HC Deb 30 March 1994 vol 240 cc925-6
14. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the Baltic states.

Mr. Hurd

We are rebuilding a close friendship with the Baltic states. Trade is increasing quite fast. I visited Latvia in February and had warm and positive talks with the Foreign Ministers of the three Baltic states. Our strong support for Baltic sovereignty and independence and gradual Baltic integration into European structures will be maintained.

Mr. Colvin

I am sure that the whole House will applaud the signing up of all three Baltic states to NATO's partnership for peace. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what will be done to evaluate their military capability? What are Her Majesty's Government doing to assist the Baltic states in setting up the so-called Baltic battalion?

Mr. Hurd

We are helping to train the battalion composed of units from the three Baltic states as part of a multinational programme of help. Royal Marines will provide individual and company-level training. We are working on the programme with Scandinavian countries. It is very much welcomed by the three countries involved and it is a clear proof, I hope, of our support for Baltic sovereignty and independence.

Mrs. Ewing

Given the importance of trade for the three Baltic states, will the Foreign Secretary consider the possibility of enabling those countries, perhaps through the know-how fund or the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to mount stands at international exhibitions, particularly in Britain, at which they could learn and could also sell to this country much of the expertise they have—for example, in agriculture and forestry.

Mr. Hurd

I will look at the hon. Lady's suggestion. The know-how fund is already active in the three countries and, as I have said, our trade and investment is increasing rapidly. We are the largest overseas investor in Lithuania, and Cable and Wireless has just won a very large telecommunications contract in Latvia. Let me look at the hon. Lady's suggestion.

Sir Richard Body

Can my right hon. Friend assure the Baltic states that their favourable trading arrangements with Finland will continue if Finland becomes a member of the European Union?

Mr. Hurd

That is a very important point; I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I am not exactly sure how the discussion stands, but we have certainly been strongly urging the point which my hon. Friend makes.

Forward to