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European Council: 14 December 2007

Volume 697: debated on Monday 17 December 2007

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the European Council held in Brussels on 14 December, which focused on two major concerns: the reforms Europe must make to meet and master the global challenges we face for competitiveness, employment, secure energy and climate change and issues of security, in particular Kosovo, Iran and Burma, that we must confront together.

“I start with the most immediate concern facing the summit: the best way to bring about a satisfactory resolution to the status of Kosovo. Kosovo is the last remaining unresolved issue from the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia. In the light of the recent failure by the parties in the troika process to find a negotiated way forward, the European Council accepted its responsibility for joint European action and agreed the importance of moving urgently towards a settlement. It is to the credit of all parties in the dispute that even when faced with conflicting positions, the region remains at peace. And, as the European Council conclusions noted, it is essential that this commitment to peace is maintained.

“The principles of our approach are, first, that Europe takes seriously its special responsibility for the stability and security of the Balkans region. Indeed, it is thanks to the sustained efforts of NATO troops and the diplomacy of the United Nations and the European Union that a safe and secure environment has been maintained. But, secondly, we were agreed that the status quo was unsustainable and that we needed to move forward towards a settlement that ensures what we called a,

‘stable, democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo committed to the rule of law, and to the protection of minorities and of cultural and religious heritage’.

And, thirdly, after a detailed discussion at the Council, we were also wholly united in agreeing that European engagement should move to a new level. We agreed in principle and stated our readiness to deploy a European Security and Defence Policy policing and rule-of-law mission to Kosovo. This will consist of a multinational mission of around 1,800 policemen and judicial officials. I can confirm that the UK will contribute around 80 of these, including its deputy head, Roy Reeve. European Foreign Ministers will confirm the detailed arrangements for this mission shortly.

“Fourthly, we also reaffirmed that a stable and prosperous Serbia fully integrated into Europe is important for the stability of the region. The Council encouraged Serbia to meet the necessary conditions to allow signature of its stabilisation and association agreement and expressed our confidence that Serbia has the capacity to make rapid progress subsequently towards candidate status. Indeed, the conclusions of the meeting of European Foreign Ministers last week reiterated the European Union’s support for enlargement more generally, and we also look forward to recognising the progress made by both Croatia and Turkey at this week’s accession conference in Brussels.

“The UN Security Council will discuss the issue of Kosovo with representatives from both Belgrade and Pristina on 19 December with the aim of giving Russia an opportunity to accept a consensus on the way forward. If this proves impossible, we in Britain have always been clear that the comprehensive proposal put forward by the UN special envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, based around the concept of supervised independence for Kosovo, represents the best way forward. And while we are rightly focused on the immediate priority of bringing the status process through to completion in an orderly and managed way, the European Council agreed that it is also important that we address the longer-term challenge of ensuring Kosovo’s future economic and political viability. I welcome the commitment made by the European Union to assist Kosovo’s economic and political development. Planning is now under way for a donors’ conference to follow shortly after a status settlement.

“The Council also discussed Iran and there was agreement on a united European approach. Here again, the power we wield working with all the EU is greater than if we acted on our own. As I have made clear repeatedly, Iran remains in breach of its international obligations. In September, Foreign Ministers from the E3+3 agreed that until there were positive outcomes from Javier Solana and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s discussions with Iran, we would seek tougher sanctions at the United Nations. The latest E3+3 assessment is that sufficient progress has not been made.

“The European Council conclusions call on Iran to provide full, clear and credible answers to the IAEA and to resolve all questions concerning its nuclear activities. The European Council reiterated its support for a new UN resolution as soon as possible. In addition, we agreed to decide on new measures that the EU itself might take to help resolve this situation at the January meeting of Foreign Ministers. These should complement UN measures or substitute for them if the Security Council cannot reach agreement.

“Iran has a choice—confrontation with the international community leading to a tightening of sanctions or, if it changes its approach, a transformed relationship with the world from which all would benefit.

“As set out in the Council’s conclusions, the EU also reaffirmed its deep concern about the unacceptable situation in Burma, and makes clear that if there is no change in the Burmese regime’s approach to political negotiations and basic political freedoms, we stand ready to review, amend and—if necessary—further reinforce restrictive measures against the Burmese Government. The Council also reaffirmed the important role of China, India and the Association of South-East Asian Nations in actively supporting the UN’s efforts to establish an inclusive political process leading to genuine national reconciliation.

