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Western Sahara

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on the United Nations settlement plan for the western Sahara; and if he will make a statement. [134188]

Mr. Hain: We have given full support to UN efforts to achieve a just and durable peace in the western Sahara and continue to believe that a just solution depends on the Saharawi people having their say at the ballot box.

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The UN has said that both parties to the dispute, Morocco and the Polisario Front, have been responsible for delays in implementing the UN Settlement Plan, and principally over who should be allowed to vote in a referendum on the future of the territory. The UN has concluded that these differences could prevent a referendum being held before 2002 or even beyond. There has only been limited progress on other key aspects to the plan, such as prisoners of war and refugee repatriation.

The Settlement Plan also lacks an enforcement mechanism. The UN Secretary-General has said that he does not expect one will be forthcoming. With this in mind, we believe that the Secretary-General was right to ask his Personal Envoy--James Baker--to explore the possibility of finding a mutually acceptable way forward, Mr. Baker has a broad mandate from the Security Council to look at all options. He has our full support. We provided him with two venues in London earlier this year to conduct high-level talks between the parties. We urge all sides to co-operate fully with his mission.

European Courts

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is on increasing co-operation between the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights; and if he will make a statement. [134202]

Mr. Vaz: The Government are content that the current process of co-operation between the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights functions well. Any increase in co-operation is a matter for the courts themselves.

European Union

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the basic principles attached to EU membership, breach of which encourages EU sanctions, as discussed at Feira; and if he will make a statement. [134203]

Mr. Vaz: The principles on which the EU is founded are listed in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). These are liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. A serious and persistent breach of these principles can lead to measures under Article 7 TEU.

The Intergovernmental Conference is not proposing any changes to these principles, but is discussing the introduction of an early warning mechanism in Article 7 to forestall any breach.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his policy on (a) the inter-institutional agreement on transparency in European Community institutions and (b) extending transparency beyond that agreement. [134205]

Mr. Vaz: The UK strongly supports improved openness in the Community institutions, and has been very active in promoting this. We supported the 1993 inter-institutional declaration on democracy, transparency and subsidiarity, and are pleased that many of the

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elements in it have been successfully implemented. For example, the Council now holds regular public debates as well as publishing records and explanations of its voting.

As for extending transparency beyond that agreement, a new regulation on public access to documents is currently being negotiated by the Council and the European Parliament. The UK is playing an active role and will continue to push for a regulation which allows the maximum public access to documents, while providing adequate protection for the most sensitive documents.

EU and NATO

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of progress made in setting up modalities for full consultation, co-operation and transparency between the EU and NATO. [134093]

Mr. Vaz: The Feira European Council proposed to NAT0 the establishment of four joint EU/NATO "ad-hoc working groups": to discuss the preparation of an EU-NATO Security Arrangement; to exchange information on the elaboration of capability goals; to establish modalities for enabling EU access to NATO assets and capabilities and to define permanent arrangements for EU/NATO consultation. Each of these groups has met and progress is being made on the issues they are addressing. The North Atlantic Council and the EU's interim Political and Security Committee have also met jointly to oversee the work of these groups.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made by the EU in setting up consultation and co-operation links between the EU and (a) NATO's non-EU members, (b) other countries who are candidates for accession to the EU and (c) other prospective partners in EU-led crisis management. [134092]

Mr. Vaz: The Feira European Council established interim arrangements to ensure the necessary dialogue, consultation and co-operation on EU-led crisis management between the European Union and non-EU European NATO members and candidates for accession to the EU. Meetings of the EU's interim Political and Security Committee and the interim Military Body have since been held with the non-EU European NATO members and EU accession candidates.

The French Presidency of the EU is expected to make initial proposals for appropriate arrangements for consultation with other prospective partners at the Nice European Council. It also intends to propose permanent arrangements for consultation with the non-EU European NATO members and EU accession candidates.

