Denis MacShane – 2004 Speech on Cyprus

Below is the text of the speech made by Denis MacShane, the then Foreign Office Minister, at Green Lane in London on 22nd January 2004.

Not for the first time, Cyprus stands at a crossroads. For someone who has not had to live through the pain of ethnic conflict, dispossession and division, it may seem all too easy to tell those who have, which way to turn. I presume to do so now because Britain wants Cyprus to succeed – not in a paternalistic or condescending way, but because we have always thought it would be in our interests to have a strong, self-confident Cyprus inside the EU.

It is a pleasure to be here this evening and pay tribute to the work of Harris Sophiclides and thank him for his consistent work with British parliamentarians and the measured but determined the way he has defended the causes so dear to him and everyone in this room.

I want Cyprus to succeed because I first went to the island in the 1970s and no-one visits Cyprus without leaving a bit of their heart behind. As a political activist I know how important Cyprus has been to all who want a future of peace, prosperity and progressive politics in the world. My friends Joan Ryan MP, Andy Love MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Andrew Dismore MP and Barbara Roche MP have been tireless in defending the needs and rights of the Cypriot community in London. Both communities – as the commonality of interests in Green Lane at times seems more in the true spirit of Cyprus than the differences on both sides of the Green Line that runs through Nicosia.

High on the Trodos Mountains, there can be no more wonderful place in the world to those of us who love mountains and the high air that allow the vision of eagles in place of the blindness of moles.

We want the leaders of Cyprus to have the vision of eagles – seeing a 21st century Cyprus in which the present stops being the prisoner of the past and together a new future, a European future is built.


What is at stake now is not, of course, the accession of Cyprus itself. That long-standing goal of British foreign policy will be achieved this May. And a very good thing too. No, what is at stake is whether the Cyprus which accedes is going to be strong, self-confident, reunited, healed – the kind of partner we and our fellow Member States really want.

These weeks before accession offer Cyprus an opportunity like none other – which, if squandered, will not quickly repeat itself. I passionately believe that, in Cyprus as elsewhere, the path to reconciliation and peace lies through looking forward to what the future offers, not dwelling on past injustices. In Turkey last week, I was asked why there appeared to be opposition in Austria to Turkey’s desire to begin talks on EU accession. I muttered something about ‘1571 and Jan Sobiewski’ – when the Sultan’s troops were stopped at the gates of Vienna by the bravery of the Polish soldiers. ‘But, minister, that was four centuries ago,’ I was told. ‘Yes, but all I hear from you on Cyprus is what happened four decades ago,’. I said just as often I hear from friends that the whole point of politics is to avenge what happened in Cyprus in 1974. Four centuries, four decades, thirty years. If we live in the past, we cannot come to terms with the present. But it is the future I want us tonight to think about.

And the future, in Europe, offers a united, prosperous Cyprus playing its destined, influential role within a stable eastern Mediterranean region.


There is another goal we should keep in mind. For too long the region has suffered because of suspicion between Greece and Turkey – and between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Rapprochement between Athens and Ankara has made great strides. Cyprus – and all Cypriots – now have the chance to pursue their own rapprochement. And in time – as I also passionately believe – a stable, secular, democratic Turkey will join the European Union – with all the benefits that will bring to the Union, to the region and to the whole Islamic world.

But if we are to realise either of these objectives we need to put the Cyprus problem behind us. The partial opening of the Green Line in April last year sowed seeds of hope. The confidence building measures of the Cypriot government were an important step forward. The magnanimity and plain common sense showed by ordinary Cypriots was a lesson to us all. And it demolished the xenophobic arguments some have used to criticise the Annan plan. I am utterly convinced that the common ground identified by the UN Secretary General is the only way forward for Cyprus, towards that future in which Greek and Turkish Cypriots can get on with business, and unlock their island’s true potential as a prosperous, normal EU member state. Europe has worked at 15 – and will work at 25. How much better, at 25 than at 24 and a half! I know Cyprus desperately wants to shed its image as always the ‘special case’, the weakest link in Europe’s chain.


