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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, can she clarify something I may have misunderstood?--namely, that she found my comments on the fruit and vegetable regime "glib". If I did not misunderstand her, does she have any disagreement with the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on the fruit and vegetable regime; and does she not agree with me that the difficulty of changing it is raised, at least in large part, by the fact that the four recipient countries of the largess of that regime have a blocking minority between them?
Baroness Elles: My Lords, I hope my noble friend was not offended by my remark on the fruit and vegetable regime. When we discuss the future of Europe, very important issues arise. I sometimes feel that just discussing nectarines and other fruit and vegetables is not the level at which one hopes the discussion will be carried on. I quite accept that there are problems with the fruit and vegetable regime. I accept that the report of the Select Committee was excellent, and it is quite clear that measures have to be taken. The fact that it was recognised by the Select Committee of this House as a matter needing to be dealt with led to a recommendation by that parliamentary committee. I very much hope that it will succeed in having its recommendations carried out.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, noble Lords may be relieved to hear that I shall say much less than usual about Russia. My concern is with the proposals for an external identity for the European Union. That promises an uneasy combination of general naivety, especially on the subject of Russia, and not so latent ambition by the Germans, and to a lesser degree
Let us consider Iran. The Germans and the French believe that they can tame the tiger by feeding it sweets. They do, of course, have excellent trade reasons for that. By a happy coincidence, Mr. Primakov feels that he can do business (both politically and in terms of selling nuclear know-how) with Iran. Consider Serbia. The Germans and the French--and once again the Russians--all wish to develop a loving and, no doubt, lucrative relationship with Milosevic. Take Russia itself. The Germans have invested heavily in Russia (in itself a good thing) and the very large population of former east Germans will no doubt retain close relations with the Communist nomenklatura which is gradually emerging in its true Soviet colours. Germany is trying to repudiate the Potsdam agreements in the context of the Sudeten reparations and will no doubt try again to repudiate the Oder-Neisse agreements.
I agree with my noble friend the Minister that Poland, the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Hungarians are unlikely to be reassured at the idea of entering a European Union dominated by Germany, especially a Germany which is forging special links with Russia that cannot seem but be at their expense. Yet, if we accept and even encourage the concept of an EU identity, with its own foreign policy, which it can impose through common actions that have the force of law, we are sending a message to eastern Europe that cannot reassure it. The people are already discouraged both by the demands of harmonisation and the protected tariff barriers which they are encountering.
Let the European Union stick to what it does well: the TACIS programme and Phare, its economic operation. The CFSP should remain intergovernmental and the EU should not be encouraged to seek to develop an external identity. It is not informed or cohesive enough to make sensible foreign policy. It can only confuse the issue and diminish NATO's role. If proof were needed, I quote from the draft Common Position which the EU put out on the basis of Article J.2 in July last year for consideration by the Council on the European Union and Russia, where it advocated:
It is indeed vital that Europe and the United States should find the means to live peacefully with the Russians, provided that we do not do so at the expense of the eastern European countries which suffered for so long at the hands of the Soviet Union. But nothing will play into the hands of the Russians and their embryonic new Soviet Union, the CIS, so much as leaving the relationship to be defined by an inexperienced and incoherent European Union identity. The Commission--the bureaucracy--wishes to usurp the functions of NATO and the WEU and to promote Russia's favourite (because it is wholly toothless and ineffective) international body, the OSCE, as the chief negotiator. For what and on whose behalf? Do we want a repetition of Jacques Santer saying as he did in Moscow last year, "We have always thought that NATO should not play a military role"? We are already worried about nuclear proliferation. Let us not dissipate effort and complicate policy by bureaucratic proliferation, too, just to keep the European Union happy and busy.
We risk creating, even if we do not create, a German giver of diktats--a second UN, politically correct, ineffective and powerless and extremely expensive. It will be both confusing and dangerous to have:
Let us remember that the European Union and especially the Germans supported the Russian drive to end COCOM, which was finally abolished in 1994, and that Mr. Delors and others argued that a successor to COCOM to include Russia would be infinitely better. Russia would be on the side of the angels. Noble Lords will have seen that the first meeting of the successor to COCOM--known as the Wassenaar Arrangement--set up to regulate the international arms trade and especially to prevent the sale of Stealth technology, ballistic missile defence systems etc., collapsed earlier this month when Russia, a signatory, refused to co-operate. It was never likely to be otherwise. Now it is in the Council of Europe but is rejecting the humanitarian regime which is a condition of membership. Not least, it has been allowed quietly to fail to implement the CFE Treaty.
