JOHN HUMPHRYS: Peter Hain, it's a familiar
story in a way this, isn't it? What we're seeing is our colleagues in Europe,
our partners in Europe, many of them anyway, want to go further than we
do, we argue against it. Perhaps we ought to be more co-operative, I mean
just to take an example, Germany and the Belgians want a sort of Europe
tax that would pay for the doings of the European Union. Might be quite
sensible, stop a lot of squabbling and all that, wouldn't it?
PETER HAIN: No I don't agree John but your
report made very clear that we're not isolated on this matter. Germany
and Belgium, Belgium in a way are isolated, in wanting ever more greater
federalism and some kind of federal super state. Italy doesn't want it,
the Prime Minister and I accompanied him, was talking to the Italian government,
Prime Minister Berlusconi in Rome on Friday. They don't want that, Spain
doesn't want it, many other countries including Sweden and Denmark don't
want it. So there is a healthy debate about how we can have a Europe which
has got twenty-five members, which it's likely to have after the enlargement
of the European Union in a coupe of years, how we can manage that more
efficiently and some things need to be done at the centre, such as the
fight against terrorism. We agreed extra security measures, which you can't
do on your own, there's no point Britain standing aside and saying, we
can fight terrorism on our own, we can only do it by co-operating with
other countries in Europe and we're doing that very very effectively and
without the European Union we couldn't have put in place these extra security
measures which defend our own livelihoods and our own freedoms.
HUMPHRYS: But I mean, given
the sorts of problems that inevitably this kind of expansion is going to
bring with it, perhaps a Europe-wide tax of some sort might not be a bad
idea, as I say, it would sort out all the squabbles there always are about
who pays what for, how much for what, and all the rest of it.
HAIN: I don't agree
and I don't think there's majority support in the European Union for that,
and since you take on my point about enlargement, I found travelling to
Poland, to, rather to Czech Republic talking to the Polish ministers, to
Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and so on, and talking to others recently,
to the Latvian Foreign Minister and also to the Romanians, that I found
that actually there's more interest in those countries like Britain, preserving
their national identity and their nation states, after all they've just
become independent, most of them, from the Soviet Bloc and they are very
jealous of their nationality and their nationhood as we are. And I think
there's now a debate, a healthy debate as there will be in the convention
of Europe where I'm representing the government, which really says that
we ought to put the nation state at the heart of Europe, inter governmentalism
as being the driving force, rather than electing a commission president
and having the European Commission and the European Parliament as the strategic
driving force of Europe. That's the position of our government.
HUMPHRYS: But what they
do want, what our partners do want, I'd have thought what we wanted, was
to make Europe more effective, to work better, given these various problems.
So surely, in that sense removing the veto on...that we have at the moment
on certain areas. Maybe that, but I mean imagine, twenty-five countries,
each one of them able to veto certain things, be chaos won't it?
HAIN: Well that's
why we've agreed qualified majority voting as indeed the Tories did, David
Heathcoat-Amory was a supporter of that government.....
HUMPHRYS: ...but we still
have veto on some things don't we?
HAIN: .... Yes
we do. Taxation's one, that's absolutely right. Social Security is another.
So is committing our troops to an armed operation of some kind, so is Foreign
Policy. These are all ultimately matters for national veto. But we can't
agree common environmental standards to protect our air, to clean up our
beaches, to ensure our water's purer without common majority voting, so
we don't need a veto in those areas, but on some key issues, vital to our
national rights and our national independence, including taxation policy,
we have a veto and we intend to keep it.
HUMPHRYS: And all the vetoes
that we have will remain, is that what you're saying?
HAIN: Well, on
justice and home affairs, in response to September 11th for example, more
qualified majority voting was brought in, because it was easier to deal
with quickly, with security measures, a common arrest warrant for example,
to arrest people wherever they are in Europe, rather than complicated extradition
arrangements, to do it without having the veto remaining and stopping that.
So where it's sensible we'll consider it on its merits, but there are some
very strong red lines for us, taxation, social security, foreign policy,
defence, these matters should be subject to that the veto should remain.
So we should just approach this on a common sense basis, not on some kind
of fanatical basis, pro-Europe, or anti-Europe.
HUMPHRYS: Would it make common
sense to have some sort of constitution for Europe. People like Mr Heathcoat-Amory
say that it would sanctify a federal structure, which I imagine you would
describe as a bit of yabooing, the sort of thing that you perhaps wouldn't
want to get involved in, but it could be very popular, it could be very
sensible, couldn't it, it might connect the people of Europe with the institution
of Europe in a more effective way.
HAIN: Well there
is a need to make that connection more effectively and I agreed with what
some of the points made in your report and if we were talking about a European
constitution that enshrines certain values of the sort that Pierre Moscovici
the French Europe Minister was talking about earlier, freedom, solidarity
and so on...
HAIN: Well let's
look at that in terms of enshrining basic principles and clarifying what
is an enormously complicated set of Treaties that no ordinary member of
the public frankly, no Europe minister can fully get to grips with. They
run into millions of words. So if there's a desire as I think there may
be, to have a set of principles enshrined, call it a constitution if you
like, that lay out exactly what the European Union does, where our rights
are, where the opportunities for advance are, that's one thing. If it's
a blue-print for a federal super state centralising all power in Brussels,
that's quite another, we wouldn't accept that.
HUMPHRYS: So where would this Charter
of Fundamental Rights fit in then? Again, Mr Amory says it would be a betrayal
to make it legally binding. Our own Robin Cook, former Foreign Secretary
of course, said it's a political declaration and that's the way it should
stay. But Heather Grabbe, whom you say in that film, says you...there is
a thinking in Downing Street now and in the Foreign Office that maybe there
is something in it, maybe we ought to agree to it. What do you say to that?
HAIN: Well it depends what
it actually means...
HUMPHRYS: How, what do you take
it to mean?
HAIN: Well, I'm about to
tell you John. If it meant that we would have it as an alternative to
the Convention on Human Rights and therefore, if it was some kind of rival
to that, then you'd have to be very careful about that. If it could be
enforceable in British courts, we would find that extremely difficult.
If, on the other hand, it were a set of principles put in a new treaty
or not, as the case may be, with very clear delimitations and restrictions
around it, well I think we can have a common sense look at that, because
it would be an advantage in basic values of rights and solidarity and dignity
being stated so clearly in the treaty. Because I think there is, as we
saw in the Irish Referendum, when they rejected ratification of the Treaty
of Nice, allowing for enlargement, we saw the No campaign running on the
slogan "if you don't know, vote no" and there is a gulf between the citizens
of Europe, the led of Europe and the leaders and the institutions of Europe
which must be closed in all our interests.
HUMPHRYS: What Mr Moscovici would
like, and many others of course, is to see the existing, the Charter, made
legally binding. You're saying no to that are you? Or...
HAIN: I'm saying let's
find out what that means. If it means by legally binding that it runs right
across the European convention on human rights and it runs right across
the European Court, well, then that's not something that we would go down
the road on. If it means that it would be able to be enforced in British
Courts, that's something we would object to, so I think we need a common
sense discussion as to exactly what peer means and what others mean and
I think we should go into this debate, so I am representing the government
with confidence, because if you look at what we've done under this Labour
government, we've actually won argument after argument in Europe for no
federal super state but a Europe based on Europe of nations for economic
reform, an important agenda there, for having a peace-keeping capability
so that we can take action in the Balkans and so on. These have been British
agendas and I think the British agenda will win out in the convention about
building our kind of Europe, a Europe that delivers better security for
people, more jobs, better rights, a cleaner environment.
HUMPHRYS: Peter Hain, thanks very