HC Deb 24 April 1991 vol 189 cc1073-4
3. Mr. Trimble

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures he is taking to give individuals and non-governmental bodies an opportunity to participate in the CSCE process as extended by the charter of Paris.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

We consistently uphold the importance of openness within the conference on security and co-operation in Europe process. We periodically hold consultations with individuals and non-governmental organisations. We include non-governmental representatives in United Kingdom delegations to some CSCE meetings. We also seek to ensure that individuals and NGOs have as free access as possible to CSCE meetings.

Mr. Trimble

The Minister will be aware that the charter of Paris, which was signed in November, specifically provided for widening the process to enable individuals and NGOs to contribute. We are especially anxious to have a means of contributing to the process, for several reasons. First, we would wish to ensure that the security provisions of the CSCE could be applied to the breach of the Helsinki agreement by the Irish Republic. For some reason, that is an issue that the Foreign Office seems reluctant to raise. Secondly, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the charter extended the CSCE to include cultural conflicts and the extension of democratic rights. Is the Minister aware that we believe that on both fronts we could make a significant contribution, if only to draw attention to the almost complete absence of democracy in part of the United Kingdom? That is an issue with which the Foreign Secretary, because of his record, might feel inhibited in dealing.

Mr. Hogg

We, too, wish to encourage openness in the process of the CSCE. I know that the hon. Gentleman is especially concerned about articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution. I do not think that those issues are best raised within the context of the CSCE, if only because that is likely to entrench the publicly declared attitudes of the Republic. The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that article 1, I think, of the Anglo-Irish Agreement makes it plain that the Republic accepts the status of the Province unless the majority of the people in the Province wish otherwise.

Mr. Wilkinson

On the question of openness and mutual understanding within the CSCE, would not east-west relations be much enhanced if the Soviet Union were to reconsider its circumvention of the arms control process by, instead of disbanding three divisions on the central front, assigning them to its navy? Have the Government any comment to make on that?

Mr. Hogg

I agree with my hon. Friend that the policy of subordinating the three divisions to naval command calls into question the Soviet Union's commitment to the principles of the treaty on conventional weapons in Europe. Before we ratify that treaty, we must explore how we can bring the spirit of the treaty back into operation. We want to ensure that the Soviet position broadly accords, in every material respect, with the letter and the spirit of the agreement.

Dr. Kim Howells

Does the Minister agree that the formal inter-state arrangements enshrined in the charter do not adequately take account of the expense and the seriousness of disputes within states? I refer especially to the new nationalisms of central and eastern Europe and the potentially disastrous consequences of the inter-ethnic conflict that could arise.

Mr. Hogg

I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. However, had we tried to enshrine within the agreement a CSCE mechanism under which those internal disputes could be dealt with, it is probable that no agreement would have been made. The hon. Gentleman knows that a list of principles is attached to the CSCE disputes settlement mechanism, and they are applicable to internal disputes. They are largely procedural in character, but they can be invoked for internal disputes. The general principles that underpin the CSCE agreement are those that contracting states should have in mind when dealing with their internal negotiations.

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