HC Deb 02 November 1994 vol 248 cc1548-9
2. Mr. Patrick Thompson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about action being taken by the United Kingdom Government to encourage further enlargement of the European Union to include countries in central and eastern Europe.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

We support the enlargement of the European Union to include the associated countries of central and eastern Europe. We are working closely with the German presidency to ensure that a substantial package of measures to help these countries prepare for full membership will be ready for agreement at the Essen European Council on 9-10 December.

Mr. Thompson

When my right hon. Friend attends the summit in Essen next month, will he emphasise the benefits, especially to national and international security, of the enlargement of the Union to include eastern European countries? Will he urge examination—and, where necessary, reform—of the outdated institutions and structures within the Union, for example, the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Hurd

It is hard to imagine the CAP in anything like its present form being extended to the new central and eastern European countries that we hope will join the EU. They simply could not afford it. The reforms that are already under way need to go a good deal further before we could envisage a common policy that would include those countries. The same is true of the structure plans.

Mr. Jim Marshall

In future enlargement discussions, will candidate countries be encouraged to join all the institutions, including associated institutions such as the Western European Union?

Mr. Hurd

That is up to those countries. It is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister means when he talks about a flexible Europe. At the moment, Ireland is a full member of the EU, but not of the WEU—the defence organisation. I suspect that that will be true of Austria next year and probably of Finland. Those countries that join the EU can, if they wish, become members of the WEU, but they do not have to do so.

Mr. Dykes

Does the Foreign Secretary find it interesting that, coming back to the framework of the EU policies, without a single exception, all the existing or future, potential or actual applicants for membership, accept the acquis communautaire in all its aspects, Maastricht, Maastricht stage 2 and the future policies probably developing out of the 1996 conference? Is not that encouraging and will the United Kingdom Government do the same thing?

Mr. Hurd

We are not committed for the future and the applicant states were not in such a strong position as we have been as regards the social chapter.

Mr. Robin Cook

Does the Foreign Secretary have any view on whether the change in portfolios of the Commission this week has strengthened or weakened the progress towards enlargement? Does he recall the Prime Minister describing Mr. Jacques Santer as a reconciler and a healer—the right man for the right job at the right time? As the British Conservative Commissioner is the only one dissatisfied with his new job, would the Foreign Secretary care to repeat that description today and can he carry Sir Leon Brittan with him in that view? Or did not the events of last weekend confirm that the Prime Minister at Corfu picked the wrong fight over the wrong job?

Mr. Hurd

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment to his portfolio and on the brio with which he has embarked on his job. I look forward to many such exchanges in the future. Whether he will prove to be the right man in the right job, we will know as time passes. I am sorry to read that, like Sir Leon Brittan, he is a little disappointed at the way in which things have turned out, but I hope that he will reconcile himself to the position that he has.

I do not have any doubts about the views of Mr. Van Den Broek on these matters. I have known him for a long time and I do not have any doubt that the decisions that we have taken already on enlargement, on which we have touched already, will be continued. I do not have any worries about that. It is a pity that Leon Brittan, with his experience and achievements in this particular area, could not continue in it, but the essential thing so far as he and Britain are concerned is that he continues to hold the external trade portfolio.