International Terrorism

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

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Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Labour, Sheffield, Attercliffe 2:30 pm, 30th October 2001

What discussions he has had with representatives of the member states of the European Union following the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September.

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

We have had regular discussions with our European Union colleagues, helping to achieve unprecedented solidarity with the United States of America and the international coalition against terrorism, as well as an EU action plan for a common definition of terrorism, a European arrest warrant, the freezing of assets, intelligence sharing and enhanced airline safety measures.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Labour, Sheffield, Attercliffe

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. When I met with Muslim constituents after the horrific events of 11 September, they recognised that European Union Ministers were working much more closely together on all the issues that he mentioned. They asked me what else the EU could do regarding the peace process in the middle east. Quite frankly, their perception is that when the Americans alone are seen to lead on those issues, their approach is not necessarily even-handed. They believe that if the EU had a closer and more detailed involvement, equal pressure would be applied on the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a long-term settlement. That is their perception of those issues. What role does my right hon. Friend therefore see for the EU in those matters in future? Does he see it playing a greater role, both as individual states and together in the EU, and can he say how the matter will be progressed in future?

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

I agree with my hon. Friend—the EU has a most important and growing role, not just in seeking to find a peace process in the middle east, but in a wider global context, to make sure that the world is rid of terrorism and that international stability and peace are progressed. Some specific things have been achieved. Yesterday, the General Affairs Council, which my right hon. Friend and I attended, issued a detailed statement on advancing a number of initiatives. Of course, Commissioner Patten, special representative Solana and Foreign Minister Michel for the presidency visited Islamabad, Teheran, Riyadh, Cairo and Damascus only a few weeks ago precisely to engage on that agenda and other matters. We will continue to develop that.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the borders of southern Europe are porous. Does he therefore agree that it is important that the Governments of the EU have urgent discussions with the Governments of, for example, Albania and the Mahgreb, to prevent the flow into southern Europe of people who may well be terrorist supporters?

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

Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. It is something that is very much on our minds, and we are pursuing it. I am happy to give him the assurances that he wants.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire

The security of the EU from terrorism rests very much on intelligence information. A lot of our intelligence information is drawn from nations of the Islamic world. Is it not felt within Europe that the bombing is creating a situation in which that intelligence begins to be at risk?

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

The answer is no. Intelligence sharing is important and my hon. Friend is right to pinpoint it, but we have not found that that has been a problem so far. I remind him and others that the bombing, as he puts it, is designed to take out military installations and create air safety so that the forces involved can go out, track down Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network and destroy their capability ever to mount a repeat action. It will also ensure that the Taliban forces that provide shelter for him are not able to do so.

Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Shadow Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, Shadow Foreign Secretary

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the way in which our European partners have been able, despite differences of emphasis, to adopt a firmly supportive position on the current international crisis and the coalition gathered against it? Does he agree, however, that that support would have been much more difficult to achieve, or would at least have been substantially diluted, if every member of the EU had been required by a common defence or foreign policy to sign up to identical levels of participation and action? Does not the current layered approach to the international crisis within the EU underline the benefits of a flexible Europe of nations and the dangers of further integration?

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

That question started well but, disappointingly, tailed off rather badly. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing at all in the European security and defence policy initiative will bring about the dangers that he foresees. On the contrary, we have seen an almost embryonic security and defence policy initiative from the EU in the way in which it responded with unprecedented solidarity and offers of practical support for the international coalition. A series of countries—France, Germany and others—have offered practical military support and co-operation. That is a good step forward. Of course, the ESDP is designed to provide a peacekeeping and humanitarian capability, not to seek to rival or outwit NATO, on which we will depend in our ability to mount necessary operations in areas like the Balkans, where, so far, we have not been able do so.