MEPs welcomed the results of the Mali donors conference but insisted on respect for the rule of law and human rights during their discussion on Thursday with the acting president, Dioncounda Traoré. Members of the security and defence, foreign affairs and development committees also stressed the need to establish genuine democracy and decentralisation.
"It is a bit simplistic to speak about an Islamic winter after the Arab Spring. The ongoing constitutional processes show that we are on the right path but we cannot yet take the victory of democracy for granted," said foreign affairs committee chair Elmar Brok (EPP, DE) on Tuesday at a conference on democratic transition in the EU's southern neighbourhood.
The EU should take the lead in ensuring the protection of journalists, said foreign affairs MEPs in a vote on Tuesday. The independent press, a watchdog for democracy, is suffering increasing harassment, with journalists being persecuted and imprisoned, they warn, stressing the need to combat impunity for threats and attacks against journalists.
"Soft power alone is no power at all," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told foreign affairs, security and defence MEPs and national MPs on Monday. Speaking in favour of "holding the line on defence spending" in Europe, he said Europeans must also "have the political will to use" the right capabilities. MEPs called for more cooperation between the EU and NATO in times of austerity.