HC Deb 10 February 1998 vol 306 cc140-1
16. Mr. Coaker

When he last met his European Union counterparts to discuss common foreign and security issues. [26446]

Mr. Doug Henderson

I met my counterparts at the General Affairs Council on 26 January.

Mr. Coaker

Will my hon. Friend outline the progress that has been made by the EU Foreign Ministers in achieving a peace agreement in Bosnia? The area has gone out of the news recently, with attention understandably focused on Iraq, but the situation in Bosnia is none the less serious, and we must do all we can to bring about a speedy resolution.

Mr. Henderson

I assure my hon. Friend that we are doing everything that we can to continue to press for settlement of the various issues in Bosnia. At the General Affairs Council on 26 January we took an initiative two weeks after President Dodic's new Government was elected in the Republika Srpska to give the country some assistance from council funds to enable it to reinforce its democracy. Specifically, we gave it 6 million ecu to help the payment of public servants, which is essential if a civic society is to be established.

Mr. Colvin

Does the Minister agree that membership of the European Union carries with it a mutual security obligation, although no guarantee? Does he therefore agree that, for the countries of central and eastern Europe, enlargement of the EU is as important to their security as enlargement of NATO?

Mr. Henderson

I think the hon. Gentleman recognises the importance of economic and social links. Regardless of any arrangements that they may make through NATO or any other organisation for their security, many of the countries in central and eastern Europe recognise that full membership of the European Union brings economic and social stability, which provides security for their nations.

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