HC Deb 10 March 1993 vol 220 cc928-9
7. Mr. Hague

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made towards enlarging the membership of the European Community.

Mr. Garel-Jones

On 1 February, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs attended the opening of accession negotiations with Austria, Finland and Sweden. Negotiations should start with Norway on 5 April. We shall work with our EC partners for a swift and successful conclusion to these negotiations.

Mr. Hague

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Community can only benefit from the addition of further countries with long democratic traditions and relatively high standards of living? If the Maastricht treaty is such a bad thing, is it not amazing that so many countries wish to join the Community? Does my right hon. Friend also agree that the Community should be looking not only to enlarge its membership, but in the long term to enlarge the number of countries, especially in eastern Europe, with which it has free and fair trading relationships?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I agree with my hon. Friend. The accession of the countries I have just mentioned will help to promote a Community that is open, diverse, outward looking and not closed in on itself. Conservatives have always felt that an enlarged Community would be more dynamic and would speak with even greater authority on the world stage.

Our friends in eastern Europe want trade above all. It is extremely important in the coming months that the United Kingdom and other member states, even in these difficult and recessionary times, should continue to fly the free trade flag inside the Community and in Community relations with the rest of the world.

Mr. O'Hara

Will the Minister give a statement of unequivocal support for the entry of Cyprus into the European Community? Will he confirm that the resolution of the Cyprus problem will not be made a prior condition?

Mr. Garel-Jones

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, Cyprus applied for membership of the European Community in 1991. The Commission is preparing opinions on that application. The European Council has already decided to strengthen relations with Cyprus by building on the existing association agreements. It would not be right for me to anticipate the Commission's opinion. We shall have to wait and see what the Commission's opinion is.

Sir Michael Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the meeting of the Nordic Council the week before last clearly demonstrated that parliamentarians from Scandinavian countries, those attending from the Baltic Council and those representing the Commonwealth of Independent States, led by Russia, are coming together as an important group to which membership of the Community is now a vital link? Does he agree, therefore, that we should facilitate the process and that it would be greatly expedited if we put the Maastricht treaty behind us?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I agree with my hon. Friend. It has been our position throughout our membership of the Community that it must be open to democratic states that can fulfil the conditions of membership. That has been the British position for some time and that is why we were especially pleased that at the Edinburgh Council, for the first time, the goal of European Community membership for the new democracies in eastern Europe was agreed at European Council level. It goes without saying that the applicants from the European Free Trade Association with which we are now negotiating would regard it as not only a disaster for the European Community but as a disaster for themselves if the Maastricht treaty were not speedily ratified.

Mr. Cryer

Has the Minister ensured that the EC's position on the common agricultural policy, for example, is made clear to new entrants? Has he made it clear that approximately 70 per cent. of all EC expenditure goes on that wasteful means of food production which has produced nightmarish levels of pollution through the pouring of pesticides and insecticides on the land, which has in turn polluted our water courses? Has he made it clear that the CAP costs every family in this country roughly £18 extra each week in the family food budget? My guess is that the propaganda from the Common Market tends to paint a very different picture from the bleak reality of that disintegrating organisation.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The hon. Gentleman can assume, as indeed can the House, that the applicant EFTA countries are not only highly developed democracies but very sophisticated countries. They have made their own calculation about the benefit of Community membership and specifically of the common agricultural policy. It is faintly patronising of the hon. Gentleman to give advice to four such countries.