"The Algerian Parliament is a reality -
we have met it."
Mr SOULIER's first conclusion was this: "The people we met want a
genuine partnership in which no issues are overlooked: the fight
against terrorism, which is condemned by everybody, arms trafficking
and economic and social partnership." The trade unions, he said, had
wished, with a view to the possible conclusion of an association
agreement, to emphasize a number of points which in their eyes were
of crucial importance: the free movement of persons, even if this was
a problem for certain countries, transport, energy and management of
other natural resources, particularly water - all of which were matters
of mutual interest. "They asked us to speed things up!"
As to the question: "Who is killing who?", Mr SOULIER quoted the
words of one of the religious representatives whom the delegation
had met: "Don't keep on asking who is killing who. We know and the
victims know too." Mr SOULIER himself added "Nobody, when speaking to us, pointed the finger
at the army."
Mr SOULIER's second conclusion was that the Algerian Parliament was a reality but needed
time to get going properly. "All the parliamentary groups", he said, "whether of the government
side or the opposition, assured us that the parliament was working. We must not be dismissive
of its work and the openings it may lead to. Our dialogue was very well informed and extremely
frank on the subject of human rights and the Algerian MPs told us that their parliament was
working on this matter within the framework of the separation of powers. We have no intention of
interfering and we will not call for an international committee of inquiry. It would be wrong to
demand everything at once." The situation was no longer what it had been last May before the
legislative elections. "The Algerians", he continued, "will build their own future and we will not try
to take their place. If we can help them through the partnership, let us do so".
Speaking of the meeting with Mr MEZZIANE, President of the Islamic Council, and Mgr Henri
TEYSSIER, Archbishop of Algiers, who was accompanied by Father GONZALES, Mr SOULIER
stressed the common thread running through their views: "Algeria does not need to be judged, it
needs help and understanding."
The delegation concluded that - as always - things were not all black or white. Even the
members of the government had acknowledged their errors and agreed on the need to rectify
In reply to questions from journalists, Mr SOULIER said there was no clear political line between
the EU and Algeria. There were catalogues of measures but no single overarching approach.
For his part, he wanted the European Parliament to contribute to devising a new EU policy
covering all aspects of cooperation.
In conclusion, Mr SOULIER and the vice-chair of the delegation, Johannes SWOBODA (PES,
A), declared "The challenge is enormous. A striking feature of our talks was the freedom with
which they were conducted. No issues were ducked." If its request is accepted by the President
of the European Parliament, the delegation will give details to Parliament's Foreign Affairs
Committee on Tuesday 17th February at the Strasbourg part-session. A decision will then have
to be taken on what the next step should be.
Further information: Jacques NANCY (currently in Algiers), tel: 284 24 85
The chair of the European Parliament Delegation to Algeria, André SOULIER, will hold a press
conference at 4pm on Thursday 12th February at Parliament's Paris Information Office (288,
Boulevard St. Germain. For further information: Bernard CHEVALLIER, tel: 22.214.171.124.00)
Inauguration of new Parliament
buildings in Brussels.
In his speech, Mr Gil-Robles said:
"Today, the entry into service of these new buildings is a visible
testimony to how the original, purely consultative assembly has
evolved over those forty years into what it is now: a Parliament which
enjoys a large proportion of the powers required for it to make
effective exercise of the vital function of democratic control over the
activities of the Community.
The complex and plural nature of a European Union of fifteen Member
States, all with equal rights and duties, has its most visible expression
in the European Parliament, in which 626 Members with the most
diverse geographical origins and beliefs work together, doing their
best to overcome the problems caused by the decision of the Member
State governments to maintain the status quo as regards the places of work, not to mention the
necessary requirement of ensuring scrupulous respect for the equal status of the Union's eleven
working languages. The significant financial cost of our practice of active multilingualism pales in
comparison with the long-term implications of a Union which did not scrupulously respect the
principle of the equal rights and duties of all its citizens.
The use of eleven languages in our daily business represents an asset which we have no desire
to lose: it is a daily challenge to us, to overcome the barriers between us and not entrench
ourselves behind one language or another - to be willing to speak, as a matter of course and a
question of courtesy, the languages of our partners. There are those who speak of the
Community institutions as a new 'tower of Babel' - forgetting that, whereas in the Babel story the
diversity of tongues destroyed a common project, in our case it serves its construction.
The European Parliament, as the depository of a part of the power that resides in the peoples of
the Member States, has the major responsibility of defending, at all moments, the solutions
which best serve, not an individual interest or the interests of a few, but the common interests of
all of us, of all those who make up the Union. We sometimes forget, in the heat of our national
battles, that the Union is not a mere multilateral organization on conventional lines existing
simply for the defence of individual countries' interests, traditions and viewpoints, however
deserving of respect those may be.
The European Union is something very different from that - something far more pioneering,
committed and united. Within the Union, the Member States cede a part of their theoretical
sovereignty, in the awareness that this is the sole means of safeguarding and, indeed,
advancing the welfare of their citizens. This is the raison d'être of our Parliament, and at the
same time it obliges us all to bring our full commitment to the tasks entrusted to us by our
At different moments in recent history, our countries have had to struggle to preserve or recreate
their democratic institutions. Those institutions have never been a luxury; nor is that their fate
within our Community.
Thanks to the new buildings which we are inaugurating today, as well as those which we will
soon be able to occupy in Strasbourg, Parliament can now offer all its Members the
indispensable tools they need to perform their duty of representing their voters, without which
the word 'democracy' would be meaningless. I call on you all to make use of those tools in the
correct and scrupulous fashion which our fellow-citizens expect of us."
Further information: Jaume DUCH - tel. 284 30 00