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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 27 June 2001


Missing Israeli Service Men

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the representations he has made on behalf of missing Israeli service men. [834]

Mr. Bradshaw: This Government condemn hostage taking under any circumstances. On 3 May my right hon. Friend the previous Foreign Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) met the families of the three soldiers kidnapped by Hizballah on 7 October and the reservist Colonel kidnapped on 4 October. The Government are doing what they can to help and have raised these cases, and continue to do so, with the relevant countries in the region pressing particularly for access to the hostages for the ICRC. We strongly support all efforts to secure the release of all hostages, particularly efforts led by the United Nations Secretary General.

Entry Clearance

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance he has given on the use of ministerial discretion in overturning the decisions of entry clearance officers overseas; and if he will place a copy of the guidance in the Library. [801]

Mr. Bradshaw: Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs) consider entry clearance applications and apply the Immigration Rules to determine whether to grant or refuse entry clearance. In exceptional circumstances, an FCO Minister may exercise his/her discretion to overturn an ECO's decision, if the Minister considers that in fact the requirements of the Immigration Rules have, or have not, been met. This discretion extends only to decisions made in accordance with the Immigration Rules. The exercise of discretion to make a decision outside the Rules is only undertaken by a Home Office Minister.

EU Enlargement

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if firm dates have been set for EU membership for (a) Cyprus and (b) Turkey. [307]

Peter Hain: No firm date has been set for the accession of any candidate country to the EU. However, the Gothenburg European Council agreed that, provided progress towards meeting the accession criteria continues at an unabated pace, the road map for enlargement should make it possible to complete negotiations by the end of 2002 for those candidates that are ready. The objective is that they should participate in the European Parliament elections of 2004 as members. The Government fully support this approach.

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Both Turkey and Cyprus are candidates for the EU. Cyprus is well advanced in its negotiations, having provisionally closed negotiations in 22 out of the 31 chapters of the EU's acquis communautaire. Turkey has yet to begin negotiations, as it has not fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria (covering issues such as human rights, the rule of law and respect for and protection of minorities). The Government look forward to further progress by Turkey, in line with the priorities set out in the EU's Accession Partnership with Turkey.

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for discussions with his counterparts from (a) Latvia, (b) Lithuania, (c) Bulgaria, (d) Estonia, (e) Romania, (f) the Czech Republic, (g) Slovakia, (h) Poland and (i) Hungary on EU enlargement. [314]

Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met a number of his counterparts from the Central European EU applicant countries at the European Council meeting in Gothenburg on 15-16 June. The Government attach the utmost importance to the enlargement of the EU and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I intend to expand our dialogue with the applicants in the coming months. Programmes of inward and outward visits are under discussion.


Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has a strategy to achieve peace in (a) Kosovo, (b) Macedonia and (c) the Balkans in general; and if he will make a statement. [308]

Mr. MacShane: The UK is working closely with its partners and key international organisations to bring peace and stability to the Balkans.

In Kosovo, we fully support the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) in their efforts, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1244, to secure the establishment of a democratic, tolerant, multi- ethnic society and to achieve lasting security for all of Kosovo's population. Elections to a Kosovo Assembly in November 2001 will deliver the provisional democratic self-governing institutions foreseen in UNSCR 1244, and will provide an important opportunity for the people of Kosovo to have a say in how Kosovo is to be run. Extremism and organised crime are significant regional problems, and are the biggest internal threat to stability in Kosovo. We support UNMIK and KFOR in their efforts to combat extremism and to promote law and order throughout the province.

In Macedonia, we strongly support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and condemn all acts of extremist violence. We welcome the efforts of EU High Representative Solana and NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson to promote inter-ethnic dialogue and an overall political settlement. The British Ambassador in Skopje has played a key role in recent months as Mr. Solana's Special Representative. We welcome the 25 June decision of the EU's General Affairs Council to appoint a senior political figure, Francois Leotard, as Mr. Solana's new full-time resident representative in Skopje. In the light of recent events, we hope he will be able to encourage all the parties to take the political process forward rapidly, to

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head off the risk of further violence. We are discussing with Allies a possible NATO role in disarming NLA members in support of any peace agreement.

The key elements of our regional strategy are fostering regional co-operation, inter-ethnic reconciliation and economic reform through the Stability Pact and the EU's Stabilisation and Association Process. As it made clear at the Zagreb summit, the EU has offered the incentives of potential EU membership, generous trade access and technical assistance in return for commitments to democracy, regional co-operation and economic reform. We also continue to take tough measures against extremists and organised crime whose activities continue to undermine the region.


Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the position of Her Majesty's Government regarding (a) the recent developments in Kashmir and (b) the scheduled meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf. [309]

Mr. Bradshaw: We are concerned by the increasing violence in Kashmir. We have therefore welcomed the recent announcement that talks will take place between Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf in July. I hope that this leads to constructive and meaningful dialogue and progress on all the issues that divide India and Pakistan.

Lord Levy

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the official visits to be made by Lord Levy. [310]

Mr. Bradshaw: Lord Levy will undertake further visits as necessary.

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has met Lord Levy since assuming office; and what plans he has for meetings with Lord Levy. [311]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Secretary of State met Lord Levy on 19 June. He and Lord Levy will meet as necessary.

Overseas Visits

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to visit (a) the Middle East, (b) the Balkans, (c) Russia and (d) Cyprus. [312]

Mr. Straw: I had planned to visit Macedonia on 26-27 June. However, in the light of developments overnight in Skopje, I decided it would not be right to go ahead now. But I am keen to make an early visit to Skopje and will do so at the earliest opportunity.

I am currently considering proposals for visits to a number of other countries. The House will be informed when decisions have been made.

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Stability Pact

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the Stability Pact in South Eastern Europe. [313]

Mr. MacShane: The Stability Pact for South-East Europe, in which the EU plays a leading role is aimed at increasing economic confidence in the region, and bringing its states into Euro-Atlantic structures. It is making good progress and has taken an active role in the achievement of two regional agreements. On 27 June, on the eve of the Stability Pact Regional Table meeting in Brussels, Ministers from the region are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on trade liberalisation, while representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are expected to sign an agreement on refugee returns. While concern remains over political developments, in Macedonia and the UK played a leading role in bringing the trade negotiations to a successful conclusion, supporting the Pact's Macedonian-led trade liberalisation group with expertise and technical assistance.

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