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Ministerial Meetings

Volume 400: debated on Monday 3 March 2003

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What recent meetings he has had with central and eastern European Defence Ministers to discuss developments in the middle east.[99848]

Since 24 September last year, I have had meetings with my counterparts from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Albania, Macedonia and Ukraine. Those meetings addressed a range of topics of mutual interest, including, where appropriate, developments in the middle east.

In the light of President Chirac's deeply unpleasant threat to those central and eastern European Governments who signed the Iraq letter that he would try to ensure that they did not become members of the European Union, was the Secretary of State satisfied or happy with the comments of his French opposite number when she visited Warsaw last week and told the Poles it was better

"to keep silent when you do not know what is going on"?
Is it not time that we told our French allies that they are behaving disgracefully, particularly towards our new friends in NATO, whom the right hon. Gentleman has been visiting in the past year?

We have made it absolutely clear to candidate countries that there will be no change whatever in British Government policy; we welcome the enlargement of NATO, as we welcome the enlargement of the European Union. That will continue to be absolutely central to the Government's policy.

In any of the discussions that my right hon. Friend has had in the past couple of months, have the Poles or the Czech Republic had a good word to say for the French position; or have they been pointing out that it was France that not only systematically and deliberately supported and strengthened Saddam Hussein, but armed him?

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, may I assure him that we do not spend our time in such bilateral discussions considering the respective position of any other country, other than the relations that exist between this country and the country in question? So I am sorry to disappoint him: we have not had that kind of conversation.