Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Bilateral Action Plans for EU Applicant Countries (continued)

Foreign and Defence/Security Policy/MFA

  When Latvia becomes a member of the EU it will be required to take on the full obligations of membership, including the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The UK helps the Latvian Government keep abreast of developments in the CFSP through a variety of means:

    —  FCO funded visits for Latvian officials and politicians to Wilton Park conferences;

    —  secondments of MFA officials to the FCO;

    —  regular dialogue at senior official level (eg PUS/State Secretary and Political Director).

  To help Latvia with its EU accession process:

    —  the FCO has funded training in PR and Negotiating Skills for key Latvian officials;

    —  the FCO has also hosted one visit to the UK by the Latvian Chief EU Negotiator; a second visit is planned;

    —  the British Council is providing training in advanced English language skills for MFA officials, focusing on EU accession needs.

  Through the Embassy's defence section, co-operation continues in the area of Security and Defence. This mainly relates to Latvia's NATO membership bid, but also includes discussion of the European defence initiative, eg in 2000 bilateral pol/mil talks and the talk given by the Political Director at LATO.

Education and Culture

  In January 2001 the Ministry of Education and Science renewed its agreement with the British Council for a further three years on the Professional Development Programme for English language teachers in Latvia; approximately 1,000 teachers a year benefit from the training. This, together with the complete revision of the final school leaving examination in all subjects including English that was funded and managed by the British Council from 1996-99, has resulted in a considerable increase in the effectiveness of teachers. The British Council is now funding a project to use this expertise to improve the teaching of Latvian for those seeking citizenship. The British Council also funds a major project to increase the number of English teachers by retraining teachers of other subjects and working with the Ministry of Education and Science to certify them to teach in schools.

  The British Council will maintain its high profile in Latvia, fostering personal contacts and building networks between young Latvian professionals and officials and their British and other European counterparts. The Council's central office in Riga and its six regional information centres will continue to provide strong support to the development of the educational system throughout Latvia. The Council's cultural and arts programme, including exchanges between Britain and Latvia, continues to flourish.

Scholarships/Other UK training

  The FCO continues to provide funds for the prestigious "Chevening Scholarships" programme, including the "Sussex-Chevening" scholarships at Sussex University and the "London SSEES-Chevening" at London University. Through these schemes the FCO, sometimes in partnership with other British sponsors, enables bright young Latvian professionals and officials to pursue post-graduate studies in Britain, particularly in areas relevant to Latvia's EU accession.

  The British Council funds an annual conference ("The European Series") bringing together young officials from EU applicant and Member States to discuss the present and future of Europe. Several Latvians have taken part.

  The British Council funds lawyers from the Baltic region, including Latvia, to undertake legal training in Scotland (the annual Cameron law scholarships).

Ministerial and VIP contacts

  Recent Ministerial visits have included:

    —  the British Minister for Trade, Brian Wilson, visited Riga and Ventspils in 1999;

    —  the British Minister for Social Security, Ms Angela Eagle, visited Riga in December 1999;

    —  the Latvian Foreign Minister, Mr Indulis Berzins, visited London in January 2000;

    —  the British Minister for the Armed Forces, Mr John Spellar, visited Riga in February 2000;

    —  the Latvian Defence Minister, Mr Girts Valdis Kristovskis, visited the UK in July 2000;

    —  the British Minister for Europe, Mr Keith Vaz, visited Riga in November 2000;

    —  the British Minister for the Arts, Mr Alan Howarth, visited Latvia in November 2000;

    —  the President of Latvia, Mrs Vaira Vike-Freiberga, visited the UK in October 2000.

  Britain and Latvia will continue to promote further high-level visits in both directions as Latvia moves towards EU accession.

Future Action

  This Action Plan provides a basis for on-going British support for Latvia's EU accession process. It will be reviewed and updated regularly.

5 March 2001


  The UK is firmly committed to Bulgaria's accession to the EU as soon as possible and strongly supports the associated process of reform. Britain looks forward to the day when Bulgaria takes its place alongside other members of the Union. This Action Plan sets out a range of practical UK initiatives to further these shared goals over the next year. It has been drawn up in conjunction with the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It brings together the work of the UK Government as a whole. The plan was launched by the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mrs Mihailova, in London on 6 March 2001.


