HL Deb 20 December 2004 vol 667 cc1574-86

5.30 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I would like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a Statement on the European Council that took place in Brussels on 16 and 17 December.

"I should begin by congratulating the Dutch Prime Minister and Government on their handling of the Council, and indeed their entire presidency. I also want to congratulate the presidency on achieving the historic agreement to begin accession negotiations with Turkey.

"This is a hugely important and welcome moment for Europe. Turkey lies at the intersection of three areas of strategic importance to Europe—the Middle East, central Asia and the Balkans. So a stable and democratic Turkey will help strengthen our influence and role in all three areas. Turkey is an important and trusted NATO ally. It will take over the ISAF lead from us in Afghanistan in 2002, and replace EUROCORPS in Kabul next February. Turkey is a strongly growing economy which, as a market of 70 million people, imports over 40 billion euros-worth of goods from the EU each year. Our own trade with Turkey is over £4 billion a year and is growing at 30 per cent annually.

"Turkey beginning negotiations to join the EU shows that those who believe there is some fundamental clash of civilisations between Christian and Muslim are wrong. Muslim, Christian and other religious faiths can work together in democratic, tolerant and multi-cultural societies. Turkey's membership is of fundamental importance for the future peace and prosperity of Britain, Europe and the wider world. The European Council agreed that Turkey should begin negotiations on 3 October 2005, during the British presidency. Before this happens, Turkey will need to complete its latest reform package. And the Turkish Prime Minister confirmed during the European Council that he was ready to sign, before 3 October, the Protocol to the Ankara Agreement extending the EU/Turkey Customs Union to the 10 new EU member states.

"This does not constitute formal legal recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. The accession negotiations thereafter are likely to last at least a decade. Turkey's performance, including in relation to respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, will be closely monitored. And we will want to see a satisfactory track record of implementation before each of the negotiating chapters is closed. Moreover, there is the option of long transition periods, derogations, or even permanently available safeguards, should these be required.

"It is worth emphasising how much Turkey has achieved under Prime Minister Erdogan's leadership. He has taken through nine separate packages of legislative and constitutional reform, bringing the military under civilian control, improving minority rights, abolishing the death penalty, significantly improving freedom of expression, liberalising the economy and reforming the penal code. These reforms must continue, but this House should recognise the extraordinary progress that has been made. And the developments in Turkey over the past two years, following the reforms across central and eastern Europe of the last decade, demonstrate the influence and power of the European Union as a motor for change and a force for good.

"There were other significant decisions at this European Council. We confirmed the conclusion of accession negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania. Both should join in January 2007. We decided to begin accession negotiations with Croatia on 17 March 2005, subject to its full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal. We decided on several new areas of action and co-operation in the fight against terrorism. We welcomed the agreement reached with Iran on nuclear issues and future cooperation, following negotiations conducted by the UK, France and Germany. If, however, this process is to succeed, as we all want, Iran must sustain its full suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities.

"The European Council confirmed its full backing for next year's elections in Iraq and its commitment to support these, finance UN protection, and provide continuing reconstruction assistance. The violence and terror directed against Iraqis wanting to have free elections should make us redouble our efforts to ensure democracy defeats terror and those elections take place. Whatever the original disagreement over the conflict in Iraq, that is a unified European position today.

"We also committed ourselves to support, financially, technically and politically, the democratic transition in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and we reaffirmed our commitment to achieving, through the Road Map, a negotiated two-state solution. And finally, we committed ourselves to helping to ensure that the re-run of the elections in Ukraine is free and fair, including through sending a substantial number of observers.

"At this European Council, we achieved an historic British objective with the decision to begin accession negotiations with Turkey during the British presidency next year. If evidence is needed of the benefits of positive engagement and leadership in Europe, here it is, and I commend it to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.36 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. The most important announcement was the agreement to pursue accession by Turkey. We on this side have long argued for that. But why is it deferred until 2014? Is it because the EU cannot face up to financial reform and the wholesale changes that will be required to the absurd CAP regime? Or is it distaste for Turkish entry among some of the less enlightened EU partners masquerading as caution? We hope that the sensible agreement on how to handle the Cyprus situation, where Turkey has already shown great responsibility, will be one more step towards a final settlement in the future.

