Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Robin Cook's speech
This is the full text of Foreign Secretary Robin Cook's speech to the Labour Party conference:
I last met Vetan the week after we liberated Kosovo. That day among the people of Pristina I saw the joy of freedom.
I also saw the horror of oppression.
Mostly crawled into the corners in a desperate, futile attempt to hide from the bullets.
In Kosovo Europe witnessed the greatest persecution of a whole people since the days of Hitler or Stalin.
We acted because the age of mass deportation and ethnic cleansing belongs to Europe's past. We are not going to let it come back.
Milosevic was beaten in Kosovo. If our predecessors in Government had acted as decisively to stop him in the past decade then we would never have seen the tragedy of Kosovo.
Or Bosnia. Since the Serb army pulled out of Kosovo there is a new spirit of hope in Bosnia. The rate at which Bosnian refugees are going back has almost trebled now they know Milosevic is not coming back.
Our victory must be a turning point for all the Balkans. Serbia has seven neighbours. Every one of them was solid in their support for our action.
We owe it to them to be equally solid in helping them build a new future for the Balkans.
A future in which we open up the markets of Europe and help them end the poverty that breeds conflict.
A future in which we share with them the key lesson of modern Europe. That the more we bring down barriers with our neighbours, the more secure each of us becomes.
We are making good progress in getting that lesson understood in the Balkans.
I am sorry to have to tell conference that we are further away than ever from getting it understood in today's Tory Party.
They have just launched yet another Tory campaign against Europe. This time called Conservatives Against a Federal Europe.
They want to be known for short as cafe.
Let's not tell them it's a French word.
A fifth of the Tory Parliamentary Party have signed up. Though these days you could get a fifth of the Tory Party into most medium sized cafés.
All members of cafe are urged to "make your voice heard in William's office".
Making your voice heard in William's office seems to me a very modest ambition. I want our voice to be heard in Europe.
Thanks to Labour, that is where Britain's voice is now heard.
As a result we got agreement to end the beef ban, and the best ever deal for our regions.
Under Labour, Britain is leading Europe, not leaving Europe.
Leading the reform of Europe - to make it more open, more in touch with the people. And who better to do it than the man who started the reform of our party and is now reforming the European Commission. Our own Neil Kinnock.
But Britain will not be taken seriously on the case for reform, if Europe does not believe we want to make it a success.
Last month we heard the authentic voice of the Tory party on Europe. Margaret Thatcher. She claimed that Europe had been "an absolute disaster for Britain". I would not dream of disputing that Margaret Thatcher is an expert on absolute disasters.
But the real disaster for Britain would be withdrawal from Europe. That is the true logic of the Tory position.
It would be a disaster because we sell most of our exports to Europe, and we need to be there when they draw up the rules.
Because we and our neighbours face the same problems of cross-border crime, the same challenges of protecting our environment, and we need common solutions.
And because we need the united strength of Europe when we talk to the rest of the world.
And if it becomes clear that our five tests have been met and that Britain's interest would be better served by joining the Single Currency, then we will invite the British people in a referendum to make the right choice.
If the economic conditions are right, Labour will not let Britain lose out by staying out.
I challenge William Hague to say that to the Tory Conference next week.
Of course he won't dare. The emergency exit is too far away from the platform. He knows Conservative dogma would keep Britain out even if it meant Britain losing out.
The Tories should be honest with the people of Britain.
For many of our people, out of Europe would mean out of work.
The British people wouldn't thank them if it happened. Nor would our friends around the world.
Some Tories used to claim that we had to choose between Europe and America.
This Government has more influence in Brussels and because of that more respect in Washington than the Conservatives ever did.
It is not only in Europe that we inherited from the Conservatives a record of stalemate. We were left a whole catalogue of problems.
One by one we have been tackling them.
After ten long years the Lockerbie bombing will be brought to court. At last, the relatives of those who died that night can hear the evidence in open court.
For the first time in seventeen years since we went to war with Argentina we have brokered an agreement with them on contacts with the Falkland Islands.
For the first time in a decade we have secured an undertaking from the Government of Iran that it will do nothing to carry out the fatwah against Salman Rushdie.
And for the first time in forty years since the Castro revolution, Britain has held talks with the Foreign Minister of Cuba. I made it clear we want to see better human rights in Cuba. But we have a better chance of getting them, not by blockading Cuba but by making the world open to Cuba.
Isolation in the modern world carries a big penalty in the global economy. We do not wish to visit isolation on any country that is willing to engage with us.
But there are some regimes so remote from our values that they must be made to pay the price of isolation.
One of these is Burma, ruled by a regime that has put hundreds of elected MPs in prison and hundreds of thousands of its people into refugee camps.
As I speak, there is a service of commemoration for Michael Aris, the husband of Aung San Suu Kyi. When Michael knew he was dying of cancer, we asked the Government of Burma to give him a visa so that he could say goodbye to his wife. They refused.
They could not make even a simple act of human compassion to a dying man.
It is because of their behaviour that this Government has stopped all support for trade with Burma and discouraged any tourism to Burma.
