I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Croatia* and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
Let me begin by thanking Mr. Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for his briefing and excellent leadership of the UNAMA mission and for his cooperation with the EU Special Representative Mr. Sequi. I would like to also extend my thanks to the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan for his contribution to todays debate.
The EU commends the Secretary-General for his recent comprehensive report on the UNAMA mission in Afghanistan and the identification of priorities. The EU endorses the recommendations on UNAMA and the strengthening of its central role in coordinating the overall international effort in Afghanistan, in close cooperation with other partners including ISAF and the EU. The EU also welcomes that the report of the Secretary-General will be submitted every 3 months instead of every 6 months. Additionally, the EU fully supports the crucial coordinating role of UNAMA and its head Mr. Kai Eide. In this regard, and due to the forthcoming presidential and provincial elections, the EU supports the extension of the UNAMA mandate for a further 12 months, as suggested by the Secretary-General in his report.
The year 2009 will be crucial for Afghanistan, as well as for the engagement of the international community. The security situation in Afghanistan remains challenging, with insurgents increasingly employing asymmetric tactics and targeting civilians, government institutions, international aid organizations and non-governmental organizations. Despite these challenges, some important progress has been made and the EU reiterates its long-term commitment to working towards a better future for Afghanistan and its people.
In this regard, we support efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to reach out across the political spectrum to build a broad-based political settlement. Politically-led solutions, based on dialogue and settlement, are key to achieving a durable solution in Afghanistan. The EU welcomes efforts by the government to bring disaffected Afghans into society’s mainstream.
Over the past year, we have seen progress in the strengthening of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), the launch of ANDS and positive developments regarding economic and social development are also welcome. Nevertheless, the international community needs to put more effort in assuring better and more effective coordination of development and reconstruction activities throughout the whole Afghanistan. Coordinated and effective support to the build up of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is a key element. It is also of crucial importance to strengthen Government institutions and actively combat corruption. Even a legitimate government will face challenges with a weak state and poor governance. There is no stability without sustainable governance.
While the narcotics trade still poses a steady cause for concern, the EU welcomes the fact that, after reaching another record level in 2007, poppy cultivation was in decline last year and further decrease is expected in 2009. The prognosis of a 20-30 percent decrease in opium production indicates a potential increase in the number of poppy-free provinces to 22. Also, the reinforced international cooperation in control of the chemical precursor needed to produce heroin contributes to the fight against drug trafficking. The EU also encourages the Afghan Government, with the assistance of the international community, to accelerate the implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy, including through alternative livelihood programmes.
The main challenges Afghanistan will face over the next year are the forthcoming elections, which are essential to the further political development of Afghanistan. It is important that the elections serve to reaffirm the Afghan peoples faith in their future. In this regard, we support efforts by the Afghan Government to reach out across the political spectrum to build a broad-based political settlement. The EU attaches the greatest importance to the holding of free and inclusive elections in Afghanistan and welcomes the confirmation of the date of Presidential and provincial elections by the Independent Election Commission. It is now up to the Afghan authorities, all the political parties and other stakeholders to work for transparent, fair and credible elections, in order to ensure the legitimacy of the next government, and provide it with a strong mandate. EU Special Representative Mr. Sequi will continue monitoring political and security developments and the EU is willing to work alongside the Afghan Government, the UN and ISAF to support elections across the country, including by providing substantial financial assistance and, subject to security and other conditions being met, through the deployment of an electoral observation mission. In the face of a period from 22 May to the inauguration of the next Presidential term, stability, security, and a functioning Government must be ensured.
On behalf of the EU, I would like to underline its continued engagement in Afghanistan, including the bilateral cooperation programs of the EU Member States, as well as the European Commission assistance strategy. The EU is looking urgently at how to enhance and improve its engagement. The EU is the second largest financial contributor to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The pledged collective contribution of the EU (European Community and Member states combined) amounts to 8 billion EUR for reconstruction during the period 2001-2010. The European Commission has pledged 700 million EUR for Afghanistan from 2007 to 2010, and the Member states currently provide about half of ISAF troops (26 000 troops). The EU is strongly committed to the improvement of Afghan state structures and has channeled approximately 30% of its budget through multi-donor trust funds such as ARTF (Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund) and LOTFA (Law and Order Trust Fund for AFG), which essentially contribute to the reconstruction of the Afghan police forces.
In the framework of its comprehensive approach towards Afghanistan, the EU has launched an EU Police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL AFGHANISTAN) in mid-June 2007. This includes contributions from non-member states Norway, Canada, New Zealand and Croatia. The mission aims at contributing to the establishment of sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements under Afghan ownership and in accordance with international standards. More particularly, the mission monitors, mentors, advises and trains at the level of the Afghan Ministry of Interior, regions and provinces. The area of deployment comprises Kabul and in some fifteen provinces of Afghanistan. The EU would like to reaffirm its long-term commitment to contribute to peace, security and development in line with its mandate, supporting the development of the Afghan police force under local ownership. In this regard, the EU has decided to significantly increase the number of mission personnel progressively from December 2008. This will enable the mission, on the basis of a renewed mandate, to reinforce its activities in support of the Afghan national police and contribute to its reform. However, this will require additional resources from contributing states.
The EU is committed to the improvement of governance and the rule of law in Afghanistan, and reiterates its commitment to capacity building in the justice and rule of law sectors. The fight against corruption, impunity and human rights violations, especially violence against women, are central to good governance and the EU looks to the Afghan authorities to uphold the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Afghanistan and under international law. In this regard, the EU encourages UNAMA to pursue its monitoring mandate in particular regarding the human rights situation of women. Regarding the grave humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the EU welcomes the strengthened presence of OCHA in Afghanistan in order to further improve humanitarian coordination. The EU underlines the importance of freedom of expression and a diverse media in Afghanistan and, in this regard, calls upon the Afghan government to pass the media law approved by the Lower House of Parliament.
It is certain that stability and security in Afghanistan is closely linked to the overall regional stability. The EU strongly supports the development of a coordinated approach at the regional level and enhanced cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors against threats such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The EU calls upon all neighboring countries to constructively work together to ensure sustainable development embedded in a stable region. Fostering stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of all countries in the region, and the wider international community. In this respect, the EU welcomes the upcoming Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) to be held in Islamabad and the Outreach Session of the G8 Ministerial Meeting to be held in Trieste from 26 to 27 June 2009. The EU also welcomes the International Conference on Afghanistan: a comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context, taking place in the Hague on March 31.
Mr. President, I would like to assure you that the EU will continue to play an active role in supporting Afghanistan in close cooperation and coordination with other international actors on the ground, including with the United Nations.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.