“For our part, we believe that the forthcoming visit of the UN envoy—Professor Gambari—is critical. It is essential that the Burmese Government meet the demands set out in the UN Security Council statement of 11 October to: release all political prisoners; create the conditions for political dialogue, including relaxation of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi; allow full co-operation with Professor Gambari; address human rights concerns; and begin a genuine and inclusive process of dialogue and national reconciliation with the opposition.

“In particular, the regime should respond to the constructive statement of Aung San Suu Kyi of 8 November and open a ‘meaningful and timebound dialogue’ with the opposition and the country’s ethnic groups.

“The Council also agreed that a key part of the EU’s external agenda is how we can—by working together—maximise our influence in tackling global poverty. The Council agreed that the European Commission should report by April next year—half way to 2015—on how the European Union is meeting its commitments to the millennium development goals, and how we can accelerate our progress.

“In addition to these issues of international security and development, the Council conclusions and the special declaration on globalisation also set out the challenges that the European Union must now address on globalisation.

“First, we agreed to maintain our focus on economic reform, with a renewed focus on modernising the single market so it enhances the European Union’s ability to compete in the global economy. We must have full implementation of the services directive by 2009 and we must continue to work together towards further liberalisation in the energy, post and telecoms markets—where market openings could generate between €75 billion and €95 billion of potential extra economic benefits and create up to 360,000 new jobs. Investment in research, innovation and education—and removing barriers to enterprise—are also essential.

“Secondly, we confirmed our commitment to free trade and openness. The priority is securing a successful outcome to the Doha trade round, which would deliver gains to the global economy approaching $200 billion by 2015, equivalent to 0.6 per cent of global income and bringing significant benefits to rich and poor countries alike. We will also promote better EU-US trade links.

“Thirdly, we agreed to do more to develop mechanisms for co-operation within the European Union and with countries across the world to tackle security challenges like terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime. We renewed our commitment to the EU counterterrorism strategy and to co-operate on counter-radicalisation work.

“Fourthly, we will work together to deliver our commitments to tackle climate change, including the target of reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, or 30 per cent as part of an international agreement. And building on the significant progress made last week in Bali—an agreement on which the Environment Secretary will report to this House tomorrow—we must help negotiate an ambitious post-2012 international climate change agreement. And Europe must also now step up funding, including through the World Bank, to help the developing world shift to lower carbon growth and adapt to climate change.

“It was agreed at the last Council meeting that the presidency would bring forward a proposal for a new reflection group. This was announced in October. At this later meeting, the Council invited Mr Felipe González Márquez, assisted by two vice-chairs, Mrs Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Mr Jorma Ollila, chairman of Shell and Nokia, to,

‘identify the key issues and developments which the Union is likely to face in 2020 or 2030 and to analyse how these might be addressed’.

The remit specifically states that,

‘it shall not discuss institutional matters. Nor should its analysis constitute a review of current policies or address the Union’s next financial framework’.

It will report back to the Council, which will decide how to follow up its recommendations.

“I can also tell the House that today we are publishing the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which contains the institutional changes to accommodate a Europe of 27 members and will include the safeguards that we have negotiated to protect the British national interest: the legally binding protocol that ensures that nothing in the Charter of Fundamental Rights challenges or undermines the rights already set out in UK law and that nothing in the charter extends the ability of any court—European or national—to strike down UK law; legally binding protocols that prescribe in detail our sovereign right to opt in on individual justice and home affairs measures, where we consider it to be in the British interest to do so, or alternatively to remain outside if that is in our interest; a declaration that expressly states that nothing in the new treaty affects the existing powers of member states to formulate and conduct their foreign policy, and that the basis of foreign and security policies will remain intergovernmental, a matter for Governments to decide on the basis of unanimity; and an effective veto power on any proposals for important changes on social security, so that when we, Britain, determine that any proposal would impact on an important aspect of our social security system, including its scope, cost or financial structure, we can insist on taking any proposal to the European Council under unanimity.

