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Poland: Inter-ministerial Meeting

Volume 714: debated on Thursday 5 November 2009

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans for an inter-ministerial meeting with Polish Ministers in the near future.

My Lords, there are currently no plans for any inter-ministerial meetings in the near future, but we have regular and close contact with the Polish Government. The Prime Minister has visited Poland this year and the Foreign Secretary has visited three times.

Can my noble friend give an assurance that in meetings with EU Ministers, and Polish Ministers in particular, the Government will stand by those principles underlying the EU and, unlike the Opposition, will never resort to dubious alliances or seek to consort with European extremists spurned by both Merkel and Sarkozy in order to weaken the EU?

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government will assert their adherence to the principles of the European Union, which were clearly expressed in the Maastricht treaty signed by a Conservative Prime Minister in 1992 and reaffirmed in the Lisbon treaty; namely:

“The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law”.

That guides our discussions with all Governments.

My Lords, as the Polish newspapers do not normally display the xenophobia and anti-EU hysteria that we see in the comics that masquerade as newspapers in this country, particularly those which happen to be owned by overseas owners who do not pay proper UK taxes, will the Government through our embassy in Warsaw encourage our Polish counterparts to come to our country to explain why it is in our true interests to remain full-hearted members of the EU, as Monsieur Lellouche suggested yesterday—which would be in contrast to the hysteria that we witness repeatedly from members of UKIP, the BNP and quite a few Tory politicians?

My Lords, the noble Lord has the advantage of me, as his knowledge of the Polish press is far greater than mine. He makes an interesting suggestion, which I will happily take away and look at. We have a situation whereby government-to-government relationships between Britain and Poland are very good and co-operation is very good. We should not always be diverted by what happens in party-to-party relationships—although another maxim of my old mother was, “By ye friends will ye be known”.

As the Minister says, our relations with Poland are extremely good and we have a lot of common interests. I hope that that remains the case. Is he aware that the Visegrád countries, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others, seek to form a new arrangement among themselves, over and above, or beyond, any common membership of the European Union, particularly in energy matters and north-south transport links? Will he assure us that the British Government will support their aspirations in this field, which include slightly greater flexibility than perhaps Brussels is ready to allow them? This is a very encouraging development. They are our obvious friends—can we support them?

My Lords, I take note of the question. I am not aware of the absolute detail of those discussions. As the noble Lord rightly says, we are supportive of Poland and other countries in their access to Europe. We maintain good relationships and have interests in common, which I am sure will guide our discussions with Poland and the other Visegrád countries.