Motion to Take Note
That this House takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Europe in the world: Towards a more effective EU foreign and security strategy (8th Report, Session 2015–16, HL Paper 97).
My Lords, I begin with thanks, in particular to my colleagues for their commitment and constructiveness, and to our excellent committee clerk Eva George, Roshani Palamakumbura, Will Jones and our specialist adviser Dr Kai Oppermann. We were extremely well served by all of them. On behalf of the committee I express my gratitude to them. I am also grateful to the Government and to the EU high representative and vice-president of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, for their responses to our report, both of which we have had an opportunity to consider. Finally, I welcome the fact that so many of my colleagues are in the Chamber today and that a number will speak, as will a number of noble Lords who were not on the committee, which demonstrates the interest that the report has generated.
Inevitably, our work took place under the shadow of the referendum, and the referendum looms over our proceedings today. However, I stress that our inquiry was not taken for any reason connected with the referendum but because the high representative had stated some time ago that she was preparing a new EU strategy on foreign and security policy, to be published in late June. Our aim was to feed into and to influence that process. This exercise—the one we have been involved in but also the other work the EU Select Committee does—sets an example to parliaments throughout the European Union on how national parliaments can influence EU policy if they set out to study it and to make an input in due time. Our report today will have an impact, or will be seen to do so, on what Mrs Mogherini proposes at the end of June. Indeed, I am encouraged to learn from her response to our report that in a number of respects her thinking is very much in line with ours and, as I will make clear during the course of my speech, she has given other indications of the extent to which she and we have been thinking on similar lines.
At the beginning of our report we emphasised that foreign policy is the responsibility of the member states and that it should remain so. I was pleased to see that in a speech Mrs Mogherini gave in April at the European Union Institute for Security Studies she made exactly the same point. We want the European Union to provide the member states with an overarching framework within which they can act collectively and more effectively than in the past. This does not necessarily mean that all of them will work together all the time. Experience has shown that ad hoc groups acting on behalf of the Union as a whole can be the most effective means of achieving rapid and decisive action. One of a number of examples of that is of course the E3+3 on Iran. However, if one has an ad hoc group, the challenge is to ensure that the European Union has the means to ensure that the policies and actions of that group become and remain accepted by all the member states. To achieve this, we believe that the high representative should always be involved. In their response to our report the Government argue that that should not necessarily be a prerequisite. We think that the Government are mistaken because, although foreign policy is a member state responsibility, it is often executed by European Union institutions and by means of European Union instruments. The sanctions on Iran and Russia are obvious examples but one could also take examples from the fields of development and trade. So in our view it will be less difficult to achieve and maintain unity, and therefore to maintain effectiveness in the implementation of policies, if the high representative is always present on these ad hoc groups.
That brings me to the issue of Britain’s participation. Obviously, if we were to decide to leave the European Union, it would create a major upheaval in our relationships with our partners in NATO and in a number of other institutions, and it is hard to believe that foreign policy would be unaffected by that. Indeed, the fact that a number of previous NATO Secretaries-General and a number of former United States Secretaries of State have made their views known about how much they would regret Britain leaving the EU is perhaps an indication of that. However, even if the upheaval were less than I fear it might be and it were handled with the maximum good will on all sides, which naturally I hope it would be, Britain’s departure from the European Union would put us at one remove from the execution process. No doubt we would still be able to align our actions with those of the European Union but this would be less effective and more time-consuming than being part of the EU process in the first place. Therefore, we conclude that British withdrawal from the European Union would both limit the United Kingdom’s influence in foreign affairs and reduce that of the European Union.
Here, I should like to mention an exchange that I witnessed at an EU parliamentary conference in The Hague in April. Representatives of all the member state parliaments, as well as of the European Parliament, were there. One delegate—I do not know from which country she came—asked one of Mrs Mogherini’s top officials whether it would not be easier to reach agreement on foreign policy matters if Britain left the EU. The official replied, “Yes, it probably would be easier but the agreement would be worth an awful lot less than if Britain remained in the EU”. She emphasised that Britain is one of the most global member states of the EU and that the exercise of producing an EU foreign and strategic policy would be worth a good deal less if we were not part of it. I thought that that was a very apt reply and that it very much reflected the reality of the situation.
We also conclude that the most direct challenges to the security and stability of the European Union, to its member states and to the citizens of those member states originate in our neighbourhood, and that that is where the European Union’s efforts should be concentrated. I note that in a recent speech Mrs Mogherini made a similar point. In our report we call in particular for relations with Turkey to be put on to a new and sustainable footing. We believe that its application for membership having been left on the back burner for goodness knows how many years has led to disarray in the relationship between Turkey and the EU, and that it is now very important that that relationship should be rebuilt on the basis of first principles.
We do not envisage Turkey becoming a member of the EU; rather, we were thinking in terms of a close association. In the light of some of the things that are being said in the referendum campaign, it is important to emphasise that any decision for Turkey to enter the EU would require unanimity by all member states, that all member states would have a veto, and that a number of member states have made it clear in the past that they would exercise such a veto. None the less, we feel that a stable and clearly understood relationship between the EU and Turkey should be an important objective.
We have something to say too on relations with our other neighbours. So far as the Eastern Partnership countries are concerned we argue that, in the absence of a realistic timetable for entry into the Union, the European Union needs to define its objectives and interests and to communicate those as clearly as possible to the countries concerned. Most people will agree that when one looks at the political and economic state of those countries and the nature of their relationships with Russia, it is difficult to imagine them joining the EU for a very long time. However, at the same time, it is important that we have a clearly defined relationship with them, that our objectives and interests are stated, and that we avoid raising unrealistic expectations in those countries about what we are prepared to do and willing to deliver.
We believe that it is important for the European Union to continue to stand up to Russia’s breaches of international law, but at the same time make it clear that our quarrel is not with the Russian people but with the Russian leadership and that we remain open to dialogue and co-operation in areas of common interest. In this context, we also talk of the need to strengthen EU and NATO deterrents in the Baltic states and the Black Sea.
It is against this background that we call for better co-operation between the European Union and NATO. We want a closer cultural convergence between the two organisations. We address this recommendation to member states of both organisations—they are, to a great extent, the same—as much as to the organisations themselves, as individual member states’ foreign policy and defence postures can often diverge somewhat between what they say and do in an EU context and what they say and do in a NATO context.
Finally, I return to the Middle East. All of us are aware of the huge challenge of the migrant crisis, which has become more serious and more difficult since we completed our report. The migrant crisis was not part of our report’s purview, but the crisis itself emphasises our recommendation that the EU should focus its attention on the linked issues in the Middle East of economic reform and good governance, and on the political, judicial and security sectors of those countries, and seek to assist in whatever way it can in their development.
That is a brief summary of what the committee has proposed. I am grateful to the Government and the high representative for their responses. I look forward to what my colleagues and others have to say. I beg to move.
I join the high representative and Mr Lidington, the Minister, in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, and the members of his committee. I invite your Lordships to imagine the headline: “Boris says EU will abolish the Foreign Office”. This is not far from similarly wild claims made by Brexit supporters. Their vision of an EU leviathan rolling over all our hallowed institutions, even in areas that are traditionally the preserve of the nation state—internal security and external relations—is far from the truth.
It is not surprising that, even at a time of globalisation, these areas of internal security and external relations are least touched by the European Union. Yet at a time of unprecedented movement of peoples, of international terrorism and of concern about climate change, it is increasingly difficult to draw a neat distinction between domestic and foreign affairs. Thus, co-operation with our EU partners is ever more necessary and best carried forward with common institutions. The questions posed in this thorough report are: how effective is that co-operation now and how best can it be improved?
I shall make three brief reflections. First, the core of our external relations is now and will remain our national foreign service, our national International Development department, our national intelligence and security services, and our national defence pooled through NATO. But there is a clear need to strengthen our joint impact overseas by working closely with our EU partners, including in the defence field and the European Defence Agency.
Within the EU, different sizes, geography and historic experience make some foreign services pre-eminent. Even if ad hoc groups are appropriate—coalitions of the willing—there must be mechanisms for consulting other EU countries. I recall in 1963 a telegram from our ambassador in Paris about a conversation with President de Gaulle. De Gaulle had said, “There are only two nations in Europe worthy of the name: France and the United Kingdom, and perhaps”—he said possibly as an afterthought—“the Dutch”. Certainly, France and the UK provide about two-thirds of the EU’s spend on research, but we should welcome Germany playing an increasing political and defence role commensurate with its immense economic strength. Let us remember that all countries within the European Union bring something special, something unique, to the table: Spain and Portugal, relations with Latin America; the Baltics and other eastern European countries, relations with Russia; Austria and Slovenia, relations with the Balkans; France, relations with west Africa; and ourselves, the Commonwealth, which at the previous CHOGM built an important consensus on climate change in advance of the historic Paris conference. We should also know ourselves. Europe should surely give priority to our neighbourhood, where our interests are most engaged—countries to the east of the European Union and countries to the south.
The report is right in drawing attention to Russia and Turkey. Over Russia, the European Union achieved a remarkable common policy on sanctions in response to Russia’s aggression in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Over Turkey, we have a long and protracted exercise in ambiguity and delusion, when surely we need honesty in our relationships. We need to forge a special strategic partnership with that important country—as the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, said, a close association. However, pace Ms Mordaunt, there is no serious prospect of Turkey becoming a full EU member within a reasonable period, even though, as Mr Lidington stated in his letter of 15 April, there is,
“strong future potential in co-operation with Turkey”.
Again, we should remember that all European Union instruments, including the prospect of membership, succeeded in building a closer working relationship between Serbia and Kosovo. I give much credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, for her role in that new rapport, still much to be developed.
Secondly, whatever doubts may be expressed about the EU’s role in international affairs, the key fact is that the European Union already has an interface globally, with its responsibilities for trade and in the fields of energy and development policies—which might have had a higher profile in this report. Of course, it needs personnel to carry out these responsibilities.
Two questions arise. Is there sufficient co-ordination between all the relevant EU institutions, including the European External Action Service and the Commission, to maximise the impact—a problem of co-ordination not unknown in Whitehall in seeking to bring together the Foreign Office, DfID and the MoD? Again, how do we encourage more UK nationals, including FCO secondments, to join the EEAS and the Commission generally? Clearly, this is not encouraged by the Government’s past uncertain commitment to the European Union.
We need a debate about the nature of the EU contribution to international affairs. The old United States jibe was, “We”—that is, the US—“do the cooking, Europe will do the washing up”. Hard power is sometimes necessary. The US now presses us to play a greater role. We shall need to learn the lessons of past interventions—yes Iraq, yes Libya. We and France provide much of the hard power but the emphasis will often be on soft power across the spectrum—including sanctions, if we define sanctions still as soft power. We must recognise the difficulties of intelligence sharing, given the traditional open culture of the European Union and the understandable hesitations about sharing our intelligence.
The EU contribution will often be the spreading of our values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our model and influence may be further harmed by the current policies in Poland and Hungary, and by some of the necessary alliances with certain dictators in west Africa in relation to the migrant crisis.
It is puzzling that the report makes no reference to the Council of Europe, which is the pre-eminent human rights body in Europe and to which the European Union often subcontracts its work on human rights and governance. The Venice Commission, for example, provides helpful advice on both the formation and building of constitutions across the east of Europe and to countries such as Tunisia.
The conclusion is that our strategy must be to concentrate as Europeans on our neighbourhood and on what we do best. Our interests as Europeans can best be furthered by working together. As the report rightly says:
“When the Union speaks with one voice and wields its entire arsenal of foreign policy instruments, it can be an uncommon and exceptional actor”.