“With the publication of the Bill that legislates for the amendments to the European Communities Act, Parliament will now have the opportunity to debate this amending treaty in detail and to decide whether to implement it. We will ensure sufficient time for debate on the Floor of the House, so that the Bill is examined in the fullest of detail and all points of view can be heard. That will give the House the full opportunity to consider this treaty, and the deal secured for the UK, before ratification.

“In addition, I can tell the House that we have built into the legislation further safeguards to ensure proper parliamentary oversight and accountability. To ensure that no Government can agree, without Parliament’s approval, to any change in European rules that could in any way alter the constitutional balance of power between Britain and the European Union, there is a provision in the Bill that any proposal to activate the mechanisms in the treaty that provide for further moves to qualified majority voting, but which require unanimity—the so-called passerelles—would have to be subject to a prior vote by the House. In the event of a negative vote, the Government would refuse to allow the use of the passerelle. The Bill also includes a statutory obligation that any future EU amending treaty, including one that provided for any increase in the EU’s competence, would have to be ratified through an Act of Parliament. So Parliament would have absolute security that no future change could be made against its wishes.

“I said in October that I would oppose any further institutional change in the relationship between the European Union and its member states, not just for this Parliament but for the next. I stand by that commitment. This is now also the settled consensus of the European Union. All 27 member states agreed at the Council—as expressly set out in the conclusions—that this amending treaty provides the Union with a stable and lasting institutional framework and that it completes the process of institutional reform for the foreseeable future. The conclusions of the Council state specifically that the amending treaty,

‘provides the Union with a stable and lasting institutional framework. We expect no change in the foreseeable future’.

“Finally, let me conclude with the discussion on the most immediate economic issues: concerns about the economic consequences of the global financial turbulence that started in America in August. The Government’s first priority in the coming weeks is to ensure the stability of the economy and to have the strength to take the difficult long-term decisions necessary. The Council agreed that the whole of the European Union must now turn its attention both to the immediate measures necessary and the long-term strengthening of international capacity to secure greater financial stability. The announcement made earlier this week by central banks in the major financial centres that they will provide liquidity to ease tension in the financial markets must now be built upon. As we agreed, supervisory authorities in different countries need to co-operate effectively across borders in exchanging information and in the management of crises and contagion.

“The European Council conclusions emphasised that macroeconomic fundamentals in the EU are strong and that sustained economic growth is expected. But we concluded that continued monitoring of financial markets and the economy is crucial, as uncertainties remain. The Council underlined the importance of work being taken forward both within the EU and with our international partners to improve transparency for investors, markets and regulators; to improve valuation standards; to improve the prudential framework, risk management and supervision in the financial sector; and to review the functioning of markets, including the role of credit-rating agencies.

“The European Council will discuss these issues at its spring 2008 meeting on the basis of a progress report by the Finance Ministers Council and by consideration of the financial stability forum’s work to date. As agreed by Chancellor Merkel, President Sarkozy and myself in October, the progress report should examine whether regulatory or other action is necessary. I have invited Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy to London so that we can discuss the proposals in the paper we agreed and issued a few weeks ago. The measures are important to strengthening the international community’s role in addressing financial turbulence across the world, showing the importance we attach to taking the tough long-term decisions to ensure, in testing times, the stability of the economy.

“Mr Speaker, the conclusions of the Council state specifically that in the institutional framework we expect no change ‘for the foreseeable future’. The protections that have been agreed in the amending treaty defend the British national interest. In the Bill introduced today, we are legislating for new protections and new procedures to lock in our protection of these interests. Europe is now moving to a new agenda, one that focuses on the changes needed to meet the challenges of the global era. I commend the Statement to the House.”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. What a marathon task it was. I assure the House that I will not take as long.

Does the noble Baroness accept that last weekend’s “shall we, shan’t we” treaty signing was perhaps the most humiliating public event experienced by this country since we have been in the European Union? Anyone who knows anything about Parliament and government knows that the dates of summits and Liaison Committee meetings are discussed months in advance. The Liaison Committee in another place is not so discourteous or so blind to Britain’s interests that it would not have agreed to a new date. The idea that a diary clash prevented the Prime Minister joining in the signing ceremony is preposterous. I do not want the noble Baroness to repeat excuses no one believes; it is more important that we understand the reasons. Why on earth did he do this? Who advises him? Did he consult the noble Baroness?

