I have the honour 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, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
Let me begin by expressing our appreciation for the opportunity to participate in todays debate on behalf of the European Union. I would like to thank Mr. Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for his comprehensive briefing and for his excellent ongoing work in leading the UNAMA Mission.
As highlighted in the Secretary-Generals report, there have been recently positive developments of great significance in Afghanistan. The work of UNAMA has contributed to this progress. At the same time, daunting challenges remain. The EU strongly encourages the Afghan government to sustain the positive efforts as to ensure a major improvement of the situation with assistance provided by the multinational presence on the ground. In this respect, the EU would like to reiterate its unwavering dedication to assist Afghan authorities in maintaining the positive momentum during the complex period ahead. This is of crucial importance with regard to the upcoming presidential and provincial elections, which will have significant effects on the development of the situation in Afghanistan.
The upcoming elections, to be held on 20 August, will be a major stepping stone for the further political development of Afghanistan. It is important that the elections serve to ensure political legitimacy of the next government and provide it with a strong mandate. The EU attaches the greatest importance to the holding of legitimate, inclusive and secure presidential elections, in line with the international standards, which would strengthen the support of the Afghan people for their institutions. To this end, it is particularly important that the Afghan Government exercises its authority with impartiality and integrity, insuring a level playing field for all candidates. The election process should be managed in close cooperation with the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission. The updating of the voter registration list, the completion of the candidate nomination process, and the publication of the final list of candidates, while not without their problems, represent important preliminary developments in relation to the upcoming elections. However, it will be vital that sound mechanisms are in place to avoid large-scale irregularities occurring at the time of the vote. The EU has decided to deploy an electoral observation mission to observe these elections. Clearly, UNAMA will also have a crucial role to play in this regard.
The enhanced international presence in Afghanistan, due to these elections, should focus on safeguarding a stable security situation and, thereby, make development possible. Maintaining security during the election period is a shared responsibility between the Afghan National Security Forces and the international community. The EU concurs with the Secretary-Generals report that increased levels of security-related operations should, however, do all possible to avoid the risk of more civilian casualties and that we should continue looking at ways of a wider Afghanization of relevant operations.
The EU actively supports the improvement of good governance, the rule of law in Afghanistan and the fight against corruption and respect for human rights. Building Afghan capacity and ownership in the police and civil sectors remains at the core of the EU´s engagement in Afghanistan. In this regard, the EU urges the Government of Afghanistan to give the utmost priority to the achievement of significant progress in those areas, especially at the sub-national level. The EU police mission EUPOL in Afghanistan is clear proof of such an active and continued engagement. The mission aims at contributing to the establishment of sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements under Afghan ownership and its mandate encompasses the monitoring, mentoring, advising and training of national police forces. As a complementary initiative to building up police capacity, the EU underlines the importance of the prospect of a deployment of the European Gendarmerie Force to Afghanistan. Recognizing the Afghan Compact and the Afghan National Development Strategy and the principles agreed to at the Hague Conference on Afghanistan as the framework for the political, social and economic development, the EU intends to further enhance and consolidate its commitment to Afghanistans reconstruction and development, through a common approach, as well as bilaterally by individual Member States.
Without a doubt, stability, security and development in Afghanistan are closely linked to the overall situation in the region. The EU strongly supports the development of a coordinated approach at the regional level and an enhanced cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours, especially Pakistan. The EU particularly acknowledges the key role of Pakistan for the stability in the region and, therefore, welcomes further progress that has been achieved in the bilateral dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as indicated in the Secretary-Generals report. As highlighted in the Joint Statement of the first EU-Pakistan Summit held in Brussels on 17 June 2009, where Pakistan was represented by President Asif Ali Zardari, the EU, in close cooperation with Pakistan, is committed to strengthening security and stability in Afghanistan and the wider region, including through enhanced cooperation on combating terrorism.
The EU appreciates the increased attention of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries to Afghanistan and regional cooperation, as also demonstrated by the meeting of the G-8 Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan and the region, which took place in Trieste, Italy on 26 and 27 June 2009.
The EU strongly supports UNAMA in its important role as the coordinator of international efforts, while recognising Member States responsibility to assist UNAMA in performing this task. The new provincial offices are a welcome contribution and the EU hopes that this expansion can continue. The EU welcomes the intention of the Secretary-General to propose in his report, due in September 2009, a finalized set of benchmarks designed to contribute to measuring progress in the implementation of UNAMAs mandates and priorities.
The EU reiterates its full recognition that the primary responsibility for the development of the country lies with the Afghan government and people themselves. I would like to assure you that the EU will continue to play an active role in assisting Afghanistan on its road to security, stability and prosperity, in close cooperation and coordination with UNAMA and other international actors.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.