  The UK already supports Bulgaria's progress towards EU accession through its contribution to the EU's policy instruments including Phare, SAPARD and ISPA. This Action Plan is designed to complement the Accession Partnership (December 1999) and the Bulgarian National Programme for the Adoption of the acquis.

UK Political Support for Enlargement

  The United Kingdom strongly supports the enlargement of the European Union, which it believes is the biggest and most important challenge facing the EU over the next five years. This will allow our continent to be re-united, after the long decades of artificial division imposed by the Soviet Union. It will thus be an enormous contribution to the stability, security and prosperity of Europe as a whole. Enlarging the Single Market to include over 500 million consumers will provide new opportunities to businesses throughout Europe; and increase the choices open to consumers. Tackling trans-border issues such as crime and environmental population together is the only way to achieve success: EU Enlargement will allow us to do this much more effectively. For the United Kingdom.

  The enlargement of the European Union is not a luxury—it is essential, if we are to make real the dreams of those who believed in a united Europe emerging from the rubble of the Second World War.

Economic Issues

  Bulgaria is making good progress towards a dynamic market economy. Macroeconomic stability has been maintained through the implementation of sound monetary and fiscal policies under the Currency Board. Against this positive backdrop, the UK Government is ready to contribute in the following areas:

Trade and Investment

  Commercial relations between the two countries will be vigorously developed, on the basis of transparency and open markets. Two-way trade and investment will be actively encouraged through a programme of events, including:

    —  Regional seminars in the UK with Chambers of Commerce, Business Links etc. explaining the opportunities which exist in Bulgaria.

    —  Groups of British companies exhibiting at Trade Fairs in Bulgaria, eg during AGRA and Plovdiv International Trade Fair.

    —  Five British trade missions between April 2001 and March 2002.

    —  Regional commercial events throughout Bulgaria exploring ways to boost ties between British and Bulgaria.

    —  A visit to Bulgaria by representatives of a British Development Agency to share experience on attracting high-quality inward investment.

    —  Continuation of projects on Consumer Protection and helping the SME sector.

Regional Policy

    —  ISPA—200 m. Euro is earmarked for Bulgaria annually under ISPA, equally divided between major infrastructure projects in Transport and the Environment. The UK-led Twinning project, designed to ensure that as many Bulgarian projects submitted for ISPA funding are successful as possible, has just been extended until the end of 2001.

    —  The UK will fund a Regional Policy Roadshow to visit towns across Bulgaria to explain to local government, local businesses and the wider community how EU Regional Policy works and how to access the substantial funds available.

Financial systems

    —  State Aids—The UK is providing a Pre-Accession Adviser on the management of State Aids. This issue is critical to the functioning of the Single Market. The twinning project will bring Bulgaria fully in line with EU policy.

    —  Audit—A UK Pre-Accession Adviser will go to Bulgaria later this year to help with the development of the Bulgarian National Audit Office. This project will provide Bulgaria with an independent and professional external audit institution, capable of giving Parliament, the Government and the EU reliable and high quality information on the effective use of public funds.


  The UK has regular high level exchanges with Bulgaria as a prospective member of the EU and NATO on CFSP issues. The UK will intensify this dialogue and exchange experiences. We welcome Bulgaria's contribution to the work of the Stability Pact and to the "Europeanisation" of the region, where the UK will continue it's active programme of activities.

Justice and Home Affairs

  The Bulgarian Government is determined to address public concern about crime, to support the strengthening of the judiciary and to tackle the problem of corruption at all levels in society. The UK Government proposes to contribute through:

    —  The appointment of a senior UK advisor to the Minister of Interior for two years.

    —  Increased contacts between the British and Bulgarian judiciary through a programme of seminars and reciprocal visits.

    —  Co-operation between the UK Serious Crime Squad and the Bulgarian Investigation Service, initially through reciprocal visits.

    —  Continuing co-operation in the police sector, helping the Bulgarian Police to implement a nationwide system of community policing drawing on the experience of the long-running Know How Fund project in Plovdiv.

    —  Practical implementation of the Readmission Agreement, which will be signed later this year between the UK and Bulgaria.


  Following the successful visit of the UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator, Mr Keith Hellawell, the UK has increased its co-operation with Bulgaria in the fight against drug trafficking and organised crime. Building on the successes which Bulgaria has achieved in the last two years, the UK will:

    —  Provide a UK expert for two years under the EU Twinning Programme, to help Bulgaria develop a co-ordinated approach to combating drugs, from collecting intelligence through to fighting drug abuse.

