HC Deb 14 July 1998 vol 316 cc181-2
11. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

When he will next meet his European counterparts to discuss EU relations with developing countries. [48711]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Doug Henderson)

I discuss aspects of the EU's relations with developing countries at most meetings of the General Affairs Council. The next General Affairs Council will be on 5 October.

Helen Jackson

The European Union has a very proud record of support for black independence and the anti-apartheid movement in southern Africa. Those emerging countries depend for their continuing success on developing successful trading conditions. Can the Minister tell me what Britain is doing positively within the European Community to develop fair trading agreements within Europe as an economic community and with the countries of the Southern African Development Community?

Mr. Henderson

Essentially, we are doing two things. First, where we can, we are supporting bilateral arrangements between the European Union and countries in southern Africa. We have pushed firmly over the past six months to try to conclude an agreement with South Africa, urging that more flexibility be shown. Secondly, we have taken action on the Lomé agreement, which relates to trade matters and other related matters between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

At the General Affairs Council at the end of June, agreement was reached on the European Union negotiating mandate. Negotiations will begin on 30 September. We shall be pushing hard to ensure that a firm and fair deal is reached that will be of considerable advantage not only to the European Union but to countries that are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Does the European Union support a Nigerian being appointed to head the Sierra Leone army?

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, although I am not quite sure how it relates to the main question. I shall look into the matter and come back to him on it.

Ms Tess Kingham (Gloucester)

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity when meeting his EU counterparts to mention the increasingly worrying situation in Western Sahara? Morocco seems to be taking every opportunity that it can to obstruct—it is hellbent on objecting to—the Western Sahara referendum. Will he guarantee the House and assure the Saharawi people of Western Sahara that we shall not allow Morocco to foil the long-awaited referendum process in Western Sahara, and that we shall push our EU counterparts to ensure that that referendum takes place as soon as possible?

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and hope to reassure her that we shall be doing everything we can to support the Baker process, which is trying to improve the situation in countries that are crucial in the relationship between the European Union and the ACP group.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

In the light of evidence of disruption of the Togo elections by President Eyadéma, and the European Union observer's report that the Togo Government wrongly stopped counting in the middle of that election, will the Minister discuss with his European counterparts what measures would be appropriate to take to bring Togo back to a democratic path?

Mr. Henderson

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall do what we can about the matter by raising it at the European Union African working group. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd), who deals with Africa matters, has been in contact with the opposition parties in Togo. We are hoping that that contact will help to create a situation in which stability can be established.

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