Slovenia took on the European Union presidency on 1 January, and we congratulate it on being the first of the 2004 new member states to do so. We welcome its strong focus on the Lisbon jobs and growth agenda, economic reform, climate change and further EU enlargement.
I, too, welcome the presidency of Slovenia, one of the EU’s smallest nations. What measures will we, as a sovereign Government, take to ensure that Slovenia does not fall under the undue influence of our friends across the channel, such as France? What will the Government do to protect our national interests during this important period?
It is difficult to answer such an unusual question, which is bizarre and absurd in equal measure. Slovenia is a proud and newly independent member state, which has an ambitious agenda for the rotating presidency. Let me stumble towards an answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question: we are providing logistical support and secondees to the Slovenian Government, and I visited Ljubljana recently. It is vital for the Slovenian presidency to be a success. Together, we have celebrated the independence of the nations that were freed from the tyranny of communism and are now proud members of an alliance of democracies.
When you called me, Mr. Speaker, I almost said, “Merci”.
May I confirm that the first thing that the Slovenian Parliament will do is ratify the Lisbon treaty, in accordance with the Slovenian presidency? Will not the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) be happy when our Parliament, too, ratifies the Lisbon treaty?
My hon. Friend is right. We will take a similar approach to the treaty to that which previous Governments took to other European treaties, including Amsterdam, Nice, Maastricht and the Single European Act. We have an established constitutional principle in the United Kingdom: the Palace of Westminster—the House of Commons and the House of Lords—gives its agreement to such European treaties.