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Procedure : 2007/2542(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document: :

Texts tabled :

B6-0164/2007

Debates :

PV 25/04/2007 - 15
CRE 25/04/2007 - 15

Votes :

PV 26/04/2007 - 8.10
CRE 26/04/2007 - 8.10
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0166

Debates
Wednesday, 25 April 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

15. Human rights in the world – Moratorium on the death penalty (debate)
PV
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  President. – The next item is a joint debate:

- on the report (A6-0128/2007) by Mr Coveney, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, regarding the annual report on human rights in the world 2006 and the EU’s policy on the matter [2007/2020(INI)]

- on the Council and the Commission statements with regards to the moratorium on the death penalty.

 
  
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  Simon Coveney (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – Thank you, Madam President, President-in-Office, and Commissioner. I am honoured to have this opportunity to present as rapporteur the European Parliament’s 2006 Annual Report on Human Rights.

This report is the most comprehensive and important political statement that the European Parliament makes each year on the issue of human rights and their promotion. As rapporteur I have maintained the direct assessment style adopted last year for the 2005 report. In essence it is a constructive and critical analysis of the performance of the Council, the Commission and Parliament in promoting and defending human rights across the globe. The report is the culmination of five months of work in the European Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Human Rights and Committee on Foreign Affairs in which, it should be noted, significant consensus was reached through discussion, debate and compromise amendments.

One of the focal points of the report concerns the EU’s role in the new UN Human Rights Council. The assertions made are based on the Parliament’s attendance at a number of those Council meetings in Geneva. The Council and Commission’s recent annual report could not refer to the UN HRC so I felt that it was appropriate that we should focus on it in the report and in the debate today.

Our report recognises that while it has the potential to develop into a valuable framework for the EU multilateral human rights effort, for the first 12 months the UN Human Rights Council has not been a good news story. The UN Human Rights Council has failed to reach consensus and an acceptable compromise on key issues such as the Middle East, Darfur, Burma and many others. Instead, it has been used at times as a political point-scoring chamber and we must find ways of preventing it being used as a political forum for conflict between geographical or ideological blocks of countries.

A good example of this is the weakness of the Council’s resolution on Darfur. Surely the cessation of the spread of violence and the protection of innocent people in Darfur should have been the only priority of a UN structure designed to deal with human rights, but unfortunately that was not the case. Debates on Darfur and trying to get agreement on Darfur were used as a political bargaining chip or as a lever to try and get agreement on other resolutions. I would urge the European Council, in this regard, to look into introducing tougher measures to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. This is an issue I raised yesterday, in a committee meeting, with the Council representative who is with us today.

The heart of the report deals with how the EU is performing in relation to the human rights guidelines that it sets for itself. There are five EU policy guidelines that Europe must promote. These deal with the death penalty, torture, children and women in armed conflict situations, human rights defenders and, of course, dialogues with third countries. I felt it important to critically analyse the Council’s performance, especially in relation to the implementation of those guidelines, as it has committed specifically to these tools for human rights advocacy in third countries. In particular, the Council and Commission need to promote the guidelines within EU embassies and missions abroad. Concerns remain that some delegations have little or no knowledge of the guidelines themselves, or of how best to promote them within third-country situations.

The report also calls for more consultation between the Council and the European Parliament, and the Sub-Committee on Human Rights in particular, in relation to the Council and Commission’s Human Rights report, so that we can genuinely move towards a situation of one all-encompassing report with the views of Parliament, Council and Commission. That is what we are trying to do by changing the structure of our report.

The report also emphasises the need to strengthen and improve EU-China human rights dialogue considerably. It recognises that China has decided to have all death penalty cases reviewed by the Supreme Court, which shows it is inching forward on the death penalty, but also recognises that China puts more people to death than any other country.

The report also welcomes resolutions passed by the Parliament calling for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Centre, and the contributions that Parliament has made to raising the profile of human rights concerns regarding that Centre. The very existence of Guantánamo Bay continues to send out a negative signal as to how the fight against terrorism is being pursued by the West, led by the US.

I was very happy to refer in the report to the need for a clear and efficient common arms export control policy, including within the European Union, as the impact that the trade in small arms, in particular, is having on human rights conflicts in various parts of the world is clear. We need to move clearly towards an international arms trade treaty, as has been called for repeatedly by Parliament.

May I conclude by thanking all of the other groups for working with me on this. This is not a PPE-DE resolution on human rights. It is, I hope, reflective of Parliament as a whole and of all the groups in Parliament. I wish to thank everybody who has worked on it with me.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, honourable Members, I am glad to be able, as the Presidency’s representative, to participate in your honourable House’s debate today on this year’s report on human rights and the human rights situation around the world.

Like its predecessors in former years, this report engages critically with what the European Union has been doing about its human rights policy, and its critical outlook is one that we welcome, being persuaded as we are that it helps to enhance and improve our common action in protection of human rights, for we are all too aware of the day-to-day challenges to be faced in this area. The better the functioning of dialogue between our institutions, the more likely we are to be able to act together more effectively in pursuance of our human rights policy.

Perhaps I might be permitted to kick off with a practical proposal; I will be requesting that the Council working party responsible for the European Union’s international human rights policy (COHOM) should discuss your House’s report and consider in greater depth the demands and recommendations relevant to its work. It would then be possible, at a later date, for the finally adopted version of the report and the commentaries of the relevant Council working party to serve as the basis for a continuation of the debate, and so I propose, today, to address only a few of the recommendations.