Whatever your approach to the treaty, the shameful spectacle of foreign leaders sniggering while Her Majesty’s Foreign Secretary sidled up alone to sign the document was humiliating, and the spectacle of our Prime Minister signing at a desk alone, like a naughty schoolboy kept in detention, was embarrassing. What was the point of it all? The snub alienated our partners in Europe without fooling anyone. Perhaps he hoped Mr Murdoch would not notice. After this farce, let no one on the Government Front Bench ever again raise their finger and point at anyone in this House and say that they would leave Britain isolated in Europe. The image of the Prime Minister sitting alone will haunt us for years to come.

The noble Baroness may try one riposte to these criticisms. She could say, “Ah, but you wouldn’t have signed the treaty at all”. If she said that, she would be quite right; we would not have signed. We would not have supported the loss of the veto in so many areas, we would not have pushed for further institutional integration and we would not have signed anything without holding to the undertaking we gave—we all gave—to holding a referendum. But had we reached an agreement as the Government did, no other party leader would have staged the Lisbon farce that we saw last weekend.

On the substance of the summit, we are reassured that the new reflection group is said explicitly not to be able to discuss institutional matters. But is it not disappointing that it is equally not permitted to consider current EU policies? Where does that leave, for instance, the Lisbon process? The communiqué says that it is “delivering”. That is a bit of old new Labour-speak for you. Where is it delivering? How many EU directives and regulations have been scrapped since the Lisbon process began, and how many have been introduced? I wonder if the noble Baroness could tell us.

There is much in the conclusions about migration. There is talk of a common asylum policy within two years, common rules on the return of illegal immigrants, and so on. In light of the Government’s failures in this area over the past 10 years, will the noble Baroness assure the House that nothing here will be allowed to delay overdue action by this Government to contain immigration and deport illegal entrants?

There is talk of a mobility agreement with Moldova. What, if anything, was agreed about the atrocious sex-trafficking from Moldova and some other east European nations? On Kosovo, the situation is extremely perilous. What assurances were received from EU countries about assisting with security in that region—or, indeed, in Afghanistan under a UN or NATO ambit? As the noble Baroness will know, there are in Kosovo some of the greatest treasures in the form of medieval wall paintings in Orthodox monasteries. In light of past cultural depredations by all parties in the Balkan conflicts, what steps are being taken to safeguard and secure not only minorities but also their spiritual and cultural inheritance?

On Iran, Europe agrees that the nuclear weapon should be kept beyond Iranian hands. So what progress was made in persuading other EU countries that new export credits should be banned and access to the EU financial system restricted? Is the noble Baroness certain that the EU has the legal power to take action against Iran?

I turn to Zimbabwe and the daily deteriorating situation of horror there. Two weeks ago, the Government sent the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, to the EU-Africa summit to represent our country. What a pity there was no Statement to this House by the noble Baroness. She could so easily have intervened in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on conflict in Africa last Thursday. I wonder if anyone thought to encourage her—or, indeed, even discourage her—from doing so.

Was anything agreed at the EU-Africa summit to discomfit Mr Mugabe? If so, why was it not mentioned in the conclusions of last weekend’s summit? Why was it left to my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Epsom to raise it today in Question Time? Is the noble Baroness aware that patience in the House is wearing very thin at the line that this brutal tyranny is something that only Africa can deal with? Whatever happened to an ethical foreign policy?

Finally, I return to the question of the referendum. The conclusions of the summit talk of,

“better reaching out to citizens and addressing their expectations and needs”.

The Prime Minister has talked, although it seems a long time ago now, of restoring trust in politics. How can we do either of these things if two parties—the Government and the Liberal Democrats—flagrantly dishonour their promises to the British people to hold a referendum on this treaty? The Prime Minister’s confidence in this treaty’s acceptability and his willingness to proclaim its merits by taking them to the British people were on display in the hole-in-the-corner charade in Lisbon. The Liberal Democrats have joined him, skulking in that very same corner. If this treaty is so good, then, as Mr Blair once said, let us have the national debate: “Let battle be joined”.

