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Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I have a number of questions to which my noble friend may be able to respond when she replies. The provisions of this amendment deal essentially with pages 11 and 16 of the Amsterdam Treaty. Those paragraphs contain six references to the European Council which, as your Lordships are aware, meets normally twice a year and has a totally different function to the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers is referred to on numerous occasions all the way through the section commencing with paragraph 10.
It seems to me that we need to know whether, in all the instances in which the Council of Ministers is mentioned, the normal rules apply; that the specific circumstances set out in paragraph 10 apply. The Council of Ministers, normally speaking, and under the main treaty, can act only on a proposal from the Commission. Will the Minister confirm whether in any paragraph in this section where the Council of Ministers is mentioned--it is normally referred to as "the Council"--there is any occasion in which action by the Council of Ministers is permitted without being on a proposal from the Commission?
My other point arises in relation to the budget itself. The budget for 1998, I discovered, under Title VIIIa gives a total budget in respect of this specific section of some 20.25 million ecu which at the current rate of exchange of 65 ecus to the pound is £13,000,162, of which the United Kingdom share is £1,842,000. Can the Minister explain just what that sum is for? There does not seem to be anything in the section that would justify
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I have always been brought up to believe that foreign policy exists to further British interests. Any constraints on that must mean that British interests in certain areas may not be pursued as they should be pursued. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that the European Union is a player on the world stage. The only reason why it is a player on the world stage is that this country and presumably other countries channel a lot of their overseas aid through the European Union, where it is laundered and to a very large degree wasted. One of the reasons it has influence is that it has money. It is not because it has better ideas or that its member states act in unison; it is because it has money. That is why the European Union is taken some notice of. However, the interests of this country can only be what is good for its people and its future. I reject any attempt to have that watered down by agreeing a common foreign policy and a common security policy.
What concerns me about the treaty is that, once again, we have Article J.1 saying that the objective is to strengthen the security of the Union in all cases. All reference to member states is gone. Why is that written? Why has all reference to member states gone? Those of us who fear the ratchet effect believe that this is just another step on the road to a fully integrated European superstate. Therefore, we want an answer to the question as to why the reference to member states has been removed.
People may say that we do not trust our own government. I do not. I do not trust any government because they do things which are not always in the best interests of the people they are supposed to serve and therefore should always be under suspicion and their motives should always be queried.
The article goes on to say that we are to decide on common strategies and that we are to adopt joint actions and common positions. We have found a great deal of difficulty in doing that in the past. The reason is, of course, that our interests do not usually coincide with the interests of other countries. Where they do coincide, we are able to co-operate. But what one does not need to be able to co-operate is a treaty of this kind. That is why so many people are fearful of our foreign policy and the future of this country being tied into a treaty which will restrict the actions of a British government on the world stage in many respects.
Some of us also fear that if we progress then we shall lose our place on the Security Council. We are told, of course, that that is unimaginable. But we are often told that things we believe are unimaginable, but they come to pass. I would like to have the absolute assurance of
The other matter that worries us is what I once described as "this high representative". That is good Eurospeak, is it not? That is what we are now going to have. I suggested last year that the high representative would be the European Foreign Minister. I received a letter from my noble friend Lord Whitty in which he said,
That sounds quite reassuring. The only problem is that once they get these positions these people describe themselves as something different. For example, I believe that there are 131 EU representatives in various countries throughout the world. Presumably, they are representatives to look after the grants-in-aid to various countries. But they go around describing themselves not as representatives of the EU, but as European Union ambassadors. So how soon will it be before this high representative is describing himself as the Foreign Minister of the European Union? Some of us are very concerned about that.
Time is getting on and I do not want to make a long speech about foreign affairs, although I could very well do so. I could refer to Britain not as a regional power stuck in the backwater of Europe, but as a global power which has responsibilities outside Europe--for example, to our great Commonwealth. We do not want our responsibilities to the Commonwealth constrained by responsibilities that we may have taken on in respect of countries of the European Union. So one could make a great speech about all these things, but I shall not do so tonight.
