Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
THURSDAY 27 MARCH 2003
MP, MR PAUL
20. So American law says that the United Nations
can freeze assets but the Americans can get their hands on it
whenever they want. Is that right?
(Mr Chilcott) I do not want to put it too crudely,
but in this particular case I understand that American law allows
the United States' Government to unfreeze the frozen assets and
to make use of the funds for the purposes of providing for the
people of Iraq.
21. Is that different money from UN money or
is it the same money?
(Mr Chilcott) This is different from UN money. This
is money that was frozen after the first Gulf war. The United
Nations' money, which is the money which comes from oil revenues
which is held in an escrow account, is run by the United Nations
under the rules governed by Security Council resolutions, and
none of the Member States of the United Nations can get their
hands on it separately. It all has to be done through the UN.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
22. Is it correct, as I have read somewhere,
that the money is supposed to have been administered within Iraq
by the UN but in practice they have allowed decisions on where
the money is to be spent to be made by the Iraqi Government?
(Mr Chilcott) The position is that the Oil-for-Food
Programme provides for the Government of Iraq to contract the
humanitarian relief that enters into the country and provides
also for the Government of Iraq to sell its oil. But within Iraq
there is a group of people called the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme
people who check, who authenticate that the goods that come into
the country are the goods that have been ordered and that the
oil leaving the country is indeed the oil which the Iraqi Government
are saying they are selling. So it is a sort of combination. But
the contracting authority is the Government of Iraq, and that
has always been the case.
Chairman: Are there any more questions on this
aspect of the General Affairs Council? No. Let us move on to the
main issue that we wanted to talk to you about which is recent
developments in CFSP. I think, Minister, a lot of people think
that things may never be quite the same againthough that
is probably putting it mildly.
Lord Powell of Bayswater
23. Minister, you said that one of the conclusions
of the European Council was that we should strengthen the capacity
of the EU on the CFSP and the ESDP, but the widespread perception
outside the inner circle of the EU itself is that the CFSP has
collapsed, that there is no CFSP and no immediate prospect of
restoring one. Yet we are devoting an enormous amount of time
to discussion of institutional improvements for the CFSP. Is there
not a risk that weby which I mean Europemake a bit
of a laughing stock of ourselves by discussing institutional questions,
when it is quite clear that on the issues of substance, which
should be the driver here, there is no agreement or any prospect
of agreement? Would it not therefore be better simply to reach
the conclusion that on CFSP no institutional change is necessary
or feasible at the moment because nothing can be achieved on the
(Dr MacShane) I think we have to make a distinction
between what, for the sake of convenience, I call a single foreign
policy for Europea bit like a single currencywhich
I believe is certainly not likely to see the light of day in maybe
my lifetime or a generation or two to come, and common foreign
policy, where we can agree to advance as 15 (soon as 25) and implement
it and see it put into effect. We have actually seen that, particularly,
in the case of the Balkans; particularly, in the case of the Middle
East peace process; in relationship, on the whole, to Russia and
China; and I would like to see it extended to relations with Latin-America,
where there are big divergences between the EU. But we have to
recognise that on great issues like Iraq but also on much smaller
issues, there will be profoundly held national beliefs that express
a nation's interests through foreign policy that cannot be reconciled
with the views of other nations. Examples might be: I find it
hard to imagine at the moment France and Spain agreeing on how
to handle the Western Sahara and Polisario; I find it inconceivable
that tomorrow Britain and Spain might agree on Gibraltar; we had
the recent fall-out over Zimbabwe. There are positions which countries
hold that are very dear to them and they will be expressed through
what that country wants to do in terms of its foreign policy.
But that is no reason to say: "Let's have 15 (soon 25) competing
foreign policies from the Member States of the European Union."
Let us work very hard to agree where we can agreeand that
does require, I think, stronger institutional relationshipsand
where we cannot agree, then so be it. But I would add that in
a Europe of 25 I would have been quite content to put to a majority
vote a decision on what policy to take on Iraq, and I hope that
some of the more powerful nations of Europe would have obeyed
the will of the majority.
24. What your answer says, Minister, is that
we have been able to achieve a fair amount under the present institutional
arrangements, but that there are major difficulties when important
decisions arise on which we are never going to agree. I am not
quite sure why you see such a strong case for further institutional
change. I can see a strong case for trying to work harder to reach
common views, but I do not see why the institutional change is
necessary. It would surely, in a way, be easier to say that the
system has worked to a point and let us rest at that point. Indeed,
to a degree that does seem to be the Government's position. It
says that CFSP must remain intergovernmental. It saysand
I quote the Secretary of State for Wales last week in the House
of Commons"Nor is there much sense in extending QMV
to foreign policy"though that is absolutely not the
answer we have received from every other spokesman for the Government
on this issue. If that is the case, why are we going to all this
trouble to try to come up with new institutional arrangements?
