House of Lords written question – answered on 12th October 2009.

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Photo of Lord Jones of Cheltenham Lord Jones of Cheltenham Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what representations they have made to the governments of NATO members in eastern Europe about the supply of helicopters and troops to Afghanistan.

Photo of Lord Malloch-Brown Lord Malloch-Brown Labour

The UK continues to press others to share more of the burden in Afghanistan, focusing on what others can realistically deliver, including military and non-military.

Lobbying efforts have resulted in real progress in the form of commitments announced at the NATO summit in Strasbourg on 3 and 4 April 2009. Many European nations, including eastern European NATO members, such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania made announcements of increased troop contributions.

In 2008, a France-UK summit launched the UK-France (now multinational) Helicopter Initiative with the aim of helping finance equipment upgrades and crew training to improve the availability of helicopters to NATO, EU and UN operations. The initial focus was on the ISAF operation in Afghanistan, therefore increasing burden-sharing among the partner nations in Afghanistan.

The fund has so far generated €27 million, and this has helped enable the commitment of an additional 17 helicopters for Afghanistan, starting with an initial deployment of Czech helicopters at the end of this year, plus plans for Bulgarian and Hungarian deployments thereafter. Other Eastern European NATO allies are also considering helicopter deployments. The Prime Minister raised this issue at the last NATO summit in April 2009, and the UK continues to engage with EU and NATO opposite numbers to gain their support for this initiative.

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