I can also recall occasions such as the Falklands War, when we got less than good and fullhearted support from our European Union partners or competitors, call them what one likes. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will not think that I am criticising her in any way. I just want her to understand the views of those of us who have been around in this business for a very long time. Like my noble friends Lord Bruce and Lord Shore, I have been around it since 1962, so we know what has happened during that period. We were the ones who fought the referendum in 1975. It is because of that experience that we are suspicious of every move that is made forward and of every ratchet that is turned. I ask my noble friend to believe that we are serious about our fears. I hope that she will treat them seriously when she replies.
Baroness Ludford: I have promised to speak for no more than one minute and I shall do so. In speaking briefly to Amendment No. 35, I take the rare pleasure of supporting an amendment in the name of the noble
Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: One matter which has mystified me, on which I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten me, is how one can have an independent foreign policy if one does not have control of one's own money. One of the effects of being part of the single currency would be that if one wished to carry out an exercise such as the Falklands War, it would at once imperil one's budgetary position under the stability pact. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said that she rather despaired of Europe ever putting together a common foreign policy front. If all the countries which are now involved in the single currency chose to step out of line and to join us and the Americans in an exercise such as the Gulf War, what would happen to their budgetary position and how would they be affected by the stability pact? Presumably they would have to get permission from the central bank to overdraw in order to finance their war.
Lord Grenfell: I have two brief points. When I hear my noble friend Lord Stoddart defining the objectives of British foreign policy, I sometimes wonder whether the word "globalisation" has ever managed to force itself into his vocabulary. John Donne would be turning in his grave at the insularity of such a foreign policy. We live in a very interdependent world.
Possibly we can get rid of the strange worry about removal of the words "member states" in many places. As far as I understand it, the word "Union" describes the collectivity of member states. One need look no further than Article A to see that one line among the objectives refers to maintaining and developing the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. What does "area" mean? It means the member states. I sometimes think that some of my noble friends deserve Oscars for special effects, given the way in which they manage to turn modest mice into woolly mammoths of evil disposition.
Perhaps I may turn to the apparently contentious--although I cannot understand why--issue of the high representative. Perhaps it is a slightly Gilbertian title, but I have heard worse and more intimidating titles than that. After all, the person who will perform this task, the
The job to be done is very modest but despite its modesty it has great importance, in that it responds to the reality that one cannot always depend on the diplomatic resources of the country holding the presidency to take on all of the responsibilities as spokesperson for the Union. That has been one of the weaknesses of a common foreign and security policy. This represents a modest attempt to try to clear it up.
As a related point, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said he very much hoped that the high representative would reflect the views of the members of the Union. In the past the problem has been the other way round. It has often been the case that when people who have been made special representatives of the EU have tried to speak on behalf of member states they have been placed in a difficulty, as in Bosnia. I heard yesterday from Richard Holbrook that when the special EU representative, Mr. Carl Bildt, saw him, he, Mr. Bildt, found that he had been short-headed, so to speak, by representatives of other member states. They had come to see Mr. Holbrook to inform him that he must not regard the spokesman as representing the views of their countries. That is the problem. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, he got it the wrong way round. EU representatives want to be able to reflect the views of the Union but often they are undermined by individuals.
I beg the Committee not to be scared by the appointment of a high representative. Perhaps we can change the title if that is what scares people, but this is a very sensible step in a modest treaty. This is a pragmatic way to try to improve the running of the machinery of a common foreign and security policy and ensure that the views of the Union and its members are properly represented.
Lord Monson: The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, has drawn the attention of the Committee to one worrying aspect of Article J.1. I cite what appears to me to be another alarming aspect. The Treaty of Amsterdam introduces a new Union objective: to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the Union, to which one cannot object, but also to safeguard the integrity of the Union. This is ominous. Why should that be included? To safeguard the integrity of the Union implies that if any one or more member state wishes to withdraw, sanctions, or worse, may be employed against it or them. This may seem fanciful today, but let us remember that up until the middle of the 19th century the United States were always referred to in the plural. The American civil war
Those who are concerned about a common foreign and security policy are generally told not to worry because the Council will make policy decisions only on the basis of a unanimous vote. Normally, when one is deciding issues of major importance to a nation, unanimity means active unanimity; in other words, everyone has to vote positively in favour. In this case, for some reason, Article J.13 states categorically:
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