EU: Turkey and Croatia

– in the House of Lords at 4:08 pm on 11th October 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:08 pm, 11th October 2005

My Lords, I beg leave to repeat to the House a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in another place.

"With permission Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the European Union's decision on Monday last to open negotiations for full membership with Turkey and Croatia. First, Turkey. Turkey is part of Europe. It was a founder member of the Council of Europe in the late 1940s, and was invited by the United Kingdom, France and others to join NATO as early as 1952.

"The prospect of European Union membership was first offered to Turkey some 42 years ago. That promise was repeated by the Union in ever more concrete terms in 1999 and in 2002. In December last year, and again in June this year, a specific start date of Monday last—3 October—was set. By that date Turkey was required to, and had, introduced a further six laws and had signed the protocol to the Ankara agreement. In addition, the Turkish Government had actively co-operated to encourage a "yes" vote from the Turkish Cypriots for the Annan plan to reunify Cyprus. So, over this summer, there was understandable bitterness and apprehension in Turkey as further obstacles appeared to be put in the way, and as some in Europe argued that Turkey should settle for less than full membership.

"The result was that nine days ago the European Union stood at a crossroads. It had to decide whether it would honour its commitment to Turkey and begin accession negotiations or whether it would turn its back on the Union's nearest and largest Muslim neighbour.

"In the event, and after 36 hours of almost continuous negotiations, I am pleased to say that agreement was reached in Luxembourg to enable negotiations to begin. And, happily, by sticking to what I described as 'presidency time', we were able to do so, just, within the 3 October deadline.

"The negotiations, which had begun many weeks earlier, were at times difficult and complex, and I am indebted to many heads of government and Foreign Ministers for the political courage they showed.

"I also want to express my gratitude to EU Commissioner Olli Rehn and High Representative Javier Solana and their staff, and not least to Sir John Grant, UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to Turkey, and FCO staff in Brussels, Ankara, London and many other posts for their sterling efforts to secure this profoundly important result.

"And I am grateful to this House for the consistent, all-party support which Turkey's membership of the EU has for so long received.

"There is no doubt that Turkey and Europe as a whole will benefit from this decision in equal measure. For Turkey, it represents another significant step on its long journey to becoming a fully European nation. The process will strengthen the wide-ranging reform programme already pushed through in recent years and it will give renewed impetus to further improvements to the rule of law, respect for human rights and democratic institutions.

"For the European Union it means that a close partner will be brought even closer. Turkey has long been key to the security of Europe as a whole. Turkey's economy is one of the fastest growing in Europe; it is already a major market for European Union exporters; and Turkey plays a vital role in the fight against international terrorism, cross-border crime and drug trafficking. By standing by our promise to Turkey, we will make the European Union stronger, safer and more competitive.

"But the decision on 3 October is even more significant than that. For more than 1,000 years, the boundaries between Europe and Asia have principally been decided through bloodshed and conflict. By welcoming Turkey with its large Muslim population, we are embarking on a new era in which it is manifest that Europe is not some exclusive Christian club, at best cold to its neighbours, at worst actively hostile. Instead, we are able to show that what binds this modern Europe together is a set of fundamental rights and freedoms combined with a common purpose, regardless of race or religion. This is a powerful message not only to the people of other faiths who live in neighbouring countries but also to the millions who already live within the borders of the European Union.

"I do not underestimate the challenges ahead. Some of those challenges are for Turkey. Turkey, like all candidate countries, has to align its legislation with the European Union's. This is an enormous task, which is broken down into 35 separate chapters. They cover issues from justice and home affairs through to economic policy and the environment.

"Some of the challenges are for Turkey's neighbours—Greece and Cyprus—as much as Turkey. The accession process holds out the clear prospect of a satisfactory resolution of a host of historic regional issues, including disputes over rights in the Aegean and over the reunification of Cyprus. Achieving these aims will require a positive approach by all concerned and a readiness to compromise. I have already spoken to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about the circumstances in which he would deem it appropriate to restart his good offices mission in respect of Cyprus under UNSCR 1250. And I have also spoken to Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn about other measures which are needed—specifically the European Union's commitments to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

"And some of the challenges ahead are for Europe as a whole. This includes continuing in good faith to help Turkey to prepare for full membership of the European Union.

