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European Council

Part of Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 18th December 2006.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs) 3:31 pm, 18th December 2006

The focus of the summit, as the Foreign Secretary said, was enlargement, which has been the European Union's greatest achievement. We join in welcoming Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union. As she said, we have long supported Turkey's membership of the EU, so we have much agreement with her on that. However, does she still agree with us that, as she put it before the summit, the measures proposed, and indeed agreed, were "too harsh" on, and possibly "counter-productive" towards, Turkey? She obviously agrees that Turkey must work to resolve the dispute over access to its ports, but that is a challenge to overcome, not an opportunity to deny Turkey membership in the future. To resolve these matters, what will the Government and our European partners do not only to end the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots, but to ensure that there is movement over time towards Turkey's eventual recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and on other measures necessary to bring about Turkish membership?

A larger Europe should mean a more flexible Europe, not a less flexible one. It is thus right that proposals to abolish vetoes over criminal justice and to move that area from an intergovernmental pillar to full Community jurisdiction were not adopted. Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that any such proposal in the future will be rejected by Britain? A Government spokesman apparently said at the summit:

"We are prepared to give up the veto on some security issues".

Will she say what those issues are?

Does the Foreign Secretary not agree with the European Scrutiny Committee that the use of the so-called gangplank clause would be of "constitutional importance" and, as the Committee said,

"it is vital that there should be no doubt or equivocation about the Government's position"?

[Interruption.] I use the Committee's form of words. Are the Government in fact willing to give up the veto on some of these issues? Does the right hon. Lady accept our view that that would be a serious mistake that would limit British sovereignty in a sensitive area?

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House why the employment chapter is being used to introduce EU legislation on migration? Should that not be done through immigration provisions or not at all? Why is the EU now extending its powers into Community integration, in paragraph 24 of the Council conclusions? Does not a common asylum policy run the risk of losing national control in that area?

Our view is that the EU should concentrate on where it can add value to its people's priorities, so we welcome what the Council agreed on climate change. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the EU does not need new powers here but must make better use of existing ones? Europe is not on track to meet its Kyoto target, so will the Government ensure that the revision of the EU trading scheme receives urgent attention?

On global poverty, the Council discussed the Africa strategy; it is right to make that a priority. But does the Foreign Secretary agree that many of the EU's policies—the common agricultural policy, trade barriers and so on—continue to make poverty in developing countries worse? Nevertheless, climate change and global poverty are real, tangible issues on which the European Union should be concentrating.

The Foreign Secretary, however, failed to mention one thing—the European constitution. It was on the agenda and a summit has been called of the 18 nations that have ratified it. Her predecessor, who is sitting next to her, Mr. Straw, said that

"it was hard to argue that the Constitution is not dead".