Balkans

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his European counterparts on efforts to find a peaceful resolution of tensions between Serbia and Montenegro. [134094]

Mr. Vaz: I am in regular contact with my European counterparts on all aspects of the political situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tensions have subsided

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dramatically following the departure of Slobodan Milosevic. I am encouraged that President Kostunica of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and President Djukanovic of Montenegro appear willing to resolve remaining differences peacefully and democratically.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his (a) EU and (b) American counterparts regarding the developments in the southern Balkans. [134080]

Mr. Vaz: I am in regular and frequent contact with my European Union and US colleagues on all matters relating to the Balkans. The conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council on 9 October showed the common determination of EU member states to support fully the very positive changes in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the political and security situation in (a) Kosovo, (b) Serbia, (c) Montenegro, (d) Vojvodina and (e) Sandjak. [134087]

Mr. Vaz: The fall of the Milosevic regime has given considerable reason for optimism about the political future and prospects for peace and security in the Balkans. Preparations for municipal elections in Kosovo on 28 October are on track, following which municipal assemblies will be established. The security situation has significantly improved although ethnic violence remains a serious problem. President Kostunica has already begun a dialogue aimed at improving relations between Serbia and Montenegro. There was also widespread electoral support on 24 September for the new democratic forces in both Vojvodina and the Sandjak area of Serbia.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on the current security situation in Kosovska Mitrovica; [134086]

Mr. Vaz: The political and security situation in Mitrovica remains tense. UNMIK and KFOR are taking steps to improve public order and to counter extremist activities. UNMIK is also trying to improve the quality of life for Serbs in northern Mitrovica. Our longer term aim is to promote ethnic reconciliation between the two communities. We hope the recent changes in Belgrade will improve the situation in Mitrovica, which has suffered in the past from interference by the Milosevic regime.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Kosovo Serbs in Northern Mitrovica have registered for the Kosovo autumn elections. [134083]

Mr. Vaz: Figures provided by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) suggest that to all intents and purposes, there has been virtually no registration by Kosovo Serbs in Northern Mitrovica.

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This was due, in part at least, to intimidation by the former Milosevic regime. UNMIK are taking steps to ensure that despite being unable to vote, Serbs will be represented on the municipal councils.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he has taken to ensure that the OSCE mission in Kosovo registers the displaced non-Albanians to allow them to vote in the forthcoming elections. [134088]

Mr. Vaz: Within Kosovo the UN/OSCE Joint Registration Task Force had registered approximately 1 million people before the official close of Registrations on 19 July 2000. To encourage registration the OSCE Mission in Kosovo mounted extensive public information campaigns and regular meetings with representatives of all ethnic groups. Out-of-Kosovo registration was contracted out to the Institute of Migration who have registered just under 40,000 people. Unfortunately as a result of Milosevic's deliberate policy of non-co-operation with the International Community those displaced persons resident in Serbia were not able to register.

Registration figures are not broken down on ethnic lines.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in establishing the Kosovo War and Ethnic Crimes Court. [134081]

Mr. Hain: The proposal for a Kosovo War and Ethnic Crimes Court is still under consideration within the UN system.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions have been taken by (a) UNMIK, (b) the EU, (c) the International Committee for the Red Cross and (d) the International Commissioner for Human Rights to secure the release of the Kosovo Albanian prisoners detained in Serbia. [134084]

Mr. Vaz: UNMIK, the EU, the International Committee for the Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights worked hard on this issue while Milosevic was in power. The recent change of power in Belgrade brings new hope of a resolution. President Kostunica is aware of the importance the international community accords to this issue and we along with others will continue to raise it.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Kosovo Albanian prisoners are detained in Serbia. [134085]

Mr. Vaz: According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) some 942 detainees from Kosovo are currently held in prisons in Serbia.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Kosovo Serbs have registered for the Kosovo autumn elections. [134089]

Mr. Vaz: Although registration figures are not broken down on ethnic lines, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo, which is responsible for organising the forthcoming elections, estimate that under 1,000 Serbs have registered to vote.

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This low figure was due, in part at least, to intimidation by the former Milosevic regime. UNMIK are taking steps to ensure that despite being unable to vote, Serbs will be represented on the municipal councils.

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met Dr. Bernard Kouchner; and if he will make a statement on the progress of reconstruction in Kosovo. [134091]

Mr. Vaz: The Foreign Secretary last met Dr. Kouchner on 30 March this year.

UNMIK have made significant progress in their reconstruction efforts since June 1999. Schools have reopened with over a quarter of them repaired and refurbished and 90 per cent. of Kosovo children back in school. Extensive housing reconstruction is under way and will be stepped up.

UNMIK have begun work on a public reconstruction and investment programme for the period 2001 to 2003 which will set out Kosovo's needs for the medium term.


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