"Equally it means setting out clearly to our own citizens why having Turkey as a member of the European Union will bring direct benefit to them. We need to show that the greatest threat to our European culture and heritage comes not from opening our doors to a vibrant, secular nation like Turkey, but from closing in on ourselves and allowing Europe to stagnate in the face of global competition.

"Secondly, I turn to Croatia. At its meeting last December, the European Council decided that accession negotiations for Croatia should begin on 17 March. Croatia has made remarkable progress in recent years, and had been able to satisfy the EU Commission that it had met all the so-called 'Copenhagen criteria' relating to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which are a prerequisite to the beginning of formal negotiations.

"There was however one issue still unresolved, concerning the Croatian fugitive suspected of war crimes, Ante Gotovina. So the Council made the start date dependent on Croatia 'fully cooperating' with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, in The Hague. In the event, it took until last Monday before the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal, Carla del Ponte, was able to say that such full co-operation had been forthcoming. The Union acted immediately in response by opening negotiations. I am very grateful to Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his government for this significant improvement in co-operation, which I hope will lead to the early arrest of Gotovina.

"When the prospect of membership was first held out to Turkey, what became the European Union had just six members. Since then, the European Union has acted as a powerful magnet for countries seeing the benefits of membership from outside and wanting to come into the fold. Each successive wave of enlargement has strengthened and broadened the Union. Each wave has also demonstrated how the EU can be a great and powerful force for good in helping to spread good governance and human rights.

"Former dictatorships in the West and former Soviet satellite states in the East have been transformed since joining the European Union, creating an ever-wider community of stable, prosperous democracies. I have no doubt that this same force for good will now benefit the people of Turkey and Croatia. I know the House will support every effort to do so."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Spokespersons In the Lords, Foreign Affairs, Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord for repeating this extremely important Statement. May I make it crystal clear at the outset that we are in total support of these negotiations for the two countries' full membership? We wish these negotiations to succeed and not to be unduly prolonged. When the Cold War was on, in the high days of NATO defence, we were glad to accept Turkey's contribution to the support of NATO's southern flank. Now we shall be glad to embrace Turkey in an enlarged Union, as soon as is practicable.

Does the Minister agree that the Union into which these two countries are being invited by negotiation has itself changed, is changing, and must change a great deal more? Can he explain why, the other day, the Prime Minister was saying that developments in the reform of the European Union, to meet the conditions of the 21st century, had, apparently, stalled? That is depressing: we would like more encouragement on that. What is the proposed informal meeting of EU heads of state at Hampton Court intended to achieve? Will it be informal or is it to be termed formal, as has been suggested?

Does the Minister agree that we must be open-eyed about the difficulties? All this will not simply slip through. To deal briefly with Croatia, there has apparently been a change of heart by Ms del Ponte, the chief war crimes prosecutor. Yet, as indicated in the Statement, Ante Gotovina is still at large. How long does the Minister think that the Croatian negotiations will go on? I shall come to the Turkish ones in a moment. Now that talks have opened with Serbia and Macedonia, are we right to assume that those countries are now in the queue—in the waiting-room, as it were—moving towards negotiations for full membership?

The issue of Turkey's membership raises, and has already raised, fundamental questions. I am sure that the Minister is aware that the Turkish economy, although dynamic, is different in many ways from many of the existing EU economies. One estimate is that 50 per cent of the Turkish economy is in the black sector and it will therefore be very difficult to liberalise, regulate or record in a way that the commissioners in Brussels will, no doubt, want.

The Minister knows that Turkey stretches into central Asia and is a Muslim nation. Fundamental changes in the entire structure and direction of the European Union are implicit in eventual Turkish membership as we move away from the old dream of the European Union as a predominantly western European grouping, or even, as some have suggested, a Christian fortress. That dream, and the developments of it put forward by Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and others, are clearly phase one. We have passed that phase and are moving into a completely new era. Would it be more accurate to see the extension of the ideals and values of the European Union into a Eurasian union, because that is what it is becoming? Azerbaijan and Georgia are closely linked with Turkey and are, no doubt, also anxious to be included in due course. Does the Minister accept that that takes us into the heart of Middle Eastern politics? Turkey and its position are crucial to the entire Middle Eastern water system, to Iraq and to the oil production of Kirkuk. This is a huge new move that changes the nature and positioning of the Union.