Some people say that human rights in other countries is none of our business. We can have democracy and civil liberty for ourselves, but can turn a blind eye to how other governments behave and a deaf ear to the cries for help of their people.
I find it offensive that the same people should insist on democracy and freedom for Europeans, but insist that we should do nothing to defend the same rights of the peoples of Asia, or Africa.
Every delegate can be proud that last week's report from Amnesty concludes that your government "has made a genuine and active commitment to human rights".
Let's put a myth to rest.
Your government has not sold weapons that would suppress democracy or freedom.
We rejected every licence to Indonesia when the weapons might have been used for suppression. We refused them sniper rifles, we refused them silenced firearms, and we refused them armoured Land Rovers.
I see the Daily Mail has discovered a principled opposition to the arms trade.
What a pity they didn't discover it when the Conservative Government they supported was burying Indonesia under arms.
I am content to be judged by the people of East Timor.
Xanana Gusmao has led their independence movement for the past twenty years, half of them from a prison in Jakarta.
He has sent us this message.
Video message from Xanana Gusmao:
It is a great honour for me to send my good wishes to the Labour Party for your Centenary Conference. For one quarter of those hundred years, my country has been occupied. Today I wait on the other side of the world from you ready to return to an independent East Timor.
These have been difficult weeks for us. The people of East Timor have suffered appalling atrocities at the hands of the militias backed by the Indonesian military. They have seen friends and families killed and their homes destroyed. But what the militias have not destroyed is our desire to live as an independent people under a government of our choice.
For many years the Labour Party has given us support and strength. Since you have been in Government, you have stood by us and you have played a key part to secure independence for East Timor. You have supported us in the United Nations and worked hard to turn the promise of a referendum into a reality. And when violence followed our vote for freedom, you played a vital role in building international support behind our cause.
On a personal note, I would also like to express once more my gratitude for the speed with which the UK Government responded to the need for security of myself and my team in Jakarta making available your Embassy to us. The hospitality of your Ambassador Robin Christopher and his staff was out of the ordinary.
I will miss Derek Fatchett who visited me regularly when I was under house arrest and who was the first British Minister to visit East Timor only weeks before he died this year. His death is a loss to us all.
As you celebrate the first one hundred years of your Party's history, you can be proud of the role that you have played in East Timor. You have shown that you are prepared to take bold steps for what you believe. In a hundred years time we will celebrate the first centenary of an independent East Timor, and you will celebrate your second century. I am confident that with the clear leadership you have shown, you will be as proud of your second hundred years as you can be of your first.
Xanana Gusmao was a civil servant in East Timor before its occupation by Indonesia in 1975. Following the invasion he became leader of the East Timor resistance movement and Commander of FALANTIL - the national liberation armed forces of East Timor.
He was captured in 1992 by the Indonesian army and given a life sentence. It is believed that he received psychological ill treatment during his trial.
Xanana has become a symbol of East Timor's struggle for freedom and a key figure in the search for a political solution.
I promised the people of East Timor that we would not allow their cry for freedom to be drowned in blood.
We are delivering on that promise. Our troops were among the first ashore.
No other nation has a higher proportion of its armed forces active on peace-keeping duties around the globe.
That is a measure of our internationalism. For a hundred years, Labour has been the Party of internationalism.
It was members of the Labour Movement who first opposed the rise of fascism and fought it in Spain.
It was the Labour Party that campaigned to end colonialism and under Atlee replaced an Empire with a Commonwealth.
And it was the Labour Party that opposed Apartheid. It was the Conservative Party that opposed the sanctions that brought down Apartheid.
Peter Hain used to sit on the pavement outside the South African Embassy leading protests. Today he goes into it as Minister for Africa for a Labour Party that is welcome because of our long support for their struggle for freedom in South Africa.
We have a good record. It proves that Labour is in touch with the outside world and was right on the big questions of the century that has past.
The real political divide in the next century will be between internationalists and isolationists.
The isolationists in the Tory Party see every new partnership with foreigners as a threat.
As internationalists, we do not find working with foreigners unpatriotic.
Labour wants Britain to be part of the modern world, not a prisoner of its past.
We recognise globalisation demands a New Internationalism.
And our internationalism recognises that we cannot deliver our domestic programme working alone in the world.
Our internationalism recognises that the boundaries of national interest have shifted.
As Kofi Annan said to the United Nations 'in the global era, the collective interest is the national interest'.
Our internationalism recognises that rights belong to the people not to their governments.
We ignored Milosevic when he tried to tell us that atrocities were an internal matter. Gross breaches of humanitarian law are the business of all humanity.
Vetan Surroi began by telling us what it was like to be liberated from oppression.
The campaign we fought in Kosovo was not fought to gain us territory or to bring us greater power.
What prompted us to intervene, what motivated us to maintain the resolve of the alliance, was our values -freedom, justice, compassion - basic human decency.
Those are the values that gained Labour the support of the British people. And those are the values that are gaining Britain under Labour new respect around the world.
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