HC Deb 20 April 1999 vol 329 cc682-3
2. Ms Claire Ward (Watford)

What progress is being made on the negotiations for the enlargement of the European Union. [79945]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Ms Joyce Quin)

Good progress is being made on enlargement. By June, it is intended that half the chapters to be examined in the accession negotiations will have been opened with Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus. The Berlin European Council confirmed the priority that the European Union attaches to enlargement, and the Agenda 2000 agreement makes financial provision for enlargement of up to six new member states between 2002 and 2006.

Ms Ward

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does she agree that the discussions in June on the size of the Commission and the voting weight of members must seriously deal with the prospect not of six new members, but of an even larger European Union? Does she agree that a cumbersome and bureaucratic Commission will do nothing to further partnership for all EU members?

Ms Quin

The points that my hon. Friend makes are important and need to be considered by the Council of Ministers. It is clear that the stimulus to enlargement comes not only from the six countries that I mentioned, but from other countries that have a natural desire to be part of the European Union in future. It is therefore incumbent on the Council to ensure that decisions are made that will facilitate that enlargement in a climate of efficient, transparent and open decision making.

Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor)

Despite the rhetoric that the Minister employs and the good speech that she made at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the reality of what happened at Berlin simply does not stack up with what she is saying. Does she not understand that the European accession countries have realised that? Did she notice that the enlargement section of the 35-page document on the conclusions of the Berlin summit amounted to no more than four small sentences tucked away right at the end? With the Agenda 2000 process now clearly seen as a means of fixing differences between existing members of the EU, what encouragement has she to offer to those countries that long to benefit from the stability and support of membership of the EU?

Ms Quin

It is not a question of rhetoric; it is a question of putting in place the necessary measures and mechanisms to ensure that enlargement can take place. That is exactly what we are committed to do. The Agenda 2000 negotiations were all about that. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman look at some of the reactions to Agenda 2000 from various Governments in the applicant countries. They have expressed satisfaction that we kept to the timetable because they feel that that is a guarantee that enlargement can take place.

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