The Minister mentioned Cyprus. Are the Government of the Republic of Cyprus still insisting on full recognition by Turkey? How will the proposal that was mentioned in the Statement—that Kofi Annan will try to use good offices and so on—unlock that difficult obstacle? Can he say a little more about that?

Finally, does the Minister agree that the commissioners in Brussels, who are well intentioned, must not be too heavy handed and make too much of a meal of these negotiations, whether in relation to Croatia or Turkey? Does he agree that, rather than dumping the entire acquis communautaire on Turkey, the time is long past when the acquis communautaire should be vastly refined, reduced in size and modified to suit the 21st century conditions of a more flexible Europe, and that that would make it much easier to embrace Turkey as we all want to see. Is he aware that we on this side of the House look forward—so far in vain, I am afraid—to constructive ideas for the reform of the European Union, which is at present in turmoil because ideas for the constitution have been rejected? So far we have been very disappointed, but perhaps the start of these negotiations will motivate Her Majesty's Government and the better brains in the Foreign Office to think more constructively about how Europe should go forward.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs 4:23 pm, 11th October 2005

My Lords, in welcoming this Statement I protest about one or two of its geographical inaccuracies. Turkey is not the EU's nearest Muslim neighbour: so far as I am aware, Albania and Bosnia are contained within the geographical extent of the EU and are both candidates for accession. Furthermore, I regret that there is no mention of the 12 million to 14 million Muslims citizens we already have in the European Union. The EU is not an exclusive Christian club now. It has a number of Muslim states in line for accession. If one takes Ceuta and Melilla as, in effect, parts of the European Union, Morocco may be considered the EU's nearest neighbour. Turkey is not as exceptional as we think. The European Union is committed to continuing accession. I am sorry that the Statement does not remind Parliament and the public that Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Albania, and perhaps Kosovo and Montenegro if in time they become independent states, are also in line for accession.

Then there is the question of further enlargement, on which the Government ought to give us at least some orientation. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, has mentioned Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia. I am not sure that I regard transforming the European Union into a Eurasian Union, let alone winning a referendum in the Netherlands, France or the United Kingdom, as an entirely easy thing to do.

The case for Turkey clearly has to be made both here and in Turkey. I have been struck, including in some conversations with Turkish colleagues in the past few days, by the fact that the understanding within Turkey of the implications of membership is still relatively limited. We on these Benches argue that Turkey cannot be considered a special case.

In contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I strongly insist that for Croatia and Turkey, the same conditions that were applied to Poland and Slovakia, and which are now being applied to Romania and Bulgaria, should be applied in turn. Reforms not only need to be passed, but they should also be implemented, including in south-eastern Turkey. There are severe problems over Cyprus, many of which the current government of Cyprus, or Greek Cyprus, bear heavily responsibility for, but it would help in building confidence if the Turkish Government would reduce the absurdly large number of troops based in northern Cyprus. We cannot slide over the issue of minorities in Turkey.

Conditions must be strictly applied to Croatia. If I may comment on another member government, I and many of my colleagues were deeply unhappy about the way in which the Austrian Government misrepresented the case for enlargement. The current Conservative Government in Austria has an odd, Habsburg view of history in which a Catholic Europe was saved by Austria from the Turks. Most of us—certainly the noble Lord, Lord Dubs—will know that the Poles saved Vienna from the Turks and that the Habsburgs were busily suppressing Protestants around the rest of Europe as best they could, which diverted them from saving Europe from the Turks.

We wish to welcome Croatia and Turkey into a secular European Union—a Union with a diversity of faiths tolerated within it. To that, we welcome both on the same conditions as applied to other applicant states.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 4:25 pm, 11th October 2005

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for the fundamental proposition that we all seek the success of this enlargement over a period. Whatever has been said does not detract from that basic starting point.

