Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 3



  The UK is strongly committed to the early accession of the Czech Republic to the EU and to supporting the Czech Republic in the associated process of reform. This Action Plan sets out a range of practical UK initiatives to further these aims over the next 12 months. It is the result of discussion between the two Governments and is being launched on the occasion of the visit of the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, to Prague on 26 July 2000.


  Commercial relations between the two countries will be vigorously developed, on the basis of the principles of transparency and an open market. Through co-operation between the two countries' Embassies, two-way trade and investment will be actively encouraged. The United Kingdom's "Opportunity Czech Republic" campaign, in which the British Government is co-operating closely with CzechInvest, is raising awareness of the opportunities for commercial partnership between British and Czech companies through a programme of events, including, among others:

    —  an all-British Trade Fair, "Britain means Business", in Prague on 24-26 October;

    —  12 regional seminars in the UK explaining to UK companies the opportunities that exist in the Czech Republic;

    —  groups of British companies exhibiting at Trade Fairs in the Czech Republic during 2000, including EnviBrno and MSV, and four trade missions in September-December;

    —  regional commercial events in Ostrava, Brno and Olomouc exploring ways to boost ties between British companies and companies in Moravia.

  The Lord Mayor of London launched a seminar on Public-Private Partnerships when he visited Prague in May 2000. This will be followed up through contacts between the British Embassy and British Invisibles—on behalf of the UK Financial Services Industry—and appropriate Czech partners.

  As part of the EC Twinning Programme, the British Department of Trade and Industry, working with Sheffield Hallam University, are delivering a project to strengthen Czech competitiveness and so boost the Czech Republic as a venue for foreign investment. A British Adviser will start work in Prague on this later this year.


  Through the Department of International Development's (DFID's) Know How Fund, Britain has a long-term programme of support for the Czech Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). British support in this sector will continue. The Chairman of the SEC recently visited London as a guest of the British government to meet British regulatory bodies, including the FSA, and lay the basis for long-term co-operation between the two regulators.

  A seminar on Corporate Governance is planned for October 2000. This will concentrate on British experience of implementing the QECD's corporate governance guidelines. A follow-up event, a year later, will be organised within the framework of Transparency International's major conference in Prague in October 2001.

  Corporate governance was a main theme of the Lord Mayor of London's visit to Prague in May 2000. He also helped to publicise the Memorandum of Understanding between the London and Prague Stock Exchanges, which was signed earlier the same month. This MOU provides for sharing of information and links between the exchanges' self-regulatory bodies.

  Within the framework of the EC Twinning Programme, a long-term expert from HM Customs and Excise will work to develop policies relating to direct taxation. Also, the Czech Finance Ministry has requested short-term assistance from British regulators in telecommunications, consumer protection, state financial control and capital markets. An introductory visit from the British telecoms regulator Oftel has already taken place.

  Also under the Twinning Programme, the UK's National Crime Squad is working as a partner in a project helping the fight against financial crime.

  The United Kingdom will also explore the scope of helping the Czech Republic to address the problems of regulating the advanced and sophisticated financial sector, through the provision of assistance to the Ministry of Finance and other financial institutions.


  David Blunkett and Vladimir Spidla signed a Joint Statement on Co-operation between the British Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA) in June 1999.

  Under the joint statement, four Czech officials took part in a study visit earlier this year to look at employment issues relating to Czech Roma. Two further study visits will take place later this year.

  DfEE has won a Phare-funded twinning project to work with MOLSA on the development of the Czech National Employment Action plan and on issues relating to the European Social Fund. The detailed project covenant is currently being developed, and the 15-month project should be launched in October 2000. In a separate twinning project, the Health and Safety Executive will work to develop best practice in health and safety at work.


  The DfID Know How Fund's main activity in the Czech Republic is a major project with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. This will include a root-and-branch review of the delivery of social services, introduce standardisation in these services, and an institutional review of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Deputy Prime Minister Spidla's visit to Britain in 1999 and the visit of Angela Eagle from the Department of Social Security to Prague provided impetus for this work in June 2000, when the project was officially launched.


  Within the framework of the European Commission's Twinning" Programme, a specialist from the Environment Agency will work in Prague on a long-term placement designed to prepare the Czech Republic for implementation of EU water directives.

  A significant programme of bilateral assistance complements this work. Following discussions with the Czech Ministry of the Environment, a number of projects have been identified and are currently under preparation. These include assistance to the Czech Ministry of Environment in preparing for the implementation of the IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) directive, developing strategies for investment into environmental infrastructure, and supporting national and local Agenda 21 initiatives. We are also pursuing possibilities in the area of solid waste management, and projects that would complement the current EU twinning project on EC water directives.

