I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, the associated countries of Cyprus, Malta and Turkey align themselves with this statement.
Today, Mr. President, we are addressing an important issue, that of the situation in Central America, procedures for the establishment of a firm and lasting peace and progress in fashioning a region of peace, freedom, democracy and development. This is an important issue, and a vast and complex one, for it concerns as many political, economic or cultural systems as there are States involved. It cannot be dispatched with haste, but calls for a global yet targeted vision.
As in the past, the European Union wishes to thank the Secretary-General for the excellence of his reports on this agenda item. They provide us with the overall picture needed to evaluate progress made and consider future action. His recommendations are valuable, and give us food for thought.
This year once again, the European Union is pleased to note that the situation in Central America is progressing, despite the grave problems, social inequalities and the poverty that remain. The greater part of the region is now in a position to consolidate the progress made towards a peaceful settlement to the various conflicts and towards free exercise of democratic rights and the strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law. The elections held in Nicaragua and Honduras can be quoted as positive examples. The European Union stresses in particular the need for the populations to be provided with the necessary means in order to participate actively in the democratic process.
The European Union intends to continue to invest its efforts in the economic and social development of the countries of Central America. It is mainly within the San José Dialogue, which has been operating for 15 years now, that the European Union and the countries of Central America maintain a dialogue and institutionalized cooperation. In that dialogue, we particularly stress the importance of the regional integration of the countries of Central America. In this context, we welcome the launching of the Puebla Panama Plan which is aimed at promoting the integration of Central America with the Southern States of Mexico. They themselves realize the validity of this approach as a means of progressing towards peace, development in all its aspects and the resolution of certain continuing bones of contention between some of the countries, in particular incidents at disputed borders.
In this context, the European Union would reiterate its full support for the various initiatives undertaken by the Organization of American States to put an end to border disputes. We welcome the positive advances made by Guatemala and Belize in their dialogue, in which the OAS is playing a moderating role. The European Union welcomes the role played by the OAS Verification Mission in the dispute between Honduras and Nicaragua. This contribution has helped to reduce the tension between the two countries considerably. We would strongly encourage the OAS to continue its efforts along these lines and congratulate it on its initiatives. We encourage all the States to settle peacefully the remaining border disputes.
The European Union’s cooperation strategy in Central America is centered on the support for democratic States respecting human rights, mainly by consolidating the process of strengthening peace and democratization in the region, economic integration, implementation of common policies, consolidation of regional institutions and strengthening the role of civil society in the integration process. This is the strategy the European Union supported during the meeting of the Consultative Group held in Madrid in March 2001 and that gave the opportunity to examine possibilities of development and integration of the region. In general, the Union intends to place its action in the context of the efforts made by the international community, and those of the United Nations in particular.
The European Union is particularly attentive to the situation in Guatemala and the activities of MINUGUA. We support the Secretariat’s proposals to extend the mission’s mandate until December 2002, with a view to its completion in 2003. The challenges posed by implementation of the peace process make it necessary to continue the mission.
Indeed, Mr. President, much remains to be done in Guatemala: full implementation of the Fiscal Pact, and particularly of measures to restore a climate of confidence among the population regarding the management of public spending, the fight against corruption, implementation of the Agreement on Identity and Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the introduction of an integrated rural development plan, replacement of the Presidential General Staff, the substantial agenda of legislative reforms, etc. With the extension of its mandate, MINUGUA will be able to assist Guatemala in achieving these important objectives. It is nonetheless clear that the international community cannot replace national efforts. It is therefore essential that the State, but also the Guatemalan people as a whole, devote themselves wholeheartedly to advancing the peace process.
The European Union insists once again for the Guatemalan authorities to pursue their efforts to ensure full respect for human rights, to combat impunity and to respect their obligations as enshrined in the agenda for the peace process, including the recommendations of the Commission for Historical Clarification. It would like to emphasize the importance of the Mission’s report and recommendations on human rights. The European Union remains concerned by the acts of intimidation directed against human rights NGOs, members of the judiciary, journalists and individuals, the murders as well as at the presence and the activities of illegal security forces and clandestine structures that have been observed this year. The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of these crimes does no credit to the Guatemalan government bodies in their role as guarantor of full respect for human rights, the impunity, which they enjoy, should be combated and especially the tolerance, acquiescence or even complicity of certain public officials should be eliminated. The European Union is fully prepared to lend them its support and assistance in their action to that end.
Finally, the peace process is unfortunately encountering further obstacles that urgently need to be overcome. The level of social and human development remains low. The European Union has also observed social and political polarization lately, which can only have a negative impact on implementation of the agenda. We thus welcome the initiatives aimed at launching a dialogue to attenuate this political polarization. Lastly, the economic crisis does nothing to ease the process, particularly at a time of food crisis such as that being suffered in the east of the country after the drought of recent months. Once again, the Union is applying itself to improving its aid and cooperation programmes to assist the Guatemalan authorities to overcome these difficulties.
The elections on 4 November in Nicaragua took place in a positive manner and we welcome the massive turnout. In the view of the European Union electoral monitoring mission, those elections, despite some minor problems, were free and transparent. They took place in an atmosphere of order and serenity. The European Union congratulates President Bolaños on his election, and calls on him to take all necessary measures to cope with the problems in the area of good governance and eradication of corruption, which are pre-conditions for the development of the country. The European Union hopes that the new President will implement the initiatives promised as regards reform of the electoral law and depoliticization of the Supreme Electoral Council.
The European Union welcomes the democratic maturity shown by the Honduran people in the elections of 25 November. The Union appreciates the administration of the Flores Government, which contributed to consolidating democracy in the country and strengthening the rule of law. We wish the same success to President Maduro, and the European Union will continue to provide Honduras with all its support.
In El Salvador, Mr. President, we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the signing of the peace agreements in January. This is a significant event, and it is with great satisfaction that we look back over El Salvador’s path to peace. We hope that the last issue still to be resolved, that of the Fund for the Wounded and War-Disabled, will be settled fully and promptly.
The Secretary-General rightly emphasizes that besides laying the foundations for good governance, it is important to improve other human development indicators and to combat the poverty that served only to fuel the social and political tensions which ignited armed conflict. A global strategy must also include actively combating structural inequalities, which have no place in the democracies of Central America. These peoples must build on their successes to move on to a future of peace, stability and development which they have all planned together and from which all should benefit.
Thank you, Mr. President.