I have regular discussions with my French and German colleagues about the European Union's common foreign and security policy. Close co-operation between the United Kingdom, France and Germany, of the three largest countries in the Union, is a key element in ensuring its effectiveness.
At this time, when we are commemorating the end of the second world war, will my right hon. Friend take every opportunity to stress to his French and German counterparts that our unwillingness to have qualified majority voting in foreign policy in the European Union does not reflect antipathy towards those two countries or a reluctance to co-operate where possible? Will he particularly invite France—perhaps in early discussions with the new French President who will be elected next week—to participate fully in the defence of Europe by joining the military operations and the military wing of NATO? If France does not, there is a danger of over-emphasis on French co-operation for our defence undermining the NATO alliance.
I agree with my hon. Friend's first point; there is no antipathy. I stood behind the Prince of Wales this morning in the big square in Hamburg where he made a most eloquent speech, mostly in German, on the theme of future co-operation, to a big crowd of Hamburgers, exactly 50 years after the British Army accepted the surrender of the city. Anyone who was there would not doubt that the co-operation we are talking about is a reality.
I do not believe in qualified majority voting on foreign policy matters. I do not think that it would improve effectiveness.
The French attitude towards NATO has moved, as my hon. Friend knows, in the right direction—slowly, from our point of view—over recent years. We shall see what the next French President makes of this. The closer the co-operation between France and NATO, the stronger the alliance of the west.
Article B of the Maastricht treaty calls for, as an objective,
a common foreign and security policy".
The Government may have forgotten that they signed that treaty. Does the Foreign Secretary share the European Union's objective of
a common foreign and security policy"—
yes or no? The Government signed the treaty.
Of course, and that is what we are building. We are building that policy not on the basis of qualified majority voting, but step by step and area by area. We have already taken a number of joint actions on the basis of that article of the treaty and I hope that we shall continue to take more. As has been said, we take action when we agree. This policy should be built from the bottom up, brick by brick.
Bearing in mind the fact that British forces and their allies in UNPROFOR serving in Bosnia are not there in sufficient strength or with adequate equipment to remain in circumstances of all-out civil war, is it not of the essence that we retain the closest links with the United States, whose role would be crucial in arranging for any safe extraction of allied forces from the former Yugoslavia?
In a period of reduced defence expenditure throughout Europe, will not the provisions of the Maastricht treaty in relation to
a common foreign and security policy
be underlined and encouraged by economic pressures, such as inter-operability, common procurement and forced specialisation?