§ 9. Mr. Pickles
Which countries will be represented at the EU enlargement summit on 12 March. 
§ Mr. Robin Cook
The Luxembourg European Council agreed that the member states of the European Union, the 10 countries of central Europe that have applied to join the Union, Cyprus and Turkey should be invited to participate in the European conference.
Accordingly, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has invited his colleagues in those countries to attend the first meeting of the European conference, which he will convene in London on Thursday. It is expected that the conference will agree to practical co-operation in areas of immediate relevance to the public, such as combating the drugs trade and organised crime, improving the environment and building competitive economies. The European conference will be important chiefly because it represents an historic first step towards a stronger, enlarged European Union and a final end to the division of Europe which has scarred our continent for half a century.
§ Mr. Pickles
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the progress made by the Polish people since the fall of communism has been truly breathtaking, and that there is great vitality among the upcoming leadership there? Does he believe that it is in the interests of not only Poland, but this country and the strengthening of the European Union that Poland should become a member? Given that not all our partners share our enthusiasm for Polish entry, will he give an undertaking to the House that sufficient momentum will be built up under the British presidency to ensure that any qualifications and problems can be quickly addressed?
§ Mr. Cook
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that Britain fully backs the enlargement of the European Union and recognises that Poland is a prime candidate for enlargement. I said that in a speech in Warsaw when I visited that city just before Christmas. In the past three days, I have spoken twice to the Foreign Minister of Poland, who currently occupies a position of great importance as the chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe for the whole of Europe. We are working closely with him and with his Government, and we shall be delighted to assist them in the process of negotiations because we regard the negotiations not as confrontational, but as between two partners seeking a common objective—the enlargement of the European Union, and stability and democracy throughout central Europe.
§ Mr. Dismore
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be in the best interest of all Cypriots if Cyprus were to accede to the European Union? In that context, will he take the opportunity to confirm that accession talks will not be dependent on or linked to progress in peace negotiations and, in particular, that accession talks will not be subject to veto by the regime in northern Cyprus?
§ Mr. Cook
I can confirm that there will be no veto for the regime in northern Cyprus. However, the people of 309 northern Cyprus have more to gain than anybody else in Cyprus from EU membership as their income level is currently a quarter of that of the Greek Cypriot part of Cyprus. For those reasons, we have urged the Government of Cyprus to bring a mixed delegation of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators. I am pleased to say that there are signs that President Clerides and his Government are willing to do that. I regret to say that the present stubbornness on the Turkish Cypriot side may prevent that from happening.
§ Mr. Streeter
Does the Foreign Secretary recall saying, on 14 January, that the Government would be working hard to strengthen relations between the EU and Turkey? Does he recall the Prime Minister saying, in December last year, that he wanted to see Turkey as a closer partner in Europe and as part of the European conference that would be held in Britain in the next year? Does he accept that Turkey's decision to boycott the conference on Thursday represents a major diplomatic failure by the Government? Will he tell the House what he intends to do to secure Turkey's future involvement in that vital process?
§ Mr. Cook
If the hon. Gentleman says that in Ankara, he will be given a robust raspberry by the Government there, who know perfectly well how hard Britain has worked to involve Turkey and to resist the Luxembourg conclusions which they have found so offensive. I discussed this with my opposite number in Turkey over the weekend. Turkey is invited and it is for that country to decide whether to attend. It has decided that, in view of the conclusions of the Luxembourg conference, it will stand by the view it expressed then that it will not be coming. My colleague, the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), and I have agreed that after the European conference, we will look for other ways in which to take forward our dialogue, probably through the association partnership, on which the Commission is about to produce interesting and detailed proposals.
§ Mr. Pike
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the people of Romania welcome the fact that he has indicated that it is possible for that country to get on to the fast track for entry into the European Union? Will he be meeting President Constantinescu of Romania this week to spell out what steps need to be taken in Romania to ensure that it can enter the European Union on the earliest possible date?
§ Mr. Cook
I am pleased to say that Romania will be one of those participating in the European conference. Like all the other conference members from central and eastern Europe, it will participate in a meeting with the Prime Minister, and its Foreign Minister will participate in a meeting with me. I have met the new Foreign Minister of Romania to discuss how we take forward the enlargement process. The Foreign Office has agreed to provide specific technical expert help to the Romanian Foreign Office to help it build up expertise for the negotiations. My hon. Friend's first point is quite right; just because negotiations start with six specific members does not mean that those six will be the first across the line. All 11 have every incentive to make as much progress as possible. Those who get in first will be those who have made the most progress.