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Departmental Leave Entitlement

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what has been the average annual leave entitlement of staff in his Department in each of the last four years. [31743]

Mr. Bradshaw: In 1998, leave entitlements for FCO staff in the UK were as follows:

(a) Up to Higher Executive Officer(8)
On entry22
After one year25
After 15 years (HEO equivalent)   30
After 18 years (up to EO equivalent)
(b) HEOD equivalent up to Senior Management Structure(9)
On entry25
After 10 years30
Senior Management Structure30

(8) HEO equivalent (except HEO Development (HEOD) equivalent)

(9) Senior Civil Service equivalent


1. In January 2000, all staff at (a) became entitled to 25 days leave on entry and 30 days after 12 years. Staff at (b) became entitled to 30 days after 10 years.

2. In January 2002, all staff at (a) and (b) had their entitlements increased to 25 days on entry and 30 days after 10 years.

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Staff serving overseas are entitled to additional leave. In 1998 it was between four and 14 days (on a seven day week basis) depending on grade and length of service. After several changes, the entitlement is now five or 10 days (on a five day week basis) depending on grade and length of service.


Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 18 July 2001, Official Report, column 259W, if he will make a statement on progress toward resolution of outstanding restitution issues relating to the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi Germany by EU accession candidate countries. [31868]

Peter Hain: The Government continue to encourage the settlement of Holocaust-era claims in the relevant EU candidate countries. There has been some progress—notably in Poland, where the Prime Minister has announced that a new restitution Bill compensating victims of all nationalities will be brought to Parliament probably next year. Budgetary difficulties have hampered claims settlement in several of the countries concerned, though all the candidate countries emphasise the importance they attach to this process, as we do.

Middle East (UN Observers)

Mr. Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if it is his policy to support the sending of UN observers to the occupied Palestinian territories. [31949]

Mr. Bradshaw: The Government believe that third-party monitoring, accepted by both parties, would serve the interests of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in their search for peace. We would support any monitoring accepted by both parties, including UN monitoring. Such monitoring could assist both sides in implementing the Mitchell recommendations.

EU 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 28 and 29 January; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [31831]

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Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I attended the 28 January General Affairs Council. There were no formal votes taken at this Council, but Conclusions were adopted on a range of subjects, in each case reflecting UK positions.

The Council held a public debate on the Spanish presidency programme for the first half of 2002. The UK underlined the importance of anti-terrorism co-operation, enlargement, economic reform, effectiveness in external policy, trade liberalisation, the middle east peace process and Zimbabwe.

On Zimbabwe, the Council concluded that the essential elements defined in Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement were not being respected. It decided to close the Article 96 consultations with Zimbabwe and to implement targeted sanctions if:

The Council took note of a presentation by the presidency of its work programme on enlargement. The presidency's programme is aimed at ensuring that negotiations with candidate countries which are ready can be concluded by the end of the second half of 2002.

The Council discussed Council Secretariat and Commission papers on conflict prevention. The presidency stressed the need to identify priority areas for action. Member states endorsed the themes of the papers and agreed that EU action should continue to be targeted, joined up and timely.

The Council adopted Conclusions calling for conclusion of the EU/Chile agreement before the EU Summit with Latin American and Caribbean countries in May this year, and agreed Conclusions welcoming progress in the EU/Mercosur negotiations.

The Council agreed that the two Vice Presidents of the Praesidium to the Convention on the Future of Europe should remain independent of their nation states. The Council agreed a general framework for the convention budget to be extracted from the current Community budget. This will not, therefore, require any additional expenditure by member states.

The General Affairs Council issued Conclusions on the middle east peace process. Ministers were concerned at the recent violence and condemned recent Palestinian terrorism. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of the Laeken declaration, which set out the steps required by both sides in the short term, called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement the Tenet and Mitchell recommendations immediately and unconditionally and reaffirmed the need for security and political steps to be taken in parallel. Ministers also expressed their concern at the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and other facilities which help Palestinians in their economic, social and humanitarian development and which are financed by the European Union and other donors. The GAC urged

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the Government of Israel to put an end to this practice and reserved the right to claim reparations in the appropriate fora.

The Secretary General/High Representative and the Commissioner for External Relations presented a joint paper consisting of an annual review on Common Strategies. The first of the existing three Common Strategies (on Russia, Ukraine and the Mediterranean) expires in June 2003. The SG/HR and Commissioner Patten agreed to work together on further ideas for improving the effectiveness of Common Strategies.

The Council discussed the Western Balkans and welcomed signs of steady improvement in relations between Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and encouraged the three countries to continue this rapprochement. The Council urged Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo to work with increased resolve on all matters related to the return of refugees and displaced persons. The Council supported efforts undertaken by SG/HR Solana to facilitate dialogue between Belgrade and Podgorica. It also expressed its concern at the continuing failure of the Assembly in Kosovo to elect a President. The Union's willingness to start negotiations with Albania for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania was stressed, but the Council noted that attention has recently been diverted from vital reforms. The Council took the decision to conclude the Interim Agreement with Croatia. The adoption of the Local Self-Government Law in Macedonia was welcomed as a critical step in the process of implementation of the Framework Agreement. This opens the way to the holding, on 12 March 2002, of a Donors' meeting.

The Council discussed the possibility of an unarmed EU-led policing mission to succeed the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia when it completes its mandate at the end of 2002. Its aim would be to consolidate the achievements of the IPTF and the international community's work to establish sustainable policing arrangements under Bosnian ownership in accordance with best European and international practice. The Council agreed that more detailed work was required in order to allow it to take a decision at its 18 February meeting on whether the EU should make a formal offer to run the IPTF successor mission.

Council discussion on EU/Russia focused mainly on Kaliningrad. The presidency said it would accelerate work on Kaliningrad in time for the EU-Russia Summit in May. The importance of dialogue on Kaliningrad between Poland, Lithuania and Russia was also highlighted.

The presidency debriefed partners on recent EU efforts to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. The presidency said that the EU should continue its efforts to encourage de-escalation and a return to dialogue.

The Council discussed the situation in Afghanistan and in particular the satisfactory outcome of the International Donors Conference in Tokyo on 21–22 January 2002. It reiterated the Union's commitment to playing a significant role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and in supporting the political process agreed in Bonn.

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