The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): On 17 February the Parliamentary Assembly of Kosovo was convened for an extraordinary session at which Prime Minister Thaçi read out Kosovos declaration of independence. The declaration made clear that Kosovo was a democratic, secular and multi-ethnic republic and that its leaders would promote the rights and participation of all communities in Kosovo. The declaration in particular committed Kosovo to implementing fully the obligations contained in UN Special Envoy Ahtisaaris Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement, including its extensive minority safeguards. And the declaration invited and welcomed an international civilian presence to supervise implementation of the Comprehensive Proposal, an EU rule of law and police mission (EULEX) and a continuation of NATOs Kosovo Force (KFOR). The declaration was endorsed by all Parliamentary members present.
The declaration took place following exhaustive negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina aimed at finding a mutually agreed resolution to Kosovos status. UN Special Envoy Ahtisaari had presided over 14 months of intensive negotiations before concluding an agreement was out of reach. An EU-Russia-US Troika facilitated an additional four months of talks, with EU member Ambassador Ischinger concluding that the parties would not be capable of reaching agreement if negotiations were to be continued, in whatever format.
My statement of 11 December noted that, against this backdrop of inconclusive negotiations, almost all in the international community were agreed that the status quo in Kosovo was unsustainable. This is a point that had been underlined by the European Union, the UN Secretary General and the Contact Group. My statement made clear that we could not therefore allow the status process to grind to a halt, having learned in the 1990s the cost of an indecisive international response to developments in the Balkans. In the view of the Government, it would be important for the EU to play a leading role in bringing the status process through to conclusion. The UN Special Envoys Comprehensive Proposal, balancing independence with strong minority safeguards and international supervision, remained in our view the only viable way forward.
Since my statement, the Government have worked hard to ensure the necessary international community resolve and engagement to solve the Kosovo issue. The Government strongly supported the decision at the December European Council that the EU should play a leading role in implementing a settlement defining Kosovos status.
Against this background, the General Affairs and External Relations Council met on 18 February, the day following Kosovos declaration of independence. EU Ministers agreed that the EU should play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region. The EU has given effect to this commitment through a series of steps:
In terms of ensuring security and justice sector reform, the EU has agreed on the deployment of an ESDP Policing and Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) consisting of 2,200 international personnel. This will be the largest civilian ESDP mission to date.
In terms of ensuring Kosovos political development and good governance, the EU has now agreed on the appointment of an EU Special Representative to Kosovo.
The EU has agreed to make a major contribution to the international civilian office which will oversee settlement implementation.
The EU has committed itself to the promotion of Kosovos economic and political development. The Commission will use community instruments to take this forward and is planning to organise a donors conference.
Taken together, these decisions amount to a clear and united EU approach towards contributing to Kosovos future and to delivering stability in the Western Balkans region. I welcome the leadership that the European Union has shown in tackling this European foreign policy challenge.
EU Ministers also discussed the issue of recognition. There was agreement that this is a matter for national governments and the Council acknowledged that it was for member states to decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo.
Bringing all these elements togetherthe unsustainable status quo; Kosovos commitment to the stringent safeguards in the UN Special Envoys Comprehensive Proposal; and the international support for settlement implementation and, increasingly, recognitionthe
Government considers that UK recognition of Kosovo is fully justified. Our firm view is that it is the best way of resolving Kosovos status, ensuring regional stability and solving this last remaining issue from the break-up of the Former Yugoslavia. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote to President Sejdiu on 18 February indicating to the Kosovo government that the United Kingdom recognises Kosovo's independence. I have also written to Prime Minister Thaçi proposing the establishment of diplomatic relations. At least 16 other countries, including France, Germany, Italy, the US and Turkey, have also either recognised Kosovo or indicated their intention to do so.
Kosovos independence will bring a long-awaited certainty and permanence to Kosovos identity, marking an end to nearly nine years of political and economic limbo But it will also be just the beginning of a challenging journey ahead, building a stable, sustainable, multi-ethnic and democratic country. It will be important for Kosovos Assembly and Government to adhere faithfully to the undertakings made in their declaration of independence. It will also be important for all sides to refrain from action that risks provoking or increasing ethnic tensions.
The UK will make a full contribution in support of Kosovos efforts. The UK will second approximately 70 personnel to the ESDP mission and about 10 to the International Civilian Office. We will maintain our current contribution of around 140 troops to KFOR as well as maintaining a battalion on stand-by as part of the NATO operational reserve force. And in terms of development, the UK has committed £23 million in bilateral assistance to Kosovo over the next three years.
As Kosovo moves forward, there will remain a need to address the regional dimension. We recognise how difficult an issue Kosovos independence is for Serbia. Despite the difference of view with Belgrade on Kosovo, the Government will remain keen to maintain a cooperative and warm bilateral relationship. We will also want to assist Serbia and the other countries of the region to move towards European standards and EU accession. The interim political agreement offered to Serbia following the January General Affairs and External Relations Council was a sign of the EUs commitment to Serbias progress. There remains a compelling strategic case for enlargement to the Western Balkans as a whole so that this region can share in the security, stability, and prosperity that the EU offers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): In May 2006, the Secretary of State announced details of an independent review of palliative care services for children and young people with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses and their families.
This independent review was an important piece of work. It offered us a crucial opportunity to look at current provision and consider what more can be done
to improve the sustainability and accessibility of childrens palliative care services in both the statutory and voluntary sectors. The Government accepted and endorsed the recommendations contained in the review report and committed to the delivery of a first ever national strategy for childrens palliative care to meet the expectations of the review, of sector stakeholders and of children and families.
The strategy, which is launched today, sets out clear expectations for improving choice, access and continuity of care, and seeks to place palliative care at the centre of local childrens service provision. It highlights how commissioners, providers and teams of palliative care professionals can shape the provision of services to meet the needs of children, young people and their families. In addition, it emphasises the roles that each can play in providing child-focused, family-centred services and gives examples of what could be put in place to achieve this.
The policy sits as a framework for future service development. It seeks to highlight the key aspects of the Independent Review and challenge local areas to take this group of children more seriously. Accordingly, local areas will need to devise their own strategies and spend their money better to deliver more effective and more equitable services.
The findings of the Independent Review of Childrens Palliative Care Services and the cross-Government programme Aiming High for Disabled Children are backed by a significant financial commitment to help deliver the step-change in service provision that is needed for these children, young people and their families, all of whom wish to pursue ordinary lives, achieve their full potential and make a contribution to society.
The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): Subject to the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Department of Health's element of the Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be increased by £7,208,000 from £93,848,552,000 to £93,855,760,000 and the Administration Cost Limit will be increased by £6,370,000 from £224,633,000 to £231,003,000. The Food Standards Agency DEL remains unchanged at £154,339,000. The overall DEL including the Food Standards Agency will increase by £7,208, 000 from £94,002,891,000 to £94,010,099,000. The impact on resource and capital are set out in the following table:
|(1)The total of 'Administration budget' and 'Near-cash in resource DEL' figures may well be greater than total resource DEL due to definitions overlapping.
(2)Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL, since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.