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.
Additional EU funding totalling €70 million to meet humanitarian needs in Syria, Mali, the Sahel region and Chad. was approved by the Budgets Committee on Wednesday.
Political leadership and visibility of the External Action Service could be improved if there were more coordination and synergy between it, the Commission and the Council, as was the intention when the functions of High Representative, Commission Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Council chair were merged, said foreign affairs MEPs on Tuesday in their review of the EU's new diplomatic corps two years after it was set up.
The Cuban "Ladies in White" (Damas de Blanco) protest movement was at last able to receive its European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in Brussels on Tuesday, when, over seven years later, Havana finally lifted a travel ban. The prize was presented at a special ceremony during a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development and human rights committees, attended by European Parliament President, Martin Schulz.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the foreign affairs committee on Thursday that: "The most radical elements are not in the majority now" in the Syrian resistance but warned that they could gain control "if the conflict carries on."