As 240 of the 242 propositions in the rejected constitution are in the new treaty, and as most of the red lines were in the previous document on which we were offered a referendum, just what is the difference now? Why “yes” then and “no” now? The noble Baroness has bravely taken leadership in this House on Europe, so she knows the answers to these questions. So can she tell the House unequivocally what elements that were in the constitution are not in the new treaty? Will she spell them out? What is the difference between the two? Every other European leader admits that they are substantially the same, so why cannot she do so this afternoon? Does she not see that there will be no trust in this Government unless they fulfil that central promise which they gave at the last general election? After the farce of Lisbon, there will be no authority for this Government in Europe unless our Prime Minister can show, before ever the treaty comes to be ratified, that he is a strong leader whose actions carry the full-hearted consent of the British people? Great harm was done to the image of our country last weekend. Only honesty, courage and the keeping of promises can repair it.

My Lords, watching the Prime Minister, I have worked out that his favourite bedtime reading is How to Offend Friends and Alienate People. Last weekend, he managed to annoy the Europhobes by signing the treaty and the pro-Europeans by an exercise that sent all the wrong messages and—as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, indicated—made us look silly. Fortunately, tomorrow the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader: young, committed to Europe and well versed in European affairs. He—either of them, they both fill this—will be a 21st-century leader, whereas the Prime Minister is looking increasingly like a leftover from the Attlee Government who famously boycotted the Coal and Steel Community talks because the Durham miners would not have it. However, despite the Prime Minister’s ineptitude, we will support the Government in their desire for Parliament to endorse this treaty via the European Union (Amendment) Bill, so long as the Bill is presented in a positive and forward-looking fashion.

In reply to the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I say that for the Conservatives to continue to call for a referendum diminishes Parliament and ignores the fact that the earlier commitment to hold a referendum on the constitution ended when the Dutch and French said no and the constitution concept was abandoned. A referendum would distract and delay, without settling anything, for we know full well that almost anything to do with Europe thereafter would again elicit a demand for a further referendum. I know that some of my colleagues would like to smoke out the Conservatives by calling for a rerun of the 1975 in-or-out referendum, but I say to the Conservatives that politicians of all political parties should stop reaching for the referendum fig leaf every time they face a difficult decision. We are a parliamentary democracy, and it is here in Parliament that such decisions should be taken. We made a promise on a previous constitution which was abandoned after the French and Dutch said no.

However, are we sure that the balance is right? Is the Lord President sure that, in seeking to draw red lines, we are not excluding ourselves from European co-operation in counterterrorism, drug control, the fight against organised crime, people trafficking and immigration control, where we need to work ever closer with our European neighbours? Is she really happy that a Labour Government, with no support from their trade union colleagues, seek to deny British people rights won in Europe for workers in societies that are more socially cohesive than the one provided by the so-called Anglo-Saxon model, with its wide disparities of wealth?

On Iran, the Balkans and Kosovo, surely the lessons all come back to the fact that Europe working together is more effective. Can the Minister think of a major issue where Britain’s voice is not made more effective by being part of Europe—be it climate change, the world trade talks, Afghanistan, Africa or the Middle East? Will the Prime Minister be taking a more positive role than hitherto in promoting greater cohesion in defence and foreign policy? Does she agree that it is time to face the more daunting agenda facing Europe? When we come to the treaty in early spring, will this House follow the other place in debating by topic, in an orderly and structural way, so that we can have a proper examination of the Bill?

What the Prime Minister signed in Lisbon was the necessary amending treaty to make organisational sense of the expansion of the European Union to 27 members and beyond, and it is welcome to know that Croatia, Serbia and Turkey are now in that pipeline as well. The real hypocrisy is not among those who want to ratify the treaty, like all parliamentary treaties, by parliamentary means, but among those who argued for enlargement but now wish to deny Europe the means to make enlargement work.

Perhaps I may offer one quote from the Prime Ministerial Statement, which I greatly welcomed; it is in reference to Iran but I think it has wider implications. The Prime Minister says that,

“there was agreement on a united European approach. Here again, the power we wield working with all the EU is greater than if we acted on our own”.

If that is what he concluded from his little jaunt to Lisbon, the trip was well worth while.

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for engaging with a Statement that, although long, is none the less important in the number of issues addressed.