The report acknowledges the greater cooperation between your House and the EU Presidencies in drawing up and debating the European Union’s annual report on the human rights situation. Evidence of the progress in our cooperation is furnished, inter alia, by the presentation by your House of its human rights activities in a chapter of the EU annual report devoted to it, and we are keen that this cooperation and the dialogue with the European Parliament, and with its sub-committee on human rights in particular, should be continued. Although we are aware of the important contribution made by your House to the protection of human rights, which is to be acknowledged appropriately in the European Union’s annual report, I would also like to stress that our cooperation has to be within the framework of, and in compliance with, the legal basis applicable to the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and that your House’s role – as is rightly stated in the explanatory section of Mr Coveney’s report – consists in the critical review of the European Union’s activities in the human rights sphere.

One important facet of human rights policy this year is the establishment of the United Nations’ new Human Rights Council, the importance of which your House’s report stresses, while also, and rightly, highlighting this body’s potential future role as a valuable forum in which the European Union might work multilaterally for the defence of human rights. The report finds it regrettable that the new Human Rights Council has demonstrated its own excessive inefficiency in responding to human rights crises around the world in an appropriate manner, and I would say, in response to that, that it is as yet too early to be able to pass judgment, and that we have to await the outcome of the institutional decision-making process, which is due at the end of June. The European Union will do everything in its power to ensure that the Human Rights Council continues to develop as an efficient but also credible element in the United Nations’ human rights system.

The demand has been made, with regard to the situation in Darfur, which is one of the most important issues considered at the last meeting of the Human Rights Council, that the European Union and the Member States should do more to get their views accepted, so that the Council, following the report by its special mission, might be able to take appropriate and adequate steps to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe. My comment on that is that the unanimous adopting of the document on Darfur by the Fourth Human Rights Council must be counted a significant triumph for the EU.

I would like to briefly mention the other important instruments of our EU human rights policy, namely the guidelines set down by the EU for its relations with third states with particular reference to the abolition of capital punishment, the campaign against torture, the protection of human rights activists and the position of children caught up in armed conflict. Your House’s annual report highlights the importance of these guidelines and indicates the need for them to be more effectively complied with. We share this view, and also welcome the work already done by your House’s sub-committee on human rights. At the end of its term, the German Presidency of the Council will report in detail on the ways in which the various guidelines have been acted upon.

Today, I would particularly like to highlight the Presidency’s efforts to date in relation to the abolition of the death penalty, which is one of the Council’s principal priorities among the European Union’s measures in the field of human rights policy. In order to achieve further progress on this front, the Presidency has drawn up an action plan for 2007, which is currently being put into effect and which has as its objective the tabling at appropriate levels of the United Nations of measures aimed at the abolition of the death penalty, about which I shall have more to say later on.

Other notable instruments of our human rights policy include the dialogues and consultations on the subject with third countries, which will be the subject of a parliamentary report; we welcome this initiative and will take careful note of your House’s recommendations. Despite the difficulties inherent in human rights dialogues, we do believe that these are not to be underestimated as a means of expressing our misgivings about the state of human rights in a given third country and – albeit sometimes only in the long term – bringing about a change in the situation there.

With that in mind, I am able to inform you that the presidency welcomes the Council resolution on the commencement of a human rights dialogue between the European Union and Uzbekistan, preparations for the first round of which are underway. The next rounds of the human rights dialogue between the EU and China and of the human rights consultations with Russia are also due to take place shortly, the one being in early May and the other in the middle of that month, and I should like to inform you that the consultations with Russia will – as was requested in your report – involve European and Russian NGOs.

One demand made in the annual report was that MEPs be accorded a bigger role in the conduct of dialogues and consultations, and the Council was urged to ensure that they were involved in them. Perhaps I might be permitted to say, by way of a reply to that, that the composition of EU delegations conducting dialogues with third states reflects the demarcation of powers under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and so it is not possible for Members of your honourable House to take part in these dialogues. That does not, however, mean that you will not be continually informed of developments, or that there will be no ongoing exchange of views concerning them.

I would now, with your President’s permission, like to say something about the Presidency’s statement on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

The campaign against capital punishment has for a long time been a core element in the EU’s common policy on human rights; the campaign against the death penalty was, indeed, the subject of the first guidelines to be adopted on human rights by the Council back in 1998, and the continuation of the various measures whereby the European Union has been consistently advocating the abolition of the death penalty since then is one of the German Presidency’s human rights policy priorities.

We last discussed the death penalty issue at the mini-session in January, when I announced to you that the German Presidency of the Council would put together a well thought-out plan of action for what we planned to do in the first half of 2007 in order to take the campaign against the death penalty to the United Nations, and I can inform you today that we have done what was announced as planned.

On the basis of an analysis carried out by the heads of all the EU’s partners’ permanent representations in Geneva and New York, and of numerous conversations with NGO representatives, Germany, at the end of February, produced an action plan for 2007 setting out concrete measures for a progressive approach to raising the issue of the death penalty at the United Nations, which all its partners accepted, and which the Presidency has, since then, been consistently putting into practice.

