EU Foreign and Security Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 3rd May 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North 2:18 pm, 3rd May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had recently with his French and German counterparts concerning the EU's common foreign and security policy. [20425]

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

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.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

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.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

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.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

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.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

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.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Davyhulme

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?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My hon. Friend is quite right in his analysis, and we do so.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

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?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I did not entirely follow the hon. and learned Gentleman, possibly because his question is more appropriately addressed to Defence Ministers, but if I find something useful about which to write to him on this subject, I shall do so.