EU: UK Presidency

– in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 13th October 2005.

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Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Spokesperson in the Lords (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs 11:00 am, 13th October 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are the foreign policy achievements of the European Union during the first half of the United Kingdom's presidency.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, as the noble Lord rightly states, we are only halfway through our presidency, and already much has been achieved. To date, we have opened negotiations with Croatia and we have reached the historic decision to open accession negotiations with Turkey, which is the realisation of a presidency and EU priority. Under our presidency, the EU has also played a key role in achieving successful outcomes at the UN world summit. It has established the first ESDP mission in Asia; built a climate change and energy partnership with China; set up a comprehensive framework for co-operation with India and agreed a visa facilitation and readmission deal with Russia. That is solid progress, on which we intend to build in the coming three months.

Photo of Lord Dykes Lord Dykes Spokesperson in the Lords (Europe), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, particularly the reference to Turkey, for which the Foreign Secretary, the whole team and Ministers should be praised for the work achieved in launching those negotiations.

There are many dossiers of course, so noble Lords must forgive me if I sound querulous. Why has the Prime Minister totally lost interest in the Middle East road map? Why has the presidency period not really been used up to now to revive and re-launch the long-awaited road map negotiations? Can it be used to do so until the presidency expires at the end of December? There is a background of increasing frustration among the Israeli public, who are more and more in favour of withdrawal from the occupied territories; and there is increasing anxiety and apprehension among Palestinians, who are literally beleaguered and are facing long-term injustice on a greater scale unless these matters are addressed urgently. Is it not the job of this Government as president of the European Union to persuade Israel to launch negotiations immediately?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, the Prime Minister has certainly not lost interest in the Middle East road map. Indeed, it is a key priority of our presidency. We supported the disengagement, and now we continue to work to reform the Palestinian institutions. I am glad that under our presidency the EU is set to double its aid to the Palestinians, because in supporting the Palestinians we can help them to create a stable Palestinian state and a secure state of Israel. We are working hard on that with James Wolfensohn and with our partners in the European Union.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

My Lords, what is happening about the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs, which was to be established under the constitution? There were rumours in the papers a month or so ago that Mr Solana was comporting himself as though he was already in office. Can we have an assurance that in this and in all other respects the bureaucrats in Brussels are not implementing the constitution as if it had never been rejected by the voters in France and Holland?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, one should not believe what one reads in newspapers a great deal of the time. I can give the noble Lord the assurance that neither the bureaucrats in Brussels nor anyone else are implementing the constitution that was rejected by the people of France and the Netherlands.

Photo of Lord Biffen Lord Biffen Conservative

My Lords, in view of the importance of the acquis in the negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, and in view of the statement by the British Treasury on the importance of deregulation in the European Union, will this be the occasion when one will reconsider the present state of the acquis and its enormous implications, which surely must be candidates for deregulation?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, the acquis, as noble Lords will know, is the body of laws that have already been adopted by the European Union. While deregulation is important and we are seeking to ensure that the new laws passed by the European Union will benefit the Union rather than detract from its competitiveness, it is right that all new member states should have to observe the rules and regulations that have been adopted by member states to date.

Photo of Lord Harrison Lord Harrison Labour

My Lords, will my noble friend assure me that the British presidency will advance those sensible parts of the proposed but now fallen constitution that will be of benefit both for the United Kingdom in progressing its policies and for the European Union as a whole? I have in mind, for instance, making public European Council meetings.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, if the European Council seeks to have its meetings in public rather than in private and all member states agree that that is a good thing, I cannot think why that should not be possible—if it is agreed by 25 member states. That would be sensible from my perspective, but it is a matter for the 25 member states.

Photo of Lord Garden Lord Garden Spokesperson in the Lords, Defence

My Lords, the noble Baroness's colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, who is on the Labour Benches with her, spoke this morning in support of the recent CICS report on the advantages of pooling military capability in Europe. A meeting of EU defence Ministers is taking place today under the UK presidency. Will we be taking an initiative?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, I regret that I cannot answer that question. I do not have any knowledge about the meeting, but I will seek to ensure that the noble Lord receives that information and that a copy of the letter is put in the Library.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the EU's recently developed focus on poverty reduction and aid owes very much to British influence?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

Yes, my Lords, I agree. That is why it is important that the UK presidency is taking a lead in ensuring that preparations for the Hong Kong ministerial meeting in December take into account the need for a pro-development agreement there.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Spokespersons In the Lords, Foreign Affairs, Spokespersons In the Lords, International Development

My Lords, the website on the UK presidency of the EU states that one priority of the common foreign and security policy is consolidating stability and democracy in the Balkans. In light of that, what steps do Her Majesty's Government plan to take to address the ever increasing problem of the integration of the Roma within European Union societies?

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, I know that great efforts are being undertaken to ensure that the Roma are properly integrated into society. Recently a stabilisation agreement process was launched with countries such as Serbia and Montenegro, and I am sure that the integration of the Roma will be an integrated part of that process.

Photo of Lord Grenfell Lord Grenfell Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, is the Minister aware that earlier this week, under the presidency of the European Union Committee of this House and of the European Scrutiny Committee in the other place, a conference took place here of the 25 European affairs committees of the national parliaments of the European Union? Is she further aware that during that conference an intense debate took place on the difficulties faced by national parliaments in scrutinising the common foreign and security policy and the European security and defence policy?

Does the Minister agree with us that formal agreements are needed between the governments and parliaments concerning the type of CFSP non-legislative documents that should be deposited for scrutiny, and that if there were a formal agreement it would be of enormous help in making the scrutiny of CFSP much more transparent in the Council, particularly in respect of political decisions made in advance of formal legislation? That is the serious problem we face.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip

My Lords, I was aware of that important meeting and I am sure that that is the best forum in which to discuss such issues. Our Government seek to do everything to improve the transparency of legislation and the legislative process.