HC Deb 28 October 1997 vol 299 cc692-4
4. Mr. Pickthall

If he will make a statement on the enlargement of the European Union. [12115]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Doug Henderson)

Enlargement is a central objective for the United Kingdom and the European Union. It will enhance security and prosperity in Europe, and is strongly in the national interest. We look forward to EU decisions, in December, on the early opening of enlargement negotiations. Reform of key policies is essential if enlargement is to be successful.

Mr. Pickthall

Does my hon. Friend agree that, desirable though enlargement is, it is incompatible with the common agricultural policy in its present form? How does he see substantial reform of the CAP meshing with the movement towards enlargement, which most of us wish to see?

Mr. Henderson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that there is a need for reform of the common agricultural policy. That need would be there even if enlargement of the European Union were not under consideration. The fact that enlargement is a top priority for the British presidency of the EU means that we shall give top priority in the negotiations in Luxembourg in December to seeking reform of the agricultural system in order to bring prices more in line with world prices.

Mr. Tyrie

Will the Government give a commitment that they will protect Britain's rebate from the European Community budget in those negotiations? Will they further make a commitment that, in those negotiations, they will press for reform of the complete European Community budget to bring about a sharp reduction in the unacceptably large contribution that we now make to the European Community?

Mr. Henderson

The answer to the first question in yes; we will protect the abatement. The answer to the second question is that we are firm in the belief that the Edinburgh criteria on the future size of the aggregate budget—1.27 per cent. of gross national product—should be a sticking point. During negotiations with our European partners, we have realised that there is increasing consensus behind that position.

Mr. David Heath

Given that the Minister has agreed that common agricultural policy reform, along with structural reform and many other essential reforms, must precede any enlargement of the European Union, what measures did the Government take at Amsterdam to ensure that progress was made on those issues? How soon shall we see progress during the British presidency?

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Gentleman knows that some of those issues were covered in Amsterdam. The main forum for discussion will be the Luxembourg summit in December. Last weekend at Mondorf, I discussed those issues, among others, with other European Union Foreign Ministers. Achieving a way forward on structural funds, the budget, agricultural policy and enlargement are top priorities in our negotiations.

Ann Clwyd

The Government have been critical of Turkey and its human rights record. Can my hon. Friend assure us that there will be no further support for Turkey while it continues to violate the rights of Kurds living in Turkey and to bomb the Kurds in northern Iraq, as has occurred almost daily since 13 October? What representations have been made to stop that bombing?

Mr. Henderson

I visited Turkey three weeks ago and raised those issues with the Turkish Government. I made it clear that, while Britain believes that there is a strong case for Turkey to be included in the European conference because of its important geo-political situation and other reasons, it cannot be without condition. Turkey must improve democracy, and that involves a change of attitude to the Kurdish community, progress on human rights and economic reform. All those points were made to the Turkish Government as well as specific representations in respect of the recent incidents to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Streeter

Do the Government now regret not pushing the agenda for enlargement more energetically at Amsterdam? Does the Minister regret pushing for deepening rather than widening the EU? Will he clarify his Government's policy? Is it their policy to press the European Commission to open its arms more widely to other central and eastern European states and not just to the five plus one? Will he clarify that matter?

Mr. Henderson

I am extremely surprised that the hon. Gentleman should refer to the Government making an impact on the negotiations at Amsterdam. His Government could not even find a dialogue with the other European Union countries, never mind have any influence on them. He is the last hon. Member I would have expected to raise that question. In relation to the 10 countries plus Cyprus seeking membership of the European Union, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we support the European Commission proposals that negotiations should begin with five countries plus Cyprus, but other understandings on the way forward for the other five countries should be an important focus of the negotiations at Luxembourg.