Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
THURSDAY 27 MARCH 2003
MP, MR PAUL
40. Yes, and national interest, surely.
(Dr MacShane) Even the German paper refers to national
interest. I am genuinely nervous of giving a commitment to the
Committee before further discussions have taken place at the notion
that the whole of the development of Europe's presence around
the world could be blocked by one countryand I do not want
to single out whether it is a small country or a big countrywhich
has a unique national perspective on that particular problem saying,
"No Europe cannot move forward at all." I think that
would be very dangerous. It is very dangerous for us, very dangerous
for British interests.
Chairman: Procedurally there is a huge difference
between unanimity and national interest in the procedures of voting
Lord Williamson of Horton
41. Mine is a very brief point. Perhaps it is
difficult but the British Government have distinguished between
foreign policy in general and security and defence on the other
hand. The risk of the Franco-German paper is that it does not
seem to make such a clear distinction. It is, therefore, at least
conceivable, if not recommended, that at the level of the European
Council decisions could be taken by qualified majority on a security
issue. I was under the impression myself, that Britain was quite
clearly against that.
(Dr MacShane) But as the Franco-German paper says,
defence and national interests demand unanimity. So our position
is quite clear, anything that involves military decisions does
require unanimity. I think that position has to be clear.
Baroness Park of Monmouth
42. Forgive me, Minister. The reason we are
concerned is that they do, indeed, make that statement in the
first sentence but by the last sentence they have found that if,
after lots of consultation and pressure, a country that is standing
out cannot be persuaded, they will then moved to make a decision
by qualified majority voting. That is what concerns the Committee.
(Dr MacShane) Those concerns are shared by the Government
and will be reflected in the discussions. You will find after
Iraq that there is a very serious re-evaluation of some of the
ideas put forward in that paper not just by the British Government,
by other governments as well.
Chairman: It has taken us some time to get there,
but you have now said what we were keen to hear. Lord Inge, did
you want to come in?
43. You talked about a lot of it being done
by coalitions of the willing, Minister, going back a bit when
we were talking. Does it worry you that when you look among the
European nations, even when you see an enlarged European Union,
that the number of nations actually that provide credible military
forces you do not even need all the fingers of one hand to count?
(Dr MacShane) No, I agree.
44. Does it not worry you, therefore, that if
we are not careful we will always be part of a coalition of the
willing even when we may not want to be there? So you do not really
have a credible actual military capability?
(Dr MacShane) Yes.
Chairman: Thank you. I am going to move on.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
45. Yes. I gather from what you have been saying
in your reference to China that you do not think that the Common
Foreign and Security Policy has been limited both here and abroad?
Is that because you think it has world-wide possibilities perhaps?
(Dr MacShane) Europe has got relations with China,
with ASEAN countries. I attended the EU Latin American Summit
last summer with the Prime Minister so the European Union, as
such, has relations with all parts of the world.
46. Do you think we can develop common foreign
policies in relation to them? Obviously, individual European countries
have all sorts of links we can do ourselves. What do you think
of the suggestion that CFSP should apply throughout the world?
(Dr MacShane) We want to see a European presence stronger
throughout the world and, obviously, it is much better if Europe
speaks with one voice in relationship, say, to China or to Russia,
than it speaks with 15 separate voices. Certainly, I know from
my work in Latin America the demand was very pressing from Latin
American governments that there could be a stronger presence of
Europe as a whole to lead them in the direction, as they see it,
of more open borders, more open trade, the promotion of democracy
and prosperity. They look very much to the European Union as a
model which has helped resolve the great conflicts between the
European nation states in the first half of the last century,
and quite an interesting model that Latin American governments
of all hues would like to pursue. I would, as I say, welcome a
much stronger European Union presence in Latin America and, again,
a common foreign policy to support the democratic governments
faced with the great problems of narco-terrorism, organised international
crime and endemic poverty.
47. Could we turn tosorry, to edge you
past the Nurnbergthe Middle East and what the quartet
have been developing by way of road plans, maps and whatever they
have recorded for the way ahead which, theoretically, the United
States is signed up to. It does seem to me that the current administration
in the United States really has very little interest in developing
a Palestinian State. President Bush occasionally refers to it
when he is pressed by our Prime Minister, otherwise I do not believe
there is any belief or commitment to an independent Palestine.
