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3 Jul 1997 : Column WA37

Written Answers

Thursday, 3rd July 1997.


Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached a decision on UK membership of UNIDO.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has today informed the UN Secretary-General of our decision to remain a member of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). We will work from within the organisation in order to demonstrate the Government's strong commitment to support the United Nations and its agencies and reforms which increase their effectiveness. This decision recognises both the changes made so far in UNIDO and the UN Secretary-General's efforts to bring about a more effective UN.

European Commission for Democracy through Law

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the functions of the European Commission for Democracy through Law.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Statute of the European Commission for Democracy through Law does not specify the Commission's functions. However the Commission's principal work has been in providing independent expert advice to the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe on constitutional matters.

Klaus Barbie: Papers

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the accuracy of the report published by Magnus Linklater in The Times on 19 June that they possess 32 government documents about Britain's involvement with the recruitment of Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo Security Chief, to work under cover for the American Counter-Intelligence Corps; and, if so, whether they will agree to release the documents.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The release of papers held on Klaus Barbie is being reviewed by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I shall write to the noble Lord when the outcome of this review is complete and place a copy of my letter in the Libraries of the House.

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Turkish Forces in Northern Iraq

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about Turkey's plans for withdrawing its forces now occupying parts of northern Iraq; and whether any international organisation has sought assurances on this point.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have been told by the Turkish authorities that they have already withdrawn 90 per cent. of their forces from northern Iraq. We have reminded the Turkish Government that we hope to see a full withdrawal from Iraqi territory as soon as possible. We are not aware of assurances sought by international organisations on this point.

General Affairs Council, 2-3 June

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the General Affairs Council on 2-3 June.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The 24 A points in Document 9256/97, the text of which will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available, were agreed.

The Council noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament listed in Documents 8021/97 and 8773/97. Copies of these documents will also be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as they are available.

Following agreement on the Amsterdam Treaty, the Council noted that legal editing of the text was under way, with a view to signature in Amsterdam in October. COREPER was mandated to consider any necessary preparations before the Treaty entered into force. The Council called on the Secretariat-General to report back after signature of the Treaty on possible organisational arrangements for setting up the CFSP policy planning cell, and integrating the Schengen Secretariat into the General Secretariat of the Council.

The Council reconfirmed the position set out in the December 1996 Common Position on Cuba and approved the Presidency proposals for its evaluation and implementation. The objective of the European Union remains the encouragement of a process of peaceful transition to democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, a sustainable economic recovery and an improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people. The Council will re-evaluate the Union's position after a further six months.

The Council agreed conclusions on preparatory work for the extraordinary European Council on Employment.

The Presidency and Commission reported on the Denver Summit of the Eight. Member states took note of the achievements of the summit, particularly on the environment, financial stability and Hong Kong.

The Presidency and the Commission reported on the EU/Canada Summit held in Denver on 20 June. The summit reviewed progress on the EU/Canada Action Plan and Political Declaration signed in December 1996. The UK intends to use its Presidency of the EU to build upon

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Dutch efforts to maintain the momentum of the EU/Canada process.

The sixth EU/Japan Summit was held in The Hague on 25 June. It discussed the importance of a successful ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) Summit in London in April 1998. Japan confirmed that broad-based deregulation remained an essential part of its structural reform programme. Both sides reiterated support for Chinese and Russian accession to the World Trade Organisation on commercially viable terms.

The EU issued a declaration on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Albania which urged all political parties to participate and to respect the results and accept the OSCE assessment on their validity. The EU reaffirmed its commitment to support the elections, including sending monitors, although responsibility for holding free and fair elections remains with Albania. It stressed the importance of consolidating the reconciliation process after the elections and is prepared to support economic recovery in Albania once certain conditions are met. Future relations with Albania depend on the restoration of democratic principles and sound economic practices. The Council agreed that, subject to an agreement with the IMF, it was desirable to hold an International Donors' Conference for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the earliest possible date. Close co-ordination with the High Representative, the World Bank and other donors would be required to achieve this.

The Council discussed the current situation regarding the extension of the UN Transition Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES) mandate in Eastern Slavonia.

The Council stressed the importance of efforts to conclude negotiations for Association Agreements with Egypt and Lebanon as soon as possible. It agreed to assess how to meet Spanish concerns about a review clause in the EU/Jordan Agreement dealing with the section on agricultural quotas.

The Council discussed the implications for the EU of Burma's accession to ASEAN, underlining concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma, and calling on the SLORC to allow a visit to Burma by the UN Special Rapporteur. The Council confirmed its commitment to the EU/ASEAN dialogue and reaffirmed that Burma's membership of ASEAN did not automatically imply membership of ASEM. Possible additional measures against Burma will be considered again in September in the light of the forthcoming ASEAN Regional Forum/Post Ministerial Conference (ARF/PMC) meetings and developments in Burma.

A Dutch proposal to solve the impasse in agreeing the mid-term review for the Overseas Countries and Territories was opposed. The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Henderson, pointed out that the failure to reach agreement was prolonging the suffering of a number of Dependent Territories, including Montserrat. The UK urged the Council to proceed with discussions on the basis of the Irish Presidency proposal. This view was supported by others. It was agreed that the Netherlands would consult further with the Commission with a view to reaching agreement in July.

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The GAC discussed the handover in Hong Kong. A Declaration was agreed, underlining the Council Support for continuing democracy in Hong Kong and calling for free and fair elections to take place as soon as possible, or in any case within 12 months.

The Council discussed recommendations from the EU Special Envoy, Miguel Moratinos, for following up the declaration on the Middle East Peace Process agreed by the Amsterdam European Council. These included support for Egyptian mediation to break the current deadlock on the Palestinian track, action on the economic situation of the Palestinians, on economic assistance to Jordan, to promote respect for democracy and human rights, and on efforts to build up long-term momentum in the peace process. The Council extended Moratinos's appointment for a further year.

The Council discussed the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and EU relations with the transitional government. It took note of the intention of the incoming Luxembourg Presidency to send a ministerial troika to Kinshasa. The Council approved the extension for 12 months of the mandate of the EU Special Envoy in the Great Lakes region, Aldo Ajello.

The Council agreed that, following the Ministerial Troika meeting in New York on 23 June, dialogue with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) should be intensified at all levels, particularly regarding the proposed EU/OAU Summit.

The seventh session of the European Economic Area (EEA) Council met on 26 June. All parties were happy with the continued smooth running of the EEA Agreement. The past year had seen important progress, particularly in the field of medicinal products. It was hoped that outstanding work on veterinary matters could be completed by early 1998. The non-EU members of the EEA outlined their interest in the EU gas market directive currently under negotiation. They also expressed their satisfaction that an agreement had been possible in the dispute between the EU and Norway over farmed salmon. A political dialogue covering the Middle East Peace Process, Russia, Albania, Former Yugoslavia and Transatlantic Relations also took place. The official record is contained in document EEE 1603/97, Presse 223.

The EU/Australia Joint Declaration was signed. The UK has always advocated a closer EU/Australia relationship and the Joint Declaration establishes a foundation for co-operation.

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