Let me begin by saying that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister did what Prime Ministers are required to do: he fulfilled his obligations both to Parliament and to the European Union. He appeared before the Liaison Committee, an important body in parliamentary terms; went to Lisbon and signed the treaty; and then went to the European Council in Brussels. Whatever embarrassment the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, may feel about my right honourable friend’s signing later than the other European leaders, that is nothing compared with a Prime Minister not going at all to sign a treaty, which is the position in which the noble Lord’s party would have had us.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is right: we are stronger by working closely with our colleagues in Europe on trying to tackle issues that every noble Lord recognises are important, be it climate change, the drugs trade or international terrorism. All these big issues cannot be dealt with in isolation; we are far stronger by working with our colleagues.

Perhaps I may continue on the theme of the red lines and where we are in our discussions. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, is concerned that we might put ourselves in a difficult position. I do not believe that that is true. Having negotiated in the justice and home affairs arena for two and a half years, I know that it is possible to be very clear about wanting to ensure that Britain’s interests are fully and properly recognised and respected, and to do so in a spirit of negotiating with colleagues to work as closely together as possible in the fields to which the noble Lord referred. I am sure that that is exactly the position we would wish to ensure that we are in for the future.

I agree, too, that this is about the parliamentary democracy in which we live and about Parliament’s ability to take the decisions. How we decide to discuss the legislation is a matter for the usual channels. I am open-minded on that. If noble Lords feel that debates of a particular kind would enhance our opportunity to scrutinise the treaty I would be more than happy to consider it as a real possibility. But I shall leave that in far more capable hands than mine.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, brought us back to the principle of the reform treaty versus the constitutional treaty. I have no doubt that we will debate this at great length, and I have already had the privilege of a six and a half hour debate on it. However, the principle is that the constitutional treaty would have abolished the European Union and refounded it under a single constitutional order. That is fundamentally and distinctively different from what we have before us now, which is an amending treaty. I understand the politics of all this. I understand that politically it is useful to discuss and describe an issue as being about trust in a Government—that is what opposition parties do—but we have to be realistic. What we have before us is fundamentally different and should be treated properly in a parliamentary democracy by having it debated within Parliament.

We look forward to the young, dynamic leadership of the Liberal Democrats. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, was referring to himself in that discussion—or perhaps he was referring to me. We wait with great interest to see what happens, and we look forward very much in working closely with them to ensure that we ratify this important treaty, whoever the leader of the Liberal Democrats is tomorrow. I am extremely grateful for the support that the noble Lord has given me.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked a number of detailed questions. I cannot answer the one on the sex trade in Moldova because I do not have the information. I shall write to the noble Lord on that. On Kosovo, the noble Lord referred to the “cultural and religious heritage”, as it says in the Statement. That covers some of the artefacts to which he referred; that is a very important part of what is focusing the minds of those involved in this.

On Iran, we know that the reports from El Baradei’s and Solana’s reports have been negative, so we are looking to see if we can get a new UN Security Council resolution that will increase pressure on the Iranians, but we remain committed to a negotiated solution. So I think that we have the authority to continue as we propose.

As for immigration and migration, a lot of discussion took place. The Council’s conclusions underline the importance of taking forward what we might describe as a comprehensive approach to migration in line with what the Commission described as its new communication on common policy. We need to think about migration from a global perspective and ensure that through the European Union we can work with third countries effectively to manage migration. As noble Lords know, that led to recent directives in the field of legal migration. We shall have to decide whether we opt in to those proposals in January. Our first priority is to tackle illegal migration and work with third countries to manage that process as effectively as we can.

The reflection group is not looking at Lisbon. The 2008-11 cycle of the Lisbon strategy will be agreed in the spring Council. Instead, the reflection group is looking longer term, to 2020 and 2030, and our priorities are firmly on the agenda.

As for the EU-Africa Summit, there are conclusions in the document reflecting what happened in December. Earlier today, during Question Time, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown referred to some of the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Amos. There was strong and real criticism of Zimbabwe from Heads of State and Government, and there have been reports in particular about the comments of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. That is very much part of the agenda.

My Lords, is not the attack of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on the Prime Minister totally predictable? Does it not underline the complete bankruptcy of the Conservative Opposition on anything to do with Europe? If the Prime Minister had attended the signing of the treaty, would he not have been accused of putting the interests of the EU before those of the UK? Equally, if he had not attended the committee, would he not have been pilloried for having ignored the requirements of Parliament? In other words, he could not do right according to the Opposition. As it is—and I hope that my noble friend will agree—the Prime Minister should be congratulated on rather than condemned for what he did.