I shall deal with some of the specific issues and return to the bigger ones. There is much evidence that Europe will change during the negotiations that will take place. The period for the Turkish negotiations will not be less than 10 years. It is inconceivable that Europe—or Turkey, for that matter—will look exactly the same in 10 years' time. There will be a great deal of change, both economic and social. Like all those changes, it is entirely probable that the big movements towards greater social justice and compliance with proper codes of the rule of law will themselves have been resolved, or the negotiations will not succeed. I regard it as a changing environment in which we expect the process itself to lead to some of the advances sought.

The periods of negotiation for others seeking accession have not been specified in the same way. In a general sense it may not be helpful to do so. The aim must be to try to get all those in the queue into a viable set of negotiations and to see whether they can be driven forward successfully and rapidly, without being so rapid as to run considerable risks with the future of the European Union.

In the western Balkans generally, if I can group together those states that have been mentioned, we have welcomed the starting process—the official ceremony held in Belgrade, for example, and the arrangements that are starting in Serbia and Montenegro for a stabilisation and association agreement. All those are the beginnings of processes that are being sketched out and it is not helpful to try to guess the timeframe. Irrespective of what that timeframe may be, at the heart of our thinking is the desire to see the European Union become a larger prosperous democratic club governed by the rule of law. That has been the objective of all the principal parties in this House and in the other place over a period.

As I said, I believe that the specific issues raised which Turkey will have to overcome will be overcome during what will be a protracted period of negotiation. They have not been set as preconditions for the beginning of those negotiations. That is right. It is right in the same way that overzealous preconditions were not set when bringing in the countries of the former Soviet bloc. They transformed because they were in a process of negotiation. That was how the job was achieved.

I find it really hard to conceive of a process in which any aspirant member of the European Union will continue either to have a significant number of troops unwelcome on another European Union country's territory or will fail to recognise another member of the European Union. The negotiations will have to have gone dramatically wrong for that to be the conclusion. If they go that dramatically wrong, I suspect that everyone will conclude that, however industrious we have been in the process, it will have failed. But I do not want to speak of failure or encourage the thought of failure in that light.

I will now refer to some of the bigger issues that both the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Wallace, raised. First, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for his geographical and historical lesson. There is nothing that the House likes more than an adult evening class during the course of an afternoon, and it is much appreciated. He quite fairly makes the point that there are about 15 million Muslims in the European Union now and they will also be looking at this process to see whether we have an open attitude to the combination of faiths that is beginning to build up this community of ours.

However, as we go through these negotiations, we will have to stay focused. Were we to begin to envisage a very much larger European and Asian region, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, invites us to do, I suspect that we would so overreach that we would not deal with the details that now confront us. In those circumstances, the probability is that we would fail simply by our overambition taking us beyond anything that we can realistically negotiate. We should not go that way, tempting as it is to say that these boundaries have been extended considerably. We must proceed in the context of the current arrangements of the European Union with plausible candidates, over a reasonable bargaining period and with specific objectives, including all the objectives on human rights and other matters that both noble Lords have mentioned.

I come back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about Europe changing and what sort of Europe we will be in. First, I suspect that not all of that will be resolved at the informal meeting at Hampton Court. Let me say a word about that meeting to clarify its purpose. It will be a meeting of heads of state and government—the heads only. They were intent on having a retreat-style atmosphere so that there would be a genuinely informal debate with a very small number of permanent officials there. There will be the 25 member states plus Bulgaria, Romania and, as observers, Turkey and Croatia. President Barroso and High Commissioner Solana will be among those playing a leading role in integrating the discussions. In my judgment, they will have to conduct their discussions in a way that reflects the current state of European realities, but with a look to the future on the basis that in 10 years' time it is hardly conceivable that Europe will look as it does now. The critical things that will be discussed at Hampton Court will plainly involve as much realistic thinking about Europe as it goes forward as is available to us at the moment, but the discussion will also be bound to be well grounded in the present position.