The first step of this plan of action was taken when, at the opening of the fourth session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the problem of capital punishment was put high up on the agenda, and my ministerial colleague Mr Steinmeyer, in his capacity as President-in-Office of the EU Council, deliberately touched on the issue in his speech. Several ministers from EU Member States who were taking part in the opening of the fourth session of the Human Rights Council followed the Presidency in urging the abolition of capital punishment, and the Council’s session in March saw the second reading, with the addition of new supporters, of the declaration against the death penalty, which had, at the European Union’s initiative been put before the UN General Assembly in December 2006 and signed by a total of 85 states from all corners of the globe.

The second step of the action plan saw the Presidency, in April, starting up a worldwide lobbying campaign, the object of which is to collect more votes in favour of the December 2006 declaration against the death penalty and to forge a multi-regional alliance willing to support the tabling of a resolution in the United Nations.

When this global démarche is completed – somewhere around the end of May – the European Union will undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the lobbying campaign’s results, and, on that basis, decide whether the time is ripe for a UN resolution, and if not now, when it might be.

Perhaps I might stress what I mentioned back in January, namely that a reopening of the debate in the United Nations at the present time, before the démarche is accomplished, would be strategically ill-advised, it being somewhat improbable that any such proposal would gain the support of two-thirds of the Member States, which is what is required, and this could set a negative precedent, in that other Member States could feel themselves encouraged to respond by putting, outside the regular meetings of the General Assembly, other contentious issues back on the agenda, and, above all, we do not yet know whether we will be able to summon up the necessary majority support from all regions. The object of our currently ongoing global démarche is to find this out, and we should defer further decisions until such time as it has yielded results.

Let me, then, once more stress that the campaign against the death penalty is just as important to the Council as it is to your House; no less than you do, we want to see this cruel, inhumane and ineffective form of punishment done away with, but the battle is not an easy one. Goodwill alone is not enough; on the contrary, only a strategic approach will enable us to achieve our objective, and that is what we in the German Presidency of the Council, together with our partners at Council level, are determined to do, and we very much hope that we may, in pursuing this end, be able to rely on your House’s full support.

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I welcome the report by Mr Coveney on human rights in the world in 2006 and on the EU’s policy on the matter, as well as the resolution before Parliament today. I am particularly pleased that the innovative approach of the report has been maintained and that it puts the focus on the scrutiny of action taken by EU institutions in implementing the human rights mandates. I also note with approval the recommendation made to move towards a truly interinstitutional EU annual report that reflects the activities of the Council, the Commission and Parliament in the field of human rights and promoting democracy in the world.

This proposal, which I fully endorse, does not in any way imply that Parliament will have to forfeit its prerogative to issue its own report on this matter, nor that there is a potential infringement of the division of powers between Council, Parliament and the Commission. Rather, the objective of the proposal, which I hope will be followed up under the forthcoming Portuguese Presidency, is to offer EU citizens and our partners in the world a single comprehensive report that does justice to the full range of actions undertaken by the three institutions, as well as representing the shared values and objectives in this field.

The Commission welcomes the proposals contained in the report to increase synergies between the three institutions, and to take full advantage of their specific aims as regards promoting human rights. In this regard, I would like to refer specifically to the study of the European Inter-University Centre, which we support. This study provides a number of practical suggestions that merit our full attention. In the same spirit, the good cooperation between our institutions regarding human rights was certainly reflected when introducing the new democratic scrutiny on geographic and thematic cooperation strategies.

The December part-session of the European Parliament, when the EU annual report is presented, is a good occasion to further develop our joint commitment to human rights and democracy.

I would like to mention two examples from the report presented to us today: the UN Human Rights Council and human rights dialogues. Paragraph 22 of the report calls for the EU to make more effective use of its leverage in order to promote important issues on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council and to better fine-tune its lobbying and outreach activities. As you know, the Commission was initially somewhat sceptical about this council, and felt that even when it was endorsed at the UN General Assembly in 2005, it was not ambitious enough. Doubts remain with respect to this for the following reasons.

The composition has hardly improved. In terms of dealing with country situations, fewer are at the centre of attention and a question mark hangs over the future of the mandates of special mechanisms. Yet there are positive signs, such as the mission to Darfur and the unanimous resolution thereafter. I believe it would be wrong to give up on what is still the most important global human rights forum. On the contrary, we will have to redouble our efforts to make it work better, in the interests of all those peoples whose rights are seriously violated every day.

The EU and like-minded partners have to break the cycle of politicisation and reach out more effectively to partner countries among the G27.

Parliament has closely followed particular developments in the new UN body from its inception, notably through programming missions and inviting its current chair to discuss issues of common interest. In view of the mission planned for next June, I would suggest an informal meeting among the three institutions in order to inform you of the assessments of the situation and to offer our full support in the preparation of the mission.

Paragraph 78 of the report also calls for increased involvement of the European Parliament in human rights dialogues with third countries. These dialogues have become an essential tool for us in promoting respect for human rights, although there is, of course, a mixed track record depending on the dialogue partner. It would certainly increase our leverage if we could move our exchanges with these countries to beyond those with people in executive power. While in practice there might be obstacles to allow full European Parliament participation in the formal dialogue meetings, parliament-to-parliament dialogues would certainly complement the ongoing efforts. I look forward to Parliament’s own-initiative report on this subject for constructive proposals. In any case, I see advantages in an improved information exchange between European Union institutions and the preparation, implementation and follow-up of dialogue exercises.

