House, have had the honour to serve over a period of time, than the European Union.
In the world at large we need to move away from the overarching ascendancy of the economic votive and the large multinational corporations to something nearer to the ordinary people of our countries. As we move towards the important conference, we should think more about how we can help people in the streets and on the farms of our countries.
I refer to a document produced by my colleagues in the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, MEP, and Colin Hines who has written recently such a good book on the necessity for localisation rather than globalisation. They suggest that as we move into the IGC we should freeze it and demand a sustainable and internationalist Europe. We should try to put into operation matters which will halt the decline of small and medium-sized farmers and their communities in the west and east, and its acceleration under neoliberal enlargement. We should try to stop the decline in job security which occurs when the bottom line is always expressed by the
Those aims are difficult but not impossible to achieve. If we move in that direction we shall tackle that aspect about which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, complains: a Europe which produces endless decrees which, if they accomplish anything, impinge only upon the ordinary people of this country. They stop people from doing what they have been doing all their lives. They make crimes of perfectly harmless activities such as dealing in pounds, shillings and pence. We must move away from that aspect.
I believe in Europe. I am a europhile. With the name "Beaumont" I can but acknowledge my ancestry. We must return to Monnet's wish that he had been able to play the cultural card. Putting it a slightly different way, it has been said that one cannot serve God and mammon. The European Union should be serving God, culture, humankind or humane values. It can do so if it stops the headlong dash for more control and lawmaking and turns its attention, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said, to the welfare of the citizens of our countries and of those who wish to join our enterprise.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I read this admirable report with great interest, not least because, in examining the agenda for the Nice conference and the preparations for enlargement, it reveals a disquieting picture of, if I may quote one of its members speaking in Committee:
We should also be concerned about what will be going on beneath the surface. The Commission is like a giant amoeba, which is defined in my dictionary as a single-celled protozoan, perpetually changing shape. I cannot but wonder whether we really know what commitments we are accepting, almost unconsciously, every day at certain levels. I often wonder how much impact such excellent reports make on those who represent us in negotiations. Proper scrutiny is a valuable weapon, as is accountability. Right through the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Cologne and Feira meetings, our commitments have grown and grown. As the report rightly says, unless there is better governance and more transparency, we shall find ourselves in deep trouble.
We are told that Ministers report regularly to Parliament, yet, to take a small example, the Prime Minister's Statement after Feira makes no reference to the common position on the Mediterranean--the latest manifestation of the Barcelona process, which, as Annex III to the presidency conclusions shows, commits us to conflict prevention and crisis management. That could include military intervention on Petersburg lines. The common position says explicitly:
We have not yet heard from the capability goals meeting what resources there will be. It will be said that no limit has ever been set on the scope of the operations of the common European security and defence programme, but since the Americans were expressly excluded from the Barcelona process and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, we can foresee some serious problems.
It will also not help that the Euro-Mediterranean charter of peace and stability, which is due to be drawn up by the end of this year and which therefore seems likely to figure in the IGC deliberations, envisages active EU involvement in the Middle East, including
With Javier Solana enjoying an ever more powerful position, I have no doubt that other such commitments are quietly growing, like mushrooms in the dark. We should not forget that through the common position on Russia, the EU is also committed to creating
The common position on the Mediterranean that the developing Barcelona agreement requires means that the Council and the Commission shall, in accordance with Article 3 TEU, ensure the consistency and effectiveness of the EU's action. It appears to concede something to national positions by saying:
States must also develop and maintain an indicative inventory of the resources of the Union, the Community and the member states through which the common strategy will be implemented. They must co-ordinate their actions on the Mediterranean region, including in the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, taking due account of Community competence. In other fora, they must do so in a way consistent with the objectives of the common strategy. I wonder how many bureaucrats in Brussels and in the member countries will have to be recruited to police that common position, which is only one of many, but which must affect our economic and political relations with a number of important but volatile countries. Whatever became of subsidiarity?
I apologise for inflicting so much Euro-jargon on the House. I wanted to give just one example of the unfinished business that will clog up the works of the IGC. In our natural concentration on the urgent issues of enlargement, we may let many other binding proposals and common actions through to save time. Many of them have serious consequences for capability and resources, even if there is no apparent conflict of interest with Mr Solana's expanding empire.
I hope that the report will be read carefully and heeded. I also hope that I have said enough to suggest that, though the Nice summit must clearly concentrate on the issues that must be decided before enlargement can proceed--I notice that nobody has mentioned the common agricultural policy--we must urge the Government to keep a wary eye on the apparently ineluctable process of committing ever more resources, thus restricting our power to act independently elsewhere, all to feed an unaccountable juggernaut.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, as a member of the Select Committee, albeit less diligent in attendance than most, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, on his leadership of the committee and on his presentation of the report today. The report and the evidence that it contains will be helpful to our Government and to other EU governments before the vital IGC in Nice.
I hope that the arrival in the EU of new member states, including several from eastern Europe, will not be long delayed. That is likely to be a considerable gain for the European Union. However, we should also admit that it will reduce the cohesiveness of the Union. It should be no surprise that each candidate for membership expects and demands a seat around the Commission's table. I believe that they are unlikely to be impressed by the argument that a Commission of 20, 25 or even more members will be unwieldy. It will be unwieldy, but I am saying that the new states will not be impressed by that argument. The eastern European states have not thrown off the yoke of the Soviet Union and the extreme centralisation of power that they endured for many years under the Soviet regime in order to jump into an institutional framework where they have no say in the vital initiative-taking functions of the Commission.
