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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I do not wish to oppose the orders in any of their aspects. Indeed, we on this side of the House very much welcome them. As the Minister is fully aware, the Labour Party supports the enlargement of the European Union. Of course, the partnership and co-operation agreements do not amount to anything like full-scale membership, but they are a first step in closer relations between the countries of central and eastern Europe and the countries which were once part of the Soviet Union. I agree with everything that the Minister said about the extent to which agreements of this kind help to bind those countries to the West and to support them in their legitimate wish to have sustained democracies and to achieve economic prosperity through market economies. They also provide new opportunities for British business both to trade and invest in those countries. I hope that British firms will take up those opportunities.
I have one or two questions for the Minister. Can she say a little more about the similar agreements that are being prepared for other republics in the former Soviet Union? Which ones are now in preparation? What is the likely timetable? Can she give a little more indication as to the main criteria being used in deciding which of the other former republics will be next in line? There is probably quite a long queue, and many of those countries now want to strengthen their links with the European Union.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister one or two slightly more specific questions. I was somewhat puzzled by the meaning of the unilateral declaration by the French Government in all four cases, which is at the end of the partnership and co-operation agreements. I do not quite follow what that refers to.
Can the Minister say why, in the case of Moldova, Austria Finland and Sweden do not appear at be associated in the final Act whereas they are in the case of the other three? The Minister said earlier that ratification by all member states is required.
Next, I wonder whether the Minister can explain why there are articles about monetary policy stipulating the gradual adjustments of their policies to the European monetary system in the case of Moldova and Belarus, but not in the case of Kyrgyz or Kazakhstan.
Finally, can the Minister elaborate a little on the reasons behind the varying provisions with respect to the applicability of GATT to the four former republics? I recognise that these are complex--indeed, arcane--matters, but perhaps the Minister can confirm that the provisions vary and say why.
In conclusion, I particularly welcome the articles in the agreements on education and training. It is vitally important that all those countries improve their educational systems and develop their training systems if they are to succeed economically. I very much hope that particular attention will be given to those articles in the agreements.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, I very much welcome the content of the agreements and would not in any way oppose the Motions that are before the House. However, I should like briefly to draw attention to my anxiety about the process by which we undertake this scrutiny, if that is not too ambitious a word for it. It illustrates as well as anything the need for more information to be provided in advance to the House before one undertakes such scrutiny.
The starting point for the parliamentarian is the notice that we receive on the Order Paper of the Motions to be moved. Because, happily, the European Communities Act 1972 requires an order to be laid in draft before Parliament, we then receive the order itself. The explanatory note which is attached to the order does no more than provide a contents page for extremely detailed treaties, which in the case of the one that I am looking at now runs to some 99 primary articles which deal with an extremely important range of rights and interests, including most favoured nation treatment, the rights to be accorded to foreign nationals in employment in this country, the right to establish economic enterprises, and so on.
The bewildered parliamentarian who then wants to know what on earth we are doing has to obtain a copy of the agreement itself, which is referred to in what is described as the schedule to the order. There is then no explanatory memorandum to explain (even to someone who is relatively legally qualified like myself) exactly the scope and likely impact of the partnership and co-operation agreements. That does not seem to me to be a very satisfactory process. It is only by a happy accident that we are privileged to be here to approve the orders by affirmative resolution, but that does not arise with most treaties.
I therefore repeat the very modest suggestion that I have made in connection with my little Bill, which is that there should be an explanatory memorandum to enable us in advance to know exactly what we are here to do. There should also be some form of treaties scrutiny committee so that the "arcane" points, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, so described them, which always seem to be important and difficult matters, can be explored in advance by a specialist committee which can then in a practical way advise the House.
I am encouraged by the fact that in the new Liberal Government in Australia, the new Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Alexander Downer, MP, is likely to respond positively to the proposals in this area from the Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, so I am informed today by its chairman. I hope that in a practical way we can
Lord Finsberg: My Lords, I should like to say something about the order dealing with Moldova. I had the privilege of being the Council of Europe's Rapporteur when we considered the full membership of Moldova. I had long conversations with Moldovan parliamentarians and made a lengthy visit to Moldova. I shall be going back to assess the progress they have made. One of the reasons why they have been able to have this agreement is that they have received the seal of good housekeeping of the Council of Europe, without which the European Union is not prepared to do very much for any new member state that wishes to have some kind of association agreement. This covers the field of parliamentary democracy, multi-party parliament, which exists in Moldova, human rights, which are now guaranteed under Moldovan legislation, and many other matters. Great progress has been made in Moldova under President Snegur.
