I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey and the EFTA countries belonging to the European Economic Area – Iceland and Liechtenstein – align themselves with this statement.
First of all, I would like to thank the Secretary-General for the latest reports on Afghanistan and commend the excellent work of his Special Representative, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi. The European Union is confident that Mr. Brahimi and his staff continuously will encourage the Afghan partners to move forward in a manner consistent with the Bonn Agreement.
When Afghanistan was discussed in the Security Council on 19 July, we took stock of the progress made since the signing of the Bonn Agreement. The challenges back then looked daunting, but today we have to conclude that progress has been made. However, many issues are still outstanding.
The European Union welcomes that several of the critical steps in the Bonn Agreement have been initiated. The Constitutional Drafting Committee, the Independent Human Rights Commission, and the Judicial Reform Commission have been created and should resume their work without delay. The cabinet has agreed on the much-needed reform of the National Army. The presentation of the National Development Framework and Budget clearly demonstrated the Afghan ownership of the development process. The first preparations for the upcoming Consultative Group meeting in March 2003 reinforce the impression that the transitional government has clear priorities and goals, and is capable of showing leadership towards achieving these goals.
In our view, the discussion today should be forward-looking and focus on the processes and milestones that have to fall into place to secure a desirable future for Afghanistan. Many challenges lie ahead in the period leading up to one of the most central milestones, the elections in 2004. The European Union strongly encourages the Afghan Transitional Authority and UNAMA to quickly move forward on the preparations for the elections in 2004 with the ultimate aim of establishing a multi-ethnic, gender sensitive, broad based and truly representative government. A first step to ensure free and fair elections would be to establish an independent Electoral Commission to oversee the process.
Another key issue is the governments efforts to expand its influence beyond the capital. As has been pointed out in the Secretary-Generals report, the Transitional Administrations ability to fulfil its ambitious objectives has been stalled by limitations in its ability to impose its authority nationwide. Therefore, we must also be ready to stand up against the forces that seek to block implementation of the Bonn Agreement no matter whether they are internal or external.
Looking at other key issues, the European Union finds it worrying that poppy cultivation has increased in Afghanistan. We stand ready to assist the Transitional Authority in the development and implementation of comprehensive, co-ordinated programmes aimed at eliminating illicit poppy cultivation.
The human rights situation has improved, but much more remains to be done, in particular with respect to womens rights. The Bonn Agreement committed the Transitional Authority to ensure the respect for human rights, yet we remain concerned about reports of violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law in parts of the country.
A year has passed since the signing of the Bonn Agreement, and one could have hoped that by now security would no longer be a major concern. However, the report of the Secretary-General describes a deteriorating security climate. Many European Union member states as well as associated countries have contributed troops to ISAF, which has significantly improved the security situation in and around Kabul. The Netherlands and Germany will take over as new ISAF lead no later than February 15, 2003. In order to achieve lasting peace and security, the Afghan national army and police must be strengthened. EU Member States are actively participating in efforts to reform the Afghan security sector. The recent reform plan for the Afghan National Army is evidence that the government is taking serious steps towards ensuring nationwide control.
The extent and speed of return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and Iran 2002 have surpassed all expectations. The voluntary, orderly, and safe return of Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons as well as their successful reintegration constitute a major challenge to be addressed in the context of efforts to ensure political stability.
So far humanitarian needs have been in the foreground, but emphasis is already moving towards transitional and long-term development assistance. It is crucial that humanitarian and reconstruction activities are properly coordinated. With the creation of UNAMA and the integrated approach being used, the UN agencies have come far towards a more rational use of donor resources. The European Union encourages UNAMA to continue its important co-ordination role in the whole of Afghanistan.
The European Union has responded with large-scale assistance to the humanitarian and reconstruction needs existing in Afghanistan. We remain strongly committed to providing the necessary humanitarian assistance and to deliver a substantial contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. To keep the process on track and to integrate the many new reform initiatives and processes, we welcome all the commitments made at Petersberg earlier this week.
Historically Afghanistans relations with its neighbours have been difficult. Now is the time to bring an end to harmful interference from outsiders in Afghanistans peace- building process. The European Union wholeheartedly supports the efforts to adopt a declaration of Good Neighbourly Relations.
The European Union has it own experience with regional co-operation. We know that peace among nations can be secured through regional co-operation and integration. The European Union stands ready to share our experience and expertise in this area with Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Thank you, Mr. President.