  In addition, the British Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) plans to provide assistance to the Czech Government on three transport-related projects:

    —  road traffic safety;

    —  railway restructuring;

    —  planning a rail connection between Prague airport and the city centre.


  One of the most important tasks in preparing for EU membership is to build the relevant administrative structures to handle implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy. To this end, a group of experts from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic visited the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Intervention Agency in Newcastle. The visit focused on administration and intervention methods in dairy production, such as milk quota agreements. Intensive collaboration between relevant administrative bodies in the Czech Republic and Great Britain is planned in future, in particular in respect of the activities of the newly established State Agricultural Intervention Fund under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic. This fund will take over the functions of an intervention agency, operating under the rules of the Common Agricultural Policy.


  Following the visit of the Lord Chancellor, enhanced co-operation in these areas is planed. A High Court Judge will come to Prague for three months to recommend improvements in the functioning of Commercial Law. The establishment of a British/Czech legal centre is also planned.

  Within the framework of the European Commission's twinning programme, a specialist from the Forensic Science Service will work in Prague on a long-term placement, the aim of which is to establish a DNA database within the Czech police's organised crime apparatus.

  The UK has a long-term programme of assistance and advice from the Metropolitan Police and other forces, to help the Czech police in the fight against xenophobia. Britain is also funding training courses at the Czech National Police Academy for applicants from ethnic minorities, to help to improve their chances of joining the Czech police.

  Following a successful seminar organised by the Home Office in October 1999, we are now in the process of drawing up plans for a follow-up seminar to assist the Czech police in developing effective relations with the Roma community.


  The UK is working closely with the Czech Government Office, as it establishes the office of the Ombudsman. This assistance has involved a study tour for the key official tasked with setting up the office, and training in Britain for officials who will work there.

  Much work is being done in the field of minority rights. A major project is taking place in the city of Pardubice, where a British Race Equality officer has helped to develop equal opportunities policy for the city. This will be the first policy of its kind in the Czech Republic. At the central government level, there are close ties between the Commission for Racial Equality and the Czech Government Office, which have been established during visits in both directions for key officials. Work in developing employment opportunities for Roma is also on going.


  As part of the EC Twinning Programme, a British official has been seconded to the Czech Ministry of Finance to help them develop their State Aid system. This project began in October 1999 and will last for two years. The Civil Service College is active in the Czech Republic, both in delivery of Phare contracts and in bilateral work. It has been involved in a series of seminars with the Czech Public Administration Reform team. The British Council has also contributed fully to the reform of Czech public administration, notably by hosting a series of public policy debates on matters of general interest. The theme of these debates in 2000 is "informing the citizen" focusing on freedom of information and the role of the media, as well as electronic governance.

  The Scottish Executive is leading on a complex Twinning Project aimed at preparing the Czech administration for receiving EU Structural Funds. Scottish Finance Minister Jack MacConnell visited Prague to launch this project.

  The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is exploring with Czech officials ways it might support Czech local and regional government, in the light of current reforms, by building UK/Czech relationships at the regional and local level and exchanging experience and ideas.


  From 1999, the budget for the British government's prestigious "Chevening Scholarships" programme has been increased. This programme includes the "Chevening European Fellowships" programme, under which selected Czech government officials are trained in EU law and practice.

  The British Council will maintain its high profile in the Czech Republic. Its main building in Prague and seven regional resource centres enable it to promote best practice in English Language Teaching to assist the continuing improvement of English language in schools. The Council's long-term programme of cultural events and exchanges continues to flourish.


  Britain took the initiative in beginning bilateral and multilateral consultations with the Czech Government about the European Strategic Defence Initiative, recognising that as a new member of NATO and a prospective member of the EU, the Czech Republic has an important role in the development of policy in this area.

  The defence relationship will continue to develop, in Prague, London and Brussels. A new level of co-operation will be reached when a British Military Advisory and Training Team is located in Vyskov, Moravia, from September. In addition, a British adviser works with the Chief of the General Staff, and Czech officers are trained every year in Britain. Czech policemen destined to work in Kosovo are trained in English by the British Council as are Czech military personnel from units assigned to NATO, and for deployment in the Balkans. The Czech Foreign Ministry's European Correspondent will have a week's work attachment in London in October.


  The two governments also warmly welcome the development of parliamentary contracts and stand ready to help and facilitate these where appropriate. The House of Lords Committee for the European Union has held a seminar in Prague to inform the Czech Senate's EU Committee about scrutinising EU legislation. The EC Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons visited Prague in July. The Czech Senate has invited the House of Lords Committees on the Economy, Agriculture and Transport to visit Prague. In the opposite direction, the Czech Lower House's sub-committee on prisons visited Britain in June.


  This Action Plan provides the basis for ongoing cooperation between the UK and the Czech Republic for years to come. It will be reviewed and updated regularly with that in mind.

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