Therefore, I very much agree with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, earlier in the debate. After all, the Commission has the monopoly power of initiative in the European Union. Of course, candidate members must accept that Members of the Commission are proposed by but are independent of the member states. On that basis, in evidence to our Select Committee the Czech Republic referred to a growing consensus among member states concerning the need for each member state to nominate one of its nationals to the Commission. The Czech Republic said:
National sentiment is extremely powerful in eastern Europe. And, perhaps because national loyalties and identities were so savagely suppressed in the Soviet bloc, they have tended to blossom and strengthen since 1989. Yes, they want to join in the prosperity and the way of life that they can now see so clearly and visit as often as they like in the West. However, as your Lordships know, back home they have divided and sub-divided so that Czechoslovakia is no more, Yugoslavia, as we knew it, is no more, and even pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia is no more, let alone the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are all now applying to join the European Union. They are all single-ethnic, single-national entities, carved out of multi-national, multi-ethnic states that were in turn carved out of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire at the
The Select Committee report recognises that the IGC may agree that there should in fact be one Commissioner per member state. However, our report argues that a smaller Commission would be desirable in the interests of efficiency. I share that view but I have some sympathy with the view put to our committee by the European Policy Forum that, instead of each Commissioner having an individual portfolio, it may be desirable for a group of Commissioners to be responsible for each area of policy.
However--and this was certainly the view of the Select Committee--more important than the matter of how many Commissioners in total there should be is the recommendation that working practices of the Commission be altered radically. As I believe several noble Lords have already said, including the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, my colleague Lord Tomlinson and others, the Commission's working practices today are under severe strain. I add that, simply because a member state may continue to be entitled, as I believe it will be, to appoint a Commissioner, that should certainly not be regarded as justification for each member state being entitled to appoint a judge to the European Court of Justice or to take a turn at the presidency of the Union as a whole.
What has been happening inside eastern Europe--the divisions and sub-divisions of which I spoke--is, of course, quite different and it provides an interesting contrast with what has happened in Germany. When the European Community was formed in 1957, Germany was still divided by an iron curtain. It had only recently emerged from a fourfold division into zones of occupation. Although West Germany had prospered even in the period between 1945 and 1957 in an amazing way, it was no bigger than the two principal co-founders of the EC: namely, France and Italy.
Let us look at the position now. Following full unification, Germany strides the Continent like a colossus, its size, its population and its GDP enormous, particularly in comparison with its Eastern neighbours. That means that the institutional arrangements for Commission membership and Council votes are far more problematic than in the early days of the 1950s or even after the United Kingdom joined in 1972. Weighting votes in the Council better to reflect population is in any case necessary. It is a necessary quid pro quo for the bigger countries giving up one of their present Commissioners. Not unnaturally, in its evidence to the Select Committee Germany calls specifically for,
It is good that the UK Government are champions for enlarging the European Union to bring in, among others, former communist countries. As Robin Cook stated during his visit to Hungary in July, it is in the
I believe, as the Select Committee certainly proposes, that the United Kingdom should also be champions of the so-called "Amsterdam left-overs" of institutional reform and that they must be finalised. Without that consummation the hopes and expectations among candidate members and potential members will be dashed. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said, there will be seriously adverse consequences for the economic and political stability of Europe if that is not done.
I also hope that we in the United Kingdom can look beyond Nice and the next few months and at least in this respect follow the example of Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister in his speech of 12th May. I do not mean in his prescription for full political integration but in contributing to a discussion as to what are our ultimate objectives in Europe. What are we aiming to achieve in the foreseeable future?
Mr Fischer made a most interesting speech and I will highlight two realistic points he made: first, about the poor acceptance among the peoples of Europe of the European Parliament; and, secondly, the point about the low turn-outs for European elections. Beyond December the United Kingdom should go for reforms which are more far-reaching than the essentials for enlargement, particularly, as the phrase goes, to try to reconnect the peoples of Europe with the European Union institutions. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, was unduly wary on this point, because I believe that a United Kingdom lead in linking national legislatures with the European Union by, for example, the creation of a European senate constituted by national legislators is surely well worth considering.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, many of your Lordships have expressed appreciation of the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, in his preparation of this report. I venture to suggest to the House that it is an opportunity for Members of the House to express their wider gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for all the amazing work he does in chairing the Select Committee. Only since I have sat on the committee have I begun to appreciate the vast amount of effort he puts into it, the vast amount of travelling he does, his meetings with so many people, and so on. The House truly owes him a very great debt of gratitude.
The lowly place I occupy on the List of Speakers demonstrates that the officials of the House have a very just and accurate appreciation of my lack of knowledge on matters European and on the limited contribution which I can make to this debate. I wish to speak solely on one issue, and that is the size and composition of the Commission which is dealt with in paragraphs 30 to 45 of the report.
As a practical man, I hope, who regards it as very important that things should work properly, during our investigations and deliberations it struck me forcefully that on this issue there is a real problem.
It became apparent to us, and I suspect it was well-known by most of the other members before we started, from what we were told both on and off the record, that the Commission is already too large to be an efficient executive. Surely we must all accept, whatever our views about Europe--and we have heard varying views about Europe today, perhaps not surprisingly-- that the Union can work only if it is led and well led by an efficient executive.
As is set out in paragraph 41 of the report, Commissioners are not meant to be representatives of their countries. The treaty requires them to be completely independent in the performance of their duties, and it requires that they shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other body. The states undertake not to seek to influence the members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks.
From the evidence it is absolutely plain that that is a philosophy which is in practice wholly ignored, and that the Commissioners do regard it--and it is regarded by their countries--as an important part of their role, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said, to put the point of view of their particular country, albeit disguising it as being the part of the Union which they know best.
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