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European Union (Enlargement)

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 24 September 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on European Union applicant countries and the desirability of expansion of the Western European Union. [17290]

Enlargement of the European Union is a priority for us. It will fulfil Europe's historic destiny and will enhance security and stability. Enlargement must remain an all-inclusive process.We broadly agree with the European Commission's recommendations on the applicants' readiness for membership based on the criteria laid down by the Copenhagen and Madrid European Councils of June 1993 and December 1995 respectively. Generally speaking, these criteria require the new Member States to be able to take on the obligations of membership. Membership of the Western European Union is not such an obligation.The criteria agreed by WEU Member States at Maastricht in 1991 established the eligibility of countries for different categories of WEU membership as and when they assume membership of NATO, the EU or both. The UK will welcome applications for these respective categories from new NATO and EU Members States should they choose to apply.