Ministerial Statements

Written Ministerial Statements – Foreign Affairs Council/Defence Foreign Affairs Council, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – 10 April 2014

David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 April. The Minister for International Security Strategy will attend the European Defence Agency Steering Board and the Defence Foreign Affairs Council on 15 April. Both Councils will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. The meetings will be held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

Introduction

Baroness Ashton is expected to cover a number of topics in her introductory remarks, including the outcomes of the EU/US summit which took place on 26 March in Brussels; her meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brussels on 1 April; the outcomes of the EU/Africa summit which took place on 2 and 3 April in Brussels; the first round of the presidential elections in Afghanistan which took place on 5 April; and the talks between the E3+3 and Iran on a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme on 8 and 9 April in Vienna. We do not expect substantive discussion on any of these topics.

Ukraine

Ministers will discuss the situation in Ukraine. The UK will focus on how to support Ukraine in the crucial pre-election period and also longer term. Free and fair elections are crucial to build confidence in a new Government that will carry out the deep reforms Ukraine needs to become the prosperous and stable independent country that it aspires to be. The presidential elections on 25 May represent both opportunity and risk for Ukraine. The election process is likely to be fraught with difficulty; Russia will seek to undermine and possibly even delay the process. The UK will be proposing ideas to mitigate the risks and help the new Government engage with the Ukrainian people including those regions which have concerns about protecting their cultural and linguistic rights. We will also be stressing the importance of further preparatory work on restrictive measures against Russia to ensure EU preparedness for any further escalation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ministers will discuss the latest developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). They will also adopt conclusions urging Bosnian leaders to address immediately the legitimate socio-economic grievances of their population, making clear the EU’s strong commitment to supporting BiH in implementing the wide range of reforms needed for the country to progress, should BiH’s leaders demonstrate their commitment to immediate reform. The UK supports a broadened and reinvigorated EU effort in BiH, in response to the recent protests and the political and economic stalemate which they reflect. The UK will emphasise strongly the need for BiH’s leadership to respond rapidly and comprehensively to the population’s legitimate demands for change. The UK will also emphasise its continued commitment to BiH’s territorial integrity as a united sovereign country, and make clear that it regards recent secessionist rhetoric as entirely unacceptable.

Syria

Ministers will discuss the situation in Syria, focusing on humanitarian access, elections, sanctions and humanitarian aid.

The UK will emphasise the importance of the Syrian regime complying with all the demands of the UN Security Council Resolution 2139 on humanitarian access, in particular allowing cross-border and cross-line humanitarian access. We will also stress the importance of the UN and other international aid agencies, including EU aid agencies, scaling up their cross-border and cross-line aid deliveries, given the legitimacy of carrying out cross-border work without regime consent in these circumstances. The UK will stress its support for the political track, including delegitimising the regime-held presidential elections. In support of the political and humanitarian efforts, the UK will ask member states to consider putting pressure on the regime through further sanctions measures, and to contribute more funding for humanitarian aid.

European Defence Agency Ministerial Steering Board

The EDA Ministerial Steering Board is likely to focus on work to date developing the policy framework for systematic and long-term co-operation, called for in the December 2013 European Council conclusions. The UK supports efforts to encourage EU member states to invest in defence capabilities and co-ordinate requirements

where appropriate, to help deliver efficiencies and address critical shortfalls. Any EU framework must not duplicate existing NATO defence planning activities and must not cross the UK’s established defence red lines.

Defence Foreign Affairs Council

Maritime security

Ministers will discuss the recent joint communication on maritime security from the Commission and Baroness Ashton, which sets out elements that could be incorporated in an EU maritime security strategy. We support developing a more co-ordinated and coherent approach to existing Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) work in this field, and will seek to ensure the final strategy, expected in June, takes full account of the roles of other international organisations, particularly NATO.

Central African Republic

Ministers will receive an update on the deployment of the EU’s operation in the Central African Republic, EUFOR RCA. The UK is concerned about the ongoing security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, and EUFOR RCA will contribute to security in Bangui until a successful hand-over to the African Union mission or a possible UN peacekeeping operation can be completed. We would like to see the operation deployed and having effect on the ground quickly, and are examining in detail possible logistic support to help achieve this. The UK has provided a staff officer to the operation headquarters in Larissa, but will not be contributing any combat troops.

Eastern Partnership

In the context of recent events in Ukraine, Baroness Ashton is likely to provide an update on the EU’s support to its eastern partners, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. We will continue to encourage co-operation with eastern partners in the context of the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP), building on existing EU work to support and facilitate eastern partners’ contributions to CSDP missions and operations.

Written Ministerial Statements – Nuclear Safety Committee/Nuclear Research Advisory Council, Defence – 31 March 2014

Philip Hammond (The Secretary of State for Defence; Runnymede and Weybridge, Conservative)
I am today announcing the start of the triennial reviews of the Defence Nuclear Safety Committee (DNSC) and the Nuclear Research Advisory Council (NRAC). Triennial reviews are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring that non-departmental public bodies continue to have regular independent challenge.

The DNSC’s remit includes all safety aspects relating to the naval nuclear propulsion plant and nuclear weapon systems, including related issues of design, development, manufacture, storage, in-service support, handling, transport, operational training, support facilities and capabilities, and the safety of workers and the public.

The NRAC is responsible for reviewing the atomic weapons establishment (AWE) nuclear warhead research and capability maintenance programme, including the requirement for above ground experiments and other facilities and techniques necessary to develop and maintain a UK nuclear weapon capability in the absence of underground testing; NRAC also examines AWE’s programme of international collaboration.

The reviews will examine whether there is a continuing need for DNSC and NRAC’s function, their form and whether they should continue to exist at arm’s length from Government. Should the reviews conclude there is a continuing need for the bodies, they will go on to examine whether the bodies, control and governance arrangements continue to meet the recognised principles of good corporate governance.

I will inform both Houses of the outcome of the reviews when they are completed.

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