I strongly favour Turkish entry, but can the noble Baroness assure the House that Turkey could not impede potential accession of Armenia to a future EU, given the immense contribution of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora to European civilisation?

I welcome confirmation of progress with Bulgaria and Romania. Will the noble Baroness join me in congratulating former King Simeon of Bulgaria on his skilful handling of these matters?

On Croatia, can she say whether the Government are satisfied with the treatment of the Serb minority and Serb exiles by Croatia?

On negotiations in general, there is a phrase in paragraph 23 of the Presidency Conclusions, which the noble Baroness knows I read carefully, saying that negotiations must take into account "the evolving acquis". Does "evolving acquis" include the draft EU constitution? If so, on what grounds can negotiations legally take that into account prior to ratification of the treaty? And does not the prospect of Turkish membership anyway underline the danger of signing and sealing a new constitution when the adherence of this huge new member state is bound to require substantial further changes in the rules and governance of the Union? Is that not what President Giscard d'Estaing, among others, has warned and is that also not plain common sense?

On ratification, did the Prime Minister discuss a date for an EU referendum with other EU leaders? If so, can the noble Baroness share that date with us? She might also be able to advise us when we will see a ratification Bill. From time to time, Ministers ask what support we have for questioning whether the proposed constitution is good for Europe. Our answer is "the people". We should just wait and see and it will soon become clear what the peoples of Europe's member states, including this one, really think about changing their constitutions to suit the new order being imposed on them. That will show where the real support for our viewpoint lies. Some may agree but we can be pretty sure that the people of the UK will not.

So that is the support we have—not of dedicated integrationists, not of dreamers about Europe as a superpower, not of visceral anti-Americans, but of ordinary citizens in their millions who want a Europe that is free and built on nation states and who treasure our constitution and reject its violation by this Government and by remote ideologues who may end up doing more harm than good to the best kind of European cause.

The summit agreed to lift the arms embargo on China. Perhaps the Leader of the House can tell the House whether a Labour Government would support the sale of arms to China by the UK arms industry.

On Africa, was French military action on Côte d'Ivoire discussed or endorsed by the EU? On Zimbabwe, yet again there was a bitterly disappointing failure to agree any action in regard to the utterly vile Mugabe regime. Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness again—because she has shown continual deep concern for suffering in Africa which is widely respected—whether she asked the Prime Minister to raise that issue. If she did, did he raise it? If he did, why is nothing said about it in the conclusions?

The noble Baroness says that African nations do not always welcome our intervention, but has she seen the declaration of the EU presidency on 15 December calling on Liberia to revise its electoral law to secure fair elections? Apparently it is good for Liberia for the EU to make demands on democratic processes but not, it seems, for Zimbabwe. Why not?

Finally, with Christmas approaching—when I hope that the noble Baroness and all noble Lords will enjoy a peaceful holiday—will she agree that no programme must ever be allowed to undermine the ability of Christians in schools and communities to affirm Christian traditions, or indeed to limit the freedom of any other great religious community to speak out freely without fear or favour to assert its doctrines and to proclaim its identity?

5.41 p.m.

Lord McNally

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the key statement in the report by the Prime Minister is the description of, the influence and power of the European Union as a motor for change, and a force for good"? On almost every line of the Statement there are illustrations of the fact that Europe acting together can have a massive beneficial impact on some of the most difficult, dangerous and intractable problems facing our world. Surely it is within that context that we should look at developments in the European Union and at any dangers or threats to the European Union playing that kind of constructive role in the world.

As the Prime Minister obviously enjoyed himself at the summit and came back in very fine fettle, judging by the way in which he wiped the floor with the Leader of the Opposition in another place, perhaps I may recommend that he keep up this bounce and self-confidence about Europe and take it to the British people. Some of the ominous threats or wild claims about speaking for the British people made by the Official Opposition would be seen as a sham if the Prime Minister were to show—

A Noble Lord

Bring it on!

Lord McNally

Yes, my Lords, we will bring it on. We see the real case for Europe being the kind of progress that was illustrated at this summit.