Let me now turn to the second issue on our agenda. I should like to emphasise how important it is for the European Union to continue to promote the universal abolition of the death penalty. It represents a key objective of our human rights policy and I am personally committed to seeing the European Union play a lead role in this effort, notably within the United Nations. I therefore welcome any initiative to discuss how to achieve a universal moratorium on the death penalty. A UN General Assembly resolution on this matter would certainly be an important step. However, as we also discussed at this week’s Council meeting, we have to plan the timing of such an effort very carefully. A resolution would be effective only if it is endorsed by a clear majority of UN Member States, and we need to prepare the ground well before submitting such a project.

On these and all other issues before us, let us keep in mind our common overarching goal of advancing human rights and democracy, and of working pragmatically side by side to reach it.

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase, în numele grupului PPE-DE. – Doresc în primul rând să mulţumesc colegului Simon Coveney pentru concluziile constructive din raportul său şi, mai ales, pentru recomandările făcute cu privire la dialogul şi consultările Uniunii Europene în domeniul drepturilor omului cu ţările terţe, subiect al unui viitor raport la care am onoare să fiu shadow rapporteur. Respectarea drepturilor omului, a principiilor democratice şi a bunei guvernări reprezintă însăşi esenţa Uniunii Europene. Este obligaţia noastră morală de a promova aceste valori în numele păcii şi dezvoltării în întreaga lume. Intensificarea continuă a eforturilor noastre în promovarea democraţiei în vecinătatea Uniunii Europene trebuie să constituie, fără îndoială, o prioritate a politicii Uniunii Europene în domeniul drepturilor omului. Crearea unui spaţiu veritabil de democraţie la frontiera noastră externă şi asigurarea ireversibilităţii acestui proces este una dintre condiţiile necesare pentru a asigura stabilitatea şi dezvoltarea durabilă în ţările vecine. În sfârşit, promovarea drepturilor omului în vecinătatea Uniunii Europene trebuie să beneficieze de toate instrumentele Uniunii Europene care îi stau la dispoziţie.

Salut şi eforturile recente de a impulsiona aceste activităţi prin instrumente de cooperare regională, inclusiv prin cooperare cu şi în cadrul zonei Mării Negre. Îmi exprim în acest sens speranţa că acţiunile propuse în domeniul democraţiei şi drepturilor omului în cadrul noii comunicări a Comisiei Europene privind sinergia în Marea Neagră vor fi implementate cât mai rapid şi mai eficient.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PL) Madam President, first I would like to congratulate Simon Coveney on his contribution in presenting this report before this House. As co-rapporteur for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, I would also like to thank Mr Coveney for his cooperation. Mr Coveney’s cooperation with other political groups should serve as a model for political work in this House, which I would like to point out to everyone here.

The report before us is one of the most important documents in the European Parliament. The question of the world human rights report relates to the way the material is organised, as we have to deal with numerous reports on human rights infringements all over the world. They are provided by international organisations such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International. They are also provided by the parliaments of the Member States, as well as the US Congress. This puts this House in the difficult situation of collating all the most important human rights issues in the one report.

We have worked very closely with international organisations – Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – and the national parliaments of Member States, whilst in the EU-US delegation we conducted a dialogue with US congressmen and senators on the human rights infringements described in this report.

One of the main things we need to concentrate on now is the question of how effective the European Parliament is as regards human rights. I would like to point to what I believe are our successes over the past year. For example, upholding human rights in Belarus, or the Commission’s activities regarding the CIA’s use of European countries to transport and illegally detain prisoners and its report to Parliament on this. Parliament can undoubtedly be proud of these achievements. Human rights must be a key policy platform in the European Union’s foreign policy.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Madam President, first of all I also wish to thank Simon Coveney for his excellent levels of cooperation. The debate has gone well and we should be fairly satisfied with the outcome. I also agree with Mr Pinior that this is a very important document we are talking about. The problem is just that we only realise how important human rights and fundamental rights are when we actually address these issues and there are problems.

One major problem that Parliament and the European Union have is that the EU seems loath to check and see directly how human rights work in its own Member States. Are human and fundamental rights in the EU being implemented in the way which we teach outsiders to implement them and which we expect of third countries?

This report is thus an excellent one. It alludes to many aspects of the unsatisfactory state of affairs that exists internationally which we need to look into and in which the EU has done some creditable work. Our work in the struggle for human rights, however, will merely become sanctimonious words if we do not have the courage to look in the mirror.

One problem that came to light last year was the cooperation which European Countries showed the US intelligence services. In the fight against terrorism the United States of America has been able to trust in the EU and individual Member States more than perhaps we would like to admit.

A common document on human rights, which was proposed by the Commission, is in my view an excellent idea. It would also enable us to take action at just the right time and as a body of three institutions working together. I think that we should definitely consider this.

