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EU Enlargement

6. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): What recent meetings he has had with his Spanish counterpart to discuss the presidency priorities for EU enlargement. [30486]

The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met his Spanish counterpart in London on 19 December to discuss a range of EU issues, including EU enlargement.

Miss McIntosh: Will the Minister confirm that one of the issues that have been discussed is the date of the first direct elections to the European Parliament by the applicant countries? Will he also confirm that he will use the Spanish presidency not only to grant full British citizenship to the people of Gibraltar, but to ensure that, by the date of those first direct elections from the applicant countries, the people of Gibraltar will have the right to send their own directly elected Members to the European Parliament?

Peter Hain: The answer to the question about Gibraltar is yes; we have already made a clear commitment. The answer to the hon. Lady's first question is also yes. Countries that conclude their negotiations on the timetable by the end of the year will be ready to participate in the European elections in the summer of 2004 and, before that, to take part in the intergovernmental conference to shape the future structure of the European Union. We hope that up to 10 countries will attend as members and vote in the subsequent elections.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Was there any discussion of Turkey's failure to enact important human rights reforms, especially its failure to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in July last year? The court found that the imprisonment of Leyla Zana, the Kurdish Member of Parliament, and of three other

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Kurdish Members of Parliament who have been in jail for eight years, was due to an unfair trial. What are we doing about it?

Peter Hain: I commend my hon. Friend for her long and active interest in the problem of human rights abuses in Turkey. They remain a serious matter, and while they continue, they will prevent Turkey from joining the European Union. Although we support Turkey's application, it must comply fully with the Copenhagen criteria, which include support for human rights and good governance, before it is eligible for membership of the European Union.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): Although I welcome the Spanish presidency's commitment to enlargement, does the Minister agree that successfully expanding the European Union will ultimately depend on a clear division of competencies? In a written answer to me yesterday, he stated:

Given the importance of enlargement, how about more focus and clarity instead of the Eurobabble that the Minister always attacks?

Peter Hain: I thought that the hon. Gentleman was about to commend my plain English. The European Union needs to consider its structures, and especially the role of the nation state as the foundation of the intergovernmentalism that should drive its future. Enlargement will make that even more important, because we hope that an additional 10 countries will join the EU. That is precisely why the Prime Minister has appointed me to join the European convention that will discuss such matters and why the IGC in 2004 will take them forward with a strong British input.


7. Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): What plans he has to visit Cameroon to discuss bilateral relations. [30487]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was in Africa two weeks ago. All Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial visits are kept under review and announced when plans are firm.

Mr. Chaytor: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Did the Government take the opportunity to discuss Cameroon with the French Government during the recent Anglo-French initiative in Africa? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government in Cameroon routinely use death squads from their special security forces to eliminate political opponents? Does he also agree that the United Nations rapporteur on torture recently described the prisons in Cameroon as the worst that he had seen anywhere? Are not the repressive and discriminatory policies of the Government in Cameroon directed against

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the English-speaking minority, especially members of the Southern Cameroons National Council? Will my hon. Friend assure—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister now has enough to cope with.

Mr. MacShane: My hon. Friend has listed many of the human rights abuses in Cameroon. The Government are greatly concerned about them. Cameroon is a bilingual Franco-and Anglophone country which causes anxiety to the EU and the Commonwealth, and is likely to be discussed at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights next month.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): The Prime Minister has described Africa as a scar on the conscience of the world. Why will he pass Cameroon by in his forthcoming visit to west Africa? Surely it is in special need of a visitation from him, in the dire circumstances that the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) described. Will the prosperity of Cameroon and other countries in Africa be enhanced by the part-privatisation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation?

Mr. MacShane: I welcome my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Africa. There are many people and organisations in all our constituencies for whom concern about Africa is a priority, and such comments come ill from the Conservatives, who did not lift a finger to give any serious help to Africa during their long years in government, and whose leader has just made a great speech on foreign affairs which did not mention that continent once.

Great Lakes

8. Tony Cunningham (Workington): If he will make a statement about his recent visit to the Great Lakes region. [30488]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): My recent visit to the Great Lakes with my French counterpart, Hubert Védrine, reinforced our joint commitment to the Lusaka peace process. We made clear to all sides the need for progress in enforcing all Security Council resolutions and for full co-operation with the United Nations mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tony Cunningham: I thank my right hon. Friend for finding the time to visit the Great Lakes area of Africa. I am sure that he is aware that the war that has been going on in the Congo for four years has cost the lives of 2.5 million people. Two million more are displaced, and something like 65 per cent. of the population—that is, 35 million people—are still undernourished. What are the British Government doing to try to bring this terrible conflict to an end?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those remarks. He is right to draw attention to the scale of the suffering in the Great Lakes region, because this is the world's worst conflict. The genocide and starvation that have been suffered in the region are almost beyond record. We are working very carefully with France and

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Belgium—which has historic links with the DRC—as well as with the United Nations to see whether we can advance progress on the Lusaka peace process. Indeed, this was the purpose of my trip. There is a clear framework for peace there, and up to now—in fairness to that framework—it has led to a relative ceasefire for the last year.

A great deal more progress has to be made, however, and one of the things that Mr. Védrine and I undertook to do while we were in the four countries that we visited was to see what initial steps could be taken for the safe transfer of 1,800 former rebel troops who are being held at Kamina, in the DRC, to Rwanda. Sadly, we were not able to achieve that while we were there, but if we could do so, we would be able to unblock many of the other problems relating to confidence in military co-operation that lie in the way of a permanent settlement.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): In recognising the need for African countries to assume leadership over pan-African problems, with our help and encouragement, did the right hon. Gentleman discuss the new partnership for Africa's development during his visit? What practical support is he giving to the partnership's goals for conflict resolution, for improved environments for trade and investment, and for better governance in Africa?

Mr. Straw: We did indeed discuss the new partnership for Africa, which will be a major theme of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to west Africa this week. Since 1997, this Government have done a huge amount to advance a strategy for the development and reconstruction of Africa, including making major increases in development aid under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development. She and I, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, work closely together in a Cabinet Committee that I chair to ensure that diplomatic, aid and military efforts are effectively co-ordinated to prevent conflict, or, where conflict occurs—as in Sierra Leone—better and more quickly to resolve it.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his recent visit to the Great Lakes region. Does he share my sense of frustration that this conflict, which he suggested was the worst on the planet, has been given so little attention either in Europe or in the United States? Will he acknowledge the need for all the world to get involved in resolving this conflict? Britain has extraordinary influence in Rwanda and Uganda, and we should be telling those countries' Governments that fighting proxy wars in other people's territories is simply unacceptable in this century.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. The problem, however, has been not a lack of attention from the United States or from European countries, but—to put it bluntly—the fact that it has been possible for some countries and rebel groups to play off France and Belgium against the United Kingdom. The reason my trip with Mr. Védrine was so important was that we were able to develop a common strategy. It was, therefore, much easier to ensure that Mr. Védrine was

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giving the hard messages to President Kabila in the DRC, while I was giving the hard messages to Presidents Kagame and Museveni in Rwanda and Uganda.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): I am sure that the Foreign Secretary was right to focus on humanitarian issues on that recent and important visit, but did he give time to allow the Governments of those countries to make representations on the changes that this Government are making to the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which appear—I emphasise that—to place short-term profits in high-tech corporation industries above long-term jobs for people in many African countries who live in abject poverty?

Mr. Straw: I am sure that that is not the case and not remotely the intention of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Development, but the hon. Gentleman will not object too much if I gently observe that there is always room for sinners to repent. This afternoon's repentance—against privatisation and in favour of public ownership—is much to be welcomed.

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