Of course the opening of a dialogue with Turkey is a difficult and quite long process, but it is an entirely welcome one in building that bridge with the Islamic world. I shall make only one comment on that. I hope that both Greece and Cyprus, whose own admission to the European family required a certain confidence and trust by the European Union at the time of their accession, do not now use their position inside the EU as a kind of veto on Turkey's membership. I think that both Greece and Cyprus owe it to Europe to show similar magnanimity and imagination in their approach to settling the Cyprus question as has been shown in the past by Europe towards them.

On European reform, are preparations already under way so that the British presidency itself is a presidency that tackles some of the needed reforms in Europe, not from the position of the Conservative Party, which is consistently harping on it to do damage to Europe, but from the position that we take—to strengthen Europe and its position with the British people?

I urge the Minister on another point. In looking east, as it is necessary to do in this long process with Turkey and with Bulgaria and Romania, due concern should be taken also with the southern Mediterranean and the Maghreb and with other areas that also look for closer co-operation with the EU.

I have only one point on the elections in Ukraine and Iraq. Will the proposed observers be EU observers, or will it be up to each national government to decide how they contribute their observers to these elections?

Finally, it is rumoured that the Prime Minister may shortly be going to the Middle East. We on these Benches would wish him God's speed on that visit. The hope is that he will use the authority of the European Union to emphasise to Palestinians, to Israelis and to the Americans that there is a European dimension to any lasting peace in the Middle East, and that by playing our active part within the EU to make that contribution, we will also make a very positive contribution to the success of any peace progress that has got under way.

I join the Leader of the Conservative Party in wishing Members opposite a happy Christmas. But I do think that this is one of the reports back from Europe that should put a spring in the step of all of us who believe that Britain's future is at the heart of Europe and that Europe's future is in bringing better peace to the world.

5.47 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their comments and questions. I shall try to deal with the specific issues that have been raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, specifically asked why it will take so long once we have begun the negotiations with Turkey. As he will know, a long-term reform process is underway in Turkey. It has made substantial progress in the past two years, and that reform process will continue in the years of the negotiating process.

On the specific point on Armenia, as the noble Lord knows, the agreement at the weekend was to begin accession negotiations with Turkey. As we have stressed, that will probably be a lengthy set of discussions during which Turkey's impact on the European Union will be explored, including its attitude to other countries that are currently in the EU and possibly also to candidates for future membership. The noble Lord asked about the length of the negotiations and the issue of Armenia, but the length of the negotiations will allow an opportunity to discuss those issues.

The noble Lord knows that there is a ratification process for the draft EU constitution and that individual countries will then take it through their national parliaments or have a referendum. That depends entirely on the legal context within each country. As he knows, a Bill will of course be brought before our Parliament. On the question of when, that will be resolved over a period of time, as the noble Lord knows.

On China, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that he had read the conclusion very carefully. In relation to China it states that the European Council, reaffirmed the political will to continue to work towards lifting the arms embargo". The council did not lift the embargo. The Council made it clear that the result of any decision should not be an increase of arms exports from EU member states to China, in terms of quantity or quality. As the noble Lord knows, the Council also highlighted a desire to see progress on human rights in China.

On Zimbabwe, which we have discussed many times across this Dispatch Box, the noble Lord knows that we have an EU sanctions regime, which includes the movement of people within the ruling ZANU-PF party to the European Union. We would not have had that without international efforts nor without efforts within the European Union. I am rather surprised that the noble Lord says that the European Union has made no progress and has not discussed Zimbabwe. Indeed, the European Union has called for the elections in March next year to be free and fair. There have been discussions not only at European Union level, but also with the UN and with southern African partners. The noble Lord may know that the Southern African Development Community has endorsed a clear set of regulations on elections that we would like to see applied to Zimbabwe. I am quite happy to write to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, setting out all those issues. It proves to me that the noble Lord is not aware of the detail of all of the work that is ongoing at present.