    —  Continue the close operational co-operation between the Drugs Liaison Officer and Bulgarian counterparts leading to even more seizures of heroin.

Political Issues

  The UK will fund a high-level Wilton Park/European Institute Conference in Sofia in March 2002 focussing on EU Enlargement and South Eastern Europe.


  The European Commission has already judged that Bulgaria meets the Copenhagen political criteria. Britain is keen to help the Bulgarian government in its efforts to make further concrete progress in implementing the Roma Framework Programme; and to establish institutions which will work to maximise the opportunities available to the Roma community and to tackle the difficulties faced by Roma in every area of life. Projects include:

    —  Seminars on how minorities are portrayed in the Media (to avoid stereo-typing, and encourage positive role models).

    —  Study visits to the UK to see different approaches to the protection of minority rights, with the emphasis on integration through education.

    —  Integrated pre-school classes for Bulgarian and Roma children to increase social integration and access to mainstream education.

    —  Continuing co-operation with the UK Commission for Racial Equality.

    —  Development of employment opportunities for ethnic minorities.

Child Care

  The British Government will continue to support the Bulgarian government in implementing its new child care policy, based on the new Children's Act. Working in close co-ordination with other donors, in particular the EU and World Bank, the UK will:

    —  Provide an advisor on child welfare issues to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

    —  Take forward the joint project at the Children's home in Gomotartsi, designed to develop better systems for the care of children in institutions.

    —  Fund a project managed by the Save the Children Fund to identify alternatives to institutional care.

Public Administration

  The UK supports the Bulgarian government, both local and central, in its commitment to creating a public administration capable of preparing Bulgaria to meet the obligations of EU membership. Areas of co-operation include:

    —  Developing a system of performance appraisal, pay and grading in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy which could serve as a model throughout the Civil Service.

    —  Identifying ways to encourage open government. This will include the establishment of One-Stop shops to provide businesses and citizens with advice on government services, and launching workshops to develop a process of public consultation on legislation designed to make it more transparent and effective.

    —  Consolidation of projects with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to enhance the skills base of the Ministry and its agencies. The aim is to develop policy and deliver social services appropriate to a market economy.

    —  Establishment of a network of pilot Citizens Advice and Information Centres to improve access to information, advice and advocacy.

    —  Seminars on topics of relevance eg, Standards in Public Life, Project management, tax credits.

Environment and Agriculture

  Bulgaria is blessed with large tracts of beautiful and unspoilt countryside. But it faces the major task of bringing its environmental protection practice up to EU standards. The UK will work with the Bulgarian government to achieve their goal of mutually reinforcing agricultural and environmental policies which are EU compliant:

    —  Leading for a second year, a twinning project which assists the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture in administrative reform and legislative alignment in the area of agriculture and fisheries. This includes provision of a UK Pre-Accession Adviser. A number of short term experts and study visits to the UK.

    —  Assisting the Bulgarian Government for a second year in a twinning project to update their pesticide registration and testing facilities.

    —  Strengthening capacity for environmental project development work thus enabling Bulgaria to access EU Structural Funds.

    —  Piloting a Waste Management system in two economically deprived areas of Bulgaria, to establish a model for environmentally sustainable Waste Management Services. This could subsequently be provided nationwide, in accordance with Bulgaria's legal and policy framework.

    —  Promoting the development of environmental education and CITES projects.

    —  Working with the Bulgarian authorities to ensure the safe decommissioning of Kozlodoui Units one—four, including a UK bilateral commitment of 1.5 million Euro to the EBRD Decommissioning Fund.

    —  Funding study visits eg to help establish an organic foods standards certification agency, and to improve environmental planning.

    —  Looking for future environmental twinning projects.

Education and Culture

  The UK and Bulgaria signed an agreement on Education and Culture in 2001 to continue the long term programme of cultural events and exchanges between both countries.

  The British Council will maintain its high profile in Bulgaria. Its move to new premises will enable it to promote best practice in English Language Teaching to assist the continuing improvement of English language in schools. The Council also operates the well known "European Young Lawyers Scheme".