However, there are certain difficulties. Perhaps my noble friend will say something about how she believes the agreements will operate inside Moldova where there is the so-called breakaway Republic of Transdniestia. Incidentally, if any noble Lord goes to Tiraspol, the capital of Transdniestia, and is blind-folded, he will believe that he is in the Soviet Union of the 1950s. Probably the last remaining statue of Lenin is at the steps of their headquarters. When I went there to discuss with non-governmental organisations the problems that they had, the matter was rehearsed. All of us had seen it in the past. We were told how wonderful the government was and that there were no problems of any kind. All I need say is that there is gross abuse of human rights in that part of Moldova and virulent anti-Semitism.
The OCSE has been doing a very good job in trying to find a way to make the writ of the freely elected Government of Moldova run throughout the country. It has been aided by both Russia and the Ukraine; that is to be welcomed. In contrast to the somewhat unpleasant things I have said about Tiraspol, I can tell noble Lords that Moldovan wine is very drinkable. I hope to see it on the list in your Lordships' House.
How do we ensure that any benefits that accrue from these proposals will be given to ordinary citizens who are ruled by the so-called government of Tiraspol without interfering with the sovereign rights of the freely elected parliament and government of the Republic of Moldova as a whole?
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I should like to say a few words about these agreements which we support. It is almost exactly 12 months since the Minister introduced the partnership agreements with the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. The present series takes that a stage further. When the Minister spoke a year ago she emphasised how different the new member
It is against that background that the task of the partnership and co-operation agreements in promoting a plural democracy and a liberal market system must be seen. The noble Lord who has just spoken is absolutely right to draw attention to some of the difficulties in ensuring that the assistance we give is used in the wisest and best ways. I believe that it must be a long term, patient process of well directed assistance and sustained dialogue at many different levels.
The European Union funds of TACIS and PHARE are of great importance, as are Britain's bilateral know-how funds. Recently, I asked the Minister a series of Written Questions about the scale of them. I am grateful for the answers that she gave on 20th March. There are very substantial sums of European Union money involved. It is disturbing to discover how much worrying evidence there is. The Brussels administration is excessively bureaucratic in dealing with them. I draw the attention of the Minister to the Court of Auditors' criticism. It called on the European Commission to discharge its responsibilities in relation to the present state of deadlock and uncertainty.
The Minister may be pleased if I go on to say that my impression is that the United Kingdom's bilateral know-how fund operates more flexibly, effectively and efficiently than Brussels. I make a declaration of interest as the trustee of a charity that receives grants from the know-how fund to try to train journalists in the former Soviet Union in the virtues of a free press. Under our own bilateral know-how funds we spent £228 million to the end of March 1995. In one of her Answers the Minister told me that in the current year we expected to spend £80 million. The contrast between the European Union's efforts and those of our know-how funds is instructive, even allowing for the vast differences in scale. I believe that the know-how funds greatly benefit from the experience of our Civil Service here in being well versed in administering aid programmes. They are much more flexible and less bureaucratic than PHARE and TACIS seem to be. Inevitably, they had to overcome a number of early difficulties with outside
The figures I have given for the British know-how funds do not include the charity know-how fund. A special word of praise is called for in that respect. The charitable voluntary sector in this country--and, I am sure, in other western countries--is a jewel in our crown. However, in the countries of the former Soviet Union the voluntary sector, if it ever existed, was stifled during 70 years of communist totalitarian rule. The charity know-how fund normally does good in terms of the intrinsic value of the projects with which it is associated, but it may be doing even more good by educating others in the virtues of voluntary activity and doing things for oneself.
To create from scratch a tradition of voluntary service in partnership with the state is a further example of the fact that changing a political and economic culture is a long, slow business. It requires infinite patience and tolerance and a capacity to face setbacks and not to be thrown off course by media sensationalism. I believe that it is that long term view, including rigorous scrutiny of the way in which resources are used, that is the important starting point in the years that lie ahead under these partnership and co-operation agreements.
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