My Lords, as a relatively new member of the EU Sub-Committee on External Affairs, this is the first inquiry I have been involved with. I have found it an extremely positive experience. As the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, has already said, the report is an excellent example of the role that national Parliaments can play in producing considered and timely reports on matters of key importance to the EU. I am sure that I speak for all members of the sub-committee when I pay tribute to the highly effective chairing of our committee by the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat. His excellent and eloquent speech today illustrates why we will miss him so much from our committee.
In exactly three weeks’ time Mrs Mogherini will present her global strategy on foreign and security policy to the European Council in Brussels. This will take place just days after the result of the EU referendum. It will not, as certain elements of our media would have us believe, produce a secret blueprint for a European Army. As this report clearly sets out, foreign and security policy is and should remain the domain of member states.
Since the last EU foreign policy strategy review by Javier Solana in 2003, the world has changed substantially. We now face immense global challenges of population movement, civil wars on our borders and the environmental impact of global warming on a scale that 13 years ago even the most pessimistic would have been unlikely to forecast. During this timeframe we have also faced a financial crisis, economic recession and austerity measures, combined with a growing dislike of and lack of trust in the established elites shown by electorates across the European Union. It is against this backdrop that Mrs Mogherini has been producing her report.
The new global strategy should provide a framework for more effectively prioritising the EU’s foreign policy and security objectives. It should look to areas where EU member states working together can add value. It should acknowledge the great potential that the EU offers through effective trade policy and its offer to third countries of access to a single market of 500 million consumers. It should look at ways to improve its working with other international organisations such as NATO and the United Nations, and with our partners such as the United States.
It should acknowledge that one of the most effective assets is through the combined use of resources, the potential to provide training, capacity building and the effective use of soft power which should complement the hard power and military capacity of NATO. As the Select Committee’s report states, new ways of working more effectively together in ad hoc groups of countries should be encouraged and supported where experience, language and shared history make it sensible to do so. But first and foremost, the new global strategy should produce an effective response to the challenges and threats on our borders which are now having a direct effect on all member states, not just the United Kingdom.
In this excessively polarised EU referendum campaign, where exaggerated views are expressed in the most black and white terms, it is the debate in the area of foreign and security policy where I personally have found myself becoming most irritated. The idea peddled by the leave campaign that somehow, if we remove ourselves from the European Union, we will also be able to remove ourselves from these global crises and challenges on our borders is frankly absurd. It is also wholly dishonest to the British people. Faced with such challenges, it is dishonest to suggest that if we pull up the drawbridge everything will be okay, and that Britain in splendid isolation will somehow be better equipped to deal with these global challenges on our own.
Our geographical position as a European country is an indisputable fact, no matter what the outcome of the referendum. We will continue to be affected by the war in Syria, instability in Africa and the mass movement of people northwards as a result of economic poverty or environmental disaster. Faced with such challenges, it seems only logical to work with our European partners to try to find effective joint responses to the difficult and rapidly changing events which are facing us all. I fear that if we do not work to find effective solutions together, the rise of populism and nationalism across the EU could threaten the very peace that the EU has so successfully helped to achieve on our continent. But producing joint responses will require genuine leadership and an honest debate with our populations about the realities of the scale of the problems that we are facing.
That is not to say that the European foreign and security policy has been without its flaws. As someone who studied and lived in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the time of its collapse, and who used to spend so much time there in the heady and optimistic days of the end of the Cold War, I feel deeply saddened by the missed opportunity of the eastern neighbourhood policy. I believe that we also significantly misread the Arab spring and have witnessed a badly co-ordinated follow-up response. Equally, we are currently in danger of badly mishandling relations with Turkey. We now find ourselves faced with an increasingly autocratic Erdogan and Putin, and a highly complex proxy war in Syria.
But there have been successes, too, as the report clearly sets out, notably in the deal struck with Iran and the united EU-wide approach to sanctions against Russia. However, I believe that it is in the UK’s own interest to learn from past mistakes and to help lead and shape the future CFSP. After the fall of the Berlin Wall it was the UK that led the way towards EU enlargement by providing a process which led to the rule of law and democracy for our central and eastern European partners. Nobody should deny that the path is still quite bumpy in some of these countries, but within the framework of the EU it is much easier to maintain leverage. We sometimes forget now what the enlargement process has achieved: the rule of law, improved environmental standards, and democracy in countries which, when I was at university, were all still closed communist dictatorships.
The referendum debate’s focus has been extremely Brito-centric. Much has been done to play on voters’ fears of an increasingly scary and interdependent world. We have, however, concentrated rather less on the impact that our decision will have on our 27 member state partners. There can be little doubt that an EU foreign and security policy would be significantly diminished if the UK were to vote to leave. Such an outcome would risk destabilising the remaining 27 member states. Instability on the continent of Europe will have a direct impact on our security as well as our economy. The history of the last century shows that just because we are an island we are in no way immune to what happens to our near European neighbours.
In the last 15 years we have lost clout and influence in EU institutions. When I arrived to work in the European Parliament 20 years ago, in 1996, everyone spoke French, but a great many of the senior staff in those institutions were British. Indeed, at times it seemed like we were running the place, from the Secretary-General of the European Parliament to many of the most influential DGs in the Commission. Now everyone communicates in English—but, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has already said, we are significantly underrepresented in the EU institutions, including in the External Action Service. Can the Minister confirm that if we do vote to remain in the European Union, the Government will draw up a strategy to improve the UK’s high-level representation in the EU institutions, including further efforts to improve the teaching of foreign languages, which is undoubtedly, in my view, one of the things that holds us back?
In concluding, I sincerely hope that common sense will prevail and that the Government can go to the European Council summit on 28 June from a position of strength. From that position of strength, I hope that the UK will take a lead in proposing a more effective European foreign and security policy. The scale of the problems facing our neighbours in Syria, Libya and north Africa require ambitious, forward-looking proposals. Building on the very positive lead of the London Donors Conference, I would argue that once peace is eventually negotiated in Syria, the UK should take a lead once more and promote serious investment in the MENA region—perhaps a new Marshall plan for north Africa and the Middle East. It will take courageous leadership that puts country ahead of party. It will require a similar depth of vision to that we successfully showed after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
My Lords, as a member of the sub-committee that conducted this inquiry, I am delighted that we have the opportunity today to debate this report. As we do so, though, it is perhaps worth pausing, just for a moment, to reflect on why the EU’s strategic review of its foreign and security policy is so important to us. After all—some might argue—if the people of this country vote on 23 June to separate themselves from the Union then that review will be of no more than academic interest to us.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, has observed, nothing could be further from the truth. We acceded to the EU in 1973, yet more than 400 years earlier, in the 16th century, we were busily engaged in maintaining a balance of power in Europe, making use of alliances with such partners as Portugal, the Ottoman Empire and the Netherlands. During the 18th century we engaged in the stately quadrille, in which we, Austria, France and Russia moved through a series of changing alliances designed to provide security within Europe. After the Napoleonic Wars came the Concert of Europe, then the Triple Entente. The failure of the League of Nations in the 20th century led eventually to the Anglo-French guarantee to Poland; and in the aftermath of the Second World War, we moved on to NATO and then the EU.
The plain fact is that, for most of the past millennium, the security of these islands has been bound inextricably to the security of the rest of the continent, and that will continue to be the case whatever the outcome of the referendum on 23 June. Whether we are inside or outside the Union, the EU’s foreign and security policy will have huge implications for us in the UK. We have, and will continue to have, a critical stake in its success or failure.
So what can the EU do now and in the years ahead to improve the effectiveness of its policies in these areas? In the limited time available to me, I should like to point to three areas—already touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, in his excellent speech—where it might focus its efforts. First, it must recognise that its strategy must link ends, ways and means in a coherent and achievable fashion. There is a common saying which holds that you cannot will the end if you do not will the means. This is certainly true, but it can be expressed in another form: you cannot will the end if you do not possess the means.
When we talk of “means” in this sense, we refer essentially to power: the power to persuade others to change their minds and/or their courses of action. That power can take many forms. Moral authority, economic weight, diplomatic skill, military force—these are all dimensions of power, but many of the sources of such power, and the authority to wield them, reside within individual states, not with the authorities of the EU. In many ways, therefore, the EU as an institution acts as an organising, co-ordinating and focusing instrument for such power, rather than its source. This does not mean that the Union is powerless, far from it, but it means that for its foreign and security policy to be effective, the EU must recognise and account for the limitations inherent in the means by which that power is generated.
However and wherever it is generated, though, most elements of that power will depend upon a framework of economic strength. Delivering that strength is not the remit of those working on the foreign and security policy, but their efforts will be largely in vain if the EU and its members cannot restore their economic vigour. Riches cannot by themselves guarantee security, but poverty can pretty much ensure its absence. That holds, of course, for individual states just as much as for the continent more widely.
My second proposition concerns the need for prioritisation, as set out in the report. Not long ago there was perhaps a sense that security within the immediate environs of the EU could be taken broadly for granted—that while we might not have seen the end of history on the global stage, we had witnessed it within Europe and the EU could therefore focus its attention and spread its benison further afield. That dangerous illusion has been dispelled. The threats to the security of our continent and to the members of the EU are serious and growing. The EU needs to act strategically to counter them. Of course the Union has wider interests and should not ignore them, but its priority must be its own members and the European neighbourhood, not grandiose schemes for global security.
My final point concerns the worrying disconnect within the EU between hard and soft power. The EU’s strengths lie very much with the latter, but power cannot sensibly be divided up into discrete parcels. Clausewitz maintained that war was the continuation of policy—or politics—by other means. The nature and measure of the power appropriate to the conduct of international affairs will vary not just between, but within situations. So while the EU may not, and indeed should not, be the principal instrument for the exercise of hard power, it should nevertheless be able to co-ordinate its own activities effectively with the application of such power.
As the report makes clear, the Berlin Plus arrangements, which were to provide for such co-ordination by linking NATO and EU activities, have proved ineffective. This is a dangerous situation. There are many dimensions of power that are unavailable to NATO and the same is true of the EU. Together they can supply the continent with the spectrum of power necessary for our security, but if they cannot do it seamlessly and coherently, then we are in danger. The two institutions must find a solution to this dilemma.
There are, of course, several other very useful recommendations in the report, and I hope that the EU will give them all the serious consideration that they deserve. I sense that throughout the continent there is a growing realisation that we need to pay much more attention to our security, and that this may at last be beginning to be reflected in the appropriate budgets. It is still too little, but it is at least a beginning. The UK has rightly given a lead to our partners in this regard. We need to continue to give such a lead in that and all other areas of this crucial debate.
My Lords, I have on the wall of my office a large chart that was given to me by the Ministry of Transport when I tried single-handedly and with no support to save the shipbuilding industry. It shows the position of His Majesty’s ships and at harbour in the year of my birth. It is quite an amazing chart because we were totally global. I have been brought up always to believe as a Scot, when my family went off and helped to colonise Australia and things of that sort because we earned more money abroad, that we are a global nation. However, other people do not feel that. It is not a question of the Commonwealth.
At the moment, we look at defence and fear. The biggest single fear, I gather, is immigration or migration. This seems to worry people more than it worries me because we have been a nation that built ourselves on immigrants and things worldwide. I play with this chart regularly, I take it out and with the new technology I look first at what is the British Empire. You look not just at the land but at the 200 nautical mile exclusion zone. I have raised this before in your Lordships’ House. You find that the United Kingdom, with the Commonwealth, effectively has approximately 21% of that exclusion zone. You then look at who are the other people with power over the sea. The next one, not surprisingly, is France with its own dependent territories and things. France and the United Kingdom together have some 25% or 26%. Now, this is totally irrelevant information to other people but to me it is a form of hidden power.
Then I found other things from time to time. I did not know that my grandfather when Postmaster-General laid the underground cables from America across the world, or that those are the only secure methods of communication that exist today because everything that goes through the airwaves can be hacked into or picked up. We look at the pattern of our trade. When I came here, I was told that I had better go and learn about things where things were going to happen. Lord Shackleton put me on the East European Trade Council and, with a lot of people, I was dragged off to places where I did not know where I was, and came back. Afterwards, I got to go to Ukraine, Albania where we looked at chrome, and the whole of east Europe. I found it fascinating.