In regard to Christmas, this Government have always made it clear that we are in favour of such opportunities, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Like everyone else, I wish the noble Lord a very happy Christmas.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, started by outlining the importance of acting together. I entirely endorse that point. We would not have seen what happened with the peace-keeping force in the DRC, for example, which was led by the French and to which we contributed, were it not for the European Union acting together. We have the largest peace-keeping force in Bosnia. The positive approach taken by the European Union in Ukraine is an important element of that. The context described by the noble Lord is quite right.

On EU reform, of course we have begun planning for our presidency. The noble Lord may know that, because of the way in which the presidencies now work, planning starts somewhat in advance. There is an attempt to resolve issues of concern to the Union overall in a presidency, but next year, for example, an important dimension of what happens at the European Union level throughout the year will be ensuring some kind of follow through from the Luxembourg presidency to our presidency.

The noble Lord is right about the importance of closer co-operation with southern Mediterranean countries and the Magreb. The presidency conclusions say, The European Council noted with satisfaction the progress made within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). A first series of Action Plans jointly prepared with Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Moldova, Ukraine, Israel and Palestinian Authority were successfully finalised". That is an important element of the programme.

As regards observation of the election in Ukraine, my understanding is that the OECD will take overall responsibility for that, but there will be a doubling of the British observers to that mission, That was announced by my noble friend.

On the Middle East peace process, of course, we are working positively to bring about a resolution. The noble Lord is well aware of that. I believe that he will understand if, across the Dispatch Box, I do not say any more about the Prime Minister's travel plans. He will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the process that was started so long ago reaches a successful conclusion.

5.54 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on reading the Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I refer her to part of the Presidency Conclusions dealing with the financial framework for 2007–13 and particularly I refer her to paragraph 34 because that leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. It states: The European Council endorsed the Commission proposal to maintain the ceiling for the own resources at the current level of 1.24 per cent of EU GNI". However, my understanding was that it was part of the ambition of Her Majesty's Government, together with the Governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria, to have that figure capped at 1 per cent. Is that a short-term proposal—that it should stay at 1.24 per cent—or is it a figure that applies to the period of the next financial perspective, 2007–13?

Within the detail of the financial framework, the Presidency Conclusions state: Policies agreed in accordance with the Treaty shall be consistent with the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and solidarity. They should also provide added value". I ask my noble friend to consider that at some time she may say to her Cabinet colleagues that when government departments produce explanatory memoranda on European Union matters, the statement of added value should be contained within it, so that we can ensure that a very useful idea is being pursued.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. Six member states have argued for a budget of just 1 per cent of GNI. Broadly, we are happy with the progress made under the Dutch presidency. We see the presidency progress report as a fair reflection of the current state of play. However, it is our view that that is only the start of the negotiations. We believe that the priorities of the enlarged Union can be met within a budget of 1 per cent of EU GNI. So we believe that this progress report represents building blocks which contain a range of options that add up to a total budgetary package of 1 per cent of GNI or less. I shall draw the added value point to the attention of my Cabinet colleagues.

Lord Tugendhat

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that perhaps the greatest triumph of the European Union in its history has been the degree to which it has contributed to the spread of human rights, political stability, democracy and open markets over an ever-widening area of western Europe and now central and eastern Europe? We saw that with Germany and Italy first, with Greece, Spain and Portugal, later with the former Communist countries and now most spectacularly with Turkey. That is a visible demonstration of the enormous contribution to European well-being and thus to British well-being that the European Union makes.

Does the Minister also agree that all those who welcome the prospect of Turkish accession to the European Union, of which happily there are many on these Benches, should support the new constitution? The new constitution provides the flexibility—enabling groups of countries to move forward when other countries do not wish to—that is required in a larger and more diverse community. Far from being a straitjacket, it provides the suppleness and flexibility that will contribute to the success of the negotiations and, ultimately, to the success of Turkish membership?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, before I answer those two questions, it has been drawn to my attention that I said "OECD" in response to the point about the Ukraine elections. I should have said "OSCE". Obviously, I should not use acronyms.

I totally agree with the noble Lord and the points made about the success of the European Union and, in particular, the points about the spread of political stability, the opening up of markets and human rights. That has had a major impact on the United Kingdom as well as other parts of the European Union. The growth of the European Union is a testament to the importance of those values and principles.

