Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 10th July 1996.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock 1:47 pm, 10th July 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's bilateral relations with (a) Poland, (b) Hungary and (c) the Czech Republic. [35173]

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

Relations between the United Kingdom and Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic respectively remain excellent.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Is the Minister aware that, in this year when we shall commemorate the 50th anniversary of the speech at Fulton, Missouri, the people of central Europe—of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and of many other countries—are yearning to redeem the pledges that were made immediately after the end of the second world war? Can the Government not show more enthusiasm for the early admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO and for a widening of the European Union rather than a deepening, to allow those countries access to great European institutions founded on democracy?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

I agree that Her Majesty's Government should take every opportunity to emphasise our enthusiasm for all three countries joining NATO and the European Union. I was in Hungary last week giving precisely that assurance, and I visited the Czech Republic and Poland to do the same. We shall do everything in our power to ensure that, as soon as all three countries fulfil the necessary criteria, they join us in both organisations.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I welcome the tone of my hon. Friend's reply, but does he agree that the countries of central Europe and other countries have traditionally looked to Britain as a friend and supporter in promoting their democratic interests, and that they now see a Europe that is more in the British mould of the open and diversified kind rather than the centralised and protective European model? They are looking to London particularly for a lead in that respect.

Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that he and his colleagues will give that lead and give those countries every encouragement to join an open and diversified Europe of nations and to join NATO as rapidly as possible while we have the opportunity and before darker threats from further east make it impossible to do so?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Bonsor Sir Nicholas Bonsor , Upminster

Certainly, Her Majesty's Government will do everything they can to hasten the process. We give much assistance through the British Council and the know-how fund to ensure that countries move forward as fast as possible in establishing the internal systems that will enable them to join the European Union and NATO.

The only word of caution that I would add is that we must get these things right and the structure of the European Union right rather than expanding it before problems in the European Union that inhibit that expansion have been dealt with. We must not expand and find ourselves in a position that we subsequently cannot correct.