 
  
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  Inese Vaidere, on behalf of the UEN Group. (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank Simon Coveney for his really excellent work in drafting this report. It is realistic and at the same time healthily critical. We have to agree with his assessment of the UN human rights council’s first year’s work. It has not been altogether successful, and the resolutions adopted have been weak. Another positive aspect is that the report is self-critical in discussing Parliament’s activity in the field of human rights. In view of deteriorating democracy, freedom of speech, press freedom and the worsening human rights situation in Russia, the Commission and the Council must in the new partnership and cooperation treaty impose on Russia, in addition to the human rights clause, more stringent requirements, creating more effective monitoring procedures. The Council and the Commission must do all they can to minimise breaches of human rights in Belarus. This week’s comment by President Lukashenko, speaking about the improvement of relations between Belarus and Russia – ‘We don’t need inspectors, supervisors or teachers!’ – is a signal that the European Union should not only carefully monitor the situation but also increase support for activities by civil society and the opposition in Belarus. Thank you.

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, I unreservedly join with those who have congratulated Mr Coveney. He has produced an outstanding piece of work. His report does not catalogue the violations in the world, as you have seen. He makes a genuine effort to evaluate the human rights and democracy policy implemented by the European Union, and I would really emphasise the added value of such an analysis when it comes to successfully increasing the consistency and impact of our actions. I also welcome the action announced by the Council Presidency as that with which it intends to follow up this report.

In the light of this, Parliament believes that its participation, in one form or another, in the dialogue on human rights and its involvement in the implementation of the guidelines are crucial to making the dialogue and the guidelines more effective. I note, moreover, that the effectiveness of the guidelines is harmed by the fact that Union missions in some countries are at times still unaware of them. It therefore remains important – imperative – to inform the missions and to enlist their support, so that maximum use is made of these guidelines.

I should like to emphasise, as you have all done, the concerns regarding the United Nations Commission for Human Rights, at a time when a highly promising reform ought to materialise, enabling the United Nations to have a credible, effective body with which to protect human rights and democracy. Too many States that are members of the Human Rights Commission are operating along the wrong lines, working as they are to weaken the creative scope and independence of the special procedures, and are promoting a partisan vision. The Union must do all it can - and we support you in this regard - to establish the prestige of this international body, the only one that can still hear the complaints of the world’s victims of human rights violations.

This report also enables me to emphasise our commitment towards human rights defenders. The new measures contained within the EIDHR (European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights) will be an opportunity for the Union to formalise its action by making it possible for human rights defenders quickly to receive support and protection in emergency situations.

 
  
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  Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Madam President, around the world, 5 186 convicted criminals are awaiting the day on which they pass the point of no return on their way to their deaths. As recently as 19 April, family members of five Bulgarian nurses were in Parliament condemning the oblique process whereby the Libyan authorities sentenced them to death. When this morning we discussed our relations with the United States, there was much more reference to shared values than criticism of the fact that the death penalty remains in force in 38 US States.

In over 100 countries the death penalty remains in force, and in many of those that have abolished it there are people campaigning for it to be reintroduced. Populism, authoritarianism and the unlawful war on terror have plunged our societies into security-obsessed lunacy. The European initiative for imposing a universal moratorium is not only a step in the direction of abolition. At this time, it is a sign of hope in the face of this onslaught.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Madam President, on the subject of human rights I would like to draw attention to the plight of a political prisoner in the European Union. He has been imprisoned in Rome for the last four months. He is now in poor health both physically and mentally. He is being held without prospects of release or trial to try and break his will, in an attempt to force him to sign false confessions against himself and others. His name is Mario Scaramella and his alleged offences are contrived accusations without foundation.

Mr Scaramella was, of course, the man who went to London in November 2006 to warn Alexander Litvinenko that he was about to be murdered. Mr Scaramella and Mr Litvinenko had both been associated with the Mitrokhin Commission for investigating links between Italian politicians and the KGB. Mr Scaramella should be released and returned to his family immediately, pending any trial.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, in this my 100th speech in this House I am glad to be talking about human rights: something which we all take for granted, but to which millions can only yet aspire. As a major player, particularly in trade, the EU has a key role to play. We are good on all the platitudes about human rights, but do we see them through? Take China, for example, with whom we facilitate vast trade. Frankly, however, we do little to insist on parallel human rights compliance. We could do so much more.

Vested interest is no excuse, nor is it when it comes to Western-friendly Pakistan. There, increasingly savage persecution of Christians is rampant under the aegis of Islamic extremism, wicked blasphemy laws and forced conversions. Here the EU’s role is not just complacent or ambivalent: it is an area where we are complicit through the millions of euros which we pour into the madrassas. Many of these schools, like Lalmasjid, are training grounds for Islamic extremism, so why do we keep funding them?

Both in our trade agreements and in our development aid, we need to proof our actions more robustly against true human rights standards.

I conclude by commending the rapporteur for yet another comprehensive report.

 
  
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  Maria da Assunção Esteves (PPE-DE).(PT) It was in the heart of Europe, in Königsberg as it was known at the time, that the philosopher Immanuel Kant said ‘every human being is an end in himself’, that most universal principle of justice. The EU was built, and has since grown, on the foundations of a culture of rights and on the view that each individual is an entirely unique being. This view, both political and moral in nature, is what characterises the European project.

Today as never before, Europe’s destiny is defined by its ability to take centre stage in the fight for rights around the world. In this sense, an immense amount of hope is invested in Europe. The frontiers we have yet to conquer are those that separate barbarism from civilisation. Loyal to its visionary founder, the EU must not succumb to the temptations of strategic interests and of Realpolitik.

