European Union

Nato – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th October 2001.

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Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour/Co-operative, Ilford South 2:30 pm, 30th October 2001

If he will make a statement on progress towards enlargement of the European Union.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

The Government are a champion of early and successful enlargement and of sticking to the agreed timetable of concluding negotiations by the end of 2002 with the most advanced candidates so that they can participate in the next European Parliament elections in 2004 as members of the European Union.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour/Co-operative, Ilford South

I am pleased with that reply. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the enlargement of the European Union, especially to bring in the countries of central and eastern Europe, will lead to an historic change in relationships after so many years of division? Does he also agree that it is strange that those who say that they are in favour of enlargement voted against the Nice treaty, which makes enlargement possible?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I agree with my hon. Friend. Candidate countries, including long-standing friends of the United Kingdom—for example, Cyprus, Malta, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary—are puzzled by the Opposition's opposition to the Nice treaty. They are seeking to stop the enlargement process in its tracks and to prevent our friends from joining the rest of Europe and reuniting the continent, which we all want to see.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

The whole House will know that Ireland voted against the Nice treaty yet it too, like the Opposition, supports expansion in Europe. However, does the Minister agree that that cannot be at any cost? For example, the common agricultural policy will have to be reformed. Does he accept that the British taxpayer cannot be expected to pick up the tab?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I agree that the CAP needs to be reformed. The Government have done more to take forward that agenda than anything that was done during 18 miserable years of Tory rule. The 1999 agreement—I think at Berlin—initiated a series of reforms and discussions that will result in time in the reform of agricultural policy in the EU. That will become even more urgent after enlargement.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

Does my right hon. Friend accept that for many of the accession states EU membership is a spur for economic security? However, at the same time they wish to have membership of NATO for military security. The two processes are distinctly different, but will my right hon. Friend accept that they have much in common and that they should be taken forward in similar time scales?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I agree that both processes should go ahead in parallel. I welcome the contribution that my hon. Friend is making to discussions with countries such as Lithuania and Estonia to bring the agenda forward. It is valuable for Members to engage with applicant countries. I hope that Opposition Members will undertake similar work. It is important that Britain is seen to be standing shoulder to shoulder with countries that we want in the European family, not seeking to keep them out.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Conservative, Epsom and Ewell

The Minister is aware that not all members of the European Union are as good as others at maintaining cross-border security. What reassurances can he and his right hon. Friend give the House about the negotiation process for enlargement, and the steps that will be taken to ensure that cross-border security throughout the EU is as strong as it possibly can be in these difficult times?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point—it will be of concern to him, the whole House and, I guess, our constituents. We are ensuring that stringent border controls are placed along the external borders of the new applicant countries. In some instances—for example, between the Czech Republic and Germany—the existing border controls will remain for a period to ensure that there is a phasing in of the process, otherwise we could unlock many migration problems that we do not want.