Kofi Annan has produced detailed proposals, carefully balanced to address the fundamental concerns of both communities. His proposals may seem complex – but so are the issues they reconcile. It can be done. Today’s Europe has other examples of states uniting differing peoples, and of elaborate systems of institutional checks and balances. Although it already reflects many hours of negotiation, and decades of expertise on the part of the United Nations, the Annan Plan is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. The final balance is a matter for the parties themselves, and for the people of Cyprus in two referendums.

From Cypriot friends in London I have heard criticisms – often loud and condemnatory – of the Annan Plan. Last week, I heard in Turkey equally angry opposition from some quarters to Annan. One might be tempted to say that if both sides think Annan is wrong, it must be right. All I can say is that I do no think there is a better alternative. Demand that Annan be changed to suit each and every demand put by people who remember how they were treated in the 1960s or how they were dispossessed in the 1970s and we will live in the past not build a future.

Europe stands ready to help. The European Union has undertaken to accommodate the terms of a Cyprus settlement – by which we mean that the unique aspects of the new Cyprus envisaged by the UN Secretary General, including guarantees for both communities, will not fall foul of some rigid EU template. Indeed, members of the European Commission were closely involved in drafting the EU elements of the Annan plan, and both they and the Member States took the unanimous view that the Annan plan provided for a workable and viable settlement for an EU-member reunited Cyprus. Europe’s willingness to back a Cypriot answer to the Cyprus question is an important contribution to the search for peace. And I have to say that Europe will have little patience with attempts to argue that the Annan Plan is insufficiently European, when the plan has the backing of all the member states! For its part, the European Commission has frequently repeated its commitment to hold a pledging conference, to galvanise the economic support which a politically successful settlement would be bound to attract from the donor community and International Financial Institutions. Everybody loves a winner. If Cyprus can get the politics right, public and private sector investors will regard it as a one-way bet. In such propitious circumstances, the Annan Plan’s emphasis on financial compensation for those who have suffered in the past can be fully appreciated. It is a viable, forward-thinking philosophy, which has been pioneered successfully by peacemakers in other parts of the world.

There are signs from Ankara that Turkey too realises that the clock is ticking loudly now, and how much is at stake – for Cyprus and for Turkey itself. Prime Minister Erdogan will take his ideas to the UN Secretary General this weekend and then to Washington next week. I have urged Turkey to be imaginative and generous. If Ataturk could switch the Ottoman Arab alphabet to European letters in one month, it should not be impossible for the Turkish government, army and parliament to move forward to a Cyprus settlement between now and 1 May. Make no mistake. A divided Cyprus with barbed wire manned by soldiers of a non-EU member state will not send out a good signal for Turkey’s bid to see EU accession talks start this December. Equally, a Turkey that showed it had removed all obstacles to a united Cyprus entering the EU on May 1st would be given an immeasurable boost in its European aspirations. I have spelt out this message in public and in private to all levels of Turkey.


Tonight I want to send the same message to our friends and partners in the Cypriot government. The British Government is urging all sides to meet the UN Secretary General’s requirements for a resumption of negotiations. The prize is there for the taking. History will not look kindly on those too timid or too bitter to reach out and grab it.

For Turkey, there is an important resonance with its own EU candidature. Turkey’s approach to the Cyprus issue is a golden opportunity to refute the allegation that it sees Cyprus as a bargaining chip; and, instead, to be judged on the basis of the AKP government’s impressive domestic reforms. Much remains to be done on the implementation front. But the campaigners for human rights and the lawyers defending freedom of expression I met in Turkey told me that despite their criticisms they were united in wanting to see the EU give the green light to the beginning of the long process of Turkish accession to the EU. A Cyprus settlement would be good for Turkey on its own merits, of course. But it would also transform the European politics surrounding its accession bid. At last, Turkey would be seen, as it deserves to be seen, as a source of solutions instead of problems.

