HC Deb 28 October 1997 vol 299 c706
17. Mr. Rammell

If he will make a statement on Britain's objectives in respect of common foreign and security policy matters during its presidency of the European Union. [12130]

Mr. Robin Cook

It will be our objective to demonstrate that, by working together, the countries of the European Union can carry greater influence to our mutual advantage. High priorities for the presidency will be maintaining robust pressure for fulfilment of the Dayton agreement on Bosnia and support for the resumption of progress in the middle east peace process. A major event in our presidency will be the Asia-Europe summit, which Britain will host and which will enable us to strengthen our trade links and our political dialogue with Asia.

Mr. Rammell

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Will we seek to use the presidency to establish a European code of conduct on arms sales to ensure uniformity of policy across the European Union in line with our ethical foreign policy so that where we do not grant arms export licences, these are not taken up by other countries?

Mr. Cook

I am delighted to advise my hon. Friend that we have already begun such discussions. I was pleased that both the Prime Minister of France and the chair of its foreign relations committee have welcomed our new criteria on arms sales. We are in discussion with them on how we can turn those criteria into a common code of conduct, which would make sure that we compete against each other by raising commercial standards, not by lowering human rights standards.