  The "Chevening Scholarships" programme is well regarded in Bulgaria. We will continue to use the funds available to target priority areas for Bulgaria in terms of EU accession, in particular by offering two scholarships per year to attend the University of Sussex DICES course.

The Wider Picture

  The Bulgarian Parliament faces the challenge of handling a significant amount of legislation in order to make its laws EU compliant. It will also need to develop its own approach to scrutinising EU business. The UK is keen to share its experience with Bulgaria in these areas and will encourage further links between the relevant UK committees and their Bulgarian counterparts.

  In addition to the existing five British Pre-Accession Advisers, we will seek out new counterparts for the Phare 2001 Twinning Programme and consider projects in other related areas eg encouraging links between the Cabinet Office in London and the Council of Ministers in Sofia.

Future Action

  This Action Plan provides the basis for ongoing co-operation between the UK and Bulgaria. It will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.



  As a champion of enlargement the UK is strongly committed to supporting Slovakia's early accession to the European Union and to helping Slovakia in the associated process of reform. This Action Plan details UK initiatives to further these aims to the end of the financial year. The British Foreign Office has made available £100,000 of additional money to support new projects. This bilateral assistance complements the work already being funded through the EU and the broader support (£3 million) of DFID's Know How Fund.


  The Slovak Republic is a demoncratic state with an onus to remaining transparent in all fields to ensure accountability is maintained. One of the tools to ensure accountability is trained journalists able to investigate stories and seek out the truth. The Action Plan is supporting a two day seminar for 30 journalists organised by the British Embassy in association with BACEE. The aim of this seminar will be to explain the concept of investigative political journalism and how useful it can be to the working of a fully functioning democracy both at regional and national level. Two well renowned journalists from the UK will hold the seminar.

Trade & Investment

  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 British Trade International and the two countries' Embassies, two way trade and investment will be actively encouraged.

  A British adviser is currently working with the Slovak Ministry of Finance through a PHARE funded scheme, advising in Bank Privatisation.

Corporate Governance

  As a member of OECD, Slovakia has adopted principles concerning the operation of publicly traded companies. A key element to improving economic efficiency is corporate governance as it involves a set of relationships between a company's management, its board, its shareholders and its stakeholders. Corporate governance should provide the structure through which the company objectives are set, and the means of attaining those objectives and the methods of monitoring performance.

  Britain is near to completing a project to introduce a Code of Best Practice similar to one already successfully introduced in the Czech Republic. Consultants working with Slovak counterparts are working closely with various institutional groups such as the bankers association and the Bratislava Stock Exchange along with auditing bodies, to help develop and implement this code.

Financial Regulation

  The United Kingdom will explore the possibility of helping the Slovak Republic to address the problems of regulating the financial sector, through the provision of assistance to the Ministry of Finance and other financial institutions.

Labour and Social Policy

  The functioning of the internal market involves a process of undertakings, cross-border mergers, take-overs and joint-ventures. To guarantee that employees of undertaking or groups of undertakings are properly informed and consulted, it is necessary to set-up European Works Councils or to create other suitable procedures for trans-national information and consultation of employees. Within the framework of the European Commission's "Twinning Programme", the United Kingdom (in co-operation with the Netherlands) will be working closely with Slovak officials on the development of Social Dialogue to perform this necessary function.

Police Co-operation and Judicial Reform

  Following on from the Lord Chancellor's visit in June and a highly successful "Twinning Programme" focussing on police training and DFID Know How Fund's projects with the judiciary, the United Kingdom is keen to extend assistance in these areas. Projects include:-

    —  A One year English language training programme for police officers, judges, prosecutors and ministry officials;
    —  Bilateral assistance for preparing the Slovak Republic for handling information covered by Data Protection mandates;
    —  Exchange of experts to establish co-operation in the field of Penal and Civil Law;
    —  Provision of documents for the Ministry of Justice's Centre of Documentation on EU Law;
    —  Training of Judges in the area of acquis communitaire;
    —  Supporting an English/Slovak legal dictionary and updating a English/Slovak police dictionary;
    —  Aiding the Ministry of the Interior in the Fight against Organised Crime

  Following on from a successful seminar organised by DFID Know How Fund in 1999, we are now examining the option of organising a follow-up seminar to assist the Slovak police in developing effective relations with the Roma community.


