HC Deb 05 February 2002 vol 379 cc724-5
6. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

What recent meetings he has had with his Spanish counterpart to discuss the presidency priorities for EU enlargement. [30486]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met his Spanish counterpart in London on 19 December to discuss a range of EU issues, including EU enlargement.

Miss McIntosh

Will the Minister confirm that one of the issues that have been discussed is the date of the first direct elections to the European Parliament by the applicant countries? Will he also confirm that he will use the Spanish presidency not only to grant full British citizenship to the people of Gibraltar, but to ensure that, by the date of those first direct elections from the applicant countries, the people of Gibraltar will have the right to send their own directly elected Members to the European Parliament?

Peter Hain

The answer to the question about Gibraltar is yes; we have already made a clear commitment. The answer to the hon. Lady's first question is also yes. Countries that conclude their negotiations on the timetable by the end of the year will be ready to participate in the European elections in the summer of 2004 and, before that, to take part in the intergovernmental conference to shape the future structure of the European Union. We hope that up to 10 countries will attend as members and vote in the subsequent elections.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Was there any discussion of Turkey's failure to enact important human rights reforms, especially its failure to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in July last year? The court found that the imprisonment of Leyla Zana, the Kurdish Member of Parliament, and of three other Kurdish Members of Parliament who have been in jail for eight years, was due to an unfair trial. What are we doing about it?

Peter Hain

I commend my hon. Friend for her long and active interest in the problem of human rights abuses in Turkey. They remain a serious matter, and while they continue, they will prevent Turkey from joining the European Union. Although we support Turkey's application, it must comply fully with the Copenhagen criteria, which include support for human rights and good governance, before it is eligible for membership of the European Union.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

Although I welcome the Spanish presidency's commitment to enlargement, does the Minister agree that successfully expanding the European Union will ultimately depend on a clear division of competencies? In a written answer to me yesterday, he stated: Unlike the Member States, the European Communities have no inherent competence; they only have such competence as is accorded to them by the community Treaties. Accordingly, the competence of the Member States is limited only to the extent that the Communities have competence in accordance with the Treaties."—[Official Report, 4 February 2002; Vol. 379, c. 766W.] Given the importance of enlargement, how about more focus and clarity instead of the Eurobabble that the Minister always attacks?

Peter Hain

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was about to commend my plain English. The European Union needs to consider its structures, and especially the role of the nation state as the foundation of the intergovernmentalism that should drive its future. Enlargement will make that even more important, because we hope that an additional 10 countries will join the EU. That is precisely why the Prime Minister has appointed me to join the European convention that will discuss such matters and why the IGC in 2004 will take them forward with a strong British input.

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