Then I was told that I ought to know something about Africa and read that book, The Scramble for Africa. I took a look again at that and spent time repeating this to your Lordships’ House. Why did we go to Africa in the beginning and what were the resources that they had? Where have those resources that were underground and in other places disappeared to? I did not know that Ghana was about gold. Then I found that my great-uncle was Stafford Cripps and that his daughter—my cousin—Peggy married Joe Appiah, who was known as “Veranda Joe”. I had not realised that when the King of Ghana went to the Middle East to visit Mecca, he took with him so much gold that the price of gold collapsed for 50 years. These are all historical things but our knowledge of other people’s countries these days is very limited.
First, take our great fear. As I mentioned, the fear of the nation is migration or immigration. That must be addressed because, with all the queues of people hanging out waiting to get into the United Kingdom, it may have an impact for some time to come. We must look at where we go ourselves. We must accept that we are and always will be a global nation. By “global”, I mean every single country in the world. We have one of the strongest economies. We do not seem to have any fear; we have a good defence operation—it is pretty good, but sometimes people seem to be frightened of goodness knows what. I live in the very happy hope that having been here for 52 years I may have a few years longer.
However, there needs to be some decision-making as to where, who and how we develop overseas countries to our own benefit. We do not have the resources here now. It is amazing that having been such a great steel country we should rely on individual foreigners to save our manufacturing of iron and steel. I have great hope for the future. I have enjoyed this place. As somebody said, “You’re jolly lucky. You have been drip-fed by geriatrics who know what they are taking about, and now you have become one”.
My Lords, I am not a member of the European Union Committee but I am delighted to speak in this debate. I congratulate the committee, and the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, on producing, as ever, a balanced and clear introduction to the debate. The committee’s report covers a wide range of issues and is already having an impact, as we see from the responses from both the Government and the head of the European External Action Service.
I want to expand on some of the issues covered in the report and perhaps touch on one or two that are not there. Later this month, I will vote to remain in the European Union, primarily because I believe that it is a force for good in the world, and potentially can be an even more powerful one. I believe very strongly in the soft power of the European Union. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, made a number of very valid points analysing the nature of power and the way it can be used. I do not believe that the European Union is there to exert military power; that is a role for other international organisations. Given our history, economic strength and our adherence, largely, to the democratic rule of law and human rights, the European Union exerts soft power in the world today which is strong and can ensure change elsewhere and within our own borders. Therefore, I believe very strongly that the aim of the European Union’s foreign and security policy should be visionary. It should be about creating a cleaner, more peaceful and more equal world. That should be the stated aim of this policy, not something cobbled together by a cosy consensus that is meek or weak and does not provide leadership to the peoples of Europe when they look around the world. This new foreign and security policy for the European Union should be ambitious and visionary. It should be about the rest of the 21st century, not these years right now.
The European Union is a force for good that can help tackle security threats such as nuclear, cyber and violent extremism by intervening throughout the world to prevent conflict, not just by responding militarily. The European Union can challenge climate change and produce a cleaner environment for future generations through introducing international rules and ensuring adherence to them. It can help to tackle inequality throughout the world—not just economic inequality but inequality of rights. In helping to tackle instability and our historic shame that we are partly responsible for inequality throughout the world, the European Union can be a force for good.
In an interdependent world we look to the European Union for solidarity on these issues, for a voice elsewhere in the world and for action throughout the world focused mostly on the immediate neighbourhood, as the committee rightly recommends, but perhaps also including sub-Saharan Africa, an area where we have particular responsibilities. We look to that voice to ensure the adoption and implementation of sustainable development goals—not just the adoption of strong climate change agreements but their implementation too, and not just action on conflict today but long-term action to prevent conflict and extremism in the future, using our soft power to shape the world, not just to react to world events.
I shall comment briefly on four issues that may be slightly underplayed in the committee’s report. The first is development. We cannot divorce diplomacy and defence—the elements on which the report focuses—from development. Diplomacy, defence and development have to go hand in hand. Therefore, the European Union taking a lead on spending 0.7% of GNI on development aid is as important as its taking a lead on spending 2% on defence, which is highlighted in the report. Both should have been highlighted. Our European history gives us a duty to maintain a long-term commitment to development in countries where we were partly responsible for the exploitation that led to their conditions in the first place. Because of our democratic institutions and elements such as the independent rule of law, the European Union can play a real role internationally, particularly in our immediate neighbourhood and in sub-Saharan Africa, in capacity building, institution building and economic development.
Secondly, there is a role for the European Union in encouraging the capacity of other continents and regions to build institutions that help them act in solidarity, in their own neighbourhood and internationally. The European Union’s relationship with the African Union should be much stronger. It is already viewed as strong, but the long-term strategy for the European Union should surely be to help build an African Union which can take the kind of action we ourselves take in supporting African states in their capacity building and conflict prevention. An EU/AU long-term vision would send a very strong signal that we see aid as a short-term investment and capacity building as the long-term investment in people helping themselves. Elsewhere in the world, in ASEAN, in south-east Asia and elsewhere, people look to the European Union as a model. They look to our regional solidarity as a way of working together. The EU has a role to play in encouraging that.
Thirdly, the vision for enlargement has gone way off the tracks. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was clear where the next steps were going to be and how important enlargement was—not for the European Union as an institution, a building, an organisation or a group of people, but for the continent. I was in Poland in 2000, speaking as External Affairs Minister for the then new Scottish Government, to a class of 16 and 17 year-olds. They had a light and a sparkle in their eyes at the prospect of joining the European Union. When they spoke to me, they viewed it as re-joining the mainstream of Europe. That light is not there in too many countries on the border of the European Union today. The European Union should have a much clearer long-term aim on enlargement that sets out the steps we want to take and our priorities.
Finally, there is an issue with the missions. It is not referred to often enough that the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, has done a remarkable and significant job in bringing together the European Union missions at country level around the world. As we know only too well, it is sometimes a difficult task to get diplomats, development workers and others to work together in this country, even when they have the best of intentions. However, in many cases, the European Union missions throughout the world are not yet coherently linked up with the individual embassies of the European Union member states. There is still a job to be done in clarifying the role of the EU missions in individual countries and how they complement and work with the embassies of the individual member states.
In this Chamber, we talk a lot about public disillusion with the European Union and its institutions. The noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, has already talked about the rise of nationalism and anti-European feeling. If the European Union took a global lead with a vision such as this for foreign and security policy, people would believe in the institution more. It is not just about the nuts and bolts of their everyday lives: if they feel as if the institution is doing something to help create a better world, that will help in a small way to reduce the anti-European feeling which is developing in far too many places.
My Lords, I echo and wholly endorse the comments of my noble friend Lady Suttie about the quality of the chairmanship of the sub-committee by the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat. I will pick up on the section of the report that alludes to a new Helsinki dialogue in relation to Russia and to European security. This issue will be with all of us in Europe for the long term, irrespective of whether or not the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union.
As many of us will recall, the Helsinki Final Act came into being in a period of very high tension with the Soviet Union and was built on a structure that required considerable concessions and constant dialogue between the parties. As the report states, our Government believe that there is no need to invent new structures and new treaties to address our current problems with Russia. That is perfectly understandable. The Helsinki Final Act is not in fact a treaty and there is little likelihood that we today could greatly improve on the framework our forebears achieved in 1975.
I suggest that the real issue at stake here is not one of structure or treaty but rather one of intent and purpose. Helsinki responded to a need for reassessment and a change of outlook. The current parallel is that today, however you look at it, there is very little resembling a European security strategy with regard to the tensions we are experiencing with Russia. I know it will be objected—indeed, it has been—that, on the contrary, through its sanctions on Russia the EU has demonstrated a united foreign and security policy. It is striking how repeatedly one is referred to the unity of the EU’s sanctions regime as a self-evident definition of its success. But, as the report concludes,
“sanctions are an instrument of policy, not a strategy”,
and unity is not in itself proof of a policy’s success. Only its consequences and outcomes will demonstrate whether or not it has worked.
Today it is not my purpose to question the efficacy of the sanctions against Russia. Realistically, some of them will probably remain, although I suspect that they may eventually prove to have turned to the greater advantage of the Russians. One is told that the Russian economy is buckling as a result of the measures we have taken, but if you look at the figures relating to the profitability of their companies, the government budget, their balance of payments, unemployment and so on, the Russian economy is doing surprisingly well, or better than we thought.
My point is that at the height of the Cold War, when politically Europe was in a state of much insecurity, when there were indeed also embargoes and sanctions on the Soviet bloc and COMECON, at the same time a constant dialogue was maintained through the sophisticated use of various instruments to ensure that the dangers of escalation were recognised and contained. What should concern us today is that there is hardly that level of dialogue now.
The argument, understandably, is that Russia has breached the principles of European security and that the consequence must be political, diplomatic and economic isolation. There is no doubt that Russia has breached those principles, but the USSR also violated the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. We Europeans objected very strongly, but we maintained the motivation to engage, recognising that that was the sensible means to manage tensions. Today, tomorrow—who knows? Perhaps we may need to become more confrontational with Russia, but we should not deceive ourselves in the meantime. You cannot for long run a disconnected relationship—saying, as it were, to the Russians, “We shall co-operate with you over Iran. We may share joint objectives against ISIL. But, by the way, we shall do our best to destroy your economic and commercial infrastructure”. As a model of strategy, that does not work.
There is a strategic framework that we Europeans can negotiate with Russia over the longer term to address the many problems that lie between us, but for this to happen we have to be honest on two fundamental issues. To depend on a policy of isolation, economic sanctions, the belief that Russia will implode and the hope that Putin and his court will disappear is wishful thinking, and the US seems now to have recognised that that is the case. But while the US can and will act independently, if we in Europe are to enter into a longer-term engagement with Russia than our current attitude enjoins, we shall need to consider some different instruments from the ones we are presently using. The Russians and Americans will not do that for us.
Russia in Europe is a recurrent theme in our continent’s history and, by the same token, it has regularly had to be reassessed. This report is to be welcomed for its recognition of the need for a genuinely strategic European approach.
My Lords, it is consoling, in the midst of this unnecessary and divisive referendum, that there is at least one devoted group carefully considering the future of EU foreign and security policy. I was not surprised to read in the report that, according to one former EU ambassador, Mr Pierini, the UK’s own foreign policy had hardly been mentioned since the referendum debate began, and that other witnesses thought that the UK had simply taken a back seat. I may not be alone in thinking that, perhaps for that reason, the UK has been rather ignored in the report. Apart from minor references under other headings there is only one page given to our own foreign policy, ending with the rather bald conclusion that we are an important player and that Brexit would limit our influence. I regard that as a serious understatement. I know that these reports are intended to reflect and analyse EU affairs and that they are, rightly, highly respected for that in Europe. But we are after all living in the UK and the committee has missed an important opportunity. It can scarcely plead that the referendum has been a distraction in this House, although the campaign has clearly been a negative factor as far as our EU partners are concerned.
My participation today is partly inspired by nostalgia for my previous membership of this sub-committee and reflects a degree of envy of the experience of colleagues in preparing this report. At this point, I thank our friend and colleague the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, for all his chairing over many months and years, with these splendid results. The committee has again received the wisdom of a panoply of diplomats and experts, at a time when the UK was hardly flavour of the month in Brussels. It is refreshing to see business as usual when even the principle of retaining your Lordships’ EU sub-committees must be temporarily in the balance until, as most of us expect, the majority of our population decides wisely in favour of our EU membership.
