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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether it is his policy that the creation of an EU External Action
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Service, as proposed in Article III-296(3) of the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, could be agreed without ratification of the Treaty; 
(2) pursuant to his statement of 6 June 2005, Official Report, column 1000, on the EU Constitutional Treaty, whether it is his policy that the changes to the system of qualified majority voting proposed in the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, could be agreed without ratification of the Treaty; 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: The creation of a President of the EU as proposed in the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, the changes in respect of the voting system and the provision of an EU External Action Service could not be agreed without ratification of the Treaty or of an amendment of the existing EU Treaties by all the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government will implement the EU linguistic regime, agreed at the General Affairs Council of 13 June, with respect to any of the UK's languages in addition to English. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander [holding answer 27 June 2005]: The General Affairs and External Relations Council of 13 June adopted conclusions, on a proposal from Spain, for a degree of official recognition in the EU of all languages that have official status in member states, either through their constitutions or national law. This means that member states may enter into administrative arrangements with the EU institutions over which languages may be used in relations with them, with the member state meeting all the direct or indirect costs incurred. Member states have agreed that any such arrangement should not have any effect on the otherwise efficient functioning of the institutions or on the legal status of the existing official languages of the Union. At the moment, Spain is the only country to have requested such arrangements for its regional languages. The Government have no current plans to make similar provisions for UK languages.
Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the oral answer, of 21 June 2005, Official Report, column 653, on European Union (Finances), whether it is his Department's policy that the European Parliament should continue to meet in Strasbourg; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander
[holding answer 27 June 2005]: Strasbourg was chosen as a site for the European Parliament (EP) in 1958, well before the UK joined the EU. It was chosen as a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation. While the Government believe that the splitting of the EP's sites is far from ideal, any change to
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the status quo would need the unanimous agreement of all 25 member states. That looks unlikely for the foreseeable future.
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in South Wales on 12 September will include discussion of pan-European attitudes to human rights. 
Mr. Godsiff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the (a) projected cost at the time of tender and (b) actual cost at the time of completion was for each IT contract commissioned by his Department in the last five years. 
Mr. Straw: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has a devolved procurement structure covering the UK and its overseas posts (over 200). As such there is no central database of all the Information Communication Technology (1CT) contracts in the FCO. We have recently installed a new Electronic Resource Management (ERM) system in London and are in the process of installing this system in all our posts overseas. Until this is complete, and our new reporting systems are in place, we are unable to produce the information requested without exceeding the disproportionate cost threshold. We are. however, able to provide information on our major ICT contracts (in excess of £1 million) as required by the question. A full list of contracts, including costs, will be made available in spreadsheet format to the Library of the House.
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Foreign engagements for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers are kept under constant review. It is not our practice to announce such visits until they are firm. Because of the unpredictable nature of world events, final decisions on overseas visits are often not possible until very shortly before the day of travel.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent meetings he has had with Russian authorities to discuss British investment in Russia; and if he will make a statement. 
However Russia offers many investment opportunities. Some notable UK investments include BP's $6.75 billion joint ventures with the Russian oil company TNK, Pilkington's €165 million investment to build a glass production plant in Moscow and Shell's
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operation in the $10 billion Sakhalin II project. Total foreign direct investment into Russia was $40.9 billion, a 36.4 per cent. increase on 2003, of which $7 billion is attributed to the UK.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations his Department has received about media independence in Russia; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Since June 2004, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has received one letter about the murders of journalists in Russia and three parliamentary questions about media freedom in the Russian Federation. The FCO's contacts with the NGO community reinforce the conclusion that media freedom is an important issue in the democratic development of Russia.
We are actively engaged in a bilateral human rights dialogue with the Russian Government. The latest round of talks was held in Moscow on 23 May 2005 and included discussion of media freedom in Russia.
We are also engaged, with our European partners, in biannual EU-Russia human rights consultations. The first session of consultations took place in Luxembourg on 1 March 2005. Media freedom in Russia was discussed. The next round of consultations is scheduled to take place under the UK Presidency of the EU on 8 September 2005.
In addition to this, staff at our Embassy in Moscow continue to raise our concerns with their interlocutors in the Russian Government, including with official institutions in Russia that exist to protect and promote human rights.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions his Department has had with the Russian Government about Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation; and if he will make a statement. 
Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions his Department has had with the Government of Sudan concerning reports of fighting along its border with Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. 
Ian Pearson [holding answer 28 June 2005]: We are concerned by recent reports of fighting around the town of Tokar in Eastern Sudan between the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front, supported by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Our ambassador in Khartoum raised this issue with the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front on 23 June.
The UK special representative for Darfur raised this matter with the JEM in Abuja on 21 June. We have re-iterated to the Eastern Front that co-operation with the
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JEM in military operations unnecessarily complicates the issues in the East and undermines their claims of commitment to a peaceful resolution.
We have made clear to all parties that any attacks are totally unacceptable, and there is no military solution to the problems in the East, nor to those elsewhere in Sudan. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement provides the framework for a political solution throughout the country, including Darfur and the East. The Government of Sudan have stated its readiness to engage in consultations with the Eastern Front. We are pressing the Eastern Front to do the same.
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