As to the OSCE, consider Chechnya where the OMON and Speznaz troops can perpetrate what horrors they please, and where the so-called elections which brought the Russian sponsored government to nominal power was a typical Soviet election with a 98 per cent. vote. The OSCE was not there for the election because it considered the conditions too dangerous. The same OSCE has still done nothing to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after three years of negotiation. That is why it is the Russian's and the European Union's favoured choice for negotiation.
There will be many temptations for the Government in order to secure some important concession or other (as happened when we recognised Croatia when it did not meet our criteria) to give way on issues that they
Of course, we have to allow our Ministers freedom to negotiate. But I hope that they know from the start what is non-negotiable. We can lose nothing by taking a firm position when our interest requires it and we shall earn the future support of those central European states waiting to join who do not want to exchange one version of supranational control--by the Soviets--for a new German hegemony. Precisely because I believe in a free Europe and care about its people, I want to be sure that the European Union cannot be taken over. Freedom still needs to be defended.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I enter this debate at an angle. The speakers from these Benches are eminent and know more than I do on the subject. I do not rise just to add to what previous speakers had to say, nor, as a member of a team, to open up one more facet of a very complicated subject. I simply want to draw attention to the place from where I come, which has not been mentioned today although I suspect that a number of noble Lords throughout the House come from exactly the same place.
Your Lordships recently had a debate on the enlargement of the Community, a debate which was initiated by my old friend and noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I had an unbreakable engagement that day and was not able to speak in the debate. But I consoled myself with the thought that when I read Hansard I should be able to explore the depth of wisdom deployed by my colleagues in defence or otherwise of the proposition in favour of expansion, about which I had my doubts despite my party's commitment to it. It was a good debate. But I found my doubts in no way assuaged. In fact, I found them reinforced by the, as always, cogently expressed speech of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, who I am sorry to see is not speaking today.
Like a large number of my political colleagues, I became a convert to the European idea through the concept of a Europe which would never again have an internecine war. I believe my noble friend Lord McNally speaks from the same point of view
In pursuit of that great ideal I allowed myself, as did many other people, to be persuaded that the only way to achieve our aim of getting Britain into Europe was by selling to a nation of shopkeepers the idea of economic union. We really had to sell it as something which would attract the City and suggest that we would all be better off as a result. That may have been the only way to gain entry into the European Union, but it was tainted at the time. It proved to be disastrous and I do not believe that the economic European Union that we have joined is doing us any good. Those who, like me, allowed themselves to be persuaded--I am not blaming other people; I blame myself--have been hoist with our own petard. We should have been more honest at the time.
The inexorable logic of economic union, it seems to me, leads to the expansion about which we are all thinking, whereas I am clear that expansion would be a disaster. I am far from seeing it as the moral imperative that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, spoke of. First, a larger Union will become more and more unmanageable. Already the logistics are being tied in greater knots as we try to work out how many commissioners there should be, how we will run a union of such a size, who will have the right to dissent and how they will do so.
Secondly, for a union, even a Europe des patries, to be effective it must be able to muster a degree of loyalty right across its citizenship. Such a loyalty is spread very thin at the moment between, for instance, Cornish and Spanish fishermen. It would be almost non-existent between a powerful metropolis like London and an outlying poor region such as Romania. The necessary loyalty can be found in the Europe of which we are members at the moment. It can be found in a Europe which is united in its deep awareness of its roots in the Roman Empire, particularly in the form of its later flourishing which came to be called Christendom.
I am not so naive as to think that we can or should cultivate an artificial revival of medievalism or theocracy. But we are rash to step far outside the boundaries of the national sympathies of the people who form the Union. It is probably largely agreed that any body which shares a currency must have an efficient means of sharing its wealth. A unit such as the UK must have means, if it is to stay healthy, to subsidise its outlying regions. In the UK we do that fairly efficiently and willingly. South-east England subsidises Ulster, the Highlands and Cornwall--not adequately, but it does. If there is to be a single currency to replace national currencies, I do not see the Scots, generous though they are, happily subsidising Croatia for long. A united Europe will be like the Hapsburg Empire, which it will resemble in more ways than one, and it will be fissiparous.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I support the White Paper and congratulate the person who thought up the very apt title, A Partnership of Nations. Perhaps the IGC would have more appeal if it was known universally by that phrase.