Much of the scene-setting of the report, whose general direction I applaud, is a series of statements of the obvious: that the EU has to have a strategy; that it must state key priorities; and that it should focus on the “wider neighbourhood”. This presumably means out of the meadow and into the jungle. Given the width and depth of the strategic review, I was pleased to read Professor Tripp’s advice that its architects should proceed country by country. It is important to recognise that there are quite a few situations beyond the control or even the influence of the EU. Syria is paramount in this list because, while Europe is on the receiving end of mass migration, it has almost no power to deal with the causes behind it.
The EU has not been a provider of security to Syria and it has a limited role in the Vienna process. It is therefore well outside the EU’s sphere of political influence—and that is where it should stay, although the many powers entrusted with the problem, including the Security Council itself, have made hardly any progress. Given their historic role in the region, it is surprising that some member states have not taken more initiative within the EU—perhaps, as the report says, because of the rule of unanimity. The report rightly urges member states to be more proactive with ad hoc agreements and to make more use of the TEU provisions. The noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, emphasised that. The noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, also mentioned the importance of the presence of the high representative. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, used the rather splendid phrase “focusing instrument” in respect of what the EU should actually do.
When it comes to refugees, the EU already has a strong interest in preventing further migration out of Syria. In the first instance, it supported the first waves of refugees entering Turkey. Less successfully, it has attempted to stem the flow into Europe itself, including migrants from further afield. The report is unimpressed by the latest flawed agreement with Turkey. The action plan takes little account of the EU’s guiding principles, for example, and refoulement is in any case against international law.
There is no mention in the report of the Khartoum process, which, as the Minister well knows, is a major new EU initiative to curb migration in north Africa and the Horn of Africa, chaired by the United Kingdom. This is an important new priority for the Foreign Office and for DfID. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, reminded us that the EU should continue to strengthen institutions in Africa—as it has already with the African Union, through its splendid base in Addis Ababa.
The other major priority of course for the EU is Russia and the eastern neighbourhood. It is a pity that the ENP review, of the neighbourhood partnership, is unconnected with the strategic review. I have said in previous debates that the EU must make greater effort to understand the Kremlin. This is easily said, but it should be a vital part of our security strategy. Our earlier report on Russia and Ukraine regretted that the EU and the UK cut both staff and skills during those years of optimism and neglect described by the noble Baroness. Most people now accept that the end of the Cold War also meant false assumptions about Russia, and we quite simply took our eye off the ball. We should now make up for this deficit or we will do little but complain about Russian aggression.
The EU surely needs to “understand … long-standing Russian resentments”, in the words of the report, which also recommends that the EU should follow a dual-track policy, be more open to dialogue and put forward a more positive agenda. The noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, gave us very good advice on the right strategic framework. The Normandy format, which achieved the Minsk agreement—without the help of the UK—need not bypass the EU but should reinforce the EU’s agenda. Like the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, I welcome Germany’s growing involvement in EU foreign policy, of which this is another example.
I was disappointed to read General Shirreff’s evidence on dwindling EU-NATO co-operation, and I would like to hear from the Minister whether this is true. I cannot help feeling that the EU should be allowed a much stronger role in NATO operations, where, through more cultural co-operation, as the report says, they can have a combined impact on the eastern neighbourhood.
Elsewhere, there have been the foreign policy advances already mentioned. Our very own noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, and her advisers can be content with one of the EU’s greatest milestones in the agreement with Iran—but only as far as it goes, and it still has much further to go—while not forgetting that the US of course played the leading hand.
The Serbia-Kosovo agreement was also facilitated by the EEAS. The Bosnia-Herzegovina initiative was important and ended a stalemate in that region. I would also include the CSDP projects, although in terms of security they are further down the line and rank as development projects. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, covered those very well. The report could have dealt with them at more length.
This summer sees the end of term for a number of major EU CSDP projects. I am especially anxious about EULEX, the rule of law project in Kosovo, which is one of the flagships of enlargement. It has already been has already been reviewed and reduced in size, but it is surely critical to the rapprochement with Serbia, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that it will continue.
All in all it has been a useful report, flagging up some of the glaring deficiencies in EU security—and I have not even mentioned terrorism. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, who would like to have seen a more substantial and visionary report, with a global outlook—one which showed that the UK was providing active ingredients that are necessary to the EU and will remain so after this unnecessary referendum.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who has just concluded his remarks, mentioned a previous report from the sub-committee on the European Union and Russia. He was on the committee at the time and I was not, so I can honestly say that it was a superb report and a great credit to the chairman, my noble friend Lord Tugendhat. I pay tribute to him, too, for his work during that period. It is such a pity that he has to resign from the chairmanship under our rather brutal rules in the House of Lords.
Having said that, I want to say more about Russia, following up from what the noble Earls, Lord Sandwich and Lord Oxford and Asquith, said. In our report, we say:
“The High Representative should devote particular attention to the issue of EU policy on Russia”.
As has been said, we are advocating a dual-track policy—being tough when necessary but being prepared to talk and have a dialogue when we can find space for that. I shall confine my remarks to Russia, although confining is rather an odd word to use in that context, given that Russia is such a huge issue and a huge country.
I have always been a huge admirer of the Russian people and Russia. One should always remember the Great Patriotic War, as they call it, when no fewer than 28 million Soviet citizens died during the course of that struggle, which was so fundamental to the defeat of Hitler. That leaves aside the great Russian cultural history—their opera, ballet and literature. I have recently seen “Boris Godunov” at the Royal Opera House and, like others, watched “War and Peace” on TV. One thrills at what Russia has contributed to the world; it is a country that has been, and always will be, in the front rank of nations.
However, Russia appears to be run today by the lineal descendants of the KGB. President Putin is a former KGB man, and many of the people at the top of the Government have a security background. Their interest appears to be in power politics and, most of all, in remaining in power themselves. As a consequence of that, they have taken to bullying their immediate neighbours fairly outrageously. In her excellent book Beyond Crimea, which has just been published, Agnia Grigas points out the sophistication and thought that has gone into many of the battery of weapons that they have used on their immediate neighbours. For example, they have exploited the 30 million Russians who were left outside Russia itself when the Soviet Union collapsed and are now all over Ukraine, Kazakhstan and so on. In the second city of Estonia, Narva, which is on the border of Russia, 80% of people are Russian speakers. Equally, they have conducted information warfare through their control of television—they control all four major TV channels in Russia—and put a message across that is deeply hostile to the West and portrays us as weak and ineffectual. The contradiction between those two points of view does not seem to have struck them; it is what they consistently say. All that appeals to Russia’s sense of itself as a continuing empire, under the tsars and in the Soviet Union, and its sense of insecurity and what has happened since the end of the Cold War. I can quite understand why that has left President Putin with a great deal of popularity. As has been said, that is unlikely to change in the immediate future.
How do we respond? First, we have had sanctions. The effect is unclear. In addition, we need a big information effort. In January last year, Britain, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania called on the European Union to create an information alternative to Russian propaganda. That is tremendously important in the views of people in eastern Europe and should be put into action forthwith.
Outside the European Union, we have to recognise that the Baltic countries are the Achilles heel of NATO. They need to be reinforced militarily. At the moment the Anaconda wargames are going on in Poland. I welcome that. The Poles point out that there is constant activity on the other side of the border. We occasionally do it, but we should be alive to the situation there. We should support Ukraine, which is not part of NATO, with training and equipment as far as it possible to do so in its rather desperate situation. We have to hope and expect that many of these countries—Ukraine, Estonia and so forth—will reform themselves, encourage the inclusiveness of Russian speakers as well as native speakers and become less corrupt and more like a truly western country.
If we respond in this co-ordinated and coherent way, I am not pessimistic about the future—although I agree that the future may be a long time off. Russia must wonder whether it can sustain all the foreign and military policies which it has embarked on. I noticed what the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, said about the possible effects of sanctions, but other estimates suggest that Russia has lost out to the tune of $140 billion a year as a result of the combination of the reduction in the oil price and economic sanctions. I noticed an article in the Times the other day which suggested that ordinary people in Russia were suffering from economic sanctions, whatever the elite may be doing. Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister, was heckled by a pensioner who had not had her pension increased for two years in a row. He said: “There’s no money”—a familiar cry to Conservatives:
“‘When we find the money, we’ll make the adjustment’, a ruffled Mr Medvedev added, before shouting over the woman’s protests: ‘You hang on in there. Best wishes! Cheers! Take care!’
A pizza restaurant in St Petersburg swiftly put a poster in its window advertising: ‘Sale! Margarita pizza for members for parliament and government officials—price €100 … If you don’t have the money, just hang on in there! Be well and good luck!!’ … internet wags soon followed, with images including an empty toilet roll holder above a sign reading: ‘No paper. But hang on in there. Best wishes, cheers, take care’”.
They have not lost their sense of humour in Russia, but I wonder whether ordinary people are suffering rather more than we know.
Secondly, Russian tactics do not always work as well as it hopes. Russia may have gained, temporarily, Luhansk and Donetsk, and the Crimea possibly even permanently, but it has lost Ukraine. There is nationalist sentiment there of an order that was not apparent in previous years. The 30 million Russian speakers outside the borders of Russia are, according to the evidence, clearly becoming cynical about how they are used by Russia rather than feeling that it has their true interests at heart. If we look at the true interests of the Russian people and of Russia itself, surely they are better served by Russia being the ally of the West rather than being for ever palpably hostile and accusing us of being hostile when clearly we are not. Russia would be better off economically if it was an ally of the West and would be more able to deal with the real problems which we all face, such as Islamic extremism and, particularly in Russia’s case, Chinese expansion. Surely that common interest that underlies it must become apparent in our globalised world, where knowledge and information eventually can get through, but I stress that we need to make an effort to ensure that it does.
Finally, I refer my noble friend Lady Anelay, who will wind up this debate, to the remarks made recently by Mr Sikorski, a former Polish Foreign Secretary, that if Britain wants to play to its strengths—foreign policy and defence policy—it has a role to play in these matters on the eastern borders of the European Union. I hope that it will be able to play that role—obviously, we await the result of the referendum—and that it will do so.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, for his committee’s excellent report. Its title is “Towards a more effective EU foreign and security strategy”, and I will concentrate on just how we can get a more effective strategy.
Given that the EU, despite its size, total income and so on, has 28 separate foreign policies, which the 28 member states are entitled to have, the question is: what can the EU, as a sort of weak confederation, do to have an effective security strategy? One almost feels like quoting Dr Johnson who, in another context, mentioned a dog standing on its hind legs: it is not that it is done well—the remarkable thing is that it is done at all.
I note one great success the EU has had: the policy on Iran. It is a significant achievement of the office of the high representative—which was of course lately occupied by my noble friend Lady Ashton—that somehow, the EU ended up playing a much more pivotal role in the delicate negotiations than anyone expected. If we ask why that was so, it is because while the EU is a large collection of countries, it is non-threatening as far as Iran is concerned. Iran does not trust the US, the UK or Russia to have its interests at heart, but it somehow thought that the EU being there was a guarantee of fair play in the process. Perhaps one of the things the EU ought to reflect on is how to exploit that advantage—being large but having a low profile—because it is convenient and helpful at certain times.
While that was a success, it did not work that well as regards Syria. Let us look at the Syria process. Of course, the EU was a late joiner in that process; it should have been there right at the beginning when the conference was being organised. As I have told noble Lords before, my own preference is that the conference should be not only on Syria but on all the interconnected Middle Eastern problems. The EU could have taken a much bigger lead in that process than it has, and perhaps there may yet be time for it to play a more significant role.
The third issue is the refugee and migrants problem. Here, there has been a substantial failure on the part of the EU because there is nobody who corresponds to a high representative on refugee policy. Individual countries have tried to take the initiative, especially Germany, as we saw eventually in the negotiations with Turkey. But there are a lot of differences among member countries as to whether the initiative taken by Germany in dealing with Turkey was a success. That tells us that there is a possibility of achieving good results if there is a single high representative who can be trusted by member countries to represent their interests. At the same time, the high representative has to act early enough and strategically enough. If that had been the case with the Syrian process, there would have been more success.
