Written Answers. - Nigerian Reform.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

89 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he has been involved in efforts to alleviate the ongoing difficulties in Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22308/98]

The Government and our EU partners welcome the progress made by the regime of General Abubakar towards restoring democracy in Nigeria. In this context, I particularly welcome the establishment of a new electoral commission which has already issued guidelines on the registration of political parties and a detailed timetable for elections early next year. We are also encouraged by the release of a large number of political prisoners including the "Ogoni 20".

The EU has been reviewing its position in light of these developments. This has resulted in the recent agreement of a new common position by the Union. This includes among its provisions the lifting of visa restrictions and the suspension of high level visits. The new common position, which came into effect on 1 November 1998 and is subject for review prior to 1 June 1999, also facilitates dialogue on EU development co-operation with Nigeria, with a view to its resumption following the installation of a duly elected democratic Government. The existing EU arms embargo is similarly being maintained pending the implementation of democratic reforms.

Ireland will continue to work with our EU partners and the broader international community to encourage General Abubakar to implement the necessary political reform needed to achieve an early return to democratic government in Nigeria, with full respect for human rights and the rule of law.