Much has changed since the first Messina meeting. The real reason for having this Intergovernmental Conference is surely because we find ourselves in a totally different environment from those post-war days, for four main reasons. First, the Iron Curtain has collapsed and now we, in the west, have a duty to embrace the new eastern and central European democracies and to protect everyone's peace and security.
Secondly, the technological revolution has made it possible to move trillions of dollars or pounds freely around the world. It is therefore very difficult for any single European government to control its economic destiny completely alone. Thirdly, there are also new pressures on governments; not just traditional sovereignty and the dangers of nationalism, but also the ability to cope with the enormous expanding populations of the world in the future. Fourthly, the attitude of our Atlantic allies towards Europe has also changed. The new generations in America have grown up with fewer links through family ties and shared war experiences. More importantly, the end of the Cold War induced a more inward-looking attitude on both sides of the Atlantic.
Set in that context, the White Paper spells out very clearly the Government's approach. I applaud its clear, positive, strategy for Britain to play a leading role and the determination to make the IGC a success. To quote one of the grand old men of Europe, Jean Monnet,
I had the privilege to serve on our IGC European subcommittee, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. One of our conclusions was the important task of improving Europe's global competitiveness while at the same time consolidating freedom and democracy by promoting enlargement of the European Union. That will be possible only by seriously studying and reforming the European Community's budget, which has had little mention today.
At this late hour I should like to touch on just a few points in the White Paper. I refer, first, to the roles of the national parliaments and the European Parliament. If we are to serve the best interests of our country, it is vital that we have closer co-operation and respect within the workings of the European Union. I observed from my time in the European Parliament how the members from the other 11 countries, as it was then, worked closely together with their respective national party members. That frequently gave them an advantage over us.
The role of the European Parliament should not be seen as a challenge to national parliaments. It has its own distinctive role. I support the proposal of my noble friend Lord Kingsland to further the possibility of censoring of the Commission by the European Parliament. The European Parliament has a role similar, in a strange way, to your Lordships' House on the legislative side. Perhaps I can quote from an article in the Spectator a few years ago which is an apt description. It stated,
On this subject I would like to touch on a point in paragraph 34 of the White Paper. It is true that the European elections have a very low turnout in Britain, usually around 35 per cent. to 40 per cent.--as do many council ones--as compared to 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. for a General Election. The reason, therefore, cannot be, as some say,
In many ways we have failed to get across the message why it is in our best interests to be part of the European Union. Many people feel let down by the failure to produce more jobs and the promised prosperity, as we have heard from several noble Lords in this debate and the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. We need greater economies of scale not, I believe, by harmonisation, but by mutual recognition. Our future prosperity lies in the competitiveness of the global market. An eminent businessman said recently,
I thank my noble friend for the opportunity to discuss this White Paper today. I wish her the best of luck in the future negotiations. I fully support the British approach spelt out so clearly in the following paragraph of the White Paper:
I hope that the emphasis of the IGC will be on greater simplicity and greater access for everyone to the decision-making process. The final outcome of the IGC will no doubt take many months and is in itself only part of a process. As Disraeli said,
Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, when I read the White Paper I was encouraged by the general thrust of the Government's aims, which I believe are well expressed in paragraph 6, "The British Approach". Like my noble friend Lady Rawlings, I would like to quote slightly more fully from that paragraph:
Europe is at the moment the very opposite of these ideas: it is inward-looking, protectionist, autocratic and inflexible. It is inward-looking because, although it pays lip service to enlargement, in practice it is putting up barriers against helping the new democracies of eastern Europe to come in and join the European Union. There is also a distasteful anti-American flavour to many of the European Union policies. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was here a minute ago and he gave voice to those particular feelings. What he neglected to say was that the Americans have, over the past 50 years, pulled Europe's chestnuts out of the fire, and we should not forget that.
Europe is also protectionist in its trade policies. Tariff barriers around fortress Europe mean that these same eastern European countries are unable to export to Europe the products of their competitive industries, while lame duck industries in Europe continue to be subsidised with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
It is autocratic and unaccountable because we have given far too much power to unelected bureaucrats of Brussels through the doctrine of the "acquired field". They of course see themselves as the motor of European integration and, like all bureaucrats, they want to enlarge their empires. The motor is not yet quite big enough.
Europe is inflexible because it expects all Europe to proceed at the same pace, with the same currency; the same economic polices and the same social policies. That is wholly unrealistic--
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