It is clear that there is no agreement—not even a weak agreement—among the 28 countries on the best policy on admitting refugees. The refugee problem has been confused with the problem of migrants. The refugees come from Syria and the Middle East, and the migrants come from north Africa, and they have a completely different motivation. The refugees are involuntarily displaced, whereas migrants come voluntarily, and somehow we have not been able to make a distinction between which ones to be nice to and which ones not to be nice to. The lesson that I take from reading the report is that, if there is better co-ordination among the 28 member countries and if there is someone like a high representative to speak for a united policy, the chances of success will be greater; otherwise, there is bound to be failure.
That leads me to make a suggestion. In relation to the eurozone, there is a council—the eurogroup—headed by a president, Mr Dijsselbloem, which formulates economic policy on the euro. I do not see why there should not be a similar group underpinning the high representative to help properly to represent the policies of the various countries. Maybe thought should also be given to having a high commissioner for refugees. Such a role will be needed because the refugee problem will not go away any time soon.
Having said that, the report is very welcome because it raises these questions. Whether we are a member of the European Union or not, the report will continue to be relevant not just to the rest of the world but to us as well.
My Lords, I too congratulate the committee. The key recommendations of the report are clear, pragmatic and sensible. I have little doubt that many of our partners would prefer the UK to continue to be a foreign policy and strategy leader of the pack and not an enforced go-it-alone wolf. While respecting the will of the people in the upcoming referendum, regionalism is the long-term future of the world. It is in the UK’s national interest to be a team player. Possibly next time consideration could be given to some key issues: the Palestinian question, for example, needs urgent closure, and the Iran-Saudi relationship remains ominous and an eye needs to be kept on it.
I endorse the need for urgent reassessment of EU foreign and security priorities, taking account of the risks facing and threatening the Union, together with resource availability. It makes sense that the new EU strategy arising from this should take a comprehensive view of EU foreign policy instruments—in particular, of how the Commission’s resources and instruments can support the Union’s foreign policy objectives.
It is right to recognise that the member states are the driving force in EU foreign policy. In this, however, the European External Action Service must play a more decisive and proactive co-ordinating role in improving cross-EU co-ordination and helping align Commission instruments with member state priorities. HMG should be considering how we increase the number of UK personnel in senior EEAS positions in order to influence the changes that we would like to see—a point made by many in this afternoon’s debate. The challenges will, of course, be considerable given the existing relative weakness of EU foreign and security policy co-ordination.
I note the proposal to establish ad-hoc groups to consider and agree rapid, decisive and ambitious action by member states, which could then become the wider EU position. It is my understanding that the EU has been using working groups on different areas of foreign and security policy for many years. It would be interesting to know how these ad-hoc groups will differ from these and how they might be constituted.
I have listened carefully to remarks this afternoon regarding Russia; it is a complex question. I believe that EU member states need to be more proactive in their approach towards Russia. The Russian temperament should be usefully understood. I remember well a senior committee gentleman, answerable to the Kremlin, who told me that he would travel with me anywhere in the world on one condition—that I pay respect to his opinion.
Apart from being seemingly disengaged, there has been too little forward strategic analysis of Russian policy and future actions towards, for example, Ukraine and the Middle East. While endorsing the proposed dual-track EU member state policy towards Russia, to which I would add those in its sphere such as central Asian and certain south Caucasus states and beyond, we need deeper analysis of the longer-term impact of sanctions on Russian government revenue and the Russian economy, especially given the separate impact of potential sustained low oil prices. The unintended consequences of the oil price are leaving a heavy mark on many producers, with social programmes being cut and rises in unemployment. These consequences could become grave and affect us adversely at home.
Definitions of areas of shared interest where there might be scope for EU-Russia co-operation and dialogue need to be thought through. Productive dialogue is certainly possible, but we need to respect Russia’s culture and its past 100-year history and, importantly, let it be known that its view is sought and will be treated with respect. Only in that way can we have an impact on Russia’s thinking and actions. While we may not always agree, Russia, above all, almost demands that respect.
Given EU disunity on Turkey’s potential long-term accession, an urgent overall review of the relationship with Turkey, from fundamentals, is required. Turkey is an important partner for the EU on a range of key issues including regional security, counter-terrorism and trade. There is possible scope for a twin-track approach, focusing on the one hand on implementing and maintaining the EU-Turkey refugee action plan, and, on the other, on how to arrest the erosion of Turkish democracy.
Syria is arguably the source of the biggest threat. In promoting a more central EU role in the resolution of the regional crisis, HMG should explain more clearly what they are doing to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis and their other actions in the area. In doing so, HMG should encourage other member states to refocus on increasing their assistance to the area, and indeed to security sector reform in Tunisia and Libya.
The report rightly points out the need for the EU to prioritise its help in our southern neighbourhood, based on key security threats. The challenges in north Africa will need much greater EU effort if some of the underlying causes are to be addressed. In specialised sectors such as this, we need to focus on developing a collective, agreed EU policy programme. It is worth underlining that the UK is ideally placed, given our experience in Africa and the Middle East—especially compared with other member states, with the exception of France—and the expectations arising from it.
It is right that improving EU-NATO co-operation and co-ordination should be central to the new strategy. This should ensure greater synergy between the two bodies while ensuring that the EU has no role in territorial defence—again, as said elsewhere today. That will in turn ensure minimal duplication and more effective use of valuable resources.
The challenges are huge. Many of the report’s proposals and recommendations are medium/long term. If the upcoming referendum result is indeed for the UK to remain, I hope that HMG will take a major lead in promoting a more strategic and targeted EU foreign and security policy and give departments of state the resources to do so.
My Lords, not for the first time, I find myself hoping that the committee report chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, receives wide circulation, because it deserves detailed reading.
I want to focus my brief comments today on Russia and the EU, as a number of other Members have—to some extent, my comments will follow those made by the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith. It is a crucial relationship. It is very easy in view of current headlines and fears of terrorism to see the Middle East and Libya as the real danger spots. They are, they will remain so for a while and are a big challenge for the European Union, but if I was asked to identify a threat to the longer-term peace of Europe, I would look at the relationship between Russia and the European Union.
I do not think that President Putin wants the old Soviet Union back again—a number of things that he has said reinforce my view—but he has a clear view about spheres of interest which we no longer share. We in the western world do not follow the spheres-of-influence argument in the way that we used to, but Russia does. It is also important to remember at this time that, much as we are rightly concerned about President Putin and his Government, President Putin is not the Russian people. The Russian people are in a way much more divided than we realise. I make a lot of use of Russia Today—RT, as it is called. It is a very effective propaganda channel—in fact, the letters RT are what it is headlined as; it does not have the word Russia anywhere in it. If you know the background, you will realise that it is a sophisticated propaganda operation, but you would not recognise that unless you knew it, which I think is one reason why it is very successful at communicating with people worldwide. It has a very large following and has been running for only a few years, so we should not underestimate it.
As I have said previously in this House, we must recognise Russian history: an appalling 20th century, two world wars, millions dead, famines under a particularly brutal dictatorship with many more millions dead and then ending in the catastrophic collapse of the Soviet Union, bringing Russia a feeling of loss and disrespect—as one other Member recently recognised. We have to deal with that now. I hope that President Putin is the bridge that the Russian people need to walk over to travel from the old Stalinist/communist system to a more democratic-rule-of-law approach, but I may be being overly optimistic
I was struck and slightly worried by paragraph 140, I think, where the committee quotes General Sir Richard Sherriff, who raised the concern—it was just a thought—that British and German troops would not necessarily fight for the freedom of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. If he thought that, people in the Kremlin will have thought it too. As the Minister will know, I have expressed concern over a number of years that we often misread President Putin and underestimate his skill at manipulating situations to his advantage. He has got a frozen conflict in the Ukraine and we cannot rule out the possibility that there will be frozen conflicts in other countries of the former Soviet Union where there is a large Russian population. That is why I have concern about the peace prospects between the European Union and Russia.
I thought the most hopeful sign since the report is the reference made by the Foreign Affairs Committee to the report of Federica Mogherini, the high representative, on how we deal with Russia. In that report I felt we might be moving from a position where we impose sanctions. We had to impose sanctions—there was no other sensible alternative, frankly—but the report makes it clear, and I agree, that sanctions cannot be a strategy. They must be short term—which might mean many years—but you do not talk about getting rid of them. You talk about an exchange mechanism in any negotiation with Russia.
There was discussion in the report about the Helsinki accord. There have been signals from the Russians that if we move on the accord and into discussions with them, some progress may be made. However, in my view, for what it is worth, we should not lift sanctions without clear moves by President Putin, particularly on the Ukraine and his activities in east Europe. That is important.
On the five recommendations listed by Federica Mogherini and endorsed by the Foreign Affairs Council, recommendation V concerns the need to engage in people-to-people contact and to support Russian civil society. As I have suggested already, the Russian people are not President Putin. They are much more divergent in their views and many of them feel a strong identity with Europe. Many, particularly the younger professional people linked into the global network of communications, are more inclined to identify with west European attitudes and values. We should encourage that.
I wrote to Federica Mogherini recently saying that I hoped that recommendation V would ride up the agenda. Although we have to have a strong response to the Ukraine through sanctions and the military exercises that are rightly being conducted in Poland at the moment, at the same time we have to reach out to Russian society. We should not underestimate the possibilities there.
There are number of areas where Russia needs our contribution and co-operation. For example, I was recently on a committee on the Arctic and there is clear evidence that the Russians do not want a military confrontation there. Also, there is clear evidence that Russian science on Arctic matters generally is very good and that it is anxious to work with us. There are areas in science and education where we might be able to do more in exchanges which help the people of Russia to understand that we are not against Russia but against certain policies of its current Government. Given that that is recognised on some Russian websites which seek a link to us, we ought to be upfront in trying to work with them. I hope that through the European Union we can put some resources into recommendation V of the high representative into creating a greater form of dialogue. It is not as if things have not been happening because they have, and a number of operations are in place already. However, we could do much more. One thing I would have liked to see in the report is a couple of paragraphs looking at what more we could do in addition to what is already being done.
I know that the current Russian Government would not necessarily encourage it, but if we could start having more exchanges of Russian people that would be immensely valuable in building up person-to-person links, as suggested by the high representative. It would underpin a more peaceful process. If we do not have a more sophisticated strategy, sooner or later the sanctions issue will fail and Russia will maintain the frozen conflict in Ukraine, which it might then move on into other areas. If Russia did that, I would be deeply worried. That is why it is so important that the European Union should push this right to the top of its foreign policy objectives.
My Lords, I join many speakers in thanking the chairman for his wise chairmanship. He will get two sets of thanks because he will be back with another final report next week. My experience of the chairman goes right back to 1979, when I was part of the group that overturned the European Parliament budget, so ably introduced by the then budget commissioner, Christopher Tugendhat. I also welcome my noble friend Lady Morris, a distinguished contributor to our party’s foreign policy and who I know will be a good successor.
I want to make a few points of administration first and then a few points about Russia. A number of speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Desai, mentioned 28 policies. Of course there are not 28 foreign policies, there are three or four foreign policies and then 20 to 24 followers of foreign policies. There are some major actors, but we must realise that most of the countries of the European Union see in the development of a common foreign and security policy an opportunity for them to maximise an influence which for many of them is pitifully small at the moment. It is small because they do not have the resources. They do not have the embassies, the money or the staff.
We as a big player may be driving policies forward, but for many other countries our influence rests not only on being in the European Union—which seems to be more or less a consensus—but on acting within the European Union in such a way that we become one of the three or four major countries that other nations want to support and move forward with. That can and has been done, and we have been a very successful actor in that. However, it helps to recognise that the work done by Commissioner Mogherini and, before her, Commissioner Ashton has been both distinguished and for our benefit. It is something that we can build on. We can maximise our direction by working strongly within the CFSP strategy.