Do you really see this as an area in which Europe will be able
to maintain good relationships with the United States where, on
the whole, all of us in Europe have indeed a rather different
view of that part of the world?
(Dr MacShane) I am not sure that is the case. When
the President of the United States announces formally at the UN
and in other statements his commitment to a Palestinian State,
we have to take it very seriously. I do not think the President
of the United States makes speeches lightly. It is the result
of a great deal of very hard work and thought by American policy
makers. Obviously, there is a debate on the nature of the Palestinian
State and there there might be some differences and we will have
to keep arguing that there is no viable solution in the Middle
East without the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people
to have their own state. I welcome the fact that that is now clearly
on record as US policy and we will have to keep discussing with
our American partners the need for that to be put into effect
and to keep making the point that it is firmly our view, the British
view, that there will be no resolution to the continuing conflicts
in the region without peace between the people of Israel and the
people of Palestine.
48. Minister, I would like to pass on to the
question of where and how future discussions on CFSP take place.
You talked earlier about the incubus of public opinion stalking
the corridors of the Foreign Officeyou categorised it as
a gorilla rather than a hedgehogand often public opinion
is mediated through the press and so on. Sometimes the press and
the media can give a somewhat distorted view of these important
discussions. How do you see the Government's relationship there
with the press and the media and the need to respond, but also
to national parliaments like our own and to the European Parliament?
What more might be done to promote a sensible and rational discussion
of these matters in the acknowledged parliaments, but also in
that recognising public opinion through the newspapers and the
TV and so on and so forth?
(Dr MacShane) It is a constant disappointment to me
that when I come before this Committee there are not hundreds
of TV cameras and journalists straining to catch every word that
falls from my and your lips, my Lord. I have noticed since I have
become Minister for Europe, after my previous job, that I am appearing
with very great regularity in both Houses of Parliament for debates,
questions, different committees and all of these, of course, are
on the public record, and it is right to do that through Parliament.
I am not quite sure how you get the press generally to take a
measured and serious interest in foreign affairs. What I am seeking
to do with members of the other House is to encourage them, all
of them, with the support of the main opposition parties, to travel
more regularly to European capitals as well as to Brussels and
Strasbourg, so that we can develop a greater store of knowledge
about how the whole of Europe works, particularly on foreign policy
issues. I hopeagain, all of this has been slightly put
on hold because of the Iraq crisisto be publishing an article
in the House Magazine that will announce this, as I say,
with the support of the main opposition parties. I have asked
ambassadors in all the European capitals to try and encourage
political and parliamentary contact between London and other parliamentarians
in Europe. Certainly, I am very happy to appear in front of this
and other committees, I am very happy to try and write articles
that explain our points of view. If you have any influence, my
Lord, with the editors of the press to get them published, I would
be most grateful for your help and support.
49. I know you do it in French and in German
(Dr MacShane) Some things you have to keep secret.
50. Minister, I wonder if you would just say
something about what you think the effect of the consequences
are of the problems in NATO, Article 5 interpreted in particular,
and what knock-on consequences that has for the ESDP?
(Dr MacShane) There has not been a fundamental disagreement
between members of the EU and NATO over Article 5, simply because
NATO is responsible for the collective defence of its members.
We are very clearand we have the support of major partners
in Europethat the EU and the ESDP is not going to become
a collective security arrangement and the EU does not have any
role in collective defence. Again, if I may repeat the views of
the ten incoming Member States: they told the Heads of Government,
including the President of France, very clearly last Friday that
their membership of the EU did not for them mean they were joining
in any way an anti-transatlantic alliance club, and that they
see NATO membership, on a par with EU membership, as absolutely
central to their future policy. Yes, there has been a little row
at NATO, as we know, that has now been resolved and I do not see
a direct read across from the Iraq crisis into the relationship
between NATO, which is vital and important to Europe, and the
development of ESDP and CFSP within the European Union context.
51. So the attitude in Turkey and, indeed, the
attitude more recently over Iraq and the Americans, you think
that has no consequences for Europe at all?
(Dr MacShane) We will have to see how events unfold.
