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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 21 June 2001


European Council (Gothenburg)

Ian Stewart: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the meeting of the European Council he attended in Gothenburg. [405]

The Prime Minister: A meeting of the European Council was held in Gothenburg on 15 and 16 June. I attended, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The European Council was preceded by an EU/US Summit and by a dinner of European Heads of Government with President Bush. The European Union and the United States were able to make common cause in our approach to the middle east, the Balkans, our relationship with Russia, and European security and defence policy. We also made a joint commitment to work to settle bilateral trade disputes and to launch a new round of world trade negotiations in November.

On the environment, the United States shared the European Union's concern over the problem of climate change, and the need for a global response to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Views on the Kyoto Protocol differed. The European Union remains committed to the Kyoto Protocol and to its ratification. The United States does not accept the Kyoto target, but President Bush did stress America's acceptance of a science-based approach and a willingness to work with us in a new High-Level Group to try to reach agreement. He also said that the US Administration would participate actively in the Kyoto follow-up meeting in Bonn in July.

The European Council reaffirmed its commitment to enlargement which is vital to the stability and prosperity of the candidate countries, and will bring economic benefits to all European countries, including our own. We have agreed to work to complete the negotiations for the first wave of candidate countries by the end of 2002 so that they can participate as members of the European Union in the European Parliament elections in 2004. At the end of the Gothenburg meeting, the EU Heads of Government met the leaders of the countries who have applied to join the Union.

The Council discussed the Irish referendum result and offered the Irish Government its support in finding a way forward that will allow enlargement to go ahead as planned.

For the first time, the European Union adopted a strategy for sustainable development focused on the problems of climate change; public health and food safety; poverty; and transport congestion. Sustainable development will be an important element of the Union's work in economic, social and environmental areas. The conclusion usefully emphasised that the Common

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Agricultural Policy and its future development must contribute to achieving sustainable development. This fits in well with the United Kingdom's agenda of CAP reform.

The Swedish presidency has made good progress in furthering the European security and defence policy (ESDP). It has taken forward the implementation of the Nice decisions on ESDP and the work to improve military capabilities. The presidency has also achieved much in developing the civilian aspects of crisis management, including progress towards meeting the agreed target on police and establishing further targets on other civilian aspects. One of the lessons of Kosovo was the importance of this area of work and we welcome the presidency's achievements. The presidency rightly focused on conflict prevention, and the European Council endorsed the presidency's programme of priorities for co-operation. The programme also proposed arrangements for enhanced EU/UN consultation. All partners recognised that we must ensure that the EU's evolving military and civilian capacities provide added value for the UN.

Given the grave concern we all felt at the deteriorating situation in Macedonia, the European Council decided that a resident EU representative in Skopje should be appointed, acting under the authority of High Representative Solana, in order to provide day-to-day EU input to the political negotiations between the Macedonian parties, and to liaise with representatives of NATO, the United States and the EU's other main partners on the ground.

The European Council considered developments in the middle east, in Algeria, in East Timor, where it expressed support for the forthcoming elections for the constituent Assembly, and in Korea, where it welcomed the result of the recent EU high-level mission. The European Council also committed itself to strengthening international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and in particular of ballistic missiles.

This was a workman-like Council, well chaired by Prime Minister Persson, usefully carrying out the democratic business of the European Union in the interests of its member states. The democratic process has often been accompanied by peaceful protest. What is not acceptable is what happened in Gothenburg, where malicious violence by a minority of protesters threatened the lives and livelihoods of innocent people. It is essential for all of us that such violence should be resisted and should not be allowed to disrupt the entirely necessary work of building the security and prosperity of people in Europe and the wider world.

North Atlantic Council (Brussels)

Ian Stewart: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the meeting of the North Atlantic Council he attended in Brussels. [407]

The Prime Minister: I attended a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO Headquarters on 13 June, which was convened to coincide with President Bush's first official visit to Europe.

The meeting highlighted the enduring importance of the transatlantic link and the continuing role NATO plays in guaranteeing our defence and promoting peace and security beyond its borders.

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NATO has adapted well to face the new challenges of the post-cold war world. Over the last decade, NATO has done much to bring stability to the Balkans, welcomed three new members and built a new strategic relationship with Russia. It has also established new security links to other states in the Euro-Atlantic area.

The special meeting of the North Atlantic Council was a valuable opportunity for us to review the challenges ahead and look forward to the NATO Summit in Prague in November 2002.

Our discussions focused on five issues:

One of the reasons for NATO's continued success is that it provides a forum in which Europeans and North Americans can debate the security questions which confront us all. The success of this special meeting of the North Atlantic Council showed that this is as much the case today as ever. I look forward to further progress on all these issues by the time NATO leaders meet again in Prague next year.


Employment Action Plan

Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place copies of the United Kingdom's employment action plan in the Library. [340]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: I have today placed in the Library copies of the UK employment action plan, which sets out the Government's policies for implementing the 2001 employment guidelines agreed at the European Council held in Nice in December 2000. The plan

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contains the latest information on policies for employment and employability, encouraging entrepreneurship and labour market adaptability, lifelong learning and equal opportunities.

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