Why not just stay where we are?
(Dr MacShane) I give you a specific example. Mr Solana
the High Representative has just 22 people working for him. Dr
Busak, who is responsible for the South-Eastern Stability Pact
of the EU, has 33. There are 135 European Union delegation officers
around the world. Some people have the rank of ambassador who
run them. These are integrated into the external affairs policy
of the European Union as a whole. Our view is firmlyand
it is shared I think by the majority of governments in Europethat
foreign policy or external policy is a matter for the Council
of Ministers; that is, it remains intergovernmental. How do we
give effect to it? I do not think anybody is really happy that
the present means gives effect to it as well as we would wish.
So it is an area of discussion and work, but my colleague the
Secretary of State for Wales was right in sayingand he
was not speaking for Britain, he was reflecting a number of other
countriesthat this is going to remain an intergovernmental
matter. I have had very intense discussions on the problem of
qualified majority voting with German and other friends, and as
you examine it they see the difficulties, but I do not think we
should simply tear it all up and say that what we have at the
moment is perfect and cannot be improved.
25. Or that what we have at the moment is all
that we can reasonably expect to work. I deduce, Minister, from
what you say that the only significant institutional proposal
you want to see is that of a single foreign affairs spokesman,
combining the roles of both the existing Commissioner for External
Affairs and Mr Solana. Is that right?
(Dr MacShane) That is one of the proposals being discussed.
Our position is very much that that person, if he or she comes
to see the light of day, is the representative of the Council
of Ministers, not, as it were, part of the College of Commissioners
and under their collective authority or the authority of the President
of the Commission. But, in terms actually of giving effect to
foreign policy, we think obviously the Commission controls the
purse strings of the European Union. We want to see more European
presence around the world, not in any sense of wanting to promote
Europe but in response to the very strong desire and demand of
many governments and countries around the world that want a stronger
collective European presence. I think we will have to work this
through the Convention discussions and then through the intergovernmental
conference and it will arrive out of practice and co-operation,
notand there I think I agree with you, my Lordout
of devising an institutional scheme and then hoping that it will
stand the test of real time, which in foreign policy terms can
be the ultimate expression of national concerns and indeed national
26. The statement, again made by your colleague
the Secretary of State for Wales last week in the House of Commons,
that a single foreign policy representative would be "answerable
to the Council but with a foot in the Commission" describes
exactly how you and the Government view this?
(Dr MacShane) I might say a seat in the Commission,
but I think in broad terms, yes, of course.
27. I suppose if his foot is there, probably
his seat is going to be there too.
(Dr MacShane) I think that would be where we are at
the moment, yes.
Lord Williamson of Horton
28. I want to follow up this point, not on the
institutional points, the possible changes in institutions, but
on the timing of the operation of the CFSP in the light of the
recent disagreements, and, particularly, in relation to the United
States, not just bilaterally but in other areas where the US has
a huge role, such as the Middle East. Do you have a view on the
timing? Is it wise just to push on with everything as though nothing
had changed or is it perhaps wiser at the moment to imitate the
humble hedgehog and to roll up a bit, leaving a few spikes sticking
out but not running about the countryside? For myself, I think
we need to be a bit cautious at the moment in pushing the CFSP,
particularly vis-a-vis the USA, where it is not the main element
of their contact with European nations at the present time. It
might be wise to keep a low profile for a while. That is the question
I put to you.
(Dr MacShane) There is a 10-ton gorilla that rampages
through all foreign policy questions and it is called public opinion.
Public opinion I think does not want Europe to roll up like a
hedgehog, as we did in the 1990s over the Balkans, and do nothing
until there is such an obscene sense of slaughter on our screens
that we are moved to do something. So, no, I think foreign policy
has to be a continuing 7/24 process of active engagement. I am
very confident that in the Europe of 25 there will not be a view
that CFSP should be other than something that strengthens the
transatlantic relationship, even if we at times will have different
priorities in areas from that of the United States. While I agree
with you that probably post Iraq we need a period of reflection,
I would be very hesitant to say that the European Union should
simply be a curled-up hedgehog showing only spikes. I think we
have to be involved in considerable movement.