I would have wished Turkey to have been more positive to some
of the requests made to her. Turkey has just gone through a fairly
bruising political change in the election of the AKP Government,
a lot of new Members of Parliament, who perhaps are not yet as
fully involved and reflective on Turkey's important security needs.
Turkey remains a key NATO partner and remains, certainly for the
British Government and other governments, a country we want to
see orientating itself towards Europe.
52. Given that we have had some difficulty in
developing a relationship in ESDP with Turkey, how do you see
that has been affected?
(Dr MacShane) That was resolved last December. There
were differences, which are well-known, between Turkey and Greece
and that has been something that NATO has had to live with and
European partners have had to live with for a large number of
years. The Berlin-plus arrangements are now in place and we are
seeing the first military deployment of ESDP in Macedonia, the
policing operations already in operation in Bosnia and I think
our American partners welcome this.
53. Just so I am absolutely clear, are you saying
that although Lord Robertson solved the problem of Turkey in the
end, by using a different approach for a different agreement,
you do not think there is any long-term damage done by this?
(Dr MacShane) Turkey remains a sensitive issue in
terms of its aspirations to join the European Union. The Turkish
Government and the Turkish parliamentarians need to be very aware
of the consequences of decisions they take, or pronouncements
they make, on the impact of the reputation of Turkey inside both
the European Union and the wider transatlantic community. The
question over provision of defence help for Turkey seemed to be
dragged into the Iraq divisions I thought rather unnecessarily
but, as you rightly say, it was well handled by Lord Robertson
and agreement was finally reached. NATO has had to live with those
little disagreements all along.
54. So you say it was only a little disagreement,
(Dr MacShane) It was an important disagreement at
the time. As I understand it, and I am not an expert, it would
have been quite possible for patriot missiles to have been sent
bilaterally by the United States to Turkey without going through
NATO. It was because a decision was taken to take it through NATO
that allowed countries that were not in agreement with the overall
Iraq policy of the United States and Great Britain then to raise
objections around the decision table.
55. Does that not, in itself, say quite a lot?
(Dr MacShane) Yes and no. My working assumption is,
and I am not a NATO expert, that any alliance that involves a
good number of members at times is not going instantly to agree
unanimously on what policy to adopt.
56. It was a fundamental issue.
(Dr MacShane) No. What I am not quite sureand
really you are taking me quite far away from my briefis
why it was not decided that the United States bilaterally just
sent the missiles to Turkey and why this was taken through NATO.
57. I will not flog this to death. If you thought
it was going to be done bilaterally, it must say something about
NATO or a country in NATO was not prepared to support it?
(Dr MacShane) The point you make is perfectly valid
and perhaps if M. de Villepin was available he should be up here
at the Committee to answer some questions.
58. Thank you, my Lord Chairman. Just very quickly,
Minister. A great deal has been made in the press and you have
mentioned just now what I might call the pro-transatlantic credentials
of the impending new members of NATO. Can I just ask you how long
do you think that will last after they have joined?
(Dr MacShane) It will last because Europe, in my experience,
west and east, north and south, does see that its Atlantic destiny
is as important as its Continental land mass destiny, so I have
no doubts that will continue and last. Also, I hope that the United
States will accept that a positive relationship with the European
Union with Europe is vital to American interests. I refer to President
Bush's excellent speech to the Bundestag on June 14 last when
he said, and I am quoting from memory: "As Europe grows in
unity, that is good for the United States. As Europe adopts a
single currency, that is something the United States welcomes.
We want to see a strong, effective united Europe." That has
been the consistent strategic American policy all my lifetime,
from Kennedy through to President Bush the first and President
Bush the second, and I have no reason to think that will change.
59. If I may comment on my Lord Chairman's speech
to the House the other day: "The attitude of many people
we met in the United States appeared to have changed that quite
(Dr MacShane) Yes. I understand that people now talk
in the United States about freedom fries and freedom letters and
all that stuff rather than mention the word France or French,
but I wonder where that will be in a year or two's time. One has
to draw a big distinction between the positions taken by Germany
and France in the matter of Iraq, and one has to draw a distinction
between the positions taken by a large number of European governments
and the positions taken by one or two of them. I am fundamentally
of the opinion that anti-Americanism is as foolish and dead end
politics as anti-Europeanism.