For the Republic of Cyprus it is equally clear. No one can or should stand in the way of her accession to the EU on 1 May. But would it not be a Pyrrhic victory, for Cyprus to join divided and incomplete? Cypriots are all too familiar with a feeling of insecurity. Membership of the EU will undoubtedly help address those fears. For a start, membership of the EU will underpin, in new and significant ways, the unshakeable friendship between Britain and Cyprus. But the prospects of a divided Cyprus, even within the EU, are far less certain, and almost certainly worse, than the prospects of a re-united Cyprus. Moreover, stability in the wider middle East is too important a prize for Europe to allow it – indefinitely – to be held hostage by those who are themselves prisoners of the past.

The Eastern Mediterranean and its littoral are home to many of the world’s problems. For Turkey and Greece, for the two communities of Cyprus to find their way to peace would send out a powerful message that Europe works – that Europe can create peace in place of conflict. Today, one million British people visit Izmir and the resorts of its Aegean coastline and thousands settle there. The tourist and business and cultural connections with Cyprus do not need spelling out. Cyprus is part of our history, the Cypriots of London and our other cities have contributed so much to Britain’s prosperity, culture and, sense of community. I urge all to seize the chance of peace and show that the United Nations and the European Union can work together to bring to an end an conflict that has caused so much hurt, distress and dispossession. I hope the message from Green Lane in London is that we do not need a green line in Cyrpus anymore. Whether your alphabet ends with Zed or Omega it begins with A for Annan, A for Ankara and A for Athens working in partnership, A for aspirations and ambitions from all of us to shape a united Cyprus in tomorrow’s Europe.

I want and the British government wants a new Cyprus, united, free and European, to become a reality. Time is running out. I urge all of my friends here tonight to help build that new Cyprus, for a new Europe, in a new century.

Thank you.

Denis MacShane – 2003 Speech on the European Constitution

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Foreign Office Minister, Denis MacShane, on the subject of the European constitution. The speech was made in Strasbourg on 29th January 2003.

Mr President, it is a great honour to have been invited to take part in this debate in this Assembly, the oldest European Parliamentary Assembly.

I would like to thank the distinguished Rapporteur, Mr Pangalos for a stimulating and timely report on the Council of Europe’s contribution to an EU constitution. Timely, because the Future of Europe Convention which is looking at reform of the EU is in full swing. And while EU states are naturally preoccupied with the internal reforms which are vital to allow for an expanded EU, its appropriate to remind them that Europe extends far beyond the EU. Even a 25-member EU with 450 million citizens does not cover the whole continent. The 44-member Council of Europe, with an 800 million population, has a much better claim to do so.

Mr Pangalos’ excellent report puts forward a number of suggestions on the Council’s contribution to the EU constitution-making process. The report recommends incorporation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights into the constitutional treaty. We can see the argument that a Constitutional treaty should refer to the values we all share. But at the same time we are alive to serious legal and practical problems including the potential for confusion in the European legal space which could arise if the Charter were incorporated into the treaty structure in the form in which it was declared at Nice.

The Report suggests tackling this problem by the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights. This will create harmony between the two legal orders; it would also make the EU institutions directly accountable for violations, rather than through the member states. But the United Kingdom does have concerns about the impact accession may have both on EC/EU competence and regarding the position of the individual member states in relation to Protocols, reservations, and the ability to derogate. The Convention on the Future of Europe’s Charter Working Group Final Report acknowledges these concerns. But it is fair to point out that it offers no answers.

Furthermore, not all ECHR Protocols have been ratified by the member states,; indeed some have entered, reservations and derogations. EC/EU accession to the ECHR, without taking into account the individual legal positions of the member states, could entail a lot of confusion. The need, as the United Kingdom sees it, would be to ensure accession took place without prejudice to the individual legal positions of the member states in respect of the ECHR.

These are indeed important and difficult questions. The United Kingdom is playing a full part in the Future of Europe debate to work out how they are best answered.

How the EU frames its human rights is one of dozens of questions under discussion at the Future of Europe Convention. But the EU must not be so absorbed with its plans for internal reform that it neglects the impact the Convention outcome will have on the millions of Europeans who are not part of the EU. This is where the role of the Council of Europe is essential and must be protected from collateral damage as the future EU is being shaped. The European Court of Human Rights’ place in the European human rights architecture must not be undermined.

