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Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe): In view of the hon. Gentleman's comments on Turkey, I am sure that he is aware of Turkey's ambition to join the European Union. If it did so, presumably that objection would fall away. The reason that it is not altogether welcome at this stage has to do with the activities of the Turkish army, to which he refers so favourably. Does he feel that the development would be desirable?
Mr. Wilkinson: There have always been difficulties in the body politic in Turkey. Wise commentators understand that. However, the interests of mutual security transcend those difficulties, do they not? It was on Turkish soil that NATO felt it necessary to deploy Jupiter ballistic missiles against the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Turkish troops were shoulder to shoulder with our forces and other allied troops maintaining the freedom of South Korea during the Korean war. We would be foolish to be as critical as the hon. Gentleman of internal affairs in Turkey to the extent of allowing that critical frame of mind to prejudice our appreciation of the security value which Turkey contributes to the continent of Europe.
Mr. Spring: My hon. Friend always sets out his case clearly. He will know of the genuine anxieties in Turkey about the proposed new European defence arrangements. In the view of many Turkish commentators, the arrangements may cause the dismemberment of NATO and possibly the ultimate withdrawal of United States forces from Europe. Given Turkey's difficult geographical position, that is why the Turks are concerned. That is why we should express considerable support for Turkey's anxieties at this stage, as we consider the future of the European defence effort under the proposals emanating from Nice.
Mr. Wilkinson: How right, as ever, is my hon. Friend, but I must address the point made by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer), which I did not answer in full. Turkey may be knocking on the door of the European Union, but we should consider how long other European countries have waitedapplicant nations supposedly in the forefront of eligibility for entry. They started knocking at the door at the beginning of the previous decade. They are still not yet inside the EU house. We do not know exactly when they will come in, and the Turks' admission may be postponed sine die. I can imagine all kinds of barrier being put in their wayespecially the kind described by the hon. Gentleman relating to Turkish domestic politics and so on. That is not to take on board subtler and more implicit objections relating to Turkey's predominant Muslim faith, although it is of course a strictly secular nation.
The question is crucial to the NATO context too, is it not, Mr. Lord? Under the proposals of the European security and defence initiative, the Europeans are to make good the deficiencies in their own capabilities. We all know about the headline goals that are supposed to be met by the year 2003 to allow 60,000 troops to be deployed in two months, with an armada of naval vessels and a panoply of air power over the top, but crucial capabilities will still depend on the United States: heavy lift, strategic reconnaissance, intelligence, smart munitions for all-weather operation and much else besides. Many of those capabilities will require the employment of US service personnel, because no one else has the training to operate the equipment concerned. What Congress of the United States will allow its personnel to be deployed in support of a European operation of which it is inherently critical? We are told that the Europeans will go it alone only if the Americans feel that they should not, or will not, take part; so there is an inherent veto from the United States from the outset over those key capabilities that are necessary to the success of any operation.
Let us not delude ourselves about the Petersberg tasks. We all know that it is the small conflagrationsthe situations which we suppose we can solve with a brush-fire type operation of peacekeeping and containmentthat smoulder and ignite into a major conflagration, which involves the deployment of large numbers of forces with supporting services. That is what has happened in the Balkan wars until now, and we cannot assume that things will be different in future.
We cannot assume that the concept of the Petersberg tasksof providing the inventory of capabilities and the complement of units up to the 60,000will be confined to the limited operations for which the Labour spokesmen, the drafters of the Nice treaty, designed it.
Mr. Cash: I am much persuaded by my hon. Friend's arguments. Does he accept that it is impossible to sustain the distinction between peacemaking under the present arrangements in the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice and the previous understanding of Petersberg tasks? Under Petersberg tasks, stealth bombs and smart bombs were used, and there was a full-scale war in the Balkans. It is unworkable for this matter to be dealt with using vague wording. It is obviously a movement towards a European army and all the support services, as my hon. Friend said.
It is also deeply worrying to discover, by tracing through the complicated procedures described, that qualified majority voting is involved. It is absolutely impossible to imagine that anyone would have any proper command and control system in such circumstances.