I agree also with the points made about the new constitution. We have argued long and hard that this is about finding the best way for a Europe of 25 and more to operate. It is important that we establish the values and principles that hold us together, but we need also to look at how we are going to implement the policies which are so important to us as a union. That is what the constitution seeks to do.

Lord Cobbold

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. I am glad that the decision has been taken to open negotiations with Turkey, during which all the important issues can be considered. All noble Lords who participated in last Wednesday's debate supported that outcome. As I said in that debate, there is a strong argument for supporting a secular state embodying a moderate Muslim faith in an area of the world so beset by religious extremism. Making Turkey a prosperous secular democratic nation can, it is to be hoped, provide an example for others in the region to emulate".—[Official Report, 15/12/04; col. 1337.] Nevertheless, there are major uncertainties and risks involved in the process, which may involve some minor modification to the basic tenets of the draft constitution. So we shall all be watching with great interest the negotiations as they unfold.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I was aware of the debate. Although I was not present, I read the debate and the noble Lord's contribution in opening that debate. There are uncertainties, but one of the big issues is the important recognition that a country like Turkey, with its size and the developmental challenges within it, is seeking to join the European Union with the unanimous view from within the Union that negotiations should begin. The process of negotiations will give us an opportunity to discuss some of the issues raised by the noble Lord that are of concern to the populations in some other member states. But this is very positive and I think that the European Union made a very important decision over the weekend.

Lord Dykes

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the Prime Minister's prospective visit to Israel and to the West Bank to see all the parties involved deserves full support—and, indeed, it is receiving full support throughout the United Kingdom? Although the Minister did not specifically refer to the possible February high-level conference to be held perhaps in London, does she further agree that that also needs support and that it will have more success if governments, other entities and all parties concerned do not try to set preconditions about the contents and agenda of that conference?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the issue of a high-level conference is still under discussion and its possible content is being discussed as we speak. I understand from my noble friend Lady Symons that the discussions are going extremely well. I think that the Prime Minister's work with others on the Middle East peace process deserves all our support.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, does the Minister recognise that it was a very imaginative gesture to invite the UN Secretary-General to the meeting which she described, at a time when he is under a great deal of attack? Will she also say what role the European Union will take in the follow-up to the UN high-level panel's report, which was welcomed by the European Council; and will she confirm that the British Government intend to take a constructive and energetic lead in the implementation of those proposals?

Does the noble Baroness agree that while the European Council fortunately managed to skirt around a bit of brinkmanship on Cypriot objections to Turkey's application, it is not particularly encouraging that the president of Cyprus, on returning to his country, observed that although he had not exercised the veto on this occasion, there were 62 future occasions on which he would be able to do so—that being a reference to the 62 chapters of the negotiations? Would it not be better if the president of Cyprus focused on how he might contribute to settling the Cyprus problem, rather than on vetoing Turkey's application?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, on the issue of the EU and the visit of the UN Secretary-General to the Council, that was a very positive thing to do. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was a member of the high-level panel. The UK Government, as the noble Lord knows, welcomed the panel's report. We need to go through the recommendations in some detail, but we have given our full support to the Secretary-General. The Prime Minister gave that support in person to the Secretary-General.

I was at the UN not so long ago and discussed these issues with the Secretary-General. Our representative in New York has been very positive, as the noble Lord knows, in taking these issues forward.

On the other issue raised by the noble, Lord Hannay, with respect to Cyprus, we all welcome the unanimous decision over the weekend to begin negotiations. We will have to ensure that those negotiations are taken forward in a positive way by all members of the European Union.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the decision on Turkey is a very big one. By the time Turkey is admitted it will be the largest country in what is now called the European Union. Since the Union will then spill over into Asia, it will no longer be purely an European Union. I have made that point before and repeat it now. Exactly what are the limits of expansion of the European Union? Are there to be further expansions into Asia and indeed into North Africa?

