European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Willoughby de Broke Lord Willoughby de Broke Conservative 7:00 pm, 20th November 2001

I rise to speak to my amendment, which is Amendment No. 34A. I believe that it goes to the heart of the enlargement process. The protocol on enlargement deals with institutional reform in some detail, including the re-weighting of votes, the number of members of the European Parliament and members of the Commission. To that limited extent it is about enlargement. Perhaps it is one of the few parts of the treaty that is actually about enlargement.

That is all very well. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, has said. I am sure that there is a groundswell of desire in the candidate countries to join the European Union. But the real barrier to enlargement in the end, apart from the reforms which are being carried out, is the common agricultural policy. It seems to me that without reform of that policy within the treaty there will be more barriers to enlargement. It will be harder for the candidate states to enter the European Union.

Of the five candidate countries at the moment, Poland and Hungary have two very significant and highly important agricultural sectors. Indeed, I believe that Poland has more farmers than the whole of the rest of the European Union together. I agree that most are small farmers, but farming represents about 20 to 25 per cent of Poland's GDP compared with about 3 per cent for this country. So for Poland it is a very serious problem.

Therefore, it seems somewhat irrational to make preparations to receive new members before we have decided what the ground rules are, how they are going to be accepted and how the CAP is to be reformed to allow the candidate countries to join the Union. In the way the CAP is currently constituted there does not appear to be any provision by which the candidate countries can be admitted, because there is no appetite for reform. Indeed, the President of the Commission has gone on record as saying that there will be no reform or even review of the CAP before 2006. He has been supported in that view by the French Prime Minister.

It is astonishing that, given their importance, the chapters on agriculture have not been opened for discussion with the candidate countries. But the agriculture Ministers of Poland and Hungary have made it perfectly clear that they expect that their farmers will enjoy all the benefits, if I can call them that, of the common agricultural policy.

So how is that circle to be squared? How can we meet the legitimate expectations of the agricultural sectors of the candidate countries without reforming the CAP? How is it to be reformed? How is it to be dealt with? As I have said, there is no prospect of real reform. It has been tinkered with at the edges in the past few years. It has been watered down and proposals have been made but nothing significant has happened. Certainly, nothing is going to be done to radically reform the CAP, which is necessary.

It appears to me that there are three possible scenarios. The first is that some of the current recipient countries—France is the largest—will volunteer to give away some of their receipts to the candidate countries. I do not know whether that has been proposed, but we have not been knocked over in the rush for that to happen.

Secondly, the other proposal, which is equally unlikely, is that the CAP budget of the European Union will be enlarged to accommodate the new entrants and their agricultural sectors so that they can receive the subsidies that the current members receive. The third scenario, which seems to be on the cards at the moment, is that the candidate countries are to be told that they will have to comply with all the rules and regulations of the CAP but that they will not receive subsidies because there is no money and they will have to make shift with that scenario. It is rather like being an off-peak member of a tennis club where one pays one's dues, obeys the rules without being able to change them but can use the hard courts only on weekday mornings.

I do not believe that that is acceptable to any of the aspirant countries with such large agricultural sectors. My noble friend Lord Howell was absolutely right that a smaller treaty, perhaps beginning with the title "Protocol on the Enlargement of the European Union", encompassing the reform of the common agricultural policy, would have made the enlargement process much more speedy. I did not realise that it had taken quite as long as my noble friend said, namely, about 15 years. That seems astonishing. I gather that the first countries to join will not do so for another three years, if then, and only if the CAP is reformed. I believe that application and reform of the CAP should be coterminous and therefore should be included in the treaty; hence the reasoning behind my amendment. If the treaty is to be about enlargement, surely it has to include agriculture and the CAP.