Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Third Report



1.   We conclude that Russian action in Chechnya is the most severe impediment to good relations with Russia at this time, and we recommend that pressure must continue to be put upon Russia to respect humanitarian norms and allow in the international aid agencies (paragraph 20).

European Union

2.   We conclude that there continue to be serious criticisms of the EU TACIS programme, in contrast to the well-regarded Know How Fund, and that, if clear improvements are not identified in the performance of TACIS, consideration should be given to investigating how funds can be transferred from TACIS to better run programmes. We commend this issue to our colleagues on the International Development Committee (paragraph 62).

3.   We recommend that the Government assess the restrictions on trade between Russia and the EU, report to us on the justification for those restrictions in all cases, and consider how the commitment of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement and the Common Strategy to move towards a free trade area with Russia can be brought into practice if and when relations with Russia improve (paragraph 67).

4.   We recommend that the Foreign Secretary reports regularly to the Committee on progress with both the EU and the British funded programmes for assisting Russia with the disposal of weapons of mass destruction and their components (paragraph 71).


5.   We recommend that the British Government should use its best efforts to encourage the new Russian government to make full use of the Permanent Joint Council. Its willingness to do so will undoubtedly depend on NATO's attitude towards this forum. NATO must demonstrate a desire to enter into a genuine dialogue with Russia and make a greater effort to take account of the impact of its actions on Russia (paragraph 74).

6.   The Government and its NATO partners must build upon the opportunities presented by the joint peacekeeping operations. We recommend that the Government consider how the commitment in the EU's Common Strategy on Russia to facilitate the participation of Russia in peacekeeping operations can be taken forward in a practical manner. (Paragraph 77).

7.   We accept the Government's argument that no third country can be allowed to veto the enlargement of NATO, but nonetheless recommend that enlargement must be considered sensitively in the context of Europe's security as a whole. One important element of this is Russia's relationship with NATO, which enlargement has clearly harmed (paragraph 78).

Council of Europe

8.   We recommend that British Ministers in the Committee of Ministers and the British delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe continue to press their Russian colleagues to honour the principles of the Council, and that it is made plain that membership of the Council can be forfeited (paragraph 85).

International Financial Institutions

9.   While recognising the importance of the IMF's continuing engagement in Russia, we recommend that the Government should give greater consideration to other channels (the G7, the World Bank, the EBRD) for promoting structural reform, and should seek to persuade the rest of the G7 of this view (paragraph 93).

Know How Fund

10.   We support the continued use of the Know How Fund to support Russia, and recommend that the FCO stress to the Department for International Development the political importance of continued substantial funding of Russian programmes. (Paragraph 104).

Good governance

11.   We recommend that the Government establish a Good Governance Programme to co-ordinate and extend practical assistance at practitioner level from the United Kingdom to Russia (paragraph 105).

12.   We endorse the Government's current policy on support for the promotion of human rights in Russia, and recommend that the Government carefully review and evaluate its human rights projects in Russia to determine the most effective result for the resources the United Kingdom is able to offer. We also recommend that the Government emphasise to the Russian government that non-compliance with human rights standards is a serious impediment to partnership with Russia (paragraph 110).

13.   We recommend that pressure on Russia to enforce proper anti money laundering standards be maintained at the highest level, and that the assistance of British regulatory experts be offered to Russia (paragraph 112).

14.   We recommend that close attention continue to be paid to the potential drug threat to the United Kingdom from Russia (paragraph 113).

15.   We recommend that police-to-police contacts form part of the Good Governance Programme which we have earlier recommended (paragraph 115).

16.   We recommend that the FCO consider the feasibility of increasing the number of crime and drug liaison officers working in Russia, in particular considering whether one might be based outside Moscow, and discuss with DFID the possibility of partial funding of the new post or posts from the Know How Fund (paragraph 116).

Environmental assistance

17.   We believe that Russian nuclear safety is of so direct an interest to the United Kingdom that the Government must continue to seek every opportunity to assist the Russian nuclear clear-up, frustrating as this process will often be. We recommend that this be a priority for financial assistance from the United Kingdom, and that the United Kingdom play an active role in the EBRD Nuclear Safety Account (paragraph 118).

Humanitarian assistance

18.   We recommend that the British Government, with its European partners, continue to press the Russian authorities to allow full access to Chechnya and neighbouring territories for international humanitarian agencies, and that it provide substantial financial assistance to the agencies for their work in the area (paragraph 120).

Military retraining

19.   We recommend that funding for the military retraining programme continue after March 2000 (paragraph 121).

Diplomatic representation

20.   We recommend that the FCO review the operation of its commercial staff in Russia and consider whether their work would benefit from a greater use of secondees from the private sector, a commercially-friendly Embassy Website and more overt sponsorship of British investments or projects (paragraph 126).

21.   We recommend that the FCO consider establishing a network of Consulates, concentrating on commerce across Russia (paragraph 129).

22.   We commend the FCO for the good design of its new Embassy building, the excellent choice of location and the fact that the work is being completed to schedule, despite all the difficulties of operating in the Russian bureaucratic environment (paragraph 130).

Ministerial visits

23.   We recommend that FCO Ministers should give visits to Russia a higher priority, and that Ministers from other Departments should also be encouraged by the FCO to visit Russia (paragraph 132).

Visa regime

24.   We recommend that—

(a)    senior management attention in Moscow, including the personal attention of the Ambassador, should be directed towards building upon the improvements already achieved in the visa-issuing system;

(b)    the FCO should examine with the Home Office means of using information technology to simplify the system, especially for applicants who live a long distance from British posts; and

       (c)    the FCO should continue to monitor the questions asked in visa interviews to ensure the avoidance of unnecessary probing of an applicant's private life (paragraph 140).

British Council

25.   We recommend that the British Council's grant-in-aid in Russia should be increased in real terms by not less than 10 per cent by 2002-2003, and that this increase should not be at the expense of the Council's other programmes (paragraph 147).

BBC Services

26.   We recommend continued and intensified effort by the BBC World Service to market itself in Russia (paragraph 155).

27.   We recommend that the BBC World Service should have the funding necessary to allow it to continue to be the pre-eminent overseas broadcaster in Russia and that the Comprehensive Spending Review should recognise this need (paragraph 156).

28.   We recommend that the FCO stress to the BBC that BBC World is an important foreign policy asset, and one which is vital in a country as important as Russia (paragraph 159).

British educational institutions

29.   While we would not wish to see a dilution of the high standards of the Chevening Scholarship scheme, we recommend that the FCO assess the feasibility of a second tier scholarship scheme allowing a much larger group of Russians to study or work in the United Kingdom for a short period (paragraph 166).

30.   We recommend that the FCO discuss with the Department for Education and Employment, and the devolved administrations, the support for Russian studies in schools and universities in the United Kingdom (paragraph 167).

31.   We recommend that the FCO re-assess the mechanisms it uses to benefit from academic expertise on Russia (paragraph 168).

32.   We recommend that the FCO should reconsider its proposed cut in funding to the Britain-Russia Centre (paragraph 169).

Parliamentary and other contacts

33.   We recommend that funding should be made available for parliamentarians to visit Russia in exactly the same way as they are for visits to the United States of America (paragraph 171).

34.   We recommend that the FCO should give all possible assistance to the establishment of a British-Russian dialogue group (paragraph 173).


35.   Our general conclusion and recommendation is that the FCO must continue and develop its critical engagement with Russia in the mutual interest of our two European countries (paragraph 174).

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 28 February 2000