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12 Jul 2005 : Column 871W—continued

Corruption

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in overseas governments about reducing corruption related to the arms trade. [11203]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not held recent discussions with counterparts specifically on the subject of corruption in the arms trade. However, the Government are committed to working for an international treaty covering the trade in conventional arms and Ministers and officials are pursuing this objective actively in bilateral contacts as well as in multilateral fora, including at the recent meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers.

Council of Europe Youth Foundation

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the activities of the Council of Europe's Youth Foundation. [9043]

Bill Rammell: I have been asked to reply.

The European Youth Foundation (EYF) is a fund established in 1972 by the Council of Europe to provide financial support for youth activities in the 46 member states of the Council of Europe. In 2003, with a budget of approximately €3 million, the EYF supported some 320 projects involving more than 15,000 young people.

Kyrgyzstan

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to establish the welfare of the Uzbek and Kyrgyz citizens in Djalabad's refugee camps. [10902]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Our Ambassador, James Sharp, who is accredited to Kyrgyzstan, has visited the country twice since early June 2005. On the first occasion, he publicly emphasised the importance of the Kyrgyz Government's honouring its international commitments on refugees. Both the Kyrgyz Foreign Minister and National Security Council Chairman assured him that the Government would do so. Mr. Sharp also met the local United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representatives to review the refugee situation.

The handing of four Uzbek refugees to the Andizhan Prosecutor on 9 June appears to have been a clear breach of the Kyrgyz Government's obligations. As a result, on 21 June we, acting with our EU partners, delivered a demarche to the Kyrgyz Government over its treatment of refugees, insisting that it abided by its commitments to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

Mr. Sharp visited the refugee camps in Jalalabad on 6 July. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and press the Kyrgyz Government to comply with its international responsibilities.
 
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Eastern Europe

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those UK non-governmental organisations which are funded to promote information exchanges with Eastern Europe. [9042]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is engaged in a wide range of activities in Eastern Europe which could be classed as information exchange, including political work, sponsored and other working visits, public diplomacy activity, scholarship schemes, shorter-term fellowships and project work. Some of these activities are carried out by or with a range of UK non-governmental organisations, and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) such as the British Council, the BBC World Service, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe and various British universities.

EU Constitution

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the Government's policy is on (a) direct UK and (b) European Commission involvement in the ratification process of the EU constitution by individual member states by means of (i) official visits and (ii) funding for information projects; and if he will make a statement. [10084]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Individual member states are responsible for their own ratification of the EU constitutional treaty, including the organisation of official visits and the allocation of funds for information projects. The Institutions of the European Union are responsible for their own communications activities. The Government are in contact with the European Parliament and the European Commission about their EU communications activities.

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the requirement under Article III-305 of the EU constitution for the United Kingdom to present a common EU position at NATO meetings where such a position has been reached; and by what mechanism the EU Foreign Minister would be permitted to address the meeting on his request. [10096]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Article III-305, or any other article in the EU constitutional treaty, would not require the UK alone or any other member state to present the common EU position in NATO meetings. But Article III-305 would require all member states, including the UK, to uphold previously agreed positions in other international organisations. This provision has existed since Maastricht. Because we have a veto on foreign and defence policy, these EU positions would have been previously agreed by us.

There is no provision in the constitutional treaty for the EU Foreign Minister to request to address a meeting in NATO. However, Article III-296.2 of the EU constitutional treaty makes clear that he or she would represent agreed positions of the EU in international meetings and at international conferences, acting on behalf of the European Union. Where the EU and NATO engage in dialogue which helps develop their
 
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strategic partnership—for example in the regular meetings between the Political and Security Committee and the North Atlantic Council—the EU Foreign Minister would present the EU policies, which we would have agreed to. This mirrors the current arrangement where the presidency presents agreed positions. The UK would, of course, be represented in both its UK and EU seats.

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the requirement under Article III-305 of the EU constitution for the United Kingdom to present a common EU position at Commonwealth meetings where such a position has been reached; and by what mechanism the EU Foreign Minister would be permitted to address the meeting on his request. [10098]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Neither Article III-305, nor any other article in the EU constitutional treaty, would require the UK alone or any other member state to present the common EU position in Commonwealth meetings. But Article III-305 would require all member states, including the UK, to uphold previously agreed positions in other international organisations. This provision has existed since Maastricht. Because we have a veto on foreign and defence policy, these EU positions would have been previously agreed by us. In the Commonwealth, this requirement would apply to the UK, Malta and Cyprus.

There is no provision in the constitutional treaty for the EU Foreign Minister to request to address a Commonwealth meeting. However, Article III-296.2 of the EU constitutional treaty makes it clear that he or she would represent agreed positions of the EU in international meetings and at international conferences, acting on behalf of the European Union. So, for example, if the members of the Commonwealth were to hold a joint meeting with the European Union, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs could represent the European Union if the meeting was relevant to his/her external portfolio. The European Union is not a member of the Commonwealth and the UK would continue to represent itself in Commonwealth meetings.

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those EU countries that have indicated a willingness to continue ratifying the EU constitution; and whether ratification would be made by (a) Parliament and (b) after a plebiscite in each case. [10099]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Belgium, Malta and Estonia intend to proceed with parliamentary ratification of the EU constitutional treaty. Luxembourg held a referendum on 10 July. The Czech Republic intends to proceed with ratification of the EU constitutional treaty by referendum, although the requisite enabling legislation has yet to be passed and the Government have announced that any ratification is unlikely before mid 2006. The Irish Government have announced that they will not set a date for their referendum. Poland has not decided how, if at all, to proceed with ratification and the Polish President has said that a referendum in 2005 looks unrealistic". The Swedish Government have announced that they will seek to postpone their parliamentary ratification process and the Finnish Government have postponed parliamentary
 
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ratification. The Danish and Portuguese Governments have postponed their referendums. The treaty was approved by Parliament in Cyprus on 30 June.


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