We have to admit that Europe must fill the void left behind by other democratic powers in the fight for human rights. To this end, what is needed is political integration, a willingness to make decisions and universal rights. What is needed is a Constitution, and for human rights to be an issue cutting across all measures and defended on all fronts. It is appropriate to point out that fundamental rights are not only violated in the dark depths of underdevelopment and of dictatorships; purportedly advanced democracies practise the death penalty, whilst we remain silent. On this issue, the EU must not operate double standards.

During the summit between the EU and the USA it would be good if the death penalty were on the political agenda. It would be good if Parliament’s resolution on the death penalty were to gain ground and become more than just a pipe dream. One thing is for sure: the diagnosis of the serious problems we face can be found in the question of human rights. There can be no dialogue between people, no end to conflict, no security and no freedom unless the world becomes a fairer place.

 
  
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  Raimon Obiols i Germà (PSE). – (ES) The quality of the Coveney report has been clearly confirmed by the very broad support that it received in the vote in the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Mr Coveney has been able to reconcile the points of view of the different groups and, in our view, has quite rightly continued with the new approach to these reports that was introduced by Richard Howitt with the report corresponding to 2005.

The result of the vote on the amendments reflects a reasonable consensus amongst the groups and a relative lack of points of conflict. This offers the world an image of a Parliament that is united in the field of protecting and promoting human rights, which is something we all want to see.

In order to increase our authority, in order to ensure that this text becomes a reference text, calm, precision and the greatest possible consensus are required. I believe that this Coveney report has represented a clear step forwards in that direction.

We must work hard to send out an important message: Europe must not allow itself to apply different standards for each country when judging human rights in the world: regardless of the interests at stake, the European Union’s approach to human rights must be unequivocal and forthright.

I must say that, in our view, the text does not sufficiently reflect the fact that, in today's world, in the fight against terrorism, we are unfortunately seeing a proliferation of detention centres that are not subject to the rule of law, whose practices do not conform to the law of the State establishing them: I am talking about Guantánamo and I am talking about the secret prisons.

For we Socialists, putting an end to these illegal situations in the world is a crucial objective.

For us, the motion for a resolution on the universal moratorium on the death penalty is a similar priority. It is good news that the Council has this week expressed its intention to promote and maintain the effort that all of the groups in this House are calling for.

 
  
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  Marco Pannella (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, Mr Borg, Mr Gloser, ladies and gentlemen, I have 60 seconds to deal with the important subject of the moratorium on the death penalty.

Since I cannot deal with this subject as I should, I intend straight after this to provide documentary evidence elsewhere of the Council’s actual malfeasance, its real betrayal of rules and promises over the last ten years. In the United Nations, the attempt to prevent the moratorium on the death penalty from being proclaimed has been going on for 14 years.

In 1994 we in fact failed to secure a resolution on a moratorium by four votes, four votes cast by fundamentalist supporters of abolition against the reality of a moratorium that had already been won. President-in-Office of the Council, 14 years ago there were 97 countries in the United Nations in favour of the death penalty. Today there are 51.

Ever since 1988 we have shown you that there is a safe majority, and I do not care whether it was because of the interests of China, the United States or a Europe that is again not behaving like Europe, but you have failed in your obligations towards Parliament.

At 6.30 this evening I shall prove to the press that in the Council on 16 and 17 April you made a very serious attempt to fraudulently go back on what you said you accepted. I cannot find an Italian word to describe that; it was a genuine forfaiture, a malfeasance, and I accuse you of this: ‘Ou pas ça, ou pas vous!’ – either that goes or you go!

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (UEN). – Madam President, one area where the European Union should play a leadership role is in the field of protecting and promoting human rights in the Middle East. As a Community of 27 Member States, representing 500 million people, the European Union is in a position to act as an honest broker in the Middle East.

I welcome the recent formation of the Palestinian Unity Government. This is a positive development, which could lead to a political consensus being built up in that region and which would create peaceful relations between the Palestinian and Israeli people.

However, the human rights of the Palestinian people must be respected. Israel should immediately release all detained Palestinian legislators. Equally, the Israeli soldier Corporal Shalit, who is being held in Palestine, must be released immediately.

The urgent challenge now is the resumption of a credible political process which would provide peace and security to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The European Union must positively engage with the new Palestinian Unity Government. We must not only give political support but also be in a position to financially support economic regeneration in Palestinian areas.

Finally, I wish to compliment my Irish colleague, Mr Coveney, on an excellent report.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, as draftsman for the Committee on Development on the financing instrument for the promotion of human rights, I particularly emphasised the role of democracy and respect for human rights in the economic, political and social development of many non-EU countries.

The report before us, however, gives us a chance to look at the situation at home as well, where cases of religious, racial and gender intolerance are still, unfortunately, the order of the day. Abandoned children on the streets or in decaying institutions, domestic violence and homophobic attacks, to mention just a few examples, remain a problem, and we must therefore promote measures to diminish such occurrences.

With regard to the external dimension, there is a clear lack of consistency between our good intentions and proposals on the one hand and our trade policies, development aid and foreign policy on the other. In Latin America, our aid priorities are trade and higher education, while millions of children either have no access to primary education or abandon it. In this respect, I would mention that literacy is a right, as well as one of the Millennium Goals.