  In order to complement the work already being carried out by the EU, other member states and the KHF, discussions with the Slovak Ministry of Environment have identified a number of areas for bilateral assistance and projects are currently under preparation. These include:-

    —  Short term assistance focussing on international tendering to comply with the FIDIC Red Book on international engineering standards;
    —  Short term assistance in the area of cost benefit analysis;
    —  Short term assistance to assess the environmental impact of incinerators:

  Other assistance currently under discussion includes aiding the Slovak Ministry of Environment in preparing for the implementation of the IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention Control) directive and supporting national and local Agenda 21 initiatives.

  The UK will seek to assist the relevant Slovak authorities to build up the capacity and expertise necessary to access EU environment related funds (ISPA) and to implement EU pollution directives.

Human Rights and Minorities

  As a keen advocator of Human Rights the UK is increasing its efforts to support projects aimed at promoting Human Rights within Slovakia. Through the Know How Fund support has already been given to projects aimed at tackling social exclusion and anti-discrimination within society. The Action Plan will build on this in the coming months supporting projects aimed at Police Relations with Minority Groups in an effort to increase dialogue and trust. We will build on this with a Human Rights strategy for Slovakia in an effort to allow more centrally held resources to be focussed on this area.

Culture and Scholorships

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

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

Foreign Policy

  The United Kingdom will:

    —  Intensify its dialogue with the Slovak Foreign Ministry and other appropriate governmental bodies on a wide range of foreign policy problems of common interest, in the spirit of EU Common Foreign and Security Policy;

    —  Exchange experiences on the operation of CFSP through visists and the appointment of short term secondees to each others' ministries;

    —  Provide assistance and advice on accession related matters, including involvement in Wilton Park conferences;

    —  Provide training on diplomacy and negotiating techniques, particularly for EU accession, through FCO training courses and Chevening Scholarships;

    —  Work with Slovakia to develop and sustain support for enlargement in both countries. This includes a project to assist the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs develop and implement a Public Diplomacy Strategy.

Security and Defence

  As the NATO Contact Point Embassy we already have close links with the Slovak Ministries involved. The strong defence relationship we have with Slovakia will continue to develop. As a prospective member of NATO and the EU we are in close contact with the Slovak Government about the European Strategic Defence Initiative, recognising that Slovakia has an important role in the development of policy in this area. In addition we are funding an English Language course for Ministry of Defence officials.


  A key area of the acquis, the UK is committed to helping aspirant countries in this field. Slovak participation has been secured on the FCO funded course. "Preparing for Membership of the European Union: Agriculture and Food" run by the Centre for Political and Diplomatic Studies.

Inter-Parliamentary Contacts

  Inter-Parliamentary relations continue to develop and will deepen over the next year. The EC Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons visited Slovakia in July 2000 and the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons visited in November 2000.

  Through the KHF we are supporting reforms to parliamentary procedures in order to increase the effectiveness of the legislation process.

Ministerial and VIP Contact

  Ministerial and other senior contact between the UK and Slovakia is being stepped up in 2000 we have seen visits from the:

    —  The Foreign Secretary, Mr Robin Cook
    —  Minister for Sports, Ms Kate Hoey
    —  Minister of State for Armed Forces, Mr John Spellar
    —  The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine
    —  The Lord Mayor of London
    —  His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales
    —  FCO Minister of State for Europe, Mr Keith Vaz
    —  Minister of State for Ministry of Agriculture, Fish and Food, Ms Joyce Quin
    —  European Secretariat, Cabinet Office, Mr Stephen Wall
    —  No. 10 Downing Street, Mr Roger Liddle

  So far in 2001 we have had visits from:-

    —  Lord Whitty
    —  UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator, Mr Keith Hellawell

  And forthcoming visitors include:-

    —  Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellors Office, Lord Bach
    —  Minister of State for Arms Sales, Baroness Symons
    —  British Business adviser, Lord Paul

  We wish to maintain the momentum generated by these visits and the frequency of contact as Slovakia moves towards membership of the EU.

Future Action

  The Action Plan provides a basis for on-going co-operation between the United Kingdom and Slovak Republic for the years to come. More finances will be made available in the forthcoming financial year to allow the UK to support more projects aimed at the early accession of Slovakia to the EU. It will be reviewed and updated regularly with that in mind.

27 February 2001

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