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The noble Lord said: The Nice Intergovernmental Conference was not a unique or special process. There had been three previous intergovernmental conferences, each of which led to significant treaty changes. First, there was the Single European Act. Since I am speaking in this House, I must acknowledge the leading role of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, in the production of that legislation.
Secondly, there was the Treaty on European Union, the so-called Maastricht Treaty, for which the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and Mr. Francis Maude deserve high praise. I praise them even though the noble Lord has shown reluctance to have his responsibility laid against him for posterity. That is made clear in his book, In Office, in which he wrote:
Finally, there was the third of the treaties, the Amsterdam Treaty, for which I must give due praise to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister because I believe that he deserves substantial credit in that regard.
Such intergovernmental conferences or, rather, the subsequent treaty changes that emerge from them should, I believe, be seen as Treaty of Rome amendment Acts, bringing that treaty, the treaty which we, the British people ratified by referendum, up to date in the changing circumstances which include enlarged membership.
In anticipation of the Nice summit, the European Union Select Committee produced what I believe was an extremely useful report on the Nice intergovernmental conference in advance of that conference taking place. The report of the Select Committee pointed with abundant clarity to the organic link that existed between the next enlargement involving those current applicants who qualify and the necessary institutional changes to the European Union
Obligations, therefore, existed on both sides--on the side of the applicant countries and on the side of the European Union. Applicants had been told back in 1993, at the Copenhagen European summit that they had to satisfy the so-called Copenhagen criteria and those criteria are quite specific. I remind your Lordships what they were. The summit conclusions stated:
The European Union obligation was quite specifically post-Amsterdam, attached to the Amsterdam Treaty as a protocol, a protocol on the institutions with the prospect of enlargement of the European Union. That protocol set out our agenda--the need to deal with both the size and composition of the Commission, and the reweighting of votes in the Council. To that agenda was added subsequently, by declaration, the consideration of a significant extension of recourse to qualified majority voting.
So the link of the outcome of Nice to enlargement was clear. The Treaty of Nice dealt fully with the Amsterdam left-overs and brings into effect the three main institutional reforms which need to be implemented as a precondition of enlargement.
The first is qualified majority voting. It serves our interests, as much as anybody else's, to see the extension of qualified majority voting into areas such as trade liberalisation and improved financial controls. That was done while safeguarding what were perceived as essential British interests in relation to the need for unanimity on treaty changes, border controls, defence, social security, taxation and own resources.
The second issue was the reweighting of votes in Council. In that regard, the increase, the first since Britain joined the European Union, in the strength of our votes in Council is to be welcomed. It was brought about by a Treaty of Nice which reweighted the votes of all member states to give greater weight to the proportional size of each member.
Thirdly, there was the Commission's size, which could in part be seen as a quid pro quo for the reweighting of votes in Council where we, together with the other larger countries which had two Commissioners, agreed that by 2005 we should give up our second Commissioner, that decision limiting the increase in the size of the Commission after enlargement.
Some people, not necessarily in your Lordships' House, have suggested that the extension of qualified majority voting is somehow wrong in principle. But I have referred to the earlier treaty changes and in those two treaty changes--those with which the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, were heavily involved--there were no fewer than 42 extensions of qualified majority voting, 12 of them in the Single European Act of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher and 30 in the Treaty of Maastricht. So in principle there is nothing sacrosanct about changes in qualified majority voting.
As I say, Nice was necessary to create the balanced equation. Nice fulfils the institutional reforms needed for enlargement while serving our essential interests; and the Copenhagen criteria outlined the obligations of the applicants in the enlargement negotiations.
I know that the Treaty of Nice covered other matters besides the Amsterdam left-overs--the charter of fundamental rights, enhanced co-operation, European defence, a subsequent IGC in 2004. All those issues are important, necessary and deserving of agreement but I shall not deal with them today as they are not directly linked to enlargement.
So we turn to the central question: why is the enlargement, which required so much preparation in the Nice summit, such an important goal and why is it worth so much effort? I say with absolute confidence that the peace, stability and security enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of the states who have been members of the European Union for over 50 years must now be extended to the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Enlargement, at the same time, brings a reduction in barriers to trade and business. The single market, on which the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, spent so much of her time, is a single market which will now grow with enlargement by up to 40 per cent to a market of 500 million consumers.
Enlargement increases our international competitiveness, with consequential benefits of both employment and consumer benefits. It also increases the rate of our economic growth. The whole process of enlargement reduces pressures which have been of great concern in your Lordships' House and in another place--the pressures for economic migration which currently exist in the countries of central and eastern Europe.
Additionally, the process of enlargement, by bringing applicants into the European Union and by bringing their police and border controls into line with our common standards, plays a significant role in aiding the fight against international crime. That boosts pan-European environmental standards. Also enlargement brings about great benefits in terms of culture, tourism and sport.
Finally, when we look at some of the benefits of the process of enlargement, more than anything the process entrenches democracy and underpins respect for human rights. However, we should not see enlargement as an act of altruism towards our
Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I agree with the thrust of his argument in relation to enlargement. However, when he talks about the benefits to trade, does he believe that it is extraordinary that a country like Estonia on joining the EU will have to increase tariffs, re-introduce subsidies on agriculture and raise taxes? Is that not a rather odd thing to have to do?
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