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German Unification

Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 24 October 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions are taking place within the European Community regarding the implications of German unification for weighted majority voting in the Council of Ministers and for the size of the European Parliament.

None, Sir.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will be aware that weighted majority voting in the Council of Europe bears little relationship to the populations of the countries involved. However, we now hear that following unification, both the Chancellor and the Foreign Minister in Germany have said that they do not require any increased representation "for the time being." May I take it from my hon. Friend that his reply "none" is 100 times more encouraging than "none for the time being"?

The German Government undertook not to request EC treaty amendments to accommodate German unification. They have made no proposals to amend qualified majority vote weighting or the number of Members of the European Parliament, both of which would require treaty amendment. But, as my hon. Friend says, it is clear that a number of small member countries, with Luxembourg a prime example, have made a not able contribution to the Community despite their size.

Although we must welcome the extension of the Community by the inclusion of what was, before this October, a separate country, is not it inappropriate that the other countries of central Europe that experienced similar democratic revolutions and are at a similar economic stage—Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland—should be kept out of the Community while the former German Democratic Republic is allowed in?

There is no intention on behalf of the Government or the Community to keep anyone out of the Community. The Prime Minister has made it clear that we would welcome the day when those new, emerging democracies in the east are in a position, because of their internal politics and their economies, to apply to join the Community.

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to his new position. Is it likely that such matters will be discussed at the intergovernmental conference and what position will Her Majesty's Government take?

There is no reason why those matters should arise in the intergovernmental conference. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his warm welcome.

Was the Minister of State in favour of weighted voting when he was Deputy Chief Whip?

As the hon. Member will know, in those days I was in favour of hon. Members supporting their party—a lesson that he might take.