HC Deb 29 November 1989 vol 162 c709
11. Mr. Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list those eastern European states that have expressed an interest in applying for full membership of the Council of Europe.

Mr. Waldegrave

Hungary formally lodged an application to join the Council of Europe on 16 November. On the same day Poland and Yugoslavia expressed their interest in full membership when the time was right, as they put it.

Mr. Atkinson

The qualifications for full membership of the Council of Europe are a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Respect for human rights is, as we understand it, under the terms of the European convention on human rights. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that those conditions must be fully satisfied by any applicant, however welcome the application may be?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Council of Europe has potentially a very important role to play as the forum or body that the newly emergent democracies of eastern Europe can join and thereby show that they are genuine democracies. It would be totally paradoxical if we watered down the criteria for membership at this moment. That would be to betray the people in those countries who are seeking to achieve full democracy and full human rights.

Mr. Hardy

Does the Minister accept that the conditions to which he referred will have to be met? Does he also agree that the progress made so far in 1989 has been quite remarkable?

Mr. Waldegrave

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I think that he would agree with me that it would be wrong to subvert the basis of an organisation which offers the reality of the common European house to which Mr. Gorbachev sometimes refers.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Does my hon. Friend accept that part of the interests of those countries which are seeking membership of the Council of Europe stems from the wise decision, supported by this House, to give them the opportunity to join the Inter-Parliamentary Union? In the light of the Foreign Secretary's earlier responses, will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government will take a broad view of our support for parliamentary democracy and its know-how funding so as to encourage the process of dialogue between parliamentarians in this House and in eastern Europe as prelude to Council of Europe membership?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is sad that Opposition Members below the Gangway find this all so tedious. Nothing can be more exciting to this House than seeing other countries seeking to achieve the freedoms that we have here. The Inter-Parliamentary Union contacts to which my hon. Friend referred have played a valuable part in the process.

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