HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc861-3
7. Mr. Boswell

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to facilitate peaceful and non-threatening German reunification.

10. Mr. Soames

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonweath Affairs if he will make a statement on relations with the Federal Republic of Germany.

Mr. Hurd

Our many discussions with members of the Federal German Government are proof of our close relations. I will be having further talks in Bonn next week with Herr Genscher and Chancellor Kohl. As I explained to the House on 22 February, it was agreed at Ottawa last month that Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Soviet Union, and of the two German states, would meet to discuss the external aspects of German reunification.

Mr. Boswell

Does my right hon. Friend agree that German reunification is as desirable as it is inevitable? Now that the Polish frontier issue is out of the way, will he use our membership of the four-plus-two mechanisms to ensure that the case is made positively for all-German membership of NATO as a contribution to the continuing stability of Europe? Finally, will he ensure that Britain plays a full and appropriate part in the rehabilitation of East German's economy and environment?

Mr. Hurd

Now that the framework for discussing external aspects of German unification is coming into place, we can certainly give a confident welcome to the process of German unification, which we have always supported in principle. We are strongly in favour of a united Germany being in NATO and we support what Chancellor Kohl and Herr Genscher have said on that subject. It will inevitably be for the German Government and people to shoulder the main task of restructuring and modernising East Germany, but I hope that British firms and interests will see the opportunities, for example, in the joint ventures, which will undoubtedly exist.

Mr. Soames

Will my right hon. Friend particularly welcome yesterday's decision by the Federal Republic to negotiate a treaty on the Polish borders? Does he agree that that most happily coincides with a major objective of British Government policy? Does he further agree that the events surrounding the two Germanies further underline the importance of our maintaining an ever closer relationship with the French?

Mr. Hurd

We strongly welcome the outcome of the discussions in Bonn yesterday and the decision of the German Government to accept the need for a treaty with Poland about her frontiers. We have been urging that, as my hon. Friend says, for a long time.

As I told the House on 22 February, I believe that, quite apart from any German considerations, it is important for both Britain and France to learn to work together more effectively, not just on these but on a wide range of issues.

Mr. Wareing

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that despite the irresponsible antics of Herr Kohl in recent weeks, compared with the more responsible attitude of Herr Genscher and the SPD, there is a problem with the German ethnic minorities in Silesia and other parts of former German territory now in Poland, and that it behoves any Polish Government to act in accordance with the Helsinki accords on human rights? What initiatives is the right hon. Gentleman taking to ensure that those accords are strengthened, to defuse tensions in those possible future troublespots?

Mr. Hurd

It is, of course, right that those who signed the Helsinki Final Act should respect the human rights obligations that they assumed. It is also correct that throughout many parts of central and eastern Europe there are problems about minorities dating back many centuries. Those are becoming more difficult to handle as countries emerge from the Communist freezer, if I may put it that way. That is one reason why I have suggested that as part of the CSCE machinery there might be a way of conciliating in such matters. It is for sovereign states, for individual countries, to decide how they respect those obligations. It is not a matter of shifting borders in an attempt to solve those problems. That is not the answer.

Mr. Robertson

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the Opposition also welcome the statement yesterday by Chancellor Kohl on the Oder-Neisse border? We have also welcomed progress towards the unification of the two German states and the freedom that the German people now have to make that decision. We acknowledge the extremely difficult task of the Foreign Secretary in repairing the damage to British-German relations caused by the Prime Minister's crass insensitivity. Will he now ensure that the formal and permanent confirmation of Germany's borders with her neighbours is made an urgent and fundamental objective in the two-plus-four—not four-plus-two—talks which will take place in Europe and in other forums where these matters will be discussed?

Mr. Hurd

I cannot see much point in what the hon. Gentleman says. I am against attempts to divide Foreign Ministers from Heads of Government in Bonn or elsewhere, and I do not think that such attempts are very likely to succeed. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the Poles are entitled to a treaty. That is what I have just told the House. The way forward on that is now clear. It is also right that the Poles are entitled to be present when that is discussed. It cannot be dealt with exclusively in the two-plus-four or four-plus-two talks.

Sir Russell Johnston

Despite the Foreign Secretary's opposition in principle to separating or attempting to separate Foreign Secretaries from Governments, does he accept that many of us were very pleased when he gave overt support to Herr Genscher in the internal argument in the German Administration? Does he agree that those who fear a united Germany would, in practical terms, have their fears reduced if we pressed ahead with the unification of the European Community in which Germany would be one part and in which in due time national borders would become much less significant?

Mr. Hurd

I am all in favour of pushing ahead with fresh impetus inside the European Community, first of all by completing the single market. Where I may differ from the hon. Gentleman and from some people in the Community is that I do not think of that exclusively in terms of institutions.

Sir Peter Blaker

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations on securing international agreement that the external aspects of German unification are matters not just for the two Germanys but for other countries as well? Does he recall that only a few weeks ago the British Government were accused of being the only Government out of step on this issue? I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that now everybody else is in step with us—except, apparently, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson).

Mr. Hurd

It was thought by learned commentators that we were a bit out of step when six or eight weeks ago we emphasised that external matters connected with German unification affected Germany's allies and other European countries. We were criticised for stressing that, but now everybody is placing the same stress and emphasis on these matters.

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