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26 May 2005 : Column 187W—continued

Senior Civil Service Review

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Senior Civil Service Review; [538]

(2) if he will make a statement on progress in implementing each recommendation made by the Senior Civil Service Review. [559]

Angela E Smith: An action plan on the recommendations arising from the Ouseley Review of the Senior Civil Service in Northern Ireland was put out for public consultation in July 2002. A comprehensive update, detailing the progress made against the recommendations was published in January 2005. A copy of the update has been placed in the Library.


British Interests

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what definition he uses of the term British interests worldwide. [1135]

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Mr. Straw: British interests worldwide can be described as the promotion of a secure and prosperous United Kingdom in a safe, just and prosperous world. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is guided in its work to promote and protect these interests by the command paper UK International Priorities: A Strategy for the FCO published in December 2003. This sets out the UK's international priorities and objectives and the role of the FCO in achieving them. Further information on the Strategy can be found on the FCO website at: t/Xcelerate/PreviewPage&AssetType=Page&ResolvePa geId=FCO_OBJ_StrategyMain.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the government of Burma regarding violations of religious freedom for Christians and Muslims. [844]

Ian Pearson: Our ambassador in Rangoon has drawn to the attention of the Burmese Foreign Minister the serious concerns expressed by hon. Members and Peers of both Houses about the question of religious freedom in Burma. Most recently, our ambassador reminded the Foreign Minister on 16 May that UK parliamentarians are particularly concerned about human rights abuses in ethnic areas.

The UK works closely with its international partners to press for improvements to human rights in Burma. When the EU Troika, including the United Kingdom, met the Burmese Foreign Minister in Kyoto on 6 May they emphasised the need for the regime to enter into a constructive dialogue with ethnic groups to achieve lasting national reconciliation.

Discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious or ethnic background has been condemned in successive UK and EU co-sponsored UN Resolutions on Burma, most recently at the UN Commission on Human Rights in April. We fully support the efforts in this field of the UN Secretary General's Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Professor Sergio Pinheiro.

We will continue to raise our concerns at every suitable opportunity.

EU Presidency

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to include diversity issues in the themes of the UK Presidency of the EU. [379]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: One of the Government's priorities during the UK Presidency of the EU will be to start implementing key parts of the justice and home
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affairs programme agreed in The Hague in 2004. Specifically, we will seek to focus the EU on practical measures which will benefit all citizens. The Government are also looking at proposals to support diversity-related events that take place during our Presidency.

European Administrative School

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the establishment of the European Administrative School; what its role is; whether European Parliament personnel will be required to attend, with particular reference to political group staff; what requirement there will be for balance in the presentation of European integration; and where it will be sited. [498]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The European Administrative School (EAS) was established in order to step up investment in the professional training of the staff of the various European Institutions, namely: the European Parliament; Council; Commission; Court of Justice; Court of Auditors; European Economic and Social Committee; Committee of the Regions; and the European Ombudsman. Its role is to:

The training will include management courses for officials who perform management functions and induction courses for new members of staff. Other courses may also be organised by each of the institutions in line with their specific needs. European Parliament personnel, including political group staff, will only be required to attend if the training is necessary for them in their role.

The EAS is currently attached administratively to the European Communities Personnel Selection Office in Brussels. As a general rule, the courses organised by the school will be given in both Brussels and Luxembourg, but other places of employment may be taken into consideration.

The EAS gives training in administrative duties, not presentation of European integration.

European Security and Defence Policy

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress being made on European Security and Defence Policy. [140]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Since its beginnings in 1998, European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) has developed considerably. It has enabled the EU to launch three peacekeeping operations: in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2003); Macedonia (2003); and Bosnia (December 2004). The Bosnia operation took over from NATO's Stabilisation Force and is proving the efficacy of the Berlin Plus arrangements agreed in 2003 for EU access to NATO assets.

The EU has also launched a number of civilian ESDP missions. These include police missions in Macedonia, Bosnia and the Democratic Republic of Congo; a rule of law mission in Georgia; and, most recently, an
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integrated rule of law mission for Iraq, to provide training for high and middle-ranking officials in the criminal justice system. The EU's first security sector reform mission, with both civilian and military elements, will be launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 2 June.

Beyond operations, successes include the establishment of the European Defence Agency in 2004 to drive forward capability development and improve defence-industrial co-operation; the continuing development of a capacity for military and joint civil/military planning, based on agreed consultation arrangements with NATO; and the establishment of Initial Operating Capability for the rapid-response Battlegroups initiative, with Full Operating Capability expected in 2007. Most recently, a Civil/Military Cell has been established to strengthen strategic planning for joint civil/military missions. It is still recruiting staff; once recruitment is complete, it will play an important part in the EU's efforts to improve the co-ordination of its wide range of security instruments in order to act more coherently and effectively in crisis management, not least in liaison with other key actors, such as the UN and the African Union.

More broadly, the development of military and civilian capabilities continues, including post-tsunami work on improving the EU's disaster response capability. The agreed military Headline Goal 2010 focuses on deployability, sustainability and interoperability.

The UK continues to play a leading role. For example, we proposed the Battlegroups initiative jointly with France, and have made a national Battlegroup available on standby for the first six months of Initial Operating Capability (January-June 2005); and the December 2004 Council agreement on planning capabilities was based on a UK-France-Germany proposal.

The Luxembourg Presidency will issue a report on ESDP progress at the European Council on 16 June, which will be issued to Parliament for scrutiny. A White Paper on the UK Presidency will be published on 30 June that will highlight progress made on ESDP so far this year and EU objectives for the remainder.

European Union Civil Service Tribunal

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the (a) role, (b) membership and (c) legal basis of the European Union Civil Service Tribunal. [496]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Council of Ministers announced its Decision creating the European Union Civil Service Tribunal on 2 November 2004. Work to enable the Tribunal to begin operations is currently in progress. The Council Decision makes the following provisions.

(a) The Tribunal will adjudicate in disputes between the EU's institutions and their officials and other staff.

(b) The Council of Ministers will appoint seven judges after an open call for applications, in consultation with an independent committee consisting
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of former members of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and Court of First Instance, and other lawyers of recognised competence.

(c) The legal basis for the Decision setting up the Tribunal (Council Decision 2004/752/EC, Euratom of 2 November 2004) is Article 225a of the EC Treaty. The Tribunal is an integral part of the ECJ.

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