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Kosovo

14. Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling): What progress is being made with the reconstruction of Kosovo. [95044]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): Assessment of the needs for reconstruction assistance have been carried out by the World bank and the European Commission, which are leading the international effort on the reconstruction of Kosovo. Their findings will be presented to a donors

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conference on 17 November. We fully support the efforts of the United Nations, the European Union and the Stability Pact for South-East Europe in their reconstruction efforts.

Mr. Coaker: I congratulate the Government on their humanitarian relief programme, and on the reconstruction work that has taken place. What progress is being made with the longer-term solutions to this problem, and with the economic and social reform that is necessary if there is to be real stability in Kosovo and in the region?

Mr. Vaz: I recognise my hon. Friend's interest in this matter, and I know that he has visited the region twice. At the last donors conference, the sum of $2.1 billion was set aside for support in Kosovo. The United Kingdom Government have given £10.65 million for emergency aid and restructuring, and the European Union has put aside 615 million euros. The reconstruction process goes on. It is right that we should concentrate on the infrastructure--schools, hospitals and the utilities--and that is what the United Nations and the EU representatives are doing. We shall ensure that the process continues.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): I am sure the Minister will agree that the reconstruction will be not just physical, but in terms of trust between the various people living in Kosovo. In that context, can he throw any light on the alarmist and sensationalist claims in newspapers during recent weeks relating to whether atrocities were actually perpetrated during the conflict?

Mr. Vaz: I do not normally comment on articles in The Sunday Times. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, however, that it was because of the atrocities committed in Kosovo that the allied forces took the actions that they took. The estimates that we have given in the past are, as far as we are concerned, accurate. We will continue to go along with the various examinations that are taking place, but it was because of the civilian casualties--because of the atrocities--that the British Government, the European Union and the United Nations acted as they did.

Albania

15. Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): If he will make a statement about Britain's relations with Albania. [95046]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): Bilateral relations with Albania are excellent. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a visit in May this year during the Kosovo crisis. We will continue to work to develop relations at all levels.

I should like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to former Prime Minister Majko, who resigned last week, for the contribution that his Government made to the resolution of the Kosovo crisis and to the development of relations between our two countries. We wish his successor, Prime Minister Meta, every success, and trust that he will pursue the sensible policies of his predecessor.

Mr. Chaytor: I thank the Minister for his reply.

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During a recent visit to Albania, we in the all-party Anglo-Albanian group saw a country struggling to establish democracy in the most difficult circumstances, while coping with mass unemployment resulting from the crash transition to a market economy, coping with the effects of the civil war in Kosovo, coping with trafficking in drugs, prostitution and arms, and coping with the fact that many of its social institutions were in a state of collapse. Will the Minister ensure that, while the international community concentrates--understandably--on Kosovo, Albania's needs are not forgotten? In particular, will he assure us that he will continue to support efforts to establish democracy and a renewal of civil society in that country?

Mr. Vaz: I am glad to learn that my hon. Friend has visited Albania. I am due to meet him and his colleagues in the all-party group later in the week. He is absolutely right: we must continue to support on-going efforts in Albania to ensure that democracy is strengthened, and that trade and co-operation continue. That is why the European Union established the stabilisation and association agreements--precisely to ensure that countries such as Albania become part of the European mainstream. We will continue the efforts that we are making.

As my hon. Friend knows, the Department for International Development has allocated £5 million to help with technical assistance and the establishment of civil government. We as a Government welcome the support that we have received from Albania. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Albania on 18 May, and we will continue to work with the country, because we need its support and it needs our support.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): Does the Minister agree that the work of the British Council and the BBC World Service is key to our relations with Albania and, indeed, the wider Balkan community? When I worked for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring the 1996 elections in Albania, the World Service was the sole voice of reason. What additional support will the Minister give the World Service and the British Council, to further their work in the region?

Mr. Vaz: I can certainly give the World Service and the British Council the Government's full support. As a former vice-chairman of the British Council, I recognise the enormous amount of work that has been done. I am happy, and the Government are happy, to support the continued efforts that those organisations have made to ensure that the voices of reason and democracy are heard in the Balkans.

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EU Reform

16. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): What response he has sent to recent proposals by an independent commission for reform of the EU institutions. [95047]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): The Dehaene report is an advisory document, feeding ideas into the Commission's internal thinking on the intergovernmental conference. It is for the Commission, not the Government, to decide how to react to its proposals.

Mr. Boswell: Does the Minister agree that it is very much in the interests of the central and eastern European applicant countries and of the future governance of the European Union itself that arrangements should be made to concentrate on doing what is necessary properly to respect the subsidiarity principle, and to reject the centralising tendency of the gang of three?

Mr. Vaz: Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman, who has only recently entered the Chamber, was not in the House to hear the points of principle that were made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who reaffirmed our commitment to an IGC that is short and focused. Of course, enlargement will make a tremendous difference to the European Union--to the applicant countries and to the Union itself. Therefore, it is important that we look carefully at the way in which the IGC is to operate.

Mr. Archie Norman (Tunbridge Wells): I congratulate the new Minister with responsibility for Europe on his appointment. It is the first opportunity that I have had to do so formally. I have no doubt that his renowned patience and good humour will be much needed in the difficult treaty negotiations ahead.

In the light of the formative implications for the EU and for this country's constitution of the treaty negotiations, will the Government undertake--as the previous Government did prior to Amsterdam--to set out their intentions in full, before any negotiations, in the form of a White Paper, for proper discussion by the House?

Mr. Vaz: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I wish that I could respond in the same happy vein.

The trouble with the hon. Gentleman is that he sees the European Commission as a branch of Asda. He cannot just pick and choose which bits of the Commission he wants. It is clear that the Government will set out their proposals properly--as they always have--at the time of the IGC.

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Point of Order

3.32 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A fortnight ago, I applied for an Adjournment debate on the reconstruction of Yugoslavia and, by some magic, you gave me the debate for last night, 1 November. The application was to the Foreign Office, not to the Department for International Development. As it happened, on a whole number of questions last night, the Minister answering for the DFID, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, said, "You really have to ask the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence."

When you give a Member an Adjournment debate, do you have any say about which Department replies? Can you insist that it is the Department to which that Adjournment debate is addressed? I notice that Question 6, which was accepted by the Table Office, asks:


Reconstruction was the reason that was given by the Under-Secretary of State for International Development for his replying in the debate, but it seems that it was properly addressed to the Foreign Office.


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