In our relations with China, the United States or Russia, the human rights chapter is all too often not given due attention. Furthermore, the seriousness of the situation in some countries, such as Cuba or Belarus, is underestimated, and Parliament’s resolutions and the debates on urgent matters that take place here are disregarded.

The 2006 report therefore reads more like a list of what has not been done rather than a series of successes. It must, however, be emphasised that, until the European Union has a single strong voice in foreign policy, countless objectives are destined to remain just that – objectives.

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE-DE). – (HU) First of all I would like to congratulate my fellow Member Mr Coveney for this finely composed report analysing a very important subject. The rapporteur has succeeded in the 2006 Annual Report in directing our attention to specific ways in which greater commitment on the part of the EU institutions or Member States could truly help resolve problematic situations, in the area of the defence of human rights across the globe. Moreover, the ways in which this may be done are all present in the report. The practical ways in which they can contribute to this are well known: regional trade agreements, the system of bilateral agreements between Member States and the five EU policy guidelines in the area of human rights, which the embassies of Member States and the EU missions should apply systematically around the world.

I consider it important that the text states: the EU's internal human rights record has a direct impact on its credibility and ability to implement an effective external policy. I wish therefore to call attention to those regions where human rights problems outside the EU have long since become our own internal problems as well. These include promoting the rights of children, and combating the trafficking in women and children, which claims 100 000-120 000 victims each year right here in the European Union, and of whom 40% are children. Just as important is a greater sensitivity and attention to the situation of ethnic or indigenous national minorities, which is likewise awaiting solutions within the EU or in regions bordering on the Union such as Voivodina or the Lower Carpathians. In the case of national and ethnic minorities, the ban on discrimination is the minimum necessary but not sufficient condition for the defence of these communities.

Finally, allow me, dear colleagues, as the delegate of the People’s Party to the Fundamental Rights Agency, to express my hope that the new EU agency launched on 1 March may, through its own work and in collaboration, lend credibility to the EU’s measures aimed at improving the situation of human rights around the world.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE).(FR) Madam President, I should like to congratulate Mr Coveney. The European Union’s biggest problem, which is reflected very well in the report, is that it does not have any standards or a mechanism for protecting national minorities. Not far from here – 500 metres away – the Council of Europe has correctly understood – unlike us, in this House, who still have not – that human rights and the rights of national minorities are closely linked, while being two, altogether distinct, matters.

I am in complete agreement with Mrs Gál and Mrs Jäätteenmäki: the European Union’s credibility depends on its internal situation. What is the situation of the Slovenians in Austria or Italy? This is an indigenous traditional national minority. In Latvia, there are 450 000 people of Russian origin who are not citizens of that country, a Member State of the European Union. France has never ratified the two Council of Europe documents that are indispensable to the new Member States.

That is why there are double standards and why we do not have any real credibility when we criticise third countries. We must get our fundamental rights agency in Vienna involved and remedy this deficiency in the next report.

I have not yet spoken of the complete crisis that is the integration of the new migrant minorities in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. This is the biggest challenge facing Europe: the ability of migrant minorities to be integrated into the countries of western Europe. I believe that it will not be possible to avoid these problems in the future, as they are crucial problems for the whole of Europe and for the whole of the European Union.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, in his report, the rapporteur not only gives us an outstanding and critical analysis, but also proposes conclusions and calls for action in response, and that I regard as a good thing, so let me draw your attention to the chapter on armed conflicts and the European Security and Defence Policy.

Why do I do this? It is quite clear that human rights are trampled on wherever people are taking up arms against one another, and this is currently happening in many African states, with the consequences being felt in Europe. Many people, in search of a better life, get into the clutches of people-smugglers and get stranded as illegal immigrants on the Spanish coastline; that happened to 31 000 people last year alone, and we are already seeing a similarly tragic state of affairs developing in the early months of this year.

In his report, Mr Coveney speaks highly of the Austrian Presidency, and his reason for doing so is that it was under the Austrian Presidency that implementation strategies were agreed on, according to which human rights issues have to be considered when planning operations under the European Security and Defence Policy. What we now have to do is to demand that these things be actually put into practice, and I ask the Council, as a matter of great urgency, to arrange in future more effective deployments of military and police structures – of the kind we have seen in Kinshasa – in other states too, for these help us to build up basic structures in these states and to ensure their stability and security.

Firstly, democratic structures are put in place; secondly, human rights are thereafter actually observed, and, thirdly, we create the conditions under which fundamental economic structures can be established, and all these things have positive effects on the states in question, the people who live in them and on us, in that illegal immigration to Europe is reduced.

If, in addition to that, we also manage to include the Commission’s foreign aid programmes, I hope that there will be far more respect for human rights in these states than there has been to date.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, firstly may I congratulate Mr Coveney. In his report, he has adopted the new approach which we agreed last year, that the work of Parliament, in terms of an annual human rights report, should be to scrutinise what is done by Council and the Commission and advancing what we can do throughout the European Union to promote human rights, not simply acting as a commentary.

I thank him and congratulate him for that. I was very sad to hear that he will be pursuing a national parliamentary career in future and not standing again for this Parliament. I just want to place on record that he has been a good champion of human rights and a good colleague of ours.

In this debate, I believe we can emphasise that the European Union can do more to promote human rights. Many of us are concerned. Parliament will continue to be intimately involved in ensuring that Europe’s actions and involvement in the UN Human Rights Council are more effective. It has not made the start that we all hoped for. In the resolution, we drew attention to the fact that the Commission is chairing the Kimberley Process. Let us use that to get the independent verification system that the NGOs called for by St Valentine’s Day 2007, which was a good aim.

