Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 3


  This Action Plan details UK initiatives to help Poland's progress towards membership of the European Union. It includes the activities of British Ministries, the British Embassy in Warsaw, the British Council and the Know-How Fund. This bilateral assistance complements aid being channelled through the EU.


  The UK has launched a new two-year programme on developing local government in Poland. It includes a conference on 19 and 20 November involving key figures from the 16 new voivodships; practical workshops on topics such as finance; a series of local government roadshows involving UK officials and experts visiting selected provinces; and a special edition of the British Embassy magazine giving details of useful contacts in the UK. The programme will draw on existing work being done by DfID (the Department for International Development) to strengthen local government in Poland. It responds to requests received from local government officials for greater assistance. It will be managed by the British Embassy, drawing on input from the UK.


  The UK plans to produce an E-mail directory of addresses in UK government departments to enable Polish officials to maintain direct contact with their UK counterparts. This will be a "one-stop-shop" service for dealing with issues connected with Poland's EU accession. Officials in several Polish ministries already have direct e-mail contact with the UK opposite numbers. The new directory will complement them with a series of permanent e-mail addresses.


  The UK is taking an active part in this EU programme, which involves secondment of officials from Member States to help prepare Candidate Countries for EU accession. We are pleased to be working on four key twinning projects from the 1998 round in the fields of Structural Funds, Environment, Justice and Home Affairs and Industrial Restructuring. The UK-led project to help Poland prepare for the receipt of structural funds is the largest twinning project so far, involving input from six Member States and a budget of 7 million euro. We have submitted nine proposals for projects in Poland in the 1999 round, in key sectors such as Human Resources, Customs, Finance, Justice and Home Affairs, Agriculture, Health and Safety, Transport and Telecommunications.


  The UK is supporting Polish efforts to meet the EU environmental acquis. A Polish official is currently on a five-month secondment to the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions. A British expert is advising the National Fund for Environmental Protection on their preparations to receive EU ISPA (transport and environment) funds. We are participating in projects to reduce pollution produced by small businesses and to improve the management of protected areas. We are working with France on a twinning project providing advice to the Ministry of Environment on waste management. A project to improve energy efficiency in the housing sector is also being developed.


  The UK is leading a key twinning project in this area, which aims to improve control of the Eastern border and Poland's capacity to fight organised crime. A Home Office official is being seconded to Warsaw, as a Pre-Accession Adviser, to co-ordinate the project and to advise on the implementation of the EU's JHA acquis.


  Following a meeting between Lord Simon and Deputy Prime Minister Balcerowicz, we have been working with the Polish Government to develop a competitiveness strategy. Two DTI officials visited in September to share the British experience of developing and financing small firms with their Polish counterparts. We stand ready to offer further co-operation.


  We have developed a project in Wroclaw to stimulate the development of farmers' groups to produce the products needed by retail outlets DfID are finalising a Rural Development project which will help local governments create development strategies, apply for external funds and implement development projects. A Farmers Association Project—which aims to improve the effectiveness of farmer representation in local government—is under preparation.

  The UK/Poland Agricultural Working Group has maintained a dialogue between Ministries since 1994. As Poland moves closer to membership of the EU, this dialogue is moving to a new, more detailed and practical level.


  During his visit to Warsaw on 29 June the Minister for Employment, Andrew Smith, and his Polish opposite number signed a joint statement on future bilateral co-operation including assistance in the development of the Polish National Employment Strategy with the European Social Fund. DfID and the Embassy's Small Grants Scheme are currently implementing several projects on reskilling and confidence building for redundant workers. The Polish British Enterprise Project, a joint initiative of the British and Polish Governments, supports job creation in the SME sector in Eastern Poland.


  The UK is involved with Poland, France, Germany and Denmark on a joint project on tobacco policy. The Department of Health will shortly send an official to Poland to discuss further action. This will include bringing Polish legislation on tobacco-related issues in line with EU legislation.


  The UK/Poland Power Sector Working Group has made considerable progress in recent years. Each year the British Embassy in Warsaw, working with the Department of Trade and Industry, holds an energy seminar in Warsaw.


  DfID will shortly begin a UK project to mitigate the adverse social effects of industrial restructuring in the coal and steel sectors on Silesian communities. We are also working with Spain on a twinning project to provide advice and practical help on retraining and small firm development.


  Well-trained negotiators are crucial to Poland's EU accession. The UK's EU Integration project has made considerable progress in providing training in the necessary skills. Some of its activities will now be transferred to the EU PHARE programme.

  The UK continues to contribute bilaterally by providing EU training to the new generation of Polish diplomats, which included this year a visit to Brussels in July. We will continue to fund an accession adviser (Alan Mayhew, formerly a senior Commission official) to provide accession advice to Poland, as well as organise secondments of Polish officials to the UK to acquire experience in EU negotiating methods.


  The UK continues to support the Joseph Conrad Scholarship Scheme, which enables Polish students to study for a Master's degree, diploma or PhD in the UK. Sixteen students are being supported wholly by the scheme this year, and at least 10 more part-funded. We expect to be able to support even more students next year. This year 10 students participated for the first time in a three-month specialised Diploma course on European Integration at the University of Sussex. This was a success and will be repeated next year.


  The UK has much experience in handling legislation directly or indirectly related to the EU, which we are sharing with Polish parliamentarians. Recent examples include:

    —  Members of the Polish Parliamentary EU integration sub-committee will visit the UK soon, meet their counterparts and exchange experience on the role parliaments in EU members states and in the accession process for candidates.

    —  Members of the Polish Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee will visit the UK in October to look at electoral reform.


  Ministerial contact between the UK and Poland is being stepped up. In September alone, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade, the Minister of State in the Home Office and the Minister (Armed Forces) visited Poland. We will maintain the momentum generated by these visits and the frequency of contact as Poland moves towards membership of the EU.

Central and North West Europe Department

October 1999

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