29. I am not sure if you know more about hedgehogs
than I do but I did not actually say that we must go into hibernation,
which is what hedgehogs do, I said we must roll up. Hedgehogs
actually roll up for a relatively short time, until they see that
the situation is better, then come out and get a move on. That
was basically my point. I am very conscious of the fact that at
the moment the USA does not think much of the CFSP. That is the
position. They have a lot of relations to the European nations
but they do not think much of the CFSP. I think it is quite important
that we should rebuild but not try to rebuild so fast that we
run into further difficulties.
(Dr MacShane) I do not disagree with that at all,
my Lord. I am not sure, from my contacts in Washington, that the
United States does not appreciate the common European position
and involvement in the Balkans and in some other areas. We worked
collaboratively on the "road map" in the context of
the quartet on the Middle East peace process, and, again, I do
put it to you that the notion of 15 competing foreign policies,
either in the Balkans or in the Middle East, would do no service
either to America or to the problems in that region or to Europe.
But I do accept that Iraq has exposed important differences that
will require quite considerable reflection. I think it is a feeling
that is shared largely in other European capitals; it is not just
a British point of view.
30. If I may make one comment, Minister. You
talked about the Balkans, and I would agree with you that what
Europe did at the time that the Balkans Crisis started was appalling.
But, whether we had had the CFSP and an institution, to me what
Europe lacked at that time, particularly Germanywas the
political will to do anything about it. It was nothing to do with
institutions; it was a total lack, in my view, of political will.
But that is a different issue. When you were talking about Iraq,
if I was paying attention properly, you were saying that you would
have been supportive of having qualified majority voting to deal
with Iraq. Is that what you were saying?
(Dr MacShane) No. I said in the Europe of 25 I would
be confident that there would be a majority for a strong line
on Iraq, and that point was actually put very, very firmly by
all the incoming Member States. But, clearly, on an issue such
as Iraq we are not going to move to either a qualified or an absolute
majority vote. But, if I may, on the Balkans the political will
was absent but also absent was the framework and the institutions
that would allow the discussion and consultation and co-ordination
that might have agreed a tougher and more robust position. My
view of CFSP is that it will allow deeper, more reflective consultation,
co-ordination and co-operation without fundamentally compromising
a nation's individual assertion of what it considers to be a fundamental
point of sovereign policy. It is why political will and institutions
and better policy are a permanent dialogue or dialectic, if you
Lord Inge: We could go on discussing it but
it is a slightly red herring for this session.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
31. In the context of considering the institutional
aspects of the CFSP at the Convention, there has been some discussion
about enhanced co-operation. Can you say what the Government's
view might be about that direction of strengthening, potentially
strengthening, the effect of this upon policy decision and widening
the ambit of agreement?
(Dr MacShane) Clearly, CFSP is going to require coalitions
of the willing to see implementation. Not all countries are capable
of applying military presence or, indeed, force to implement CFSP,
so we want to keep all doors open, including that of enhanced
co-operation. But all these will be tested, it seems to me, in
actual cases and it seems to me it is rather difficult to draw
out today clear architecture, because in my experience of foreign
policy each new crisis, each new development, is so sui generis
in particular you have to respond to it. My own view of CFSP is
that it sets up more serious discussion on this that allows, where
possible, and where governments are willing to pool their policy
decisions and implementation, a more effective, combined voice
of Europe as whole to promote the desires we all have of more
democracy, more prosperity and less terror and tyranny in the
32. Do you see any case for seeking to strengthen
the definitions of objectives in this context, so that those who
seek to sign up for or be committed to common foreign policy objectives
are clearer about what they are signing up to?
(Dr MacShane) Yes, but we want to make sure that we
do not have, as it were, freelance foreign policy, even if agreed
by a number of countries; that the relationship between the EU
and NATO must be maintained; that countries, if they agree to
do something, do so within the context of CFSP and ESDP, so it
is understood that it is the whole of Europe and the whole of
NATO that is engaged. Countries that want to do something on a
bilateral or trilateral basis, that remains their business. The
British position is that if we are going to do something as Europe
then we do it on a joined up basis and we do it in a way that
does not threaten NATO and does not threaten the transatlantic
Baroness Park of Monmouth
33. Minister, I understand that the debate on
Article 14 on foreign policy is being deferred until May. One
question I would like to ask is: Have we any idea of the date?
Will we have any opportunity to hear what your position is likely
to be before that? But I would particularly like to ask you what
position we are likely to take on the proposal which is made in
the Franco-German submission which saysand I am translating
from the French, so forgive me if it is not straight through
(Dr MacShane) You can do it in French, Lady Park,
if you prefer.