My second question is about arms to China. The continued embargo on arms to China is causing affront to the Chinese themselves. On the one hand, they are being asked to support the war against terrorism; while on the other hand, they feel they are not being trusted to use arms, which might be supplied to them by the West, in a responsible sort of way. I believe that this issue should be settled and settled soon.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, on the issue of enlargement, I think the noble Lord understands that a certain momentum has now been built up, which we should like to see sustained. We would describe this, I suppose, as an enlargement Council, given the decisions that were taken on Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia as well as Turkey. With regard to the limits, it depends on which particular aspect of European Union membership you look at because some treaties refer to geographic areas and others do not. I hope that the noble Lord will be happy if I write to him on those points.

On China, I hope that I made the position clear when I read out the conclusion about China: that it will be looked at again. We must remember that the European Union has a strong code of practice with respect to arms, which we in the United Kingdom support.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, perhaps I may take up the point that the noble Baroness made in reply to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. In exactly what way has any of the European initiatives concerning Zimbabwe that she read out improved the lot of the unfortunate peoples of Zimbabwe?

Secondly, with reference to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, surely now that the Government have taken the step of supporting the expansion of the European Union into Asia, she must know what is the view of the Government on further expansion outside Europe. For example, can she tell me whether, in the event that Israel eventually conforms to the Copenhagen criteria, it will be a potential member of the European Union, let alone the North African states? Surely there must be a geographical line, even if not a political one, that the Government can draw somewhere?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord will know that one reason that we feel it so important to be part of the European Union is because it is a group of many states that can exercise additional weight, as it were, acting together and co-operatively. Any decisions about further enlargement will be taken by the European Union as a whole; they will not be taken by the British Government operating in isolation. That is why it is important to go back to the treaties that govern how the European Union operates and consider the flexibility that that offers for future membership.

On the noble Lord's first question about improving the lot of the people of Zimbabwe, he will know that the United Kingdom has given substantial humanitarian aid to the people of Zimbabwe, who have been facing food shortages. One of our major concerns has been that the work that the World Food Programme did to identify the difficult and grave situation facing many people in Zimbabwe has not been recognised by the government of Zimbabwe, who have effectively made it difficult for us, our European Union colleagues and others to continue to supply food. Time and again I have said that that is something that the British Government cannot do alone. We need to work with the European Union partners, our other international partners, such as the United States, and, indeed, with the governments of Africa.

Lord Brittan of Spennithorne

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, whereas the broad thrust of what was decided about Turkey is warmly to be welcomed, there is one major blemish in what is currently envisaged? Does she not agree that, whereas it is perfectly reasonable and in accordance with precedent to have substantial derogations from various of the provisions of membership of the European Union, to envisage permanent derogations in the area of the free movement of people is fundamentally inconsistent with the basic principles of the European Union and should therefore be removed during the course of the negotiations?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I have said a number of times that this is the beginning of a process of negotiation. Discussion of the issue of free movement within the European Union, which is one of the principles on which the Union was founded, will be part of the negotiations, which will continue.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart

My Lords, those who welcome the beginning of the accession negotiations with Turkey will now wish to hear from the Government whether it is their first priority to ensure the deepening and strengthening of the decision-making processes of the Union. They should bear in mind that, when Turkey was known as the sick man of Europe in the 19th century, there was a loose relationship between governments of Europe, known as the concert of Europe, which was a conspicuous failure in peacekeeping and the development of common European policies.

Will the Government now turn their attention not only to gaining the acceptance of the necessity of the European constitution but to participate in the discussions about the future mechanisms for strengthening the European Union's decision-making, acknowledging that that may have financial consequences resulting in their reviewing their commitment of their commitment to the 1 per cent limit? Will they do those things to make a real success of the accession of Turkey, when it comes, and of other countries that have qualified under the existing treaty rules for membership?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, the noble Lord is asking me two sets of questions. One is about decision-making at European Union level. One reason that we have been so positive about the constitutional treaty process is precisely because it is our view that a Union of 25 and larger requires a reform of the structures and processes for decision-making. We have been unequivocal about that.

With respect to funding, the conclusions state: The financial aspects of accession of a candidate state must be allowed for in the applicable financial framework". We have been arguing for a much tighter approach to the European Union budget process. It is our view that we can have an effective and efficient Commission with a budget of 1 per cent of EU gross national income. On the noble Lord's final point about altering for the success of the process, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and others have made absolutely clear but we are in favour of the constitutional treaty and will be arguing strongly for it.