My next point picks up on a comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, on the very important issue of staff. The atmosphere that Britain has projected in recent years is not one that has made young and able people want to go and work in the European Union. They look at the hostility to the EU that has come out of this country over the past few years—I will not put a dividing number on it—and say, “No; I might not have a career in a few years’ time”. I was talking today to a friend in Brussels who said of some members of the British Labour Party there that, “Quite a few of them are looking to take out Belgian nationality”. We have got ourselves into a mess. We have a situation, confirmed this week, whereby the President of the European Parliament is a German, the Secretary-General of the European Parliament is a German and the new Deputy Secretary-General, appointed just this week, is also a German. For the first time in the history of the European Parliament, all three of the top posts are in the hands of one country. I am not saying it is a country that is hostile to us, but I do not think it is good that we have withdrawn to the extent that we have from involvement and from encouraging our brightest and our best.
The final policy point I want to make is this: I am surprised at the lack of interaction between this Parliament —I include both Houses—and our democratically elected Members of the European Parliament. We send them there; we give them a mandate; our parties put forward manifestos; we knock on doors to get them into the European Parliament; and then we forget them. We have to involve them more. In particular, I mention two names—Charles Tannock from my party and Richard Howitt from the Labour Party—who are widely and deeply respected Members of the European Parliament. They have influence well beyond being “the Brits”, but they are seldom seen or counselled. In fact if you want to bring them into the building the first thing you have to do is get them through the door.
I remember Caroline Jackson, a Conservative Member of the European Parliament, chair of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament and a leading figure in the European Parliament, who said to me, “Well Richard, I have far more rights as Robert Jackson MP’s wife than I do as chairman of the committee in the European Parliament”. I just mention that. We have to sort it out.
I want to say just a few words on Russia. We have somehow to get a dialogue going again. We are in a situation not dissimilar to where we were before Helsinki. Relations are bad, there are many things that we want and many things that the Russians want. One thing we should be looking at is getting them back into some sort of relationship with the Council of Europe. The situation makes no sense. Okay, they have been suspended, but there is no strategy for how they get back, except that we say they have to withdraw from Ukraine. They are not going to do that. We have to work out a strategy for dealing with them.
Many of the surrounding countries have been mentioned. I shall not go through them all but will mention one or two. The Baltic states are a key point, but they themselves must also realise that a fairer treatment of the Russian minorities is needed. They have to get to a position whereby the Russian minorities in those three Baltic states say, “Aren’t we lucky we live here?”, not “Oh God, we can’t vote”. I was in Latvia last year and the Russian party in the Latvian Parliament is basically a social democratic party. It is excluded from government by all of the other parties from the far right to the far left. The only thing they have in common is that they are Latvian parties and will not do a deal with the Russians.
That is not the way to run a democracy. The Baltic states, in return for our support—I believe that we can give them support—must learn to play the proper democratic game of involvement. They have to give their Russian population a reason for wanting to be there. They are now addressing the NATO concerns of 2% defence expenditure. I am afraid that one of the points that comes out of this report is the idiocy of this division that we are somehow a European Sub-Committee but we cannot look at defence. Defence, NATO and the EU are so intertwined that it is very difficult to say, “Well, you can’t look at troop movements but you can look at cybersecurity”. So, one of the challenges for our new Madam Chairman will be to work out somehow how we can slightly expand the terms of reference.
My final comments are on Turkey. The words “strategic disarray” were mentioned, and that is absolutely right. Turkey is in crisis. It has 3 million refugees on its hands and its Government are not sure whether they believe in democracy, to put it bluntly. Or, they are not sure how much they believe in democracy—let us put it that way. It has elections—it has fair elections—but it also has a structure of government that has a very weak opposition where there has effectively been one-party rule for the last 12 years. I have always said that once you are in power for 10 years you go mad. We have plenty of British precedents for that. I hope that we will manage to find an accommodation with Turkey that keeps it onside. I would much rather have our boundaries in Turkey than a bit closer to home. Turkey is another big challenge for us and I hope it is one we can rise to.
My Lords, it is always good to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Balfe. He and I have been friends for many years. I find myself in so much agreement with so many of the wise things he says. It is terribly sad that he left our party. It was a serious loss.
I am not coming back.
I read this report and thought, “That’s a good report”. I then read it again and said to myself, “That is a very good report—a particularly great report and of great significance”. The House owes a very real tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, and his colleagues.
It has been delightful to sit and listen to this intelligent debate about the realities of the world when we are surrounded by this introspective, vicious, unimaginative, vindictive debate on whether we stay in Europe. That depresses me beyond measure. One of the things that depresses me most about that debate—others have referred to this—is that whether we like it or not the first reality of life, from the day we are born, is that we are locked into a global community. We cannot escape that. History and succeeding generations will judge us by the success we make of handling that reality. We will not solve the issues or meet the challenges by running away. From that standpoint, the debate about our future in Europe, or so much of it so far, has been disastrous.
That interdependence is obviously there in economics, on issues of the climate, and on migration. On migration, we have to keep remembering that what we face today is probably child’s play compared with what we will have to face as the impact of climate change begins to accelerate. We are all told that that interdependence is there in trade, but it is also there very clearly in security. When I was on the EU home affairs sub-committee we listened to witnesses on the issue of our future if we were to withdraw from the Community and certainly from the European Convention on Human Rights. We could not find a witness—it was almost impossible to find one—who was working in the sphere with real responsibility on behalf of us all who did not say that it would be madness to leave, because all these issues demand co-operation. How will we handle them better if we are on our own? The question was put about the fact that we know—it is true, in many respects—that our intelligence services, for example, are not matched by the quality of intelligence services in much of Europe.
I was impressed that these people, working in the heart of the issue on our behalf, were all saying, “Surely that is a challenge to us to strengthen them”. It is not a challenge not to join them, because you are only as strong as your weakest link. In this realm, where everything is so closely interlinked, if there are weak links our job is to strengthen them. I do not like putting it in melodramatic language but I really mean this as a grandfather: I am afraid that we are betraying our younger generation in much of this debate about being in or out of Europe.
All of us in this House have been shocked, grieved and deeply troubled by the sight of drowning refugees and especially deeply hurt and worried by the sight of drowning children. The words of John Donne echo in my ears all the time:
“never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.
The biggest challenge in this dreadful story is: where is our own sense of values? The world has seen a Europe led by Britain preoccupied with keeping people out, instead of a Europe led by Britain saying, “These are the issues of the future. These are the issues we must face. How do we work together in finding lasting strategic solutions?”.
Of course, I read carefully what the report said about concentrating on our immediate neighbouring region. There is no shortage of issues there. Turkey will be immensely important. We simply must work out a sensible future with Turkey. Personally, I feel that having offered Turkey membership, the impact of withdrawing that offer could be horrific. Turkey is the meeting point of Islamic and Christian civilisations. Surely it is essential to work with Turkey and find the way forward. In the Middle East, all the issues we face are still profoundly, in emotion and attitude, part of the ongoing story of the Israel/Arab issue. That is unresolved. It always seems that if we are real friends of Israel—I regard myself as such—we have a huge job in Europe to point out in absolutely categorical, unapologetic terms what her policies do towards aggravating the situation. Collectively in Europe, we must do everything we can to bring pressure on Israel to behave in a way that will make a secure future for her children possible rather than to pursue her current policies, which provoke nothing but insecurity and danger for her future generations.
There are also the issues of north Africa, of Syria and of Libya. In Europe, as we—I still hope—face the future together, we must learn to snap out of this attitude of trying to find management solutions for crises of this kind. You cannot simply manage a solution in this area. The confidence of the people in what solutions you offer as management programmes is just not there. You must build confidence with the people. Whatever happens as a way forward in both Libya and Syria, there has to be a future which rests on local realities and comprises real reconciliation and real understanding between the very different historical links in the historical traditions and associations in both communities.
Russia has been talked about a lot. For four years I was the rapporteur to the Council of Europe during the ghastly conflict in Chechnya. I visited the conflict area 11 times and met the most senior Ministers in Russia, the FSB and the rest nine times. I came to see that Chechnya could not be approached as just Chechnya because Chechnya was symptomatic of the issues in Russia. The same underlying arrogance, whatever its cause, led to the ghastly things that happened in London. We cannot forget that. We had Russian agents trailing radioactive poison across our capital, quite apart from the brutality and horror of the murder itself. We have to work at finding ways forward with Russia but let us be realistic about what we are up against and look at our own responsibility for the missed opportunities with Russia after the fall of totalitarian communism, and at the failure to build a positive political programme towards Russia—even perhaps the willingness to consider a joint security pact for the future.
One feels anxious to say much more following such an excellent report. However, I confine myself to the following. I honestly believe that many of the challenges and difficulties that we face stem from the crisis within our own value system. What is it that we really believe in? We talk about western civilisation and our values but what are those values? We must have a real debate with Europe on reinventing and strengthening our concept of responsibility, particularly humanitarian responsibility, and on how we believe that we can build a strong society. Of course, human rights will be absolutely central to that debate.
I again thank the committee for having produced such a thoughtful and encouraging report. I pray that we get it right on 23 June. But when we have got it right on 23 June, there will be one hell of a challenge. The first part of that challenge is to belong to the Community to which we have reasserted our membership, because it is by belonging, and being seen to belong, that we begin to influence events. If we are seen as the awkward, reluctant customers all the time, what kind of influence will we ever have?
My Lords, I hate to intrude on the love fest between the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Judd, but I very much agree with the former on British officials in EU institutions and with the latter that we are locked into the global community and cannot solve our problems by running away.
I, too, am very grateful to the External Affairs Sub-Committee and its outgoing chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, for a very interesting and useful report. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, on taking over the chairmanship and look forward to future reports.
Like others, I start from the position that Brexit would weaken both Britain and the European Union and thus agree strongly with the paragraph in the report which states:
“The UK is an important player in international affairs, and the EU has the potential to enhance UK influence. A UK exit would significantly limit the UK’s international reach, not least by removing the UK’s influence over, and access to, the Commission’s instruments of foreign policy. It would also diminish the foreign policy of the EU”.
To borrow a phrase from the Prime Minister, Brexit would “put a bomb” underneath what Professor Richard Whitman, of Kent University and Chatham House, described as the,
“50 year-old strategy, pursued by successive British Governments, to structure its political and economic engagement with Europe through the politics, policies and institutions of the European Union”.
I emphasise: “through” the EU. Watching and trying to influence the EU from the outside would absorb a lot of the attention of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, instead of using the EU framework as a springboard for and magnifier of our influence in tackling substantive neighbourhood and global problems. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, mentioned the effect of being on the outside.
My second opening thought is that the best platform the EU and its member states can create for making a success internationally is to be a success domestically, and in particular economically—reversing what the high representative, Mrs Mogherini, called the EU’s “declining economic dynamism”. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, said, our foreign influence needs the restoration of our economic vigour. It is much harder to have a coherent and effective refugee and migration policy if it is contested at home by people who resent migrants as they see them taking their jobs. So let us create more jobs. It makes the EU less credible in negotiating trade deals if its market is not as enticing to potential trade partners as it could be.
I agree with the report’s recommendations that a large part of the EU’s focus should be on enlargement and the eastern neighbourhood. I share the regret that the review of the European neighbourhood policy has, apparently, not been co-ordinated with this exercise. I also agree that the EU needs to be clearer about what the end game is. We have seen in the referendum campaign the mischief that can be made out of the fact that Turkey is a “candidate country”. This has allowed Boris Johnson and Vote Leave to assert that “Turkey is joining the EU” when everyone, including Mr Johnson—who very recently expressed firm support for Turkish accession—knows that Turkey is not joining for a very long time, if at all.