Chairman: No, that would be out of order, I
am afraid! We will have it in English, please.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
34. "On issues of foreign policy and common
security, decisions are taken in general by qualified majority.
However, decisions which have implications on the issues of security
and defence are taken by unanimity. If a Member State invokes
a national interest in order to oppose such a decision, the European
Minister of Foreign Affairs"who was being discussed
earlier, as you know, in the paper"is invited to look
into the possibility of a solution with that State. If he does
not succeed in doing so, the President of the European Council
does the same. If no solution is found, the European Council addresses
the question in order to take a decision by qualified majority."
That is completely undermining the principle of unanimity, so
I would be very interested to know what line we intend to take,
particularly since Article 14 also says that "Member States
are refrained from action contrary to the Union's interests or
likely to undermine its effectiveness" - which is presumably
going to be the argument that will be used. Could I have your
comments on that.
(Dr MacShane) Yes. On the date, I am not sure - sometime
in May, but I do not think we have a fixed date for that. The
Franco-German proposal is interesting but in discussions I have
had with my opposite number in Germany, we have discussed, say,
foreign policy in respect of promoting trade issues, like the
sale of arms, and he immediately saw that we could not really
have a common foreign policy position on that because each country
has its own arms it wants to sell to other countries around the
world. I said, "What about foreign policy to promote trade.
Should we be supporting a Siemens product or an Alcatel product?"
and he said, "No, we could not do that." As you dig
into this a bit more deeply, you realise how the proposal is not
terribly realistic. I think other governments are also beginning
to appreciate that and Iraq has put that very firmly into relief,
because any country can declare a national or a security opt out.
I think that we have, under existing articles, what is called
the emergency brake that can stop
35. The Luxembourg compromise.
(Dr MacShane)further discussion. We think that
is an important mechanism and I would be very surprised, particularly
after Iraq has thrown into relief all of these issues in a way
that did not exist when that paper was tabled, if in May people
are not beginning to pull back from the notion that just using
the agreeable term QMV will bring the necessary unity and unanimity
around key foreign policy issues.
36. Minister, I am sorry, you have not answered
Lady Park's question.
(Dr MacShane) No, I did not. But I will now try to.
37. She wanted to know what the Government's
attitude would be for there to be a residual decision-taking progress
on defence done by heads of government by QMV. That is what it
amounted to. That is a crucial matter for this Committee.
(Dr MacShane) I think it would be fair to say that
the Government would be reluctant to see any derogation ultimately
of intergovernmental control of foreign policy. The issue of whether
one could move, say, to QMV on the discussion of a policy, in
other words adopting a policy position, beyond the sensitive areas
that we have already mentioned (stretching from Iraq to issues
which are of profound importance to each individual nation), we
could have QMV on adopting the policy but if it came to implementing
a policy that might involve, say, the deployment of soldiers,
that would remain a question of unanimity.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
38. Forgive me, Minister
(Dr MacShane) If I may, I am also nervous of Europe
finding itself in three or four years' time unable to move on
foreign policy issues because Estonia or Luxembourg imposes a
veto. We have to look at it from the other direction, where there
is a broad desire amongst ourselves, the French, the Germans,
a majority of European nations, to take a position in the name
of Europe but one country says, "No you cannot." And
I am talking about a policy position here, not, as I say, its
actual implementation in terms of committing resources or particularly,
ultimately, as foreign policy can end up, with committing soldiers.
We ought to be very careful that we do not find ourselves blocked,
jointly with major European or a large majority of European partners,
because we have insisted on the veto right for every country in
every aspect of foreign policy.
Chairman: We have opened a hornet's nest here
and I see people wanting to come in on this. Time is a problem
but I think it is so important that we must pursue it.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
39. I want to take the Minister back to the
statement in the House by his colleague the Secretary of State
for Wales, "There is not much sense in extending QMV to foreign
policy." Is that or is that not our position? Of course,
even more so as far as defence is concerned, I cannot see how
one can possibly subscribe to a policy and then refuse to implement
it. You either do or do not subscribe to the policy and what flows
from it, surely. Is that not the point of policy?
(Dr MacShane) The point is that we all subscribed
to a Council decision saying that Saddam Hussein should be disarmed
and where we fell out was over how that should be implemented.
That is one of the areas where, in real life, foreign policy becomes
difficult at the point of implementation. Clearly QMV is out of
the question for anything involving military deployment. That
is very important.