Sommaire: January 15, 2003: European Parliament Motions for resolutions on Afghanistan, one year after the Bonn Agreement (Brussels)
Motions for resolutions on Afghanistan, one year after the Bonn Agreement
Doc.: B5-0022/2003, B5-0023/2003, B5-0025/2003, B5-0026/2003, B5-0033/2003, B5-0 034/2003
Parliament adopted, by 257 votes in favour, 22 against with 9 abstentions, a joint resolution on Afghanistan, one year after the Bonn Agreement. The House welcomes the budgetary efforts undertaken by the Commission and the Member States; however Parliament is disappointed with the fact Europe is not playing a major political role which corresponds to this financial support. With regard to aid, the House wants the Commission and the wider donor community to continue to co-operate with the Afghan Government to promote rapid progress in the areas of health and education, to implement assistance in all fields in order to achieve rapidly tangible progress and in order to make sure that assistance does not benefit regional leaders rather than the population in need. The House calls on the Member States to actively contribute to the training of a national Afghan army and police force and to the rebuilding of the judicial system and of a legal framework for effective human rights protection and for the improvement of women's conditions and calls in particular on the Commission to extend its cooperation to the Afghan Human Rights Commission. Parliament also calls on the US to clarify the situation of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and take the necessary steps to ensure that basic safeguards are in place for all those in its custody; while recognizing the US Government's obligations to take effective security measures when dealing with cases affecting the safety of the public.
With regard to women's rights, MEPs call on the UN Commission on Human Rights special reporter on violence against women and on the special reporter on human rights in Afghanistan to visit areas of Afghanistan where women and girls are being subjected to human rights abuses. The House also calls for a well-coordinated programme of mine action, including assistance to mine victims, to be put in place as a matter of urgency.
MEPs also request all sides to fulfil the remaining provisions of the Bonn Agreement and for the drafting of a new constitution and preparations for free and fair elections by June 2004. Parliament is also concerned about the lingering problem of warlords operating in the country and believes that joint efforts by Afghan security forces and the international military forces should be increased in order not to tolerate the warlords’ activity.
On the repatriation of Afghan refugees, the House wants the United Nations and the donor governments to find just and coherent criteria for repatriation schemes for the Afghan refugees who are facing uncertain fates and have to deal with different policies operated by hosting countries and humanitarian agencies.
Finally, Parliament decided to send a delegation of Members of the European Parliament to Afghanistan next spring.
Mr. Tasso YIANNITSIS, Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister, opening the debate on Afghanistan remarked that the international community can be "moderately satisfied" with progress made since the Bonn Agreement. M Yiannitsis was pleased with the establishment of institutions such as a central bank, and a committee on human rights. He also pointed out that Afghanistan had signed agreements with its neighbours which would assist in guaranteeing security in the region. However, the Minister remarked that President Hamid KARZAI's administration faced many challenges, firstly the relationship between central government and the regions of Afghanistan and secondly the representation of all religions in government. Afghanistan, he said, would have to work closely with the IMF, and the Minister outlined that funding was based on the full implementation of the Bonn Agreement. Funding would depend on how Afghanistan combats the drug trade, and he stated that the EU would continue to assist fully in this process.
Minister Yiannitsis welcomed the work of the Turkish forces in guaranteeing security in Afghanistan, but warned that the next six months would be crucial given the growing tension between security forces and the people of Afghanistan in some regions outside Kabul. The Minister outlined that clear targets ought to be set with full elections to be held in 2004. He ended by paying tribute to the EU's special representative for Afghanistan and confirmed that the Greek Presidency would dedicate the necessary resources to the area.
It was then the turn of Commissioner Chris PATTEN to outline the successes of the international community and indeed the European Union in bringing about change and improvements to the situation in Afghanistan last year. A new government led by Hamid Karzai had been set up, a new currency had been established and the process of recovery was well underway. He had no doubt that the speed with which the aid programme had been delivered was remarkable through, for example, establishing some 238 health clinics and 450 primary schools. Furthermore, there had been great progress in clearing land mines and international help had enabled some 1.8m refugees to return to the country. In all, the EU contribution amounted to €230-240m over the year as part of the EU's €1bn share of the $1.8bn in international aid pledged over a five-year period. Nevertheless, he took the view that future developments were at a crucial phase and, as he put it, there was only a "limited" window of opportunity. He pinpointed several potential dangers such as the lack of a comprehensive system to guarantee internal security and threats posed to aid workers, worrying signs on the human rights front, particularly with regard to respect for women and minorities and a long term concern regarding the co-ordination of various aid programmes by different international donors.
On the positive side, he recognized the aim of the new Afghan government to establish a new army and its intention to maintain "friendly" relations with its neighbours, but another worrying sign was the increase in poppy reduction and the implications for the drug trade and indeed crime and terrorism in the region as a whole. For the future, he looked forward to the elections scheduled for the middle of next year and, in this context, a successful transition to democracy depended on the effective establishment of an independent human rights commission and indeed putting in place a new constitution guaranteeing equal rights for all. The Commissioner concluded by reminding MEPs of the long-term programme needed to establish the country on a firm footing, especially with regard to putting in place a workable education and health system. Warning against complacency, he looked forward to support from the House for future action.
