HC Deb 08 September 2004 vol 424 cc1271-2W
Mr. Wiggin

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the impact of the European Union's European Neighbourhood Packages on the UK's diplomatic relations with Russia. [186747]

Mr. Rammell

The UK strongly supports the EU's European Neighbourhood Policy, which offers partner countries closer co-operation in areas of mutual interest, in return for political and economic reform.

The UK maintains close relations with Russia, including through the EU-Russia relationship. We have discussed the European Neighbourhood Policy with Russia and explained how we see it contributing to stability on Europe's eastern borders, which is in both our and Russia's interest.

These packages complement the UK's bilateral relations with Russia.

Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his assessment is of the decision to exclude Belarus from the European Neighbourhood Policy; what steps the Government have taken since that decision was taken to end the isolation of Belarus from the European Union; and what steps the Government plan to take to address this situation. [186368]

Mr. MacShane

The UK wants Belarus to become a democratic, stable and increasingly prosperous partner for the enlarged EU, However, Belarus's continuing poor record on human rights and democracy is an obstacle to a closer relationship. We and EU partners have set out the steps that Belarus would need to take in return for ratification of a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and eventual full association with relevant regional EU initiatives, potentially including the European Neighbourhood Policy.

While measures such as restrictions on ministerial contact with the regime remain in place, we do not believe in isolating the people of Belarus. We are doing all we can to bolster civil society and promote democracy, using bilateral programme funds disbursed through our embassy and working via multilateral institutions.

The EU continues to support the people of Belarus in areas including addressing the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, health education, environment, trans-border and regional co-operation, border management and independent media.

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