HC Deb 10 December 2002 vol 396 cc148-9
9. Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk, West)

If he will make a statement on the forthcoming enlargement of the EU. [84329]

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane)

I hope that we will complete enlargement negotiations with 10 candidate countries at the Copenhagen European Council this week. That will allow us to meet the aim, first set by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, of reuniting Europe in time for the European Parliament elections in 2004.

Mr. Joyce

My hon. Friend will be aware of the enormous contribution that Turkey has made to the security of Europe over the years. Does he agree that the best way to encourage human rights and the Europeanisation of institutions in Turkey is to give it as soon as possible the beginnings of a move to a start date for negotiations on its entry to the European Union?

Mr. MacShane

Very much so. Turkey is at the crossroads. It can look west towards Europe to modernise and democratise its institutions and political processes, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government have been in the van of arguing within Europe that Turkey should be given at Copenhagen later this week a clear and proximate date for the start of entry negotiations.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

I am mindful of the concerns of some accession countries about securing support for entry in referendums, but will the Minister tell the House if and what the Government's objections are to the latest Danish financial and common agricultural policy proposals? Does he agree that new flexibility on direct farm payments would be advantageous to the accession states?

Mr. MacShane

No, because the accession states have negotiated in good faith under what is called the Berlin ceiling, which was the package set. That means that all of them will be better off once they are inside the EU. They have to absorb the money as part of a process of reform and modernisation. That it is precisely why, in the Financial Times today, four Prime Ministers have argued the case for a yes at Copenhagen and for the reuniting of the European family of nations.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly)

My hon. Friend referred to the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and to Turkey. Does he agree that it is also important to consider the enlargement of the EU in 2007 when I hope that Bulgaria and Romania will join?

Mr. MacShane

Yes, indeed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that, at Copenhagen, we will also confirm 2007 as the target date for Bulgaria and Romania. That is the new Europe of the 21st century, united as a zone of peace, prosperity and democracy.

Angus Robertson (Moray)

Does the Minister share the concern of many of my constituents in fishing communities that the Copenhagen summit, which is rightly trying to expedite the enlargement of the EU, does not have the fishing crisis on its agenda? Will he explain to my constituents what efforts the UK Government are making to ensure that fishing is on the agenda at the summit, or do the Government think that the crisis is not important enough for them to press for the issue to be on the agenda in the first place?

Mr. MacShane

No. No Government have done more to raise the plight of their fishermen than Her Majesty's Government. Of course every one of the 15 EU member states will have pressing problems that it will want to place on the agenda at Copenhagen. What is important is that the Fisheries Council deals with the matter and that the reform of both the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy is maintained. For the first time in 20 years, this Government are doing something about that in a serious, professional and coherent manner.