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Diplomatic Service

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the average salary of a United Kingdom national employed in the Diplomatic Service and based in an overseas post is. [155085]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 23 March 2001]: Salaries of Diplomatic Service staff are based on a common set of pay ranges whether they are serving at home or overseas. The median average basic salary of all Diplomatic Service staff is £23,181. Diplomatic Service staff serving overseas are additionally paid varying rates of allowances to compensate for the additional costs of having to live and work abroad.

"Spaces in Between" Project

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) cost and (b) purpose of the "Spaces in Between" project of the British Council was; for what reason an asylum centre was targeted in this project; what UK asylum centres have been targeted; and if he will make a statement. [155556]

Mr. Wilson: This programme was the British Council's contribution to "Brussels 2000 European City of Culture", the focus of which was projects with long-term social benefits. One project targeted the children of displaced persons at an asylum centre in Brussels and took the form of three short residencies by British artists who worked in photography, garden-design and painting. The purpose was to demonstrate how such activities can alleviate the effects of displacement and post-conflict trauma among children.

No UK asylum centres were involved: all activity took place in Belgium. The total budget was approximately £10,700.

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"Your Britain, Your Europe"

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) of 31 January 2001, Official Report, column 247W, what further expenditure has been incurred on, and how many extra copies have been distributed of, the "Your Britain, Your Europe" publication. [154827]

Mr. Vaz: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has distributed 17,000 copies of the "Your Britain, Your Europe" leaflet since November 1999. A number of the copies dispatched to Middlesbrough before my visit to the north-east on 1 February were, in the event, not deployed. We subsequently distributed these with several hundred copies of the winter edition of the "Your Britain, Your Europe" newsletter in early March. The total design and printing costs for the leaflet therefore remains at £3,862.51.

General Affairs Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcome was of the General Affairs Council held in Brussels on 19 and 20 March; what the Government's voting record was at the Council; and if he will make a statement. [155101]

Mr. Vaz: The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 19-20 March adopted the 23 "A" points listed in document no. 7061/01. It also noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its sessions of 12-15 February in Strasbourg and of 28 February and 1 March 2001 in Brussels listed in document nos. 5793/01 and 5796/01 respectively. Copies of these documents have been placed in the House Libraries.

1. Preparations for the Stockholm European Council: Internal

The GAC reviewed the Commission's and Council's work on the Lisbon agenda since the Nice European Council. The Lisbon agenda aims to transform the Union into the most competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. The Presidency confirmed the agenda and ran through its aims for Stockholm

2. Preparations for the Stockholm European Council: External

The GAC agreed that discussions with Putin over lunch on 23 March would focus on economic issues, in particular the progress of Russia's reforms, World Trade Organisation accession and bilateral trade relations. Foreign Ministers would cover international issues in a separate meeting with FM Ivanov. The European Council would also discuss the Western Balkans, middle east and Korea that evening.

3. European Security and Defence Policy

The GAC took note of progress made so far to develop civilian crisis management capabilities, and looked forward to the 10 May police conference to assess progress towards achievement of the concrete target for international civilian policing capabilities set at the Feira European Council.

4. Western Balkans

The GAC expressed deep concern over the escalating violence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and called on ethnic Albanian extremists to

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cease their attacks immediately. The Council reiterated its strong attachment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of FYROM as a single, multi-ethnic state. It also invited the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (Javier Solana) and Commission to take forward urgently assistance aimed at promoting inter- ethnic relations and improving border security.

The GAC welcomed the signature of the ceasefire by Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)/Serbian and ethnic-Albanian representatives. It also welcomed NATO's decision to authorise FRY forces to go back into the Ground Safety Zone (GSZ). The GAC also welcomed the decision of the High Representative for CFSP to substantially increase the number of monitors from the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in south-east Serbia following assurances from NATO on the security arrangements for EUMM personnel.

The GAC strongly supported the efforts of Wolfgang Petritsch, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), to ensure implementation of the Dayton/Paris Accords. It also stressed the urgent need for Bosnia to implement the steps set out in the EU Road Map which would permit a feasibility study to take place on a possible Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The GAC condemned the unilateral actions of the Croat National Congress (HDZ) of BiH which would disrupt the Dayton/Paris Accords.

5. Human Rights: General

The GAC unanimously agreed the Council Conclusions on Human Rights of 10 December 1998, endorsed by the Vienna European Council, which highlighted the importance of human rights as a corner stone of EU foreign policy. The GAC took stock of ongoing initiatives, notably the preparation of EU Guidelines against Torture, which will enhance EU actions aimed at the eradication of this abhorrent violation of human rights. The GAC also noted that the European Commission had prepared a Communication on electoral assistance and observation, on which the GAC will adopt conclusions shortly. Finally, the GAC highlighted the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on 19 March. It noted the EU resolve to play an active role at the Commission on Human Rights, and to closely co-ordinate and co-operate with other participants with a view to contributing to its success.

6. Human Rights: Dialogue with China

The GAC agreed conclusions assessing the human rights situation in China and progress made in the EU/China human rights dialogue. The GAC also agreed, and made public, the following common approach towards China at the 57th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR):

Over lunch, the Presidency reported on the EU Troika visit to the middle east. Ministers agreed that the parties must break the spiral of violence and start new talks on security, as initial steps towards a renewed peace process. Ministers also discussed the humanitarian situation in the

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Palestinian areas and renewed their call on Israel to end the closure policy and immediately transfer to the Palestinian Authority the tax revenues withheld.

8. Kidnapping in Cabinda Province, Angola

The GAC, over lunch, heard a report from the Portuguese Foreign Minister on the kidnapping of eight Portuguese citizens in the Angolan province of Cabinda. The Council expressed concern over the humanitarian situation of the Portuguese hostages, strongly condemned their abduction and called on those responsible to release all hostages immediately. The GAC recalled its condemnation of such practices and stressed the importance of the strict observance of the principles of humanitarian law.

9. UK Voting Record

No formal or informal votes were taken on any of the issues under discussion at the GAC. The only issues requiring unanimous agreement, being subject to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, were the Council's conclusions on human rights and its human rights dialogue with China (as indicated).


Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he (a) has made and (b) plans to make regarding the imprisonment of members of the Jewish community and others from Shiraz; what plans he has to visit Iran; and if he will make a statement. [155474]

Mr. Wilson [holding answer 26 March 2001]: We and our European partners have taken every opportunity to raise with Iran our concerns about the unsatisfactory nature of the case, and will continue to do so. My hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe most recently did so with the Iranian ambassador on 22 January. While noting the reductions in sentence on appeal, we continue to hope that the Iranian judiciary will show clemency. We understand that one of the accused is now due to be released following completion of his two-year sentence. The EU sponsored the 4 December General Assembly Resolution expressing concern about discrimination against people who belong to religious minorities and Iranian failure to comply with international standards on the administration of justice.

When he last met his Iranian counterpart Dr. Kharrazi in New York in September, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary welcomed Dr. Kharrazi's invitation that he visit Iran in 2001. No date has yet been set.

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