Hurd urges EC to focus on migration

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DOUGLAS HURD, the Foreign Secretary, last night singled out migration as the most crucial question facing the European Community, warning that unlike 19th-century America, 'ours is not an empty continent'.

Mr Hurd called on the EC - regardless of whether or not the Maastricht treaty survives - to formulate a policy that would help citizens of Eastern Europe and North Africa remain in their native countries.

In a speech entitled 'Europe's New Horizons' Mr Hurd said that many of his European counterparts considered that migration 'among all the other problems we face - is the most crucial'. Like the US of the 19th century, 'Europe is a magnet for people seeking greater opportunities, from the east and south . . . We have already seen, most obviously in Germany but also elsewhere in the Community, the tensions and antipathies which can result from the inflow,' said Mr Hurd, delivering the annual lecture of the Swiss Bank Corporation. 'We need to show to people over whom the Community exerts a strong pull that they can build a prosperous life at home.

'This reopens the whole question of trade. It is better that the Polish farmer should be able to sell his produce in Western markets than that he should uproot himself to seek a livelihood in the West.' In a clear rebuke of protectionist policies among the EC's southern member states, he went on: 'It is better that the Moroccan orange-picker should be able to sell his fruit in the EC than abandon his crop and take himself to market.'

In what is likely to prove a foretaste of British policy if the Maastricht treaty fails, Mr Hurd stressed those functions of the Community which are governed by consensus among individual governments - as Britain has always preferred EC business to be conducted - rather than by EC institutions.

This applied to foreign and security policy: 'In the case of Yugoslavia we have been led by facts to develop ways in which we make policy even in advance of treaty obligations. Events, not a treaty, have forced the pace.' Similarly with interior affairs and justice: 'The pressure of events rather than the imperative of a treaty mean that we have to make a success . . . of interior and justice matters, including migration.'

By the same token, Mr Hurd did not make any mention of monetary union, the blueprint of which is contained in the Maastricht treaty; nor of the European Parliament, which was due to gain its first real powers through the treaty. He dwelled on the need to bring new members into the Community, another of the mainstays of British policy which critics say is a tool to ensure a looser, less institutionalised Europe: 'In the new Europe, the Community must enlarge. Half of Europe is not the whole of Europe,' he declared, calling for Austria, Sweden and Finland to be admitted 'as fast as possible'.

In concluding, he returned to foreign policy to demonstrate that Europe can function under existing institutions: 'We set out in the Treaty of Maastricht some new machinery as to how the Twelve, the Community and its member states, were going to elaborate a common foreign and security policy. But as often happens in life, events are propelling us in advance of legal obligations . . . Under Maastricht, as now, member states have the freedom to act independently. Under Maastricht, as now, joint action will be decided by unanimity, not majority voting.'