For the EPP/ED, Philippe MORILLON (F) sought to reassure both the Council and the Commission that they could rely on the continuing full support of Parliament for their efforts in the region. He recounted personal visits to Afghanistan in which he had seen evidence of real progress on the ground and aid work in action. He too recognized concerns over human rights and the position of women, and indeed pointed out that fundamentalism was still a threat.
For the PES, Margrietus van den BERG (PES, NL) too welcomed the successes achieved by the international community united in its efforts and felt it could serve as a good example for other regions such as Iraq. It was, therefore, all the more important for the international community to maintain a united front. He too recognized concerns raised in the debate and the fact that developments were now at a crucial phase. While recognizing progress, Baroness Emma NICHOLSON (ELDR, South East), for the Liberals, concentrated on the deteriorating position of women faced with threats such as restrictions on movement and generally being forced into a subordinate role to men. She was particularly concerned about the poor representation of women in key administrative positions and restrictions on appearances in public. Unfortunately, with these developments, Afghanistan seemed to be returning to a "a land of sorrow and suffering". It was, she said, vital to tackle tribal cultural attitudes.
For the GUE/NGL Group, Luisa MORGANTINI (I) saw a contradiction between the International Community's values and its actions in Afghanistan. She contended that the US and the EU had been assisting warlords by channelling funds to Afghanistan. The US, she said, had put many of the warlords in place and the US had reaped what it had sown. Mrs. Morgantini said more should have been done in the 1980s in terms of nation- building.
Jan Joost LAGENDIJK (NL), for the Greens/EFA group, also stressed the lack of improvement in the situation of women in Afghanistan. He called for an extension to the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan as warlords were beginning to gain strength in remote areas of the country once more.
For the UEN group, Cristiana MUSCARDINI (UEN, I) welcomed progress made by President Karzai's administration, including the establishment of governmental institutions. She was also pleased to see the return of refugees to Afghanistan. EU funds, she remarked, had not been fully taken up and she said that the EU should continue to assist the Afghan administration in finding alternatives to the opium poppy trade.
Gianfranco DELL'ALBA (I), a non-attached Member, pointed out that Afghanistan had recently signed the treaty setting up the International Criminal Court and regards this as a symbol of Afghanistan's desire to join the International Community.
Eurig WYN(Greens/EFA, Wales) cautioned that outside Kabul many of the Afghan regions were under the control of warlords. He also recalled the situation of the 600 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay held without trial or charge. Mr. Wyn also contended that US forces had witnessed a massacre of up to 3000 Taliban forces and had not prevented it from taking place. He welcomed a UN investigation into this matter.
Niall ANDREWS (UEN, Dublin), on the other hand, took the view that the situation had hardly changed in Afghanistan with the warlords maintaining an iron grip in the country outside of Kabul and women's rights severely restricted. Furthermore, while he could support the US action to track down Al-Quaida, he feared that the real US strategy was to seek access to oil from both the Caspian Sea and in Iraq. Pointing out that opinion polls in the UK showed strong opposition to Britain entering into war against Iraq without further approval from the Security Council, he had no doubt that these views would be ignored, not just by British leaders but by Europeans who would later fall into line with US policy. So much for democracy, he concluded.
Drawing attention to the wide number of conflicts facing the international community from the Balkans to Iraq and Afghanistan, Geoffrey VAN ORDEN (EPP-ED, Eastern) concentrated on the need for European countries to increase military budgets to enable a more effective contribution to be made here. He then welcomed the recent EU agreement to a plan for Afghan refugees to return home. His other concern was the large number of land mines still in Afghanistan which, he said, posed a major threat to the long term reconstruction of the country and called for a new strategy, with the Commission playing a key role to deal with this threat.
John CUSHNAHAN (EPP-ED, Munster) felt it was an appropriate time to assess progress in Afghanistan and, while he recognized the considerable achievements of the international community and indeed the Commission, he emphasized the importance of creating jobs. He pointed out that, while seemingly enormous sums of aid had been donated to the area on a per capita basis, this only amounted to $75 for each Afghan citizen as against $250 per citizen in the Balkans. Urging an increase in the commitments from the international community, he emphasized that taking action at an earlier stage in any international crisis was far more effective than being faced with a reconstruction bill later. He too felt there was no room for complacency and, while recognizing progress in the move towards democracy and elections next year, he was another speaker to warn of the threat posed by the warlords and discrimination faced by women.
In response to the debate, Minister Yiannitsis stressed the importance of extending the power government to regions outside Kabul, extending the mandate of ISAF for security reasons and improving the situation of women. He commented that this would be a long process and the balance between short-term aid and long-term reconstruction should be reached.
In his reply to the debate, Chris Patten recognized the concern expressed by MEPs over women's rights. He emphasized that the EU was supporting projects designed to improve the situation and undertook to raise the question at the next meeting of the Afghan Forum in March. Parliament's support for ongoing action in the reconstruction of Afghanistan was vital in the sense that it approved necessary funding, he said. As to the effective co-ordination of aid between the various agencies, new structures were now in place to improve matters here and he undertook to examine progress on his next visit to the country in March.