Answer given by Mr De Gucht on behalf of the Commission
The Commission actively monitors compliance with Colombia's obligations under United Nations (UN) human rights conventions, during which the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) had a bilateral dialogue with Colombia. This highlighted a number of positive developments, confirmed in recent reports of the relevant international monitoring bodies. In these circumstances, and given the aim of the General System of Preferences (GSP+) scheme and that Colombia is cooperating with the EU and international organisations, the withdrawal of GSP+ preferences was not considered warranted. Monitoring of Colombia's compliance with its obligations will continue.
Regarding Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), the Commission's view is that binding commitments such as the ones contained in the FTA with Colombia and Peru are pivotal in ensuring socially cohesive economic development and the strengthening of democratic institutions, individual freedoms and the rule of law. Hence the importance of a successful conclusion of the ongoing consent procedure in Parliament.
Besides the overall impact that such agreements may have on accountability, the human rights provisions in this FTA match the highest standards set in other EU FTAs and are binding. Insofar as fundamental labour rights are part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the preferences afforded under the Agreement could be suspended on the basis of the Essential Elements clause. The latter is designed to be wide-ranging in scope, should circumstances require. The EU will assess autonomously what is covered by the UDHR on the basis of its internal procedures and consistent with international law.