The debate on the Future of Europe, coupled with EU and NATO enlargement, is throwing a spotlight on the European human rights and security architecture. This is an ideal opportunity for the Council of Europe to assess its own role in the future of Europe. The Council could be well-placed, perhaps, to provide the framework for the privileged relationship between the EU and its neighbours mentioned in the draft EU constitution.

But the Council’s future is not simply defined by the EU. Seen from the United Kingdom perspective, the Council should continue to play a unifying role as the one, truly pan-European forum where EU and non-EU states engage on the human rights, political and social issues. The Council should continue to lead the way in setting and developing human rights standards. Its careful watch of how member states are living up to those standards, sometimes resented as intrusive, is essential for ensuring that all of its members, new and old, live up to their obligations and the values they espouse. The Council will continue to have a vital role as a common European forum.

Denis MacShane – 1994 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Denis MacShane on 16th May 1994.

I have addressed many audiences and many chambers, but none quite as intimidating as this, with my true friends behind me and my real opponents facing me. I gather that convention demands that one must be polite, so polite one must be.

I am very conscious of coming to the House in place of Jimmy Boyce, a man who came from a part of our society about which not enough of us know. He was unemployed for many years, a victim of the very cruel policies that have cost so much for some of the great talents of our nation over the past 15 years. I come from a different background, but I will fight for the causes that Jimmy supported. I hope that I can in some way measure up to the service that he provided to Rotherham in the short two years in which he was a Member of this House.

I am also conscious of the fact that I follow in the footsteps of Stan Crowther who is well known to the House and was a great public servant to Rotherham over 50 years of political life. I am also conscious of following in the footsteps of Brian O’Malley, the man who inspired me when I first became involved in politics. He collapsed at the Dispatch Box, another victim of the stress of public life. Like everyone else, I was glad of the tributes paid to John Smith in the press. We speak no ill of the dead; perhaps from time to time, my old friends in the Gallery may speak some good of the living.

Last week was for me the best of weeks and the worst of weeks. When I came to the House on Tuesday, John Smith greeted me and said that it would be a day that I would remember for the rest of my life. John Smith talked of a dream, but the dream was extinguished when, on Thursday, he left us. He spent a whole day with me in Rotherham, seeing the steel plant and the college, and talking to Asians and to party members. He left a message of hope for a new and better Britain.

I am proud to have been elected by the people of Rotherham to represent their interests in Parliament. They have not always been so happy in their choice. The first Member for Rotherham—a Member for Yorkshire in those days—was Sir Thomas Wentworth, later the Earl of Strafford. Older Members of the House may remember that he was executed on a Bill of Attainder in 1641. He was promised that his life would be saved by none other than King Charles I, but he was, of course, sacrificed.

Alas, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) and the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) are not with us today. They must know how poor Thomas Wentworth felt as they, too, were given the full support of a Prime Minister—a sure sign that they were about to mount the political scaffold. ‘Put not your trust in princes’, were Thomas Wentworth’s last words. The spirit of Rotherham and, indeed, of Yorkshire ever since has been one of sturdy self-reliance and a rejection of authoritarianism and the centralising forces that Toryism has represented throughout the ages.

Rotherham was the place where Thomas Paine, that most noble of commoners, who brought democracy to America and the ‘Rights of Man’ to Europe, even as he was forced into exile by the Pitt Government, built his great suspension bridge. I do not know how many hon. Members know that Thomas Paine was a great manufacturer as well as a great democrat. The bridge was a feat of great engineering, as important as in many ways as his enunciation of the rights of man. Paine’s bridge was built by the Walker Brothers of Rotherham, whose cannons sunk Napoleon’s fleet at Trafalgar.

What would Tom Paine find if he returned to Rotherham today? The great manufacturies, on which Adam Smith based his ‘Wealth of Nations’, have all but disappeared, 25,000 jobs have gone since 1979 and the coal mines, which once promised Britain its own energy source safe from the perils of foreign disturbances, are now capped. The local council, with the money and the will to build homes for the homeless, is prevented from doing so by the most centralised administration since that of Charles I.

