Draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Stabilisation and Association Agreement Between the European Communities and their Member States, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) Order 2002

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Mr. Randall: I understand the Under-Secretary's point. However, some Pakistani nationals were killed recently. They cannot be regarded as part of the ethnic problem.

Mr. MacShane: I have read those reports but am not sure whether there was a satisfactory conclusion to the matter. I am happy to find out and write to the hon. Gentleman. Allegations were certainly made that the people involved were not from the Balkans. I accept that there are influences from outside the region and that some people would be better advised to stay at home rather than mix in the affairs of the Balkans.

The amount of European aid for Macedonia between 2000 and 2004 is 193.2 million. Britain is heavily involved, principally through the Department for International Development. The Department is supporting the sector for European integration office within the Government, which is providing training and advice under article 68 of the SAA. Further support to the sector for European integration office in Skopje will include specialist legal training. I do not know whether that will involve a specific Scottish input. Everyone around the world is a huge admirer of Scottish jurisprudence and the contribution that Scottish legal experts can play.

We will provide a briefing for parliamentarians in a one-day session after the new Government have been formed. We will be assisting the Government with a programme of public administration reform, particularly to the general secretariat at the public administration reform unit and the civil servants agency. To some extent, these matters have been put on hold during the electoral process and, of course, until the Ohrid agreement is fully implemented. Parliament was suspended on 18 July, just before the SAA agreement was laid before the House. Most of the laws under the framework and aid agreement were passed by the state, but six remain. The Government's tasks will be to pass the remaining laws and fully implement them.

The countries that have ratified the Macedonia SAA are Austria, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands and Sweden. The hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale asked about the Croatian SAA. Four countries have ratified it; Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Spain.

I was asked about the effect of our strong line on Croatia. To judge by the media reports, it has certainly caused serious ramifications inside Croatian politics.

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The reports depict Britain as a country that insists on compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The Croatian President, Prime Minister and opposition politicians are now reflecting on what to do.

I wish to take advantage of this short debate to say that I am equally concerned about Serbia's failure fully to comply with ICTY on General Mladic and its failure to exert the influence that is necessary on Republika Srpska to deliver the war criminal Karadzic. I shall not point fingers, but the slowness to bring to closure the ICTY proceedings in the Balkans is undoubtedly a severe hindrance to full normalisation of relations with Europe.

Those and other matters that hon. Members raised will be discussed at the conference later next month that the Foreign Office has initiated on organised crime in the Balkans. It will be conducted under the joint chairmanship of the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, and key justice and interior ministers and police experts from all the Balkan countries will be attending. Britain has several drug liaison officers and Customs and Excise people at airports who check who comes into the UK. It is well recognised that the whole of the Balkans is a transit route for people who traffic drugs and smuggle cigarettes, arms and so on.

The issue of crime and border access is of the highest priority, and is undoubtedly the biggest stumbling block to visa-free access, which hon. Members discussed. I understand the aspirations of, and look forward to, visa-free contact with the Balkans, but we must put to our new partners their responsibility to stop the high level of criminality that

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overspills into other countries. All who deal with asylum seekers, as many of us do in our surgeries, know that a great number of them are transitted through the Balkans, if not originating from there.

The mandate of Amber Fox will end on 15 December. Our view, as for other parts of the Balkans, is that we are not in the business of keeping troops and international organisations there for ever. Macedonia went through a horribly critical period last year. However, let us not forget that, after the end of communism and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Macedonia on the whole stayed out of the terrible conflicts that raged to its north and west. We want to support that more stable Macedonia.

If hon. Members write to me about any points that I have not covered in my remarks, I should be very happy to give them all the details that are required, but, at the end of the day, the Committee agrees that the EU's role as a source of stability is vital to the future peace of the western Balkans. The SAAs are important building blocks for that and the Macedonian agreement that we are discussing will serve as a strong political message of EU support to the wider region and should act as a catalyst for other states. I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) Order 2002.

Committee rose at five minutes past Eleven o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Hara, Mr. Edward (Chairman)
Bayley, Hugh
Caplin, Mr.
Chapman, Sir Sydney
Cranston, Ross
Drew, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Iddon, Dr.
MacShane, Mr.
Moore, Mr.
Pickthall, Mr.
Robertson, Angus
Spring, Mr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):
Cook, Mr. Frank (Stockton, North)
Randall, Mr. John (Uxbridge)

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