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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 19 December 2001

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Gibraltar

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what form consultations with the Government of Gibraltar will take prior to the next meeting with Spain under the terms of the Brussels Process. [21684]

Peter Hain: Ministers and officials will continue actively to maintain and pursue contacts with the Chief Minister and Government of Gibraltar.

Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what future discussion he has planned with the Governor of Gibraltar. [23913]

Peter Hain: Normal contacts between Ministers and officials and the Governor of Gibraltar will continue.

Jim Sheridan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a decision will be taken on the model adopted by Gibraltar for the 2004 European elections; and what discussions he has had with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar on the participation of Gibraltar in the 2004 European elections. [24028]

Peter Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer (UIN 21531) I gave to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) on 10 December 2001, Official Report, column 632W.

Mr. Tynan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with (a) the Spanish Government and (b) EU partners regarding participation of Gibraltar in the 2004 European elections. [24029]

Peter Hain: Following the European Court of Human Rights' judgment in Matthews v. UK, the extension of the European parliamentary franchise to Gibraltar was discussed with our EU partners in the relevant Council working group.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) on 5 December 2001, Official Report, column 312W.

John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he proposes to introduce legislation to allow Gibraltar to participate in the 2004 European elections; and when the next round of discussions under the Brussels process will take place. [24030]

Peter Hain: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on 11 December 2001, Official Report,

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column 800W; and to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. Spring) on 5 December 2001, Official Report, column 311W.

Zimbabwe

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with Southern African Governments about the situation in Zimbabwe. [22721]

Mr. Bradshaw: Ministers and officials at all levels are in regular contact with representatives of Southern African Governments. My noble Friend Baroness Amos has recently spoken to representatives of the South African, Malawian, Mozambican and Zimbabwean Governments, among others. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Botswana Foreign Minister on 3 December and plans to meet him again during the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on 20 December.

Oman

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit Oman. [23231]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Secretary of State has no plans to visit Oman at present.

EU Accession

Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's position for the date of entry to the European Union of the applicant countries. [23230]

Peter Hain: The Laeken European Council (14–15 December) stated its determination to complete accession negotiations by the end of 2002 with those candidates that are ready, so they can participate in the 2004 European Parliament elections as members. The Government welcome these conclusions, which echo the objective set by the Prime Minister in Warsaw last year.

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 10 to 11 December; what the Government's position was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [23886]

Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I represented the UK at the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 10 December.

The GAC adopted the 16 "A" Points listed in document number 15005/01. It also noted the resolutions, decisions and opinions adopted by the European Parliament in its part-session of 12–15 November 2001 in its part-session in Strasbourg listed in document number 13612/01. Copies of both documents have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Conclusions of the Council were adopted by consensus. The only formal vote took place on the Generalised System of Preferences (see following).

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Work in other Council Formations

The Presidency drew attention to the Secretariat's stocktaking report of the main issues being discussed by other sectoral meetings of the Council of Ministers, with particular reference to the European Arrest Warrant, Galileo and the Community Patent.

Preparations for Laeken (including Council Reform)

The Presidency issued a draft agenda for the first day of the Laeken summit. The following items featured:


Conclusions were agreed by Council underlining the EU's commitment to meeting the Gothenburg timetable, noting that enlargement was affordable within the current financial perspective, welcoming the recent signs of progress in the UN Cyprus process and confirming that the provisions of a Cyprus settlement could be accommodated within the terms of its accession to the EU. The UK welcomed in particular the emphasis on meeting the timetable set at the Gothenburg European Council.

EU follow-up to 11 September

The Council, as co-ordinator of the EU's Action Plan against terrorism, examined the updated roadmap outlining the current state of play. It was encouraged by substantial development made, particularly in priority areas. It also welcomed the Presidency's prospective report to the Laeken European Council on the implementation of the Action Plan.

The Council reached political agreement on EU measures to freeze terrorist assets in pursuit of UN Security Council Resolution 1373. The Council also agreed to consider further the implications of the 11 September attacks for EU non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control policy.

The Council welcomed progress made on 7 December on the European arrest warrant, a common definition of terrorist offences and minimum sentencing thresholds and a decision to make Eurojust fully operational. It reiterated the Union's commitment to winning the fight against terrorism and welcomed the support of candidate countries as noted at the meeting of the European Conference on 20 October. The UK underlined the need for continuing work to ensure rapid implementation of the commitments made by the Union.

General System of Preferential Tariffs 2002–04

The Council adopted by a qualified majority the new GSP Regulation, which provides for enhanced EC trade preferences to developing countries. All member states except Portugal voted for the regulation.

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Governance White Paper

The Council noted with interest the measures proposed in the Commission's White Paper on European governance. It undertook to hold a detailed discussion at a subsequent meeting, giving the Commission its reaction in due course and aimed to co-ordinate a plan of action during the first half of 2002. The UK is keen to see a debate on the measures proposed in the White Paper.

ESDP

The Presidency's draft report, summarising progress over the last six months on the European Security and Defence Policy, was discussed by Ministers and will be forwarded to the European Council at Laeken. The UK supported the draft report and in particular the emphasis on capabilities.

Middle East Peace Process

The Council reiterated its commitment to the Middle East peace process. It concluded that only determined and concerted action by the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and the Russian Federation would help break the cycle of violence and restore the negotiations.

The Council noted that this required: the reaffirmation and full recognition of Israel's irrevocable right to live in peace and security within internationally recognised borders; the establishment of a viable and democratic Palestinian State; and an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories.

The Council stated that, as a first step, the following pledges had to be given: by the Palestinian authority to dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist networks plus a public appeal for an end to the armed intifada; from Israel, a pledge to withdraw its military forces, end extrajudicial executions, lift all restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people, and impose a freeze on settlements.

The Council asked Javier Solana, High Representative for CFSP, to go to the region and report back to Laeken European Council. The UK supported this proposal.

Afghanistan

The Council confirmed the appointment of Klaus Klaiber, a senior German diplomat, as EU Special Representative for Afghanistan. The Council adopted Conclusions underlining the importance of effective donor co-ordination in the reconstruction effort. The UK emphasised the importance of early, visible results.

Western Balkans

The Council noted that the planned Macedonia donors' conference would not be held before next year, after the adoption of the local self-government law required by the August 2001 Framework Agreement. It confirmed the appointment of Erhard Busek as EU Special Representative for the Stability Pact.

AOB: Gender Mainstreaming in the EuroMed/Barcelona Process

The Presidency reported on its programme for developing gender mainstreaming in the Barcelona Process, highlighting its EuroMed conference on the role of women in economic development.

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