Mr. Wilkinson: My hon. Friend is very wise. I shall not take up all the points that he makes. Suffice it to say that I find one feature particularly perplexing and deeply worrying. I cannot comprehend what benefit is construed
I am reading the late Robert Rhodes James's book on the Gallipoli campaign, which describes the confusion between the military staffs under Hamilton and the naval staffs under De Robeck. What did we then get in the Balkans? The biggest allied tragedy in joint operations that occurred in the 20th century, even allowing for Dieppe. There is a serious possibility of delay, confusion and even conflict and recrimination between the two sets of military political staffsthose in NATO and those in the European Union. I do not see how the cause of European security will be advanced thereby.
Mr. Menzies Campbell: I do not always agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I certainly recognise his expertise in this field, based as it is on much practical experience. Is it not clear that there is increasing reluctance on Capitol Hill to commit American forces on the ground in Europe? If such is to be the future attitude of the House of Representatives and the Senate, does it not make sense for the Europeans to have a capability to deal with issues such as those in Kosovo or other parts of the Balkans, in circumstances where we know that we cannot automatically expect the Americans to come to Europe?
Mr. Wilkinson: Of course I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There is no need to create such a European Union architecture for the evolution of an autonomous security and defence policy just to achieve the goals that we all know need to be met.
As with NATO, the Western European Union's great strength is that it is a free association of sovereign, independent states, which for their common good came together to work for their mutual security. This approach will not exist in the EU because there is a political dynamic and a political objective to create a European army, to use the expression of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash).
That policy involves a capability for autonomous action on the part of the EU, per se, as an embryonic state, ultimately to give it the characteristics of a fully fledged state. The EU has much of the other apparatus, but it has not yet been fully put in place. Let the Europeans do their best to build up their capability, but they do not need to abolish most of the functions of WEU and subsume them within the EU and to create an architecture that competes with NATO.
It is noteworthy, Sir Michaelforgive me for downgrading you most unworthily and inappropriately in the nomenclature which I used earlierthat one of the noblest features of the modernisation and transformation of NATO has been the partnership for peace programme, whereby the countries of central and eastern Europe, which were formerly our adversaries, have been taken into the bosom of the western defence community in NATO and helped to bring their armed forces under civilian, democratic control, thus learning how to work under
That has worked very well, but the EU's objective is just the opposite; it is to keep at arm's length and to exclude to some degree those who are not members of this sacred union, which is acquiring a political dimension and capability for autonomous defence action. This is thoroughly retrograde. It is recreating divisions which we hoped had ceased to exist in our continent, with the ending of the cold war and the dismantlement of the Berlin wall. So new clause 7 is entirely wise. A report on all those implications should be put before Parliament, but of course we have had nothing of the kind and I think that thoroughly remiss.
In conclusion, I shall argue this final point: there is much talk about how democratic scrutiny of European defence will be maintained on a transnational basis. In the current review of whether the European Parliament should assume that function, whether a new assembly should be created or whether we should use the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union, I urge that we use the Assembly. I say that not because I am particularly parti pris but because the WEU Assembly actually works well, and it does so because of its wide membership. All the countrieswhether EU nations, NATO nations outside the EU, or countries from further east whose representatives work alongside usare essentially on one footing. Our Parliament has the right to question Defence Ministers and an obligation to vote funds for defence. Other Parliaments have the ability to modify defence budgets, and it is from the ranks of national parliamentarians that national Defence Ministers are drawn.
The European Parliament, by contrast, is déracinéit does not have the same roots or legitimacy; it does not even have the same treaty competence. I cannot comprehend why we should arrogate the oversight function to an Assembly which is more remote from the peoples of western Europe. We risk creating a hybrid entity with no clear mandate or treaty responsibility, which the Parliamentary Assembly of the Western European Union has. Whatever the outcome of the debate on European security and defence, I hope that we will maintain transnational democratic parliamentary scrutiny, as provided by WEU.