HC Deb 13 January 1998 vol 304 cc135-6
7. Mr. Hawkins

What plans he has to support the application of Latvia and other Baltic states to join the EU and NATO. [20419]

Mr. Tony Lloyd

The United Kingdom supports the accession to the European Union of all central European applicants as soon as they are ready, including Latvia and Lithuania, and the targeting of assistance to deal with applicants' shortcomings. At the NATO Madrid summit in July 1997, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, together with other NATO Heads of State and Government, undertook to review the NATO enlargement process at their next summit in 1999.

Mr. Hawkins

I thank the Minister for that answer. Further to the answer that the Foreign Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), will the hon. Gentleman confirm that in their EU presidency Her Majesty's Government wish to consider the Baltic states case by case and certainly wish to encourage Latvia and Lithuania to catch up with Estonia so that all three Baltic states accede to NATO and the EU simultaneously?

Mr. Lloyd

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and, indeed, the whole of the European Union have made it clear that the ambition is that all the Baltic states will eventually be members of the EU. The rate at which individual Baltic states achieve that membership depends on their ability to conform to the criteria laid down within the accession process. As my right hon. Friend has made clear today, there is no inevitability that those who are now at the front of the queue automatically will not be overtaken by those who make rapid progress. If Latvia and Lithuania make the right kind of progress, their speed of accession will be in their own hands.

Mr. Rammell

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a logical contradiction on the part of Conservative Members, who argue for enlargement of the European Union while attempting to block any sensible measure to improve EU decision making, such as the modest proposals for improvements in qualified majority voting encapsulated in the Amsterdam treaty?

Mr. Lloyd

My hon. Friend is right that there is a logical contradiction at the heart of Conservative party policy on that matter. I would go further by noting that that reflects the logical confusion at the heart of the Conservative party.