HC Deb 06 March 1996 vol 273 cc338-9
13. Sir David Madel

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to meet the German Foreign Minister to discuss the future development of the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [17271]

Mr. David Davis

My right hon. and learned Friend regularly discusses EU issues with his German counterpart.

Sir David Madel

Does my hon. Friend agree that the priorities for discussions with our German partners are the renegotiation of our respective budget contributions to the European Union, the cost of enlargement of the EU and the need to reform the common agricultural policy, and that those matters must take precedence over the question of a single currency?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend very accurately summarises the serious policy issues that run in parallel with the intergovernmental conference and that equate to it in importance. We must firmly address and resolve those issues before enlargement, which is probably the biggest single issue facing the EU for the next couple of decades.

Mr. MacShane

Is the Minister aware that, some months ago, the Germans put forward the idea of a Mr. Europe for foreign affairs? In fact, that was first proposed by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who wants the job himself. Although we may congratulate the Foreign Secretary on trailing behind the Germans and French, it would be a pleasure if we had a Foreign Secretary who could take the lead in shaping Europe. Is not that job, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman endorsed yesterday, a perfect come-back job for the Governor of Hong Kong, Mr. Chris Patten—that solid pro-European, whom we would all welcome back to our Benches?

Mr. Davis

I start from the first point made by my right hon. and learned Friend, which is that the function is for an official, not a gifted politician. Secondly, it is for someone—not as suggested by Mr. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing—with no right of initiative, someone who has to obey what the Council says and who would represent our policies, not decide them.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that, in his discussions with his German counterpart tomorrow, he will make it perfectly clear that the future development and security of the European Union depend very largely on the security arrangements that we make on a transatlantic basis?

Mr. Davis

I can give that undertaking without reservation. Throughout our dealings with the European Union, we have made it clear that we view NATO as the pre-eminent organ for protecting Europe and that a major part of that organisation is, of course, the transatlantic dimension which we will preserve at all costs.

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