My Lords, as I have made clear, my right honourable friend fulfilled his obligations in both directions. The interesting thing for the Opposition will be, if Parliament ratifies this process, what then?

My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that it is more important to discuss the substance of this treaty than who signed what when, out of which I am not sure anyone emerges with huge credit? Those who live in glass houses really ought not to start throwing stones. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, signed the Single European Act, and the Financial Secretary, Mr Francis Maude, signed the treaty of Maastricht—both of which were much more weighty documents than this one. We should pass on to something more interesting.

On Kosovo, will the Minister confirm that the European Union is now committed, effectively, to what it was asked to do under the Ahtisaari plan and that that commitment is not conditional on a positive Russian vote in the Security Council, but will go ahead willy-nilly?

On Iran, does the Minister not agree that, although it is welcome that further sanctions against Iran will be considered both in the Security Council and the EU, there is a very strong case that, if those decisions go ahead in either one of those two forums, at the same time, the United States should say that it is prepared to enter into an unconditional dialogue with Iran?

Finally, I noticed in the conclusions of the European Council a reference to technical preparations being put in hand on the implementation of the reform treaty on the basis of a work plan to be produced by the incoming Slovenian presidency. Will the Leader of the House confirm that Britain will play a full, effective and constructive role in those preparations? I have heard that, at the moment, there is not much input from the British side.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I associate myself with his opening remarks about who signs what, when and where. Certainly, in terms of Kosovo, we believe that the Ahtisaari proposals provide the best way forward and that is the stance that we will take. We want to ensure that Kosovo's leaders remain in step with the international community and we do not want discussions to be dragged out.

On Iran, our discussions continue: I can say nothing further than that at the moment. As far as I am aware, we have been involved with the Slovenian presidency. I will try to follow up the detail of the noble Lord's comments.

My Lords, I should acknowledge that I signed the treaty for the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Union in Madrid and Lisbon. I regard that—perhaps the Minister will agree—along with the other treaties mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the one signed last week, as one of the less than elegant but essentially necessary components in progress towards the coherent development and success of the European Union.

I would not seek to argue that it was a meticulously perfect document, but they never have been because they have all been the result of endless negotiation. I am glad that it has been signed. I hope that there will be no undue enthusiasm about referendums. I have always regarded those as suitable exercises for Welshmen approving or disapproving of the opening of pubs on Sunday, but not for the merits or otherwise of a treaty of this complexity and importance.

Having said that, does the noble Baroness not understand the shameful impact of the Prime Minister’s leadership on the management of these closing stages? I am reminded of the old legal joke about counsel asking for a case to be adjourned by saying to his Lordship, “I'm afraid that the alibi witnesses are at present busy in another court”. Nothing can justify the Prime Minister's failure to play the role that ought to have been played. Frankly, I worry about the explanation for such an inadequate and incoherent performance—the reluctance to give any evidence of effective participation in team membership and support of an important project, and a reluctance to proclaim the merits either here or there in the way in which they ought to have been proclaimed. I worry that the Prime Minister, so it is said, experienced some difficulty in coexisting and cohabiting with his officials at the Treasury, demonstrated some difficulty in cohabiting with some of his own colleagues in Cabinet and demonstrated almost no ability whatever to work the room of the European Council meeting in the way that President Sarkozy did.

The Prime Minister arrived late and walked straight through the crowd as though he were among strangers, instead of taking advantage of the situation and promoting our interest by his personality and presence. Is it not this that the Prime Minister needs to learn, if he is still capable of learning such novelties—the importance of his personality at assemblies of this kind in promoting British interests in the way in which they ought to be promoted?

My Lords, I would say to the noble and learned Lord that I do not recognise his description, certainly in terms of Cabinet colleagues, of which I am one. I hope that the Front Bench opposite will listen to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, has said about the possibility and relevance of holding referendums. I am sure that noble Lords have listened carefully to the extensive Statement. It is quite clear that my right honourable friend was fully participating in all the discussions and is proud of the commitments he gained, with his colleagues from the European Union, in terms of our operation economically, in terms of poverty, in terms of our global responsibilities and so on—and indeed in the invitation to President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel to come to London to carry on discussions. I believe that demonstrates a full commitment.

