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Colombia

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much military aid has been given to Colombia since 1994. [198081]

Mr. Rammell [holding answer 15 November 2004]: In financial years 2003–04 and 2004–05 the cost of military assistance provided by the UK to the Colombian armed forces was around £120,000 per year. This assistance focused primarily on Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and provision of training courses to members of the Colombian armed forces both in Colombia and in the UK. It aims to reduce the number of deaths, both civilian and military, from explosive devices, and at introducing Colombian military personnel to British defence concepts in key areas such as Rules of Engagement and democratic and accountable control of the armed forces. We have also trained elements of the Colombian Authorities engaged in Counter-Narcotics work.

We anticipate a similar programme in the financial year 2005–06.

The information for previous years is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Croatia

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when Croatia is expected to start accession negotiations with the European Union. [197763]

Mr. MacShane: The European Council of 17–18 June 2004 decided that Croatia is a candidate country for membership and that the accession process should be launched. It also emphasised that Croatia needs to maintain full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia (ICTY) and take all necessary steps to ensure that the remaining indictee, Ante Gotovina, is located and transferred to the Hague. This Government strongly supports Croatia's EU candidacy but Croatia must continue to comply with its ICTY obligations.

Cyprus

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what monitoring of (a) imports and (b) immigration to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is being carried out following the EU decision to treat the Green Line as not being a border of the EU for importation and immigration purposes. [197586]

Mr. MacShane: The entire island of Cyprus acceded to the EU in May this year. Pending a settlement to the current division of the island, the application of the acquis communautaire has been suspended in the north. This means that the line between the areas in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus exercises effective control and the areas where it does not is not an external border of the EU. A special regulation (8208/04) has been passed setting out rules concerning the crossing of goods, services and persons to ensure an equivalent standard of protection while facilitating intra island trade and other links. A copy of the Green Line Regulation is available in the Library of the House.
 
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Departmental Staff (Upper Age Limits)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) his Department and (b) agencies for which it is responsible (i) have a set retirement age which applies to all or most personnel and (ii) have a maximum age beyond which applications for employment will not be considered; and what the age is in each case. [186085]

Mr. Alexander [pursuant to his reply, 11 October 2004, Official Report, c. 31W]: There was an error in my answer of 11 October to the hon. Member. The correct answer should read as follows:

In the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including its Wilton Park agency, all officers have a set retirement age of 60 years. However, if band A (clerical) officers wish to postpone their retirement they may do so up to 65 years and band B (junior management), band C (middle management) and band D (senior management) may do so up to 63 years.

Members of the Diplomatic Service are recruited up to 52 years to allow time for training and tours of duty at home and abroad before retirement. Members of the FCO Home Civil Service cadre are recruited up to 57 years to allow time for a normal tour of duty in a home job before retirement.

EU Constitution

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether equal status will be awarded to the (a) UK Parliament, (b) Scottish Parliament and (c) National Assembly for Wales in the consultation process for proposed legislation stipulated in the EU constitution. [197484]

Mr. MacShane: The Protocol on the Role of National Parliaments in the European Union and the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality provide for the transmission of draft European legislative Acts to national Parliaments—in our case, the United Kingdom Parliament. Article 6 of the Protocol on subsidiarity and proportionality, which provides reasoned opinions to be submitted on compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, also states that

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the areas of European Union legislation, together with their current relevant bases in constitutional treaties in force, for which the coming into force of the proposed constitutional treaty will change the requirement for unanimity. [197539]

Mr. MacShane: In the EU constitution signed by Heads of State and Government at the European Council on 18 June 2004, 15 Articles (or sub-paragraphs) would move from a unanimous voting mechanism to Qualified Majority Voting. These are: Articles I-37(3) (Article 202 TEC), I-54(4) (Article 269 TEC), III-136 (Article 42 TEC), III-141.1b (Article 27 TEC), III-187(3a) (Article 107 TEC), III-236 Article 71 TEC), III-270 (Article 31(1) TEU), III-273 (Article 31(2)
 
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TEU), III-275 (Article 30(1) TEU), III-276 (Article 30(2) TEU), III-280 (Article 151 TEC), III-359 (Article 225a TEC), III-364 (Article 229a TEC), III-381 (Article 245 TEC) and III-382 (Article 112 TEC). One of these Articles (III-136) has an emergency brake mechanism which allows a member state an effective veto. Article (III-270) has an emergency brake mechanism which can lead to enhanced co-operation, allowing a member state not to participate in the action concerned.

Under the EU constitution, the UK would retain its existing 'Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland on policies in respect of border controls, asylum and immigration, and on judicial co-operation in civil matters' and therefore retains the right to take part in such measures on a case by case basis. Articles III-265 (Article 62 TEC), 266 (Article 63(1) and (2) and 64(2) TEC), and 267 (Article 63(3) and (4) TEC), covered by this protocol, now provide for decisions by QMV under the new treaty, but the treaty of Amsterdam provided anyway for a potential move to QMV from 1 May 2004. A council decision to endorse this move is currently being negotiated. Of the articles mentioned above, the protocol also covers Articles III-260 (under certain circumstances), and III-275(2a). The above references use the revised article numbering as it appears in the final text. I have made available a table summarising these changes in the Library of the House.

EU Enlargement

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with representatives of other European Union countries regarding the prospects of new member countries joining the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [197799]

Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I have regular discussions with EU partners about EU enlargement, most recently at the European Council on 4–5 November when the Commission presented its latest progress reports on the enlargement candidates. The Foreign Secretary discussed Turkey's bid for EU membership with the Belgian Foreign Minister, Karel de Gucht, on 9 November. I discussed Turkey's membership with fellow Europe Ministers in Brussels on 4 November and Croatia's bid with the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Ferenc Somogyi on 11 November. On these and other occasions, we reaffirmed the support of the UK Government for the membership prospects of all EU candidates, provided they fulfil the necessary criteria for membership.

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further expansion of the EU he supports; and what the largest geographical extent of the EU is that the UK would support. [197565]

Mr. MacShane: There are four existing EU candidates—Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia. In addition, the European Council agreed at Thessaloniki in June 2003 that the countries of the Western Balkans (Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania) are all potential future EU candidates. The UK strongly supports each country's EU aspirations provided they meet the appropriate criteria.
 
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Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union states that any European state, which respects fundamental European values, may apply to become a member of the Union. No decision has yet been taken whether to offer the prospect of EU membership to other countries.


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