HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc866-7
11. Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the President of the European Commission; and what matters he hopes to discuss.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs next expects to meet the President of the Commission at the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 2 April, at which a range of EC issues will be discussed.

Mr. Hoyle

Will German reunification be on the agenda? Will the Secretary of State tell the President of the Commission that under article 23 of the West German basic law, reunification must be not absorption of East Germany into West Germany but on a basis of equality and partnership leading to a coming together of both Germanys on equal terms?

Mr. Maude

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said already, the way in which the two Germanies unite is essentially an internal matter for them. We have stressed for some time that there are effects on others outside which the Germanys must take into account. As a result of the initiative that my right hon. Friend took, there is now a framework which will enable proper account to be taken of all these matters.

Mr. Michael Marshall

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that an opportunity will be taken to discuss with the President of the Commission the outcome of the Nicaraguan elections, given that the supervision by the United Nations and the role of the Organisation of American States and of observers from both sides of the House—I was lucky enough to be one—suggest that a secret vote has led to an important development for democracy? Will my hon. Friend assure us that Europewide co-operation on further assistance for Nicaragua will be explored urgently?

Mr. Maude

I am sure that that will be the case. It is just possible that the amount of interest that has been expressed today in the Nicaraguan elections will not spread quite so far across Europe as might be thought. However, it is a matter which will be discussed.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Minister discuss with the President of the European Commission the failure of the Minister's own visit to Hanoi to try to get acceptance from the Vietnamese of the voluntary return, let alone compulsory return, of Vietnamese boat people? As the hon. Gentleman failed absolutely in that endeavour, and as the problem continues to exist, would not it be a good idea to ask our partners to co-operate in seeking an international solution? Would the hon. Gentleman agree that part of that solution is not to offer economic aid as part of a deal, which he tried to do, but to reopen European Community aid, United States aid and United Kingdom bilateral aid as the best way of establishing a secure economy in Vietnam so that the Vietnamese would no longer feel that they had to leave their country to better themselves?

Mr. Maude

Again, it is just possible that Mr. Delors did not follow my travels to Vietnam with quite the flattering degree of attention that the right hon. Gentleman did. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I achieved some extremely useful results during my visit, including a fivefold increase in the number of Vietnamese boat people who will return to Vietnam under the United Nations voluntary scheme. That has been widely welcomed.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about seeking an international solution to the problem. He may not have noticed that there already is one. At the Geneva conference last June a comprehensive plan of action was agreed. As the right hon. Gentleman will know from having studied it carefully, it involves the mandatory repatriation to Vietnam of those who are not refugees. The entire international community now subscribes to the principle of mandatory repatriation. The Archbishop of York, having just visited Hong Kong, has expressed strong support for a resumption of mandatory repatriation. The only people who do not seem to have understood the position are the right hon. Gentleman and his friends.