Paine would find poverty in Rotherham, I am sad to say, as bad as anywhere in Europe. Indeed, he was dismissed from Government service for arguing for fair wages for public servants. Poorly paid public service, he argued, attracts only the ill-qualified and breeds corruption, collusion and neglect. He went on: ‘An augmentation of salary sufficient to enable workers to live honestly and competently would produce more good effect than all the laws of the land can enforce.’ I offer that to our low-wage merchants on the Government side of the House. We already knew that Thomas Paine was a great democrat and a friend of Rotherham manufacturing, but it came as news, even to me, that he believed in a statutory minimum wage 200 years before its time.

For all those problems, Paine would find, as would anyone who visits Rotherham, a town and a people whose spirits are unbroken despite all that has been thrown at them in the past 15 years. The pedestrianised town centre, which is one of the nicest in Europe, is spoiled only, alas, by the pressure on shopkeepers arising from the declining purchasing power of the citizens of Rotherham.

One of the world’s most advanced engineering steel plants, UES, is at the cutting edge of modern technology. I must to say my hon. Friends, talk not of steel as an old industry. Steel is one of the most modern and advanced sectors of our economy.

There are new partnerships between the chamber of commerce, the training and enterprise council, the local council and the trade unions, which support unity and a common cause to promote Rotherham.

Tom Paine would also find a very great sense—Tom Paine was, if nothing else, an internationalist—of feeling that, if Rotherham is to succeed, Britain must play its full part in Europe, because Britain is part of Europe as surely as Yorkshire is part of Britain.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), the Father of the House, who, since 1938, has stood for, yes, a Tory vision of internationalism against isolationism and that yellow streak of appeasement and opting out, which has always shamed the Conservative party, as it shames it in so much of its policy today.

We are part of Europe and the Euro-septics on the Government Benches may want their cash-and-carry Europe, in which each state takes what it wants. They decry centralisation, yet they have gone through the Division Lobby voting for measure after measure after measure to transfer power from local authorities—indeed, from the House—to give it to their friends in privatised companies and quangos. I want to see power shared downward to the regions, to communities, horizontally to the sister units of civil society in Europe, but, above all, I want to see power made accountable.

If we are to live in an international community in which trade and travel and money and ideas can go through porous frontiers, at least we, as human beings, as subjects of Her Majesty, as citizens of Europe, should have the right to have the human spirit protected through regulation of trans-frontier activity. Yes, Europe is too important to be left to Brussels, but if we are to fight for British interests, we must do so by promoting transparency, democracy and accountability in all European institutions. R.H. Tawney described the hereditary disease of the English nation as ‘the reverence for riches’ and went on: ‘If men are to respect each other for what they are, they must cease to respect each other for what they own.’ I apologise to the hon. Ladies present and to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the references to the rights of man and quoting men. I see myself, after post-modernism and post-industrialism, as the first ‘PPC’—post-politically correct—hon. Member.

England is the most money-obsessed country in Europe. Switch on the BBC and every five seconds there is some Brylcreemed spokesperson for the bond markets telling us how the dollar is doing. The BBC and ITV tell us the price of the stock market at any moment, anywhere in the world, but have ceased to report on the values needed to bring cohesion back to our communities. I do not blame them. They take their lead from those who rule our society and until we get public interest hands on the tiller of the state, instead of the sticky fingers of so many of the Conservative Members and their friends in the till, the media can do no more than take a lead from those who put a price on everything, but know the value of nothing.

For all our obsession with cash, Britain remains the poor man of Europe. Italy’s gross domestic product per capita in 1960 was exactly one half of Great Britain’s. Now, it has overtaken us. We have been so busy preaching at Europe and trying to teach Europe the secrets of the United Kingdom’s economic record, we have committed, to use James Fenton’s phrase—how pleased I was to see my old friend become professor of poetry at Oxford on Saturday— ‘the fault of thinking small and acting big’. Perhaps we have forgotten that we have some lessons to learn; lessons about partnership, lessons about the successful countries in Europe. Germany, even after unification, has a lower unemployment record than our own. The Benelux countries and the new entrants are successful, too. Those who proclaim themselves Thatcherites, such as in the Prime Minister’s favourite holiday country Spain, have the worst record of job creation and balanced development.

