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EU Candidate Countries: Twinning Programme

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The European Commission and member states are now implementing the new "twinning" programme, the main plank of the institution-building component of the Phare Programme for all Central European Candidate Countries. The current focus of twinning is on the placement of member state officials in Central Europe. Round 1 is well under way, with Pre-Accession Advisers hoping to be in place in Central Europe by the beginning of next year. Round 2 of 1998 is due to start at the end of October. There are plans to complement the outward secondment of EU experts with inward secondment of Central European civil servants, but it is too early to be sure of the necessary numbers involved. Twinning currently covers four priority sectors of the acquis communautaire: Finance, Environment, Agriculture and Justice and Home Affairs. After 1999 this will expand to include all sectors, and the FCO hopes to interest all UK departments, agencies and related bodies which have responsibility for implementing EU legislation in future twinning rounds.

Placements in the European Commission are also helpful. But, as we have said before, this is a matter for the Commission to decide.

In addition, the FCO and the majority of other government departments have offered short placements on an ad hoc basis to officials from the candidate countries.

Strategic Export Controls: Torture Equipment

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current position on the Department of Trade and Industry's review of strategic export controls (HC Deb), 5 May, cols. 262-263W); and what progress has been made in encouraging member states of the European Union and others to introduce appropriate controls over such activities, and in particular the manufacture and export of electric shock batons and similar devices to countries from which the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture has received allegations of torture.[HL3401]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Department of Trade and Industry published the White Paper on Strategic Export Controls on 1 July (House of Lords Official Report, cols. WA 82-84) and the subsequent formal consultation process ended on 30 September. The Government are now considering carefully all the responses received during the consultation process and will be reviewing their proposals in the light of these.

We have pressed our EU partners vigorously to introduce similar restrictions on the export of torture equipment to those we introduced on 28 July 1997 (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 26-29). Our partners are sympathetic to our concerns. Indeed, in defining internal repression, the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports agreed on 8 June 1998 specifically

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includes torture or other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment among the actions which constitute internal repression.

However, some partners have doubts about the practicality and desirability of an outright ban. Many do not have national controls on some or all of the items involved. We believe from contracts that there is support for the principle of controlling the export of such equipment.

As this equipment is not military equipment, matters relating to its export control fall within the Community's exclusive competence and it is for the European Commission to make any proposal for a regulation establishing common rules. We are encouraging the Commission to come forward with a proposal and expect them to do so soon.

It is premature to be encouraging our EU partners or others to introduce similar controls to those which we may introduce nationally as a result of the White Paper.

Iraq: Kuwaiti Detainees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are examining the latest evidence that Iraq still holds prisoners of war from Kuwait; and whether they can draw any conclusions or proposals for action from such scrutiny.[HL3440]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government play an active role in the Tripartite Commission which considers all evidence relating to the Kuwaiti detainees. We will continue to insist that Iraq provides full information on the whereabouts of the detainees.

Private Military Companies

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached conclusions following their study of ways of regulating the activities of private military companies (including the South African legislation); and, if so, whether they will prepare legislation.[HL3409]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government are still examining the issue. No final decision has yet been taken.

Turkey: Internal Warfare

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are increasing their efforts, directly and through multilateral channels, to find a negotiated political solution to the internal warfare that has been taking place within Turkey for 15 years, particularly in the provinces under martial law.[HL3420]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government continue to urge the Turkish authorities to seek a non-military solution to the conflict in the south

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east. We recognise that Turkey faces a significant internal terrorist threat. But we believe that Turkey can best undermine support for terrorism in the south eastern region by addressing the social, economic, political and cultural aspirations of the local population.

UN Charter and Use of Force

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the Charter of the United Nations permits, and the international rule of law can survive, claims by individual member states to a right of unilateral interpretation of UN Security Council Resolutions, and a right to engage in military operations under such unilateral interpretations.[HL3411]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The legal basis for any use of force depends upon all the circumstances at the time. These may include

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authorisation by the UN Security Council, whose resolutions must be interpreted and applied in good faith.

Argentina: Arms Embargo

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any new exceptions to the arms embargo on Argentina.[HL3569]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government have recently granted two exceptions to the embargo. The first was in respect of the sale of a further 24 nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) protection suits and eight pairs of boots for use by the Argentine contingent of the UN task force in Kuwait. The second exception was in respect of the export of 745 shotgun cartridges to an Argentine sporting goods retailer for sport and hunting use. These decisions represent exceptions but not changes to the embargo.

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