I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia align themselves with this declaration.
Afghanistan with the support of the international community has achieved significant progress in recent years, which was also confirmed on the occasion of the recent High Level meeting held at the United Nations on 23 September. It also provided the international community with an opportunity to reconfirm its continued long-term commitment to Afghanistans reconstruction, notably with respect to addressing counter-narcotics, governance, regional cooperation and security issues.
Indeed, serious challenges, threatening to undermine achievements to date remain. We share the concern of the Secretary-General at the many issues that present challenges to the short and longer term security and stability of Afghanistan which have not yet been resolved. In his earlier reports to the Council, the Secretary-General expressed concern at the increasing trends in violence and challenges to state authority.
We recognize the central role played by the UN in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan by leading the efforts of the international community and thus contributing for Afghanistan not being alone facing its current manifold challenges. In this context, we welcome the adoption of SC Resolution 1776 (2007), on 19 September, renewing the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Resolution 1746, on 23 Mar 2007, which extended the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) mandate. We would like to take this opportunity to commend UNAMA under the excellent leadership of SRSG Tom Koenigs.
The International Security Assistance Force led by NATO since August 2003 has been crucial in improving security initially in Kabul, and later through its program of phased expansion in the north, west, south and east of the Country. To that effect we recognize the importance of increasing the effective functionality professionalism and accountability of the Afghan security sector to provide long-term solutions to security in Afghanistan.
The European Union expresses its concern with the intensified Taliban-led insurgency. Taliban and insurgent groups continue to prevent full security in a number of areas, while rates of insurgent and terrorism violence are higher than in 2006 and criminal and drug gangs continue to grow. Were deeply concerned with the expansion of opium poppy cultivation by 17 per cent and potential opium production by 34 per cent. The unprecedented increase of opium production in 2007 poses a grave threat to reconstruction and nation-building in Afghanistan. Even more worrisome is the link between the drug trade and the insurgency as well as stalled efforts to fight corruption within all elements of government. Increased identification, targeting and bringing to justice major narco-trafficking organizations and their nexus remains vital for the stability and security of Afghanistan and the region.
In this context, it is crucial that Afghanistan should have a viable police force and we, the EU, have been accelerating efforts to that end through the launching of the European Police Mission (EUPOL) this past June. The European police mission is working towards an Afghan police force, which respects human rights and operates within the framework of the rule of law. Moreover, the Mission is addressing issues of police reform at central, regional and provincial level, in close coordination with partners. This is being complemented by the European Commissions Justice Sector Reform programme presently underway with the aim to making a comprehensive contribution to improving the Rule of Law in Afghanistan over the next years.
In this vein, we reaffirm the crucial importance of the reform of the justice system and the embedding of the rule of law for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, recognizing that without justice and the rule of law no sustainable security, stabilization, economic development and human rights can be achieved, such as concluded in the Rome Conference on Justice and Rule of Law that took place on July 2-3.
It is clear that the insurgency cannot be defeated by military means alone. We therefore recognize and fully support UNAMAs role in help the Government of Afghanistan in find political and regional solutions to the challenges facing Afghanistan. Therefore, we congratulate the reinforcement made by Resolution 1746, which expanded the United Nations presence in the provinces, through regional and provincial offices and we encourage UNAMA focus on consolidating its current presence and, security conditions permitting, to continue its expansion.
We note that UNAMAs increased field presence has enabled engagement with Provincial Reconstruction Teams and therefore ensure that PRTs achieve a common understanding and approach to the Afghan National Development Strategy, in cooperation with the Afghan Government. In that sense, we underscore the urgent need for an integrated political and military strategy that complements the ANDS and also encompasses wider issues and provides a sharper focus on the achievements of national reconciliation and regional stability. The European Unions support for a strong and central role in Afghanistan pertains not only to UNAMA but also to our support for a strong and growing role for the United Nations Family as a whole including its Funds and Programs.
At the same time, we must not overlook that some important steps have been made. At a regional level, the EU positively registers the more collaborative atmosphere that has begun to prevail in Afghan-Pakistani relations, recognizing that terrorism was a shared challenge. Therefore we congratulate the Peace Jirga that took place in Kabul between Presidents Karzai and Musharraf, in August 2007, and the Joint Declaration that came out from the event. Peace, security and stability in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without the positive support of the countries in the region.
Afghan commitment is needed on good governance. Only by appointing qualified government officials with a good human rights record, providing enough provincial government capacity and implementing the anti-corruption roadmap, an effective and legitimate administration can be realised. The adoption of such measures becomes all the more urgent as we approach the 2009 elections.
It is with deep regret that the European Union has learned of the recent execution of 15 people. The European Union opposes the death penalty in all cases. We urge the Government of Afghanistan to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it.
Finally, we would stress the importance of urgent attention by both Afghan government and the National Assembly in order to ensure adoption of the Electoral Law by the end of 2007, which is vital to prepare the Presidential Elections that will take place in 2009. Underlined the importance of holding presidential and parliamentary elections in a fiscally sustainable manner as called for by the Afghanistan Compact. Building on the success of the last elections, which represented a significant achievement for Afghanistan, free and fair Presidential elections, reflecting the democratic choice of the people of Afghanistan, would be another step on the road to stability, security and prosperity its people.
Let me conclude this Statement, by stressing that that European Union remains committed to the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan. We continue to support the Afghanistan Compact, which we consider the principal framework for future reconstruction and stabilization of the Country until 2010. Therefore, we pledge to continue to work with the Afghan Government, the UN and other international partners to build a prosperous, secure and sustainable Afghanistan.
Thank you Mr. President.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.