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17 Dec 1996 : Column WA111

Written Answers

Tuesday, 17th December 1996.

Serbia: Annulment of Election Results

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures will be taken by them, either alone or with the European Union or the OSCE, regarding the annulment of 33 election victories for opposition candidates in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, by the First Municipal Court, whose chairman, Dragoljub Jankovic, has promoted the cause of the Yugoslav United Left on television, and the rejection of an appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision by the City Election Commission and the Together Coalition.

Lord Chesham: We and our EU partners have made clear our serious concern about the situation in Serbia following the annulment of a number of the 17th November municipal election results. As the Dublin European Council conclusions state, respect for human and democratic rights will be a key factor in determining the European Union's future relationship with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The EU has decided to freeze the award of autonomous trade concessions to the FRY.

We note the invitation from the FRY Government to the OSCL to send a delegation to examine the results and hope a mission will visit Belgrade soon.


Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the financial implications of their latest policy towards UNIDO and whether these will now enable the United Kingdom to rejoin UNESCO.

Lord Chesham: The financial savings resulting from withdrawal from UNIDO will be approximately £4.7 million a year from financial year 1998-99. The use of these funds will be for Ministers to decide in the annual resource allocation round, the results of which will be set out in the Departmental Report to Parliament in 1997.

Israeli Defence Minister's UK Visit

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an agreement has recently been signed "to formalise the strategic dialogue" between the Israeli and British Governments, to "open a high level channel of communications . . . to enhance ties . . . between the defence industries and intelligence services" and "to hold annual meetings at the level of directors-general of the Defence Ministries", as reported in Ha'aretz, on 28th November 1996; and

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    Whether any new agreement indicates that the British Government is content with, and supports, Israel's failure to adhere to its international commitments under the Oslo agreements, its use of torture on prisoners, its settlement policies in the occupied territories and in Jerusalem, and its continuing occupation of parts of Lebanon.

Lord Chesham: The article referred to described the visit to Britain of Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai on 21st November. No such agreement was signed or discussed during his visit. Israel and the UK have a range of defence contacts appropriate to the relationship between two friendly countries.

Haifa University Nuclear Weapons Seminar

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any member of the British Embassy staff attended the seminar in Haifa University in April 1995 on the subject of Israel's nuclear weapons; whether they continue to have no knowledge of Israeli non-conventional weapons, particularly its nuclear weapons capabilities; and whether they brought up the subject during the discussions leading to this new agreement "to formalise the strategic dialogue" and if not, why not.

Lord Chesham: We have no record of any member of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv having attended the seminar at Haifa University in 1995. We continue to urge Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Iran and Iraq: Anglo-Israeli Counter-proliferation Measures

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the United Kingdom and Israel see "eye-to-eye concerning the threats posed to the region by Iran and Iraq and agreed to increase co-operation to curb the arms developments of those countries, particularly in the non-conventional sphere" and, if so, whether the co-operative policies they propose to pursue include collaboration on counter-proliferation and on ballistic missile defences.

Lord Chesham: We share Israel's concerns about reports that Iran and Iraq have been trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. We have, in the past, held informal discussions with Israel, as we have with other countries, on ballistic missile defence, but this did not extend to discussing collaboration on weapons systems.

Anglo-Israeli Defence Relationship

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the newly formalised "strategic dialogue" with Israel has been discussed in the European Union, and with the European representatives to the Middle

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    East, and what has been their views of these developments.

Lord Chesham: There is no such newly formalised "strategic dialogue". Britain and Israel have bilateral defence contacts of a type appropriate to the relationship between any two friendly countries.

Israeli-Palestinian Relations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as reported in Ha'aretz, the Foreign Office has been levelling "harsh criticism at Israel on the issue of human rights and the attitude towards the Palestinians" and if so what accounts for the apparent discrepancy between government departments.

Lord Chesham: The article referred to in Ha'aretz described the visit of the Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed human rights and Israeli/Palestinian relations with Mr. Mordechai, among many other matters. We regularly raise human rights issues with both Israeli and Palestinian authorities, focusing on individual cases.

Justice and Home Affairs Council, 28th and 29th November

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held in Brussels on 28th-29th November.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My right honourable friend represented the United Kingdom at the Council. The main matters dealt with were as follows.

The Council agreed as "A" points, among other things, a joint action creating a directory of competences in the fight against organised crime, and a joint action establishing a European Community funded incentive and exchange programme to combat trafficking in human beings and child sex abuse.

The Presidency reported progress in negotiations on the draft External Frontiers Convention, and on the Europol draft regulations. The United Kingdom hopes to ratify the Europol Convention before the end of the year.

Meetings were held with Ministers of associated Central and Eastern European countries and, separately, with Cyprus. These concentrated on the fight against drugs and the need to co-operate against trafficking in human beings and paedophile rings.

Two reports were considered on the fight against organised crime, one dealing with the situation in 1995, the other looking forward to future possibilities for closer co-operation and assistance. The first report will be presented to the European Parliament in due course.

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A joint action was agreed concerning action to combat trafficking in human beings and sexual abuse of children.

A draft report to the European Council on drugs in the European Union was discussed. Some amendments were agreed and the report will now be forwarded, via the General Affairs Council, to the European Council.

There was extensive discussion of a draft joint action, proposed by France, on approximation of laws and practices to combat drug consumption and drug trafficking. While a strong will was shown on all sides to combat drug trafficking, final agreement of the text of the action was deferred pending further consultations by several countries.

Agreement was reached on a draft resolution on sentencing for serious illicit drug trafficking. The text will now be submitted to the European Council.

The Presidency outlined proposals for settling the outstanding issue of European Court of Justice jurisdiction in the draft Convention on Corruption. More work was commissioned on these proposals.

Discussions took place on aspects of the draft Convention on the Service of Documents in Civil and Judicial Matters. In the absence of agreement, further work was commissioned.

A report to the European Council on achievements in the field of Justice and Home Affairs was briefly discussed. The text will now be finalised and forwarded to the European Council.

A brief summary was given of activities in the field of crime prevention, including the outcome of recent seminars and proposals for a follow-up seminar next year.

Priorities were outlined by the Netherlands for its Presidency in the first half of 1997. These included implementation of the Europol Convention, further work on action to combat drugs and organised crime, trafficking in human beings and abuse of the Internet, and development of the structured dialogue with the countries which are candidates for accession.

Conventions were signed allowing Sweden, Austria and Finland to accede to two conventions on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters and on the law applicable to contractual obligations. Protocols were signed providing on an optional basis for European Court of Justice jurisdiction in the European Union Conventions on the Protection of the European Communities Financial Interests and on the Use of Information Technology for Customs Purposes.

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