Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1999.
If he will make a statement on the development of a northern dimension to the EU's common foreign and security policy. 
The objective of the northern dimension is to improve the co-ordination and effectiveness of the European Union's policies and programmes in its northern regions and to contribute to the developing relationship between Russia, the other states of the Baltic region and the European Union. The Government fully support the initiative.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming Finland to the presidency of the European Union and in paying tribute to the crucial role that Finland played in the Kosovo peace settlement, especially through its president, Martti Ahtisaari? Does she agree that Finland's initiative late in 1997 in developing a northern dimension to the European Union's common foreign and security policy recognises the interdependence between the European Union, Russia and the Baltic states and the pivotal role that the EU can play in promoting stability in non-EU areas?
What support have the Government given to the promotion of the northern dimension of EU foreign policy, and what action has been taken?
I strongly support the points made by my hon. Friend. I join her in welcoming the Finnish presidency of the European Union, and also wish to pay tribute to the officials in my Department who have worked with their Finnish counterparts to help to prepare for that presidency.
I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the Finnish attitude to the northern dimension of EU foreign policy and to the co-operative initiatives that the Finns and others in the EU are trying to build up with Russia and the Baltic states. There are a number of areas of co-operation, such as those signalled by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he visited Russia and Murmansk earlier this year.
How can we have an effective common foreign and security policy without a defence element, which can be achieved only by amalgamating the Western European Union with the European Union? What are the implications of that for a country such as Finland, which is traditionally neutral?
The Finnish Government, and the Finnish presidency, are keen to work towards strengthening the common foreign and security policy that was the basis of last year's St. Malo initiative. We are working with the Finns and other nations to find the best way to move forward institutionally, but we all agree that practical results are important. The European Union nations, in co-operation with the NATO countries, need to have the capabilities and facilities to make an effective contribution to peacekeeping tasks. That is what the strengthening of the defence and security initiative is all about.