The core answer from Europe—one of vital importance to Rotherham and one to which I intend to commit myself in the House—is that manufacturing is not dead and, despite all the best efforts of the Government, should not die. The rising sun has been coming here continually to try to save a sinking England, but we now find that Japanese investment is going to Germany, to France and is leaving these shores.

If I may refer, as a socialist, to my favourite Sunday reading, The Sunday Telegraph tells us how well Germany is doing, that the Japanese research and development centres are installing themselves there and that the Japanese now prefer to be in Germany because of its high skill base, good labour relations and its position as Europe’s engine of growth.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) blamed our balance of trade on Europe. I have to say to him that it is 15 years of anti-manufacturing policies, of the destruction of partnership, of the lack of investment and the money that has flowed overseas that has been at fault. In fact, if we would learn from our European partner competitors, Britain would be in a much better shape.

It is not only an economic question. I was privileged to have many conversations with John Smith when he was in Rotherham and he talked of the constitutional changes that Labour would like to introduce, such as the end of the absurd spectacle of hereditary Members in another place making and casting laws, the need for national Governments for Scotland and Wales and regional assemblies, and the need for a referendum—not on electoral reform as I see it, but on re-thinking the way in which we govern ourselves. That is part of the constitutional package that I think is necessary for a new Britain.

As with John Smith’s commitment to full employment and to trade union rights, we are seeing fleshed out a new programme to reconstruct our lives in Britain as great as that which we saw after the war, but, this time, with us secure in the heart of Europe.

A Europe of what? Is it a ‘Europe des patries’ as General de Gaulle said? That is difficult for us. We have four nations, but what is our fatherland? That is not a word that we can use easily as British people. It is not a united states of Europe or a stepping stone to Tennyson’s ‘Parliament of the World’, either. After many years working in Europe, I find the Germans more German, the French more French and the Italians more Italian. It is only we in Britain who seem to live in a permanent identity crisis about who we are and what it means to be British. That is because the old Toryism is dying. The new Labourism is not yet born. As a consequence, the morbid symptoms of corruption and xenophobia that lie at the heart of the Cabinet are everywhere to be found where the Government are at work.

Those who are hostile to Europe are to be found in all nations. We have the Euro-sceptics here, there are the French communists and now we have the Italian fascists. I have with me the programme of Philippe de Villiers, the conservative right-winger in France. He wants Europe to be protected against any imports from outside the Community. He wants also a Europe in which national controls stop immigration. Like the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my father came here in the 1930s. He was a refugee from fascist Europe. The Europe that is described by Philippe de Villiers is not one of which I want to be part. Indeed, I am not even sure whether Conservative Members believe in such a Europe.

Closing the door to foreign immigrants and to exports from around the world is not a Europe in which we need to believe. We in Europe should defend our interests, but, at the same time, we in this country should deepen our friendship with countries such as Germany and—I declare an interest because my wife is French—France. In the words of Victor Hugo, ‘France is the adversary of England as the better is the enemy of the good.’ I am conscious of returning to the country that made me. I have returned from elsewhere in Europe, where I worked for many years. I have learnt much, and some of that learning I might bring to the House. I am not ‘A steady patriot of the world alone, The friend of every country but his own.’ I remain British. I am proud of the schools that made me and of the health service that put me together when I cracked my head open in the 1950s. I am hopeful that such again could be the kind of United Kingdom in which my children can grow up. It is a country in which we always refer to faith, hope and charity. But greater than any of those concepts is justice.

I will argue for justice for the people of Rotherham. I will strive for economic justice for the unemployed and social justice for the weak and disabled people of Rotherham. I so much agree with those who say that the best tribute that we could pay to John Smith would be to pass the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which was recently talked out. There must be ‘plain justice’—justice for the criminals who walk free in an England that opts out of Europe. In so many parts of our communities, unfortunately, it seems to opt out of decency and law and order. If I can deliver any part of that message during my time in the House on behalf of the people of Rotherham, I shall be well pleased.