My Lords, we will see the Bill tomorrow, but I would like to pursue one point, which seems somewhat ambiguous, in the Statement. The Prime Minister stated:

“To ensure that no Government can agree without Parliament’s approval … any proposal to activate the mechanisms in the treaty which provide for further moves to qualified majority voting will have to be subject to a prior vote by the House”.

Does “Parliament’s approval” merely mean approval by the House of Commons, or does it mean both Houses?

My Lords, whereas it may be the case that this country has always gone forward crabwise in the matter of European integration, is it not important to note that even at this Council meeting, something that has not been noted is the hugely important role of the EU, and discussions within the EU, on financial stability? In the Prime Minister’s Statement, not only do we show the strengths of the EU—and if I may even dare to say, of the European Central Bank, in the facilities brought forward in the past few weeks—but also that the Prime Minister is working very closely with Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy on these questions. One cannot always get 10 out of 10 for every meeting that one goes to, but these are very substantial matters where progress is being made.

My Lords, I agree completely with my noble friend about the importance of looking at issues of financial stability. The spring Council in 2008, we believe, should consider how we can respond to ensure greater market transparency. As I have indicated, my right honourable friend has invited the German Chancellor and the French President to come and discuss these issues in greater detail.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm that no constraints are imposed on the exercise of our diplomacy?

My Lords, I presume that the noble Lord is referring to the ambassador role of diplomats across the world for the UK Government, in which case the answer is yes. If the noble Lord meant something else, perhaps he can talk to me later.

My Lords, there are some aspects of the Statement that certainly require further clarification. When it is said that the Council agreed on its approach to Kosovo, was that a unanimous decision of all 27 countries, including Cyprus? Secondly, on the question of supervised independence for Kosovo, will that apply to the entire territory of Kosovo, or will it exclude the northern part of Kosovo, in which there is a Serb-Christian majority? Thirdly, the Leader of the House mentioned that the accession of Turkey was discussed in Brussels. What progress was made on that subject?

My Lords, I confirm that the decision on Kosovo was made unanimously by all 27 member states. It will include all the territory, including in the north. The noble Lord asked about Turkey. As he knows, ongoing dialogues take place on different aspects of policy that Turkey needs to pursue in order to be considered firmly for membership. I do not have the details to hand on exactly how that was taken forward. I would imagine it was a more general discussion, looking at general progress. If there are further details to give, I shall happily give those to the noble Lord.

My Lords, I long ago spent a year on these Benches. I then spent a rather longer 18 years on the Benches over there, since when I have more happily spent 10 years on these Benches, in the course of which I have never changed in my admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, a fellow Ayrshire man and one of the best contributors to this House. However, I remember that, when I was sitting over there, something called the Maastricht treaty came up; it is so long ago I can barely remember it. Being younger then, I hinted that it might be a suitable subject for a referendum. The silence on the then Government Benches was deafening, and my old friend Tom Strathclyde was among those silent. As it happens, I am temperamentally inclined towards referenda—a hush has descended on the Chamber—but I acknowledge that it is foolish of me. I wonder when the Conservative Party has ever had or hinted at holding a referendum. It did not do so even on the Magna Carta.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her presentation of the Statement, in which she mentioned the deliberations during the weekend on Burma. For many of us, the commitment to resolve the problem seems long overdue. Today, there is even more information in the national press that gives us great cause for concern. How much urgency was given to those deliberations? What further outcome does she expect and hope to see in the short term, rather than the long term?

My Lords, this was an important part of the discussions for the Council over the weekend. Noble Lords will recall that new sanctions were agreed in October, which are being implemented. As I indicated in repeating the Statement, we reaffirmed the deep concern over the situation in Burma and the importance of the roles played by China, India and ASEAN in supporting change. We believe that the next visit to Burma by Mr Gambari will be crucial, and we need real evidence that the regime is ready to move beyond gestures. We maintain that the UN continues to have the lead role in establishing an inclusive political process, and we fully support it in so doing, but my noble friend is right to bring us back to the realities of some of the desperately difficult situations that exist and the need to make significant progress, which I hope that we shall see shortly.