HL Deb 18 November 1991 vol 532 c49WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the European Community Foreign Ministers' Conclave meeting held in Noordwijk between 12th and 13th November.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

At their Conclave in Noordwijk on 12th and 13th November, Foreign Ministers discussed the latest Netherlands Presidency draft treaty on Political Union. The Secretary of State and Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs represented the United Kingdom.

We made clear, as did others, that nothing could be agreed until everything was agreed, and that if the package on the table at Maastricht was not acceptable to the United Kingdom, we would not agree it.

The Conclave made useful progress in some areas. A broad consensus emerged on a number of treaty articles, including a number of our own proposals. These included a power for the ECJ to fine member states who failed to comply with its judgments; a strengthening of financial accountability in the Community; and other non-legislative powers of the European Parliament. There was broad consensus on a text on citizenship, which safeguards the right of member states to determine who should be a national. The proposal to establish a consultative regional body was broadly endorsed.

There was a detailed discussion of proposed extensions of Community competence and qualified majority voting. No agreement was reached and this issue will be considered again at a further Conclave on 2nd December.

It was recognised that several other issues would only be resolved by the European Council at Maastricht. These included:

  • —the legislative powers of the European Parliament;
  • —proposals to strengthen inter-governmental co-operation on interior and justice matters, in a separate "pillar" of the union treaty;
  • —a common foreign and security policy, with a possible defence dimension.