Europe will benefit greatly from a further and detailed discussion of its constitutional and budget provisions—of making sure that all those who contribute to the budget are treated fairly, as we seek to be through our rebate and other mechanisms—and of a Europe which is no longer trapped by the antique provisions of the common agricultural policy. There will have to be all those considerations in the mix, because the aspirant nations will need to know that, at least from our perspective, that is the sort of Europe we want to see.

I conclude by saying that all these processes, however intricate, signal a kind of Europe that looks outward, that is capable of economic and political dynamism, that is careful and respectful of the combinations of peoples and religious traditions that will become part of it, and whose security will be enhanced by having done all those things and by doing them thoroughly. That is why I hope that the Statement will commend itself to the House and why we should look forward to this as being something of a triumph for the UK's presidency of the European Union.

Photo of Lord Kirkhill Lord Kirkhill Labour 4:36 pm, 11th October 2005

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's Statement on behalf of his right honourable friend, and I give it every support, as I am sure most of us do. But I would like to intrude a personal note. I was chairman of the committee of legal affairs and human rights of the Council of Europe between 1991 and 1995. During that period the Council of Europe enlarged to 41 nations. Very much part of the role of the committee was to visit as many of the countries seeking membership as was possible at that time to assess whether at least basic minimum legal standards were being developed. The Council of Europe is a different body—I fully understand that—but at that stage Turkey, in particular, and Croatia perhaps to a lesser extent, felt that its future would certainly lie within the EU. As a consequence of that thinking the pressure on the committee and its chairman at the time was constantly to visit and assess, because the difficulty was that Turkey is instinctively and inherently a militarist country. Turkey comes from its basis in law from a slightly different angle to that from which we do. But it did want to change, it did seek change and during my time—which is 14 years ago—it was making change. So there is every hope for optimism.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, the criteria that Turkey will have to face are pretty stringent. I take some comfort from the fact that it has already begun to face some of those questions with a degree of urgency. In the past three years there have been major reforms: the abolition of the death penalty; new protections against torture, including signature of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture; greater freedoms of expression, association and religion; greater cultural rights for Kurds and others; and this reform process is going ahead with some speed. I hope that the bargaining process over accession will give added impetus to all those things. Is there a good deal more to be done? Absolutely. Of course there is.

Whatever Turkey's history in putting together a secular state in circumstances which historically might not have favoured that, I believe that we are seeing the beginnings of a transformation. We can either be active authors that assist that transformation, or we can cast it backwards.

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative

My Lords, now that the Gotovina issue has been happily resolved with the most providential timing, can the Minister confirm that, although this is being announced at the same time as the decision on Turkey, there is no question of Croatia having to wait for something like 10 years while its membership is negotiated, not least because of the consequences of that decision there will be for the other former states of Yugoslavia?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I have resisted the temptation to speculate on the length of time in which the negotiations with Croatia will take place. Given the historic passage of events, I merely observe that when Turkey first expressed a desire to join the European Union, Croatia was not even a country. These events seem to overtake each other in an extraordinary way.

The decision taken by the EU on Croatia was not linked to the decision to open accession negotiations with Turkey. It is simply not the case that that happened. The noble Lord said that there was a kind of rumour to that effect about timing but did not make that suggestion. Over the past 12 months it has been clear that Turkey and Croatia are not linked propositions. Each is judged on its own merits and on the basis of separate and distinct criteria. The report on Monday by the prosecutor at the ICTY meant that Croatia had met the key condition, and that is why the decision took place on that occasion.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

My Lords, will the Minister accept our congratulations to the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary on the very skilful way he handled a difficult situation? Does he recognise that we all—Britain and the European Union—had a pretty narrow squeak last week and that we risked a decision not being taken, which would have had very wide implications for the stability of the Balkans and for the aspirations of a number of countries in the former Soviet Union? We must learn the lesson, surely, from this and get out there and explain the benefits of enlargement. It is a matter not only for this country, which has always been convinced of that, but for a number of countries which now have a very strong public backlash against enlargement. It is important to turn that round now and not wait until the end of the proceedings, when we may have a disaster on our hands.

