"We actively support the process of economic and political transition under way for over five years in Central and Eastern Europe."
The commitment from the Lyon communiqué is quite vague and does not specify particular actions that must be taken by any G-7 nation, and does not emphasize any new initiatives. With this fact in mind, the United Kingdom has taken a number of initiatives to build closer ties with the nations of Central and Eastern Europe particularly Russia over the past five years and is currently following the same policy path.
The British government has established the Know How Fund which gives technical assistance to nations. Russia's share of this program makes it the second largest recipient of British technical assistance after a Commonwealth nation, India. Prime Minister Major pledged an additional #50 million pounds when he met with President Yeltsin in 1996. The United Kingdom was also among the nations that pledged a total of $3 billion dollars in additional financial support to the Ukraine in December of 1996.
Trade is viewed by the United Kingdom as an effective tool to assist reforms in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The United Kingdom has granted Russia, by 1996, #800 million pounds in trade credits, and trade with Russia was up over 20% to #1.8 billion pounds. Increased trading relations has not bee limited to just Russia. In 1996 Direct British Investment in Hungary totaled over some #500 million pounds and two way trade equaled some #670 million pounds. Total trade with Central Europe was up by a third. The United Kingdom has also completed an Interim Agreement on trade cooperation with the Ukraine and support's its admission to the World Trade Organization.
The United Kingdom has stated its ongoing support of the development of Russia's relationship with the IMF, and has granted 86 000 business, study, and visitor's visas to Russian citizens last year more than any other nation in the world.
The United Kingdom has also been an avid supporter of the Partnerships for Peace program launched by NATO as well as the enlargement of NATO itself to include the nations of central and eastern Europe. Such involvement, and operational cooperation as seen in Bosnia, has led to greater interactions and ties between the military establishments of the United Kingdom and former communist block countries. Through the Royal Marines, the United Kingdom has strongly supported and been involved in the BALTBAT program, the effort to create a peacekeeping battalion from the forces of Baltic nations such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The United Kingdom also finances a program through the Ministry of Defence to retrain retiring Russian Naval Officers in Kronstadt with the first class of the program graduating on March 21st of this year.
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