On Russia, I have listened to various noble Lords who are far more expert than me and I find I agree with every one of them in turn. My conclusion is that, whatever the EU decides on its long-term policy, there must be agreement and coherence in its position. My noble friend Lord Oxford made a suggestion for a longer-term policy of engagement with Russia. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that we need to be realistic about what we are up against. I find a curious contrast between the UK taking a lead in the policy of sanctions—which is starting to be questioned by the German Foreign Minister—and our inexplicable absence from the process of the Minsk agreement. Perhaps the noble Baroness will explain why we were not involved in that process.
On Ukraine, I was a little surprised at the comment in the report that Russian opposition to the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with Ukraine was,
“a salutary lesson on the need for caution in the use of these tools”.
Personally, I do not accept that Russia should have any kind of veto over an EU association agreement with Ukraine. Maybe the remark was more about the way it was handled on both the EU and Ukraine sides. Of course, extraordinarily we have recently had a Dutch referendum which rejected the Ukraine agreement. I have a feeling that they were voting not actually on the Ukraine agreement but just to give a kick to politicians and the EU.
I will spend some time on the comment:
“The EU is a weak military actor”.
Of course it is—I do not think that anyone ever sees it as a major purveyor of hard military power—but the important comment was that,
“EU-NATO co-operation was not functioning”.
During the referendum campaign we have heard the assertion that the EU is irrelevant to security. NATO leaders have countered that assertion by saying that the EU is an essential partner in delivering European security. The weakness is that member states are seen to be unable to underpin their own and EU foreign policy with an ability to use legitimate force, which undermines the EU, so the EU and NATO must “work together more effectively”.
We have heard ludicrous assertions about the creation of a European army, including a recent article in the Times by one of Boris Johnson’s successors in Brussels, but what the EU leaders are talking about is co-operation and co-ordination. That is made very clear in the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Committee in May last year and the conclusions of the European Council in June last year. I rather liked the comment by Sir Robert Cooper, the former head of foreign policy at the European Council, that,
“while he was not in favour of a European army, he was in ‘favour of a European rifle’”,
and that the EU ought to do more to harmonise specifications and joint military procurement because there are huge inefficiencies, with outdated equipment and facilities that cannot be used in tandem.
There are also operational inefficiencies. The report stated:
“A NATO exercise to bring one brigade from Portugal to the Baltics took 21 days in order to facilitate all the customs and regulations and a further 10 days to find the trains to transport the tanks”.
Thanks to Twitter, during the debate I came across a new article in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the American Council on Foreign Relations, talking about how in some new member states,
“bridges and railroads are simply not suitable for large troop movements”,
and that getting permission for those movements for exercises is very frustrating. It calls for a military Schengen for NATO. Apparently, Poland requires 15 days’ notice to give clearance for troop movements. Presumably it would not do so if—God forbid—there was actually a war. But it seems to me that the EU can surely help by supporting NATO in the construction of the infrastructure and in trying to iron out the red tape. That is a good example of the possibility for convergence.
We also know that the European arms industry is very fragmented and subject to national procurement priorities and markets. Not so long ago we had the failure of the merger between Airbus and BAE. Each country wants its national champion but that does not bode well for obtaining best value for defence budgets and structuring our procurement and defence industry collaboration to deliver more efficiencies through joint capabilities.
The report rightly states that the EU has limited ability to act as a “global security provider” but it does have the ability to support NATO. Mrs Mogherini, in her response, also legitimately points out that the EU must take some responsibility for managing “global commons”, and particularly for delivering and supporting rules-based global governance. That is all part of security as well.
In finishing, I want to mention some things which the EU has as tools, including its values and its promotion of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of Russia, even though that is obviously not an EU instrument. There are also all the anti-trust, trade development and humanitarian aid policies. I do not think that the report mentioned the US trade and investment partnership, TTIP, but it ought to be a priority for the European Union to stand up to some of the demonisation of that. Building our economy through science, research and innovation could also help restore Europe’s global influence. There are so many areas where European policies—not classic diplomatic policies—can strengthen the potential of the EU on the international stage.
I agree with the report that the high representative should be involved with ad hoc groups and it is disappointing that the Government do not agree. As the report brings out, even if the EU works through ad hoc groups, the key is to bring together the varied ways and means without being too tidy or precious about how it all works, as long as there is co-ordination and not contradiction. We are never going to have a very neat expression of the EU’s common foreign and security policy—but a lot can be done to make sure that it all pulls in the same direction.
My Lords, I too thank the EU External Affairs Sub-Committee for its excellent report. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, not only for chairing the committee so ably but for such an excellent introduction to today’s debate.
One thing which struck me when listening to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, was that we often fail to recognise just how much change there has been in Europe. I remember 1973 quite well, not just in terms of our accession to the European Union but because I used to work for Jack Jones. He spent a lifetime fighting fascism and dictatorship, and he fought in the Spanish Civil War on behalf of the International Brigade. In 1973, Franco was still in power and garrotting people who he disliked or who opposed his control of Spain. But we have changed substantially since then: I spent the weekend in Spain with my husband, celebrating the marriage of a gay couple. Can we imagine that ever happening in 1973 under Franco? Do we think that this has happened by accident? It has not. It has happened by engagement—by communities coming together and sharing the values that we cherish. If we are to stop the world from going back, the worst thing that this country could possibly do is to turn its back on Europe and vote to leave on 23 June.
The report that we have received is a valuable contribution to the debate on how the EU can use the review process to set rigorous priorities and improve its decision-making. We live in an increasingly unsafe world with threats including global terrorism, international criminality, people trafficking and international slavery—and interreligious wars on a scale that we have not seen since the 16th century. The idea that we should try to tackle these in isolation is just incredible.
The fact is that our communities here will be impacted harder and our citizens’ lives challenged if we try to tackle it in isolation. We have to be part of that community. The report recognises of course that foreign policy is for member states, but a coherent UK foreign and security strategy, as we heard in the previous debate, has to be founded on the shared values and interests we have with our European neighbours on peace and security. That is what we are about and why it is so important not only to reflect on the changes in eastern Europe with those member countries coming in but to realise what has been achieved in Spain and Portugal.
Membership of the EU, like our membership of NATO and the United Nations, amplifies the UK’s influence on the world; it does not diminish it. As we have heard from every Member of this House in the debate today, that contribution is invaluable and ensures that other member countries of the European Union can share our experience and our values and build on democracy, which is vital.
We have a moral and practical interest as a nation in preventing conflict, stopping terrorism, supporting the poorest in the world and halting climate change, as we have heard from noble Lords in the debate. The EU has a wide range of tools at its disposal, including security, diplomatic, economic and humanitarian tools. Our participation in the EU brings benefits to both the members of the EU and the United Kingdom.
The transformation and rise of ISIL/Daesh illustrates just how quickly change happens in the most dangerous and volatile parts of the world, and how quickly and significantly this can impact on us here in Britain. It is clear from the report on the common foreign and security policy that we can act mid-strategy to shift the emphasis and resources quickly to these emerging threats. Pushing back on radicalisation is a Europe-wide issue, and working together will be far more effective.
Since we joined the European Union, British foreign policy has had two key pillars. The first is exercising a leading role in Europe, and the second is being the principal ally of the United States. I believe that it is worth repeating what President Obama made clear: leaving the EU would have an impact on not just one but both of these pillars. Successful, effective EU action can help to protect our country and to play a complementary role to NATO in providing security, as we have heard in this debate.
As we have heard, the ability of the European Union to respond to threats as they emerge, through its common foreign and security policy, has been vital; for example, with the sanctions against Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea. European co-operation of course had a vital part in securing the nuclear deal with Iran. As my noble friend Lord Anderson amplified from the report, when the EU speaks with one voice and utilises all its foreign policy instruments, it can be an incredibly powerful force for peace and security—and of course a powerful force for democracy, too.
The committee, rightly, insists that setting EU priorities is linked to a frank reappraisal of the Union’s international role. As my noble friend Lord McConnell said, the EU has global interests—economic, climate change and development—and we must therefore have a global vision and a policy to support that vision.
A key recommendation of the committee was, of course—noble Lords have focused on this in the debate—on the need for the EU to,
“focus on formulating a foreign and security policy for the wider neighbourhood”,
and, in particular, to reassess urgently its policies towards Russia and Turkey. On Russia, as we have heard, the recommendation is for the EU and member states to,
“pursue a dual-track policy to Russia: this should encompass a coherent and credible response to Russian breaches of international law, while keeping open the potential for co-operation and dialogue on areas of shared interest”.
Of course, the Government in their response made it clear that they had taken a “unified approach” with the EU,
“and shown Russia that its illegal actions will not be tolerated”.
I read this morning a short survey from the European Leadership Network, from individuals, politicians and others, covering 20 countries. It was quite an important survey; the overwhelming view was that those sanctions should be held to and that we should not back down. When you express a clear view to a country like Russia, you have to be determined to see it through. However, there was also a very strong view expressed in that survey, which we have heard in today’s debate, that the judgment that the EU and Russia are predetermined to part ways was very much a minority one. We have shared interests and shared threats and, as my noble friend Lord Soley, said, we have a lot of common history with the people of Russia. It is important that we focus on our relationship with the people of Russia and do not simply see Putin as the genuine voice of those people. We need to ensure that we can develop a relationship.
The Government’s view, given in their written response, is that, as a consequence of Russian actions in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere,
“Russia will not for the foreseeable future be a potential strategic partner for the EU”.
While that may be the case, does not the Minister accept that, with the same global threats that we face, it might be possible to find an acceptable way in which to avoid clashes over policy through some form of dialogue?
On Turkey, the report suggests:
“The EU has not demonstrated a credible commitment to Turkey’s accession, nor has it defined an alternative relationship”.
Turkey, as a member of NATO, remains a crucial partner for the EU on a range of critical issues, beyond migration—including counterterrorism and security within the region. Of course, as the report highlighted and reminded us, Turkey’s accession process started in 1987. There remains a significant amount of detailed work to do before Turkey is ready to join the EU, not least over the issue of Cyprus. But there is clearly a problem with saying on the one hand that the accession process remains the most effective mechanism for continuing reform while on the other that we do not see Turkey’s membership being on the cards for many years. That simply undermines the process of reform; it supports those people who have been saying, “Don’t trust the West—don’t believe in the West”. As we have heard in this debate, the most important thing to do is to understand why so many people in Turkey look to the West, and not only that but have been working there, contributing to the European Union’s economic growth. Certainly, that has been true in Germany.
We cannot turn our back. The way that the EU and Turkey have been able to co-operate to tackle the migration crisis and the steps taken to reinvigorate relationships illustrate that there is potential. The important thing the report has highlighted is that the EU needs to do more than make vague promises. We need a better road map for progress. We need to reward good behaviour and work together so that the reform process is not seen as something distant but as something we are working on together now.
One of the things the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, focused on in his introduction was improving the execution of EU foreign policy. There has been the welcome development of ad hoc groups which offer member states a useful format for rapid and decisive action. As the Government accept this view and acknowledge the value of the high representative in the process, as confirmed in the letter we have seen, why are they so reticent about this being a prerequisite for all such action? Surely it is vital to ensuring that the EU acts in a coherent fashion. As my noble friend Lord McConnell said, if we are to have the international security and stability that we seek, development, defence and diplomacy have to go together. There is no doubt that our foreign policy will and must remain a matter for our Government but, like our national security strategy, the foreign policy of the EU has to use all the tools available to it covering trade, climate change and development and, as noble Lords have said, utilising the most effective tool we have—soft power. All those tools must be focused on protecting and promoting our common interests and values. The EU also needs to demonstrate this joined-up, comprehensive approach if we are to maintain the peace we have enjoyed for so long.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to close this debate on the report Europe in the World: Towards a More Effective EU Foreign and Security Strategy. Like others today, I record my appreciation for the EU sub-committee’s comprehensive work under the leadership of its chairman, my noble friend Lord Tugendhat. This report is a welcome and valuable contribution to the debate on the future of EU foreign and security policy.