Secondly, I agree and believe that the Foreign Secretary has rightly spotted that the decision last week opens a new phase in the Cyprus problem, which needs to be followed up, but does the Minister agree that festina lente might be a good motto in this because the one thing we cannot afford is another failed attempt to solve the Cyprus problem? Until the government of Cyprus show a little more willingness to work within the parameters of the Annan plan, and to prioritise the changes in that plan which they would need to seek if there was to be agreement, it would be unwise to rush back.

Finally, can the Minister say whether it is clear that if the chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal were to say—I hope she will never have to—that Croatia was not co-operating with the tribunal as was wished, this would lead to a suspension of the negotiations?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, as to the first question, it was a narrow squeak. When I have seen media accounts of negotiations in Europe I have always felt that there is a strange desire—which I do not wholly understand—to spend the last couple of days, up and awake and through the night, trying to avoid calamity. So it was on this occasion. I suspect that may be one of the characteristics of international negotiations, although it tries everyone's nerves to too great an extent.

As to the second question, it is absolutely right that if we are to get people to understand the values of enlargement—the economic opportunities, the opportunities for greater stability and mutual defence in Europe—then plainly people will have to be very much more widely engaged and feel that they understand the issues at stake. We all have an obligation to ensure that we tell the story accurately, but in a way that is very much more outward looking.

Thirdly, it is right to say—this was in the Statement of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary—that Cyprus will have to face the challenge as a nation of working out how to deal with its part of these forward looking negotiations. Just as Turkey and others will, Cyprus will have to engage again with Kofi Annan. I hope the earlier it is invited to do so the better.

The final point is this. I do not know what Carla del Ponte's view of backsliding on that fundamental condition that was imposed would be. But my anticipation—and it is no more than anticipation—is this: since it was the fundamental question that had to be answered before the decision on Croatia could be taken, resiling from that decision would surely cast the process back. The international community would be bound to reflect badly on that.

Photo of Baroness Hooper Baroness Hooper Conservative

My Lords, I welcome the progress in the negotiations with both Croatia and Turkey and the positive tone of the Statement the Minister has repeated.

I would like to ask a very specific question about Turkey, given that it holds a key geographical position in the Middle East and is a beacon of secular democracy in that region. Given that Turkey was a founder member of the Council of Europe in 1948—as we were—and has also been an active member of NATO, what is the Government's view on Turkey's full membership of the Western European Union where it currently holds observer status? Will this issue be part of the negotiations on EU membership?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I hope I can answer the question accurately. My understanding is that it was referred to in one of the 35 chapters as being an issue to be covered. I will check that and if I am wrong I will write to the noble Baroness to correct it.

Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour

My Lords, I warmly welcome the Statement and the comments made by my noble friend a few minutes ago. I would like to ask a very specific question. He mentioned that Turkey will have 10 years of negotiation before it can be admitted and that it will be quite a tough road for that country. What specific help can the British Government give to Turkey to enable them to meet the 35 chapters?

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, a great many bilateral arrangements exist—some under the security provisions through NATO, some under the generality of bilateral arrangements on political issues such as advice on policing, jurisprudence and the independence of the civil service. I answer this a little carefully because I do not want to suggest a patronising view of Turkey's internal affairs. But those are all areas where I hope that the exchanges that take place bilaterally will improve the generality of their arrangements and our relationship with that country. It is a two-way street. We both must gain out of it.

We have been—as all parties here have been—deeply enthusiastic about trying to achieve this enlargement. It would be foolish in the extreme in those circumstances were we to do anything other than work on all of the issues that might be problematic. Having embarked on this, we must certainly try to ensure that it is a success.

Photo of Lord Kilclooney Lord Kilclooney Crossbench

My Lords, the British Government are to be congratulated on achieving this settlement on Turkey during their six-month presidency of the European Union. Can the Minister tell us whether there is a special condition for Turkey that will restrict one of the principles of the European Union, namely the free movement of persons?

Secondly, was it not deplorable that Austria at the last minute created obstacles which were not in the original criteria requested by the European Union? Most people thought that Austria's behaviour was disgraceful.

