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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the French Government, like our own, have had to face some pretty tough public expenditure cuts and the project has had to take its place in their list of priorities. However, diplomatic missions are expected to comply with the terms of their leases, with local planning regulations and the like, and with what we would expect.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this unhappy state of affairs stands in marked contrast to the state of the British Embassy in Paris, which is one of the greatest ornaments of that fair city?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, will the Minister agree that even though the French Embassy is starting repairs in June, it has already faced very heavy costs with the total refurbishment of the residence and the French Institute, which have only recently been carried out?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, indeed, I would agree and also reiterate what I said a few moments ago. While we have been pressing the French Embassy on this point, it has had difficulties over its public expenditure. That is not a difficulty unrecognised by the Government and we are pleased to learn that it is commencing the work and we hope that it will be finished quickly.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, British policy is: to support the sovereignty and independence of the Baltic states; to encourage them to continue political and economic reform; to reinforce Baltic links with western countries and institutions; to encourage regional stability, including improved relations with Russia; and to promote bilateral trade and investment.
The present Government have been in power for only three weeks and have not had time to fashion a more progressive policy. Will they use their increasing influence at the heart of Europe to press at the Intergovernmental Conference for the early inclusion of the three Baltic states--Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania--in the European Union? Will the Government consult urgently with their NATO colleagues to try to find ways in which the security of the three Baltic states can be enhanced?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Earl has asked two supplementary questions: one about EU membership and one about NATO membership. The Government are a strong supporter of enlargement of the European Union. We believe that that will entrench stability and prosperity across Europe; end historic divisions and bring about practical benefits such as increasing the single market to nearly 500 million consumers. Member states will take a decision towards the end of this year on the readiness of the Baltic states and other countries for EU membership, taking into account the opinions of the European Commission which are expected in July.
As regards NATO membership, the Government will not take final decisions on candidates until nearer the date of the Madrid Summit, which is on 8th and 9th July. As the NATO enlargement study makes clear, we shall need to consider both the credentials of individual countries and the wider security background.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will my noble friend indicate what are the express views of the Commission so far with regard to its agreement or otherwise to the policies which she outlined in answer to the original Question?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, will the noble Baroness confirm that if and when the three Baltic states apply to become members of the European Union, their applications will be treated separately rather than en bloc? Secondly, can she tell the House anything about the current situation in Narua in Estonia where, as I am sure she knows, there is a very substantial Russian population, which is a potential flashpoint between the two countries?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the applications of the three countries will be considered separately. As regards the second matter which the noble Viscount raised, the Government welcome the progress made in Estonia in addressing the anxieties of the Russian minorities, but further progress on that very difficult question is required.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, perhaps I may go back to the second supplementary question asked by my noble friend Lord Carlisle which the noble Baroness may have slightly misunderstood. I did not understand my noble friend to suggest that the Baltic states should become part of NATO but he is concerned about enhancing the security of the Baltic states and about consultation with NATO partners as to how that is to be achieved. It might be achieved if there were consultation with Russia about it as that would be an essential part of a security agreement.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I did understand the terms of the question but I apologise to the House if I did not make myself clear. We are determined that the security of those countries which are not invited to join NATO should not be diminished by the Madrid decisions. We wish to enhance co-operation with non-members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, as regards bringing the Baltic states into the European institutions, what is the relationship at present between the three Baltic states referred to and the Council of Europe on the one hand and the Western European Union on the other hand? Is there any relationship between those three Baltic states and those two European institutions?
Lord Renton: My Lords, I visited Estonia between the wars when it was independent. Estonia is the smallest and most vulnerable of the Baltic states. Will the Government bear in mind the need not only to ensure the defence of Estonia but also to persuade the Russian Government that infiltration must be brought to an end?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am sure that the Government will wish to do as the noble Lord suggests. Indeed, referring back to the historic links with Estonia, the Government are very much looking forward to the UK playing a full part in celebrating the 80th anniversary of Estonian and Latvian independence next year in the light of the Royal Navy's role in that independence in 1918.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are many in this House who welcome the new emphasis on enlargement? Will the Minister agree further that, as regards public debate, it is now surely time to shift our attention from the common currency question to that much more fundamental question?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do not believe that the Government see the two questions as being mutually exclusive. The question of enlargement is important as, indeed, is the question of a common currency.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we have expressed concern about the Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq against the PKK, a terrorist organisation. We have urged Turkey not to exceed measures to protect her own territorial integrity and legitimate security concerns. We have also stressed to it the importance of respecting human rights and not endangering civilians. We are watching the situation closely.
We have raised the reports of the killing of civilians in Erbil with the KDP. It has said publicly that although it took action to close PKK offices in Erbil, it denies the allegations of rape and murder of civilians.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that repeated Turkish incursions into Northern Iraq are a violation of the United Nations charter and at the very least, the Turkish authorities have an obligation,
As regards the killings, has the noble Baroness seen the well authenticated reports from Kurdish sources which indicate that five women were raped and then executed in public in the streets of Erbil; that seven patients were dragged from their beds in the local hospital and murdered; and that 16 others were taken from offices and executed personally by the KDP military commander in Erbil, Jamal Mortaqa; and that the local correspondent of Med-TV has disappeared? Will the Government make it clear to the KDP and its Turkish masters that those crimes will become punishable by the International Criminal Court when it comes into operation?
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