I shall first set out what the Government think about the EU strategy review before commenting on some of the key conclusions of the committee’s report. The Government welcomed the proposal put forward at the European Council in June last year to review the 2003 European security strategy because the world has moved on since then. The foreign policy challenges in the near neighbourhood pose even greater threats to the EU’s security and prosperity than was the case just 10 years ago.
Given these serious threats, we believe that a properly coherent approach to EU external action has never been more important. That seemed to be a theme that ran through so many speeches today. The EU’s collective action is relevant to many of the UK’s foreign policy objectives, and as a large member state with global interests and membership of many key international organisations and groupings, the UK is in a strong position to influence EU common action. It was not too surprising that some noble Lords expressed some disappointment about the number of UK citizens working in the EU institutions and the fact that perhaps that number is falling. I refer to comments made by my noble friend Lord Balfe, the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, and the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. In answer to their questions I can say that in 2013 the Government set up an EU staffing unit with the express purpose of increasing the number of British nationals who work in the EU institutions. This has resulted in an increase in UK-seconded national experts being sent to work in the EU.
The UK is well represented among the member states that send staff to work in the European External Action Service. However, we very much agree with what noble Lords have said today. More remains to be done, particularly in raising the success rate of UK candidates at the EU entry competition for permanent staff—the concours. I was grateful to the clerks of the House, who during the course of the debate assisted me by providing the following information: “The House of Lords Committee Office currently has one seconded national expert working for the European Parliament; another member of the Committee Office staff has just been successful in securing a seconded national expert post”. Therefore, that is progress made, but clearly more progress has to be made.
The strategy review is also timely, because such an approach could usefully complement the United Kingdom’s recent strategic defence and security review. The paper entitled The European Union in a Changing Global Environment, published by High Representative Mogherini last June, set the context for a revised Europe Global Strategy and described the challenges that EU foreign policy needs to address. Naturally, we were pleased that the high representative recognised the need to consult member states throughout this process. We have been working closely with the strategy team in Brussels to feed in our views.
An important comparative advantage for the EU in foreign policy, set out a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, is the EU’s ability to combine with its diplomatic and security tools a wide range of policy instruments: political, economic, development, and humanitarian—he is right. With tools ranging from military missions to development aid, the EU can flex its approach as situations evolve. But it is vital that these tools work together properly. We think the EU needs to improve further its ability to combine its foreign policy instruments—and its institutions—more effectively. The strategy could help to deliver those improvements. We believe that the strategy review should focus on making EU external policy more coherent, flexible and accountable. We see it as an opportunity to achieve improvements across the full range of the EU’s external tools. For example, the contribution of development assistance to building stability and peace should be better reflected.
There could be better co-ordination between Council activity and Commission-administered programmes to ensure a better articulation of the respective roles and interventions. In particular, we encourage stronger links between the Council-led foreign policy work and the Commission-run trade and energy work, where interests and objectives can sometimes overlap. There could also be stronger links between internal and external security. We agree with the report that:
“Terrorism affects both the internal and the external security of the Union”.
Several noble Lords referred to that matter. A joined-up approach is essential to counter and tackle the threats we face. This should be delivered through strengthened partnerships and complementarity with other international actors, including of course NATO, the UN and the OSCE, which the report alludes to; I will answer one or two points made by noble Lords on that in a moment. Finally, we also believe that the EU could do more in the field of strategic communications, and we would like to see this reflected in the strategy.
The Government agree with many of the specific conclusions of the EU Committee report, as my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe made clear in his formal written response. We absolutely agree that member states drive the whole issue of EU foreign policy—it is a national competence. We support the committee’s call for the EU to use the strategy review as an opportunity to set rigorous priorities and improve the execution of its foreign policy decisions.
We also agree that the new strategy should aim to achieve better co-operation between the EU and NATO. We hope that this can further encourage member states to move closer to the target of 2% of GDP dedicated to defence spending. NATO has remained the bedrock of our national defence and that of the Euro-Atlantic area for almost 70 years.
The Government remain convinced that the EU does not have a role in territorial defence, because doing so would simply duplicate what NATO already does and would place further strain on finite resources across Europe. We therefore agree that it is important to foster closer co-operation and co-ordination between the EU and NATO. I particularly mark the concerns expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and other noble Lords on these matters.
I was asked in particular by the noble Earl about reports of shrinking EU-NATO relations. In 2015 we resolved to frame a national security strategy to foster closer co-ordination between the EU and NATO. This will include areas such as cyber and countering hybrid threats, as well as work to develop security capacity in other states. We will form across Whitehall a joint Euro-Atlantic security policy unit to bring together diplomatic and defence expertise on this. Noble Lords were right to express their concerns.
We believe that the strategy could also usefully promote the co-ordination of missions undertaken under the common security and defence policy and the work of other actors so that EU efforts support a coherent international effort from the outset. The Government believe, for example, that the European Union could play a helpful role in bolstering the efficiency and impact of UN engagement.
Several noble Lords mentioned Turkey and the issue of enlargement. It is certainly a fact that Turkey has strong hopes of membership of the EU. The Government support Turkey’s EU accession process, which remains the most effective mechanism for continuing reform in that country. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, and others were right to point out that, with progress, one also has to offer hope to people as they work through a difficult process of opening and closing chapters. But it is a matter of fact that achieving the reforms that are necessary for Turkey to join the EU will be a lengthy process—we cannot get round that. The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons that we do not believe Turkish membership will be on the cards for many years. It is a matter of recognising the practical details of the progress that it needs to make, particularly in human rights and economic conversions.
The UK strongly welcomes the plan agreed between the EU and Turkey to end irregular migration from Turkey to the EU. For the first time, we have a plan that breaks the business model of the people smugglers by breaking the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe.
I turn briefly to the Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, to which several noble Lords referred. It was published in November last year. It was a good outcome for the UK. It maintained the idea of a single overarching policy but emphasised differentiation, stability, partnership and ownership. In particular, we welcome the greater flexibility that it offers to enable co-operation on shared interests with those partners not looking to conclude association agreements. The EU remains united in its commitment to the interests of our eastern partners.
Many noble Lords—my noble friends Lord Horam and Lord Balfe, the noble Lords, Lord Anderson, Lord Judd and Lord Soley, and the noble Earl, Lord Oxford and Asquith, to take just a few—referred to Russian foreign policy. Concern about the direction of Russian foreign policy has generated useful debate in this House, not just today but on previous occasions when we have had the chance to go into more detail. However, the Government do not agree with the committee’s assertion that the US is leading the West’s relations with Russia. This is an oversimplification, given that it is clear that the EU has been at the very forefront of the response to Russian actions in Ukraine.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, asked me to comment on the Normandy format: it works, and it is not something that works by excluding the UK. The flexibility of being able to feed in our influence and technical expertise made the system work. It also means that we have as much interest in ensuring that the agreements of Minsk I and II are adhered to before there are any reductions in sanctions. We were warned by other Peers to be careful about the removal of sanctions because Russia is very adept at exploiting differences in views across the EU. We have taken a unified approach and shown Russia that its illegal actions in the way it has behaved in Ukraine will not be tolerated, including by taking the step of sanctioning a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
Several noble Lords referred to the fact that it is important to think about the Russian Government and not lump in the Russian people with them. I appreciate that. Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere clearly expose the gulf between the values and interests of the Russian Government and those of the EU. That means that Russia will not, for the foreseeable future, be a potential strategic partner for the EU. However, it may not be business as usual, but it has to be business. There is dialogue at the United Nations and the Human Rights Council.
The Government agree with the committee that fragile states in the southern neighbourhood should be addressed in the strategy. The strategic challenges posed by many countries in north Africa require a step change in the EU response, and the EU must act to address the underlying causes, as well as the symptoms, fuelling migration, radicalisation and extremism. We agree that reform in the political, judicial and security sectors in these countries will be vital.
Turning to the committee’s conclusions about north Africa, the Government agree that the EU can play a useful role in Tunisia and Libya in both short-term and long-term security sector reform work. With the establishment of a Government of National Accord in Libya, the possibility for a greater EU role exists. We continue our discussions with other member states and the External Action Service.
The Government agree with the committee that the EU has a direct interest in resolving the Syrian conflict, which is now in its sixth year. The International Syria Support Group has played a vital role in restarting political negotiations between the Syrian parties, with the aim of fully implementing the cessation of hostilities, ensuring all required humanitarian access is granted, and strongly supporting the efforts of de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy, to bring about a political transition in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. It was a privilege to be able to make that point to him when I met him over the Easter Recess. The EU, along with the UK, France, Germany and Italy, has provided support within the ISSG process to help the UN special envoy as he aims to reconvene talks in Geneva. The UN has a mandate to facilitate talks between the Syrian parties but the solution must be Syrian-led. At the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London earlier this year, significant support was pledged by the international community for supporting Syria after the conflict. We should not forget the pledge of €2.39 billion made by the European Union Commission.
Finally, turning to the EU’s institutional arrangements, the Government agree that ad hoc groups can be a useful format for rapid, decisive and ambitious action by member states, which can then become the wider EU position. Noble Lords referred to our divergence from the view of the committee on the role of the high representative. There is no doubt about the value of her role and that of her predecessor, and the inclusion of the high representative in ad hoc groups can certainly help gain the widest possible support among member states, but we do not believe that it is essential in every single case; it is not a prerequisite. Member states should remain free to form and work in ad hoc groups without the high representative should circumstances so require, depending on the view of the European Council. Flexibility is too valuable to lose.
The role of the External Action Service should continue to evolve. The Government agree that the strategy should encourage the External Action Service to draw together the EU’s security, political and development activities for preventing and resolving conflict. It should encourage an External Action Service that works in concert with the other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, and is capable of intervening at any stage of the conflict cycle, bringing together the full range of EU instruments.
I conclude by once again welcoming the report. As I have shown, the Government agree with many of its conclusions. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, reminded the House that one of the great strengths of the External Action Service is its ability to combine its many tools across a wide range of policy areas, tackling political, economic, development, and humanitarian challenges, and improving our security and prosperity as it does so. The noble Lord reminded us that it is a good idea to be visionary, not meek or weak—I like that. That is why this review is so important, and it is why we have worked closely with the team conducting it. We will continue to work hard to ensure that the new strategy reflects our views. We shall not be meek or weak.
My Lords, I want to thank everybody who contributed to this very thoughtful debate and say how grateful I am for some of the remarks made about the committee and my chairmanship of it. When I listened to a number of the contributions, I realised what a long agenda of possible subjects the committee has in front of it. I am sure that my successor was listening equally attentively, and I will follow with interest the path she takes in response to much of what was said today.
I thank the Minister for her thoughtful and encouraging reply. I take this opportunity, through her, to thank the officials in the Foreign Office, who were uniformly helpful, not only on this report but on the various other reports with which I was involved. I express my appreciation to them.
Many points were made that I would like to take up, but the hour is late and it would be doing the House a disservice were I to do so. I will confine myself to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, who talked about his wish that the EU would set an example to other parts of the world on how sovereign states can work together in a post-modern world. That is what the EU used to do. It was an exemplar, an example that people tried to follow. As a result of the mismanagement of the eurozone crisis and a number of internal issues—of which, I am sorry to say, the British problem has been an important one—the European Union has lost that position. I nurse the hope, as I think many other noble Lords do, that if we vote decisively to remain within the European Union, it will be seen as a vote of confidence in the institution and will give renewed confidence to the EU and to the rest of the world in the ability of the EU to fulfil its objectives.
House adjourned at 7.54 pm.