Finally, I repeat the caution expressed by others about Cyprus. Is the Minister aware that among Turkish Cypriots there is a slippage of support for the Annan plan because the promises that they were given by the European Union over one year ago have not materialised? Their isolation has not been addressed by member nations of the European Union. It would be much wiser if the subject of the isolation of northern Cyprus were addressed first before the United Nations is invited to become involved yet again in the Cyprus issue.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, if and when Turkey becomes a full member of the European Union, its citizens will have the same rights of movement that citizens of member states have. Before then, they will not have such rights. It is probably worth recalling that, even today, people-trafficking from the Kurdish part of Turkey has been the subject of an extensive number of police raids, with the capture of people who have been accused of breaking the law. That will remain the case until the change-over takes place.

I do not want to comment on Austria. It will hold the presidency next, and we will want to work hard to ensure that it takes over the presidency with as much positive sentiment as possible on the decisions that have been taken. I believe that we can achieve that. Austria fought a corner that I too believe was ill judged; it finally concluded that it should cease to fight that corner and now we must build from where we are.

A comprehensive conclusion of the kind that Kofi Annan may be able to deliver is vital for northern Cyprus. However, we can do a great deal to ensure that the isolation of northern Cyprus does not continue in any case. EU Foreign Ministers have expressed a commitment to ending this isolation. At the April 2004 General Affairs Council, at the council's request, the commission produced draft regulations to deliver a commitment. Although they have not been fully agreed, the intention is to increase bilateral links, trading arrangements and the engagement with international organisations. All those elements are building blocks to overcome the bigger obstacles. I believe that if they are used effectively, then Kofi Annan's mission may not fail.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is very important that we do not go down the road advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, with regard to part of the acquis communautaire being removed as far as Turkey is concerned? I know that his motive for saying this—he is quite open about it—is that it would open the door to a general reprise on the acquis communautaire. But would that not lead to two-tier membership? Surely it would be against Turkey's interests even to envisage going down that road.

Religious identity has been spoken about widely in terms of Christendom. Is not the principle of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's in line with what Ataturk laid down early in the last century? A principle of development in Turkey—it is not a question of it being an Islamic country—has been the relationship between civic society and the religious foundations. That may be an odd point to make because we have here the exponent of inter-faith dialogue, the noble and right reverend Lord Carey of Clifton, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and I know that the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Winchester would say that we must retain an established Church in England, with which I agree. But we can still see the dividing line which can demonstrate to many parts of the Muslim world that you can have a successful society which is not based on a theocracy.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, I believe that there is no intention to do other than implement the acquis communautaire. One of the difficulties in answering the question about the length of time negotiations will take with Croatia or, indeed, anywhere else in the western Balkans, is because those same conditions apply to them. They apply to all the nations seeking accession. While I hope that the processes of negotiation do not become so overloaded as to be difficult to carry forward—I think that I am more or less quoting the noble Lord, Lord Howell—people should know what the hurdles are and what they must do to succeed. Those should be even-handed between nations.

On the issues of religion, I do not know whether I can add a great deal more. The European Commission's 2004 regular report noted that freedom to worship was largely unhampered in Turkey, but that non-Muslim religious communities still experienced problems relating to their legal personality, property rights, training, education and interference in the management of their foundations. The report states that those problems would have to be redressed and that a new law which protected people in those religious groups would have to be in place. That is part of the discussion which will have to go forward, as will discussions on the problems of particular communities; for example, the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary has the right to be reopened, and that will be pressed. All these matters can and must be taken on board during the processes of change that Turkey must entertain in order to become a full member of the Union.

Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Convenor of the Crossbench Peers

My Lords, while many of us think that, at this historic moment, it is going to be possible to settle these issues in the negotiations with Turkey—I am very confident of it—does the Minister agree that there is a risk of underestimating the effect of public opinion within the community? I know that he has referred to it. I was in France for the referendum campaign. A lot of people disliked Turkey's candidature there. I was in Germany for its election campaign and the effect was the same there. We risk underestimating some of the problems of adverse public opinion. We have failed to recognise them in a few cases in the past.

Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My Lords, we must not underestimate public opinion. We have got to make sure that we work on it. The European Union's enlargement is dependent on people understanding that what is taking place benefits them. Failure to achieve that will always be a great liability.