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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): No decision has been taken to exclude Tamil Nadu, which in fact ranks well amongst Indian states on per capita income and infant mortality. However DfID has had a policy of concentrating activities in four states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and West Bengal. In a country as large and diverse as India, this helps increase the effectiveness and impact of aid, especially for the poorest. We are ready to consider good project proposals in other states if they are in line with our country strategy and if we believe we are well placed to assist.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Ministers held further discussions on the future of EC trade and development relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States. The Council adopted two resolutions. The first establishes mechanisms to improve coherence between development and other EC policies. The second sets out plans to create a more coherent framework for research activities. The Council also adopted two sets of conclusions, relating to co-ordination between the programmes of the Community and member states and the needs of indigenous peoples. It also agreed a Common Position on a draft regulation covering co-financing with non-governmental organisations. Useful discussions were held on a number of other topics, including the 1996 DAC report on EC Development Assistance, preparations for the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to review progress since the Rio Summit, and UN reform. The Commission made presentations on two further topics: proposed Community involvement in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and Democratisation, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the ACP states.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We will place a copy of the Secretary-General's report on the implementation of SCR 986 in the Libraries of the House. In his report, the Secretary-General says, "sufficient observations at the governorate level were carried out during April and May to substantiate that the distribution system is working equitably to bring available commodities to all governorates". We believe the report is a fair reflection of the situation on the ground.
The Secretary-General says in his report that there have been five occasions when the observation process has been interfered with; these problems have been resolved to the UN's satisfaction. He adds that "international observers have conducted a total of 5,280 visits in the 15 central and southern governorates of Iraq" since the arrival of foodstuffs on 20 March. We understand that UN monitors are not stationed in every city in Iraq, but make regular monitoring trips to each governorate.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my honourable friend the Minister of State for Prisons received an advance copy of the first annual report by the National Advisory Council on 29 May. It covers the period from 1 February 1996 to 31 January 1997. The report describes the varied and extensive programme of work carried out by the National Advisory Council on behalf of the Boards of Visitors. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library.
The Council agreed as 'A' points, among other things, the Europol Drugs Unit budget for 1998, a joint action on co-operation on law and order and security, and a resolution on unaccompanied third-country national minors. Two actions covering Europol were also agreed, one covering how data will be stored and analysed and
The Commission presented proposals for a future joint action on temporary protection for displaced persons. The proposals concern possible arrangements for European Union member states to respond in a co-ordinated way to situations where large numbers of refugees seek to enter the European Union from countries where events may have placed them in danger. In the light of preliminary discussion, the proposals will now be considered in detail in the appropriate working group.
There was discussion of a draft joint action aimed at providing an appropriately speedy mechanism for identifying and controlling new synthetic drugs throughout the Union. Establishment of such a mechanism was agreed in principle, although some work is still needed on the finer points of the text.
There was agreement in principle to a Protocol to the Europol Convention which would lay down the extent to which Europol staff will benefit from certain privileges and immunities when carrying out their official functions. Minor amendments to the text are needed before the Protocol can be signed. This should be achieved fairly quickly.
Agreement was also reached on the second Protocol to the Convention on the Protection of the Communities' Financial Interests. This Protocol lays down steps to be taken by member states to criminalise certain acts of fraud and corruption against the Community budget, and laundering of the proceeds of such fraud and corruption. The Protocol should be ready for signature in the near future.
The Presidency reported progress on the draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Although some progress has been made, a number of issues remain to be finalised by the working group.
The Presidency reported the outcome of its meeting with representatives of the United States Government on 14 April, under the terms of the Transatlantic Dialogue. It was agreed the broad themes for ongoing co-operation should concentrate on the fight against terrorism; implementation of the Caribbean drugs initiative; and prevention of drug smuggling.
The Commission gave a summary of work under way to combat trafficking in women and children. This included projects under a number of European Union Justice and Home Affairs programmes, as well as on the role of voluntary organisations working in the field.
The Council also took note of reports on the work of the task force on organised crime in the Baltic region. The task force, which involves Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Finland, the Presidency and the Commission, has taken a number of concrete measures, including the establishment of 24-hour national contact points, joint communications systems and actions against stolen motor vehicles and drugs. It will report to Heads of Government in January-February 1998.
Meetings were held with Ministers of the associated Central and Eastern European countries and, separately, with Cyprus. These concentrated on asylum, and covered in particular the application of the safe third country concept, public attitudes to asylum, and the possibility of a parallel convention to the Dublin Convention. The Dublin Convention lays down the procedure for determining the state responsible for examining applications for asylum lodged in one of the member states of the European Communities. A parallel convention would create a similar procedure for European Union member states and other contracting parties outside the Union.
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