We welcome the fact that after our criticisms of Europe’s position vis-à-vis Belarus and the ILO last year, and given the attacks and harassment of trade unionists, the Commission has now recommended pulling out of trade preferences for Belarus. You have listened. Thank you for that. We can do more.

On human rights treaties, we are concerned about cluster bombs. Many European countries, led by Belgium and including, I am pleased to say, my own country the United Kingdom, now support a binding treaty to ban cluster bombs.

I am deeply happy that Europe has led the campaign for the UN Convention on disabled people’s rights. That was the fastest agreed human rights convention in the UN’s history. The European Communities have signed up to it for the first time. Next year, let the Communities and the Member States sign the optional protocol so that there is a complaints procedure. Show us that you are still listening.

 
  
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  Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, allow me, first of all, to congratulate Mr Coveney not only on the quality and scope of his work, which has culminated in this comprehensive and exhaustive text, but also on the openmindedness that he has demonstrated in order to secure, in this House, the broadest possible consensus on this first-rate text. He has thus agreed to take into consideration and to co-sign almost all of the amendments that I submitted to him in committee, and I thank him for having done so.

This text has the virtue of addressing all of the difficult issues and of covering several geographical areas. I particularly support the emphasis placed on the activity of the new UN Human Rights Commission, on the tragic situation in Darfur and on the repeated human rights violations in Russia.

With regard to the activity of the European Parliament and, more specifically, of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, I believe that we can all be pleased with the constructive work of the report, which has made it possible, for example, for the new financial instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights swiftly to be adopted.

Furthermore, I believe that this report is timely in pointing out the crucial interaction between the internal and external dimensions of Europe’s human rights policy. Now more than ever, each of our Member States must serve as an example in this matter. Our responsibility and our credibility outside Europe depend on it. I welcome, in this regard, the adoption, last week, by the justice ministers, of the decision on common criminal sanctions against racism and revisionism. Once again, I congratulate the rapporteur on this text and offer him my full support.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, an EU based on values such as the defence of human dignity, the principles of democracy and individual freedom must constantly send out clear messages that it is prepared not only to make assurances that it upholds these values, but to actively fight for them and for all those who are persecuted for their beliefs, their religion or who are tortured or imprisoned for their views.

The report draws due attention to the need for an international peace strategy for the Darfur region, in which the EU must coordinate with the UN Supreme Council on Human Rights. Only an effective engagement of the EU at UN level will allow fast and effective measures to be taken to provide a targeted response to this humanitarian tragedy in Africa.

There are, however, many unresolved issues on which no progress has been made over the past year. One of these is the fate of the five Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor who have been imprisoned and condemned to death in Libya on ridiculous charges of intentionally infecting children with HIV, the breaches of the rights of religious minorities in China, restrictions on freedom of speech and repressions against pro-democracy activists in Russia, terror in communist Cuba, and finally Turkey. The situation in the latter is of great concern.

Turkey with its aspirations for EU membership, has not made any substantial progress in defending human rights. In fact, freedom of religion has been significantly undermined, as the tragic events of recent days show, when three Christians working at a publishing house which prints the Bible, were killed. The Turkish media seems absorbed in a witch-hunt in which Christians are the victims.

In my view the 50th anniversary of the European Communities and the debate on the future Treaty are a good occasion for drawing up a new and effective policy for defending human rights outside our boundaries. The European Union’s international role in this respect must be strengthened, relevant legislation must be incorporated into the new treaty, and in particular, we need to re-think the role of the Agency for Fundamental Rights in this matter.

 
  
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  David Casa (PPE-DE). – (MT) Thank you, Mr President. Very often when we talk about human rights, developing world countries immediately spring to mind, and it is good that we should take the necessary steps to see what can be done to ensure that the citizens of these countries are protected and are given the dignity they deserve.

However, I also have to express my concern about the fact that these rights are being trampled on in European Union countries or countries that wish to become Member States of the European Union.

For example, a few days ago in a country that aspires to accede to the European Union, four people were brutally murdered because of their religious beliefs. This is unacceptable and must be condemned. The European Union has to be tough and stop giving aid to any country that fails to respect minority rights or to any country that does not recognise and respect minorities within it, as well as to any country that does not respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

We must take immediate action and we simply cannot accept that, in the year 2007, there are countries ruled by dictators who deny the right to freedom of expression, as is unfortunately happening in Venezuela. It is deplorable that, in this day and age, ethnic minorities are ignored. A person’s race, skin colour and beliefs must always be respected. We must work to ensure that nobody is left behind and that no one fails to respect these sacrosanct rights. It is not acceptable, however, that the resolutions adopted by Parliament should be ignored by the Commission. This Parliament is the only institution whose representatives are elected democratically. These resolutions adopted by Parliament are aimed at putting a message across, and the Council and Commission should acknowledge the message and not ignore resolutions that have been adopted by this institution, as has unfortunately happened in the past.

Finally Mr President, I too would like to congratulate my colleague Simon Coveney for his marvellous report on the topic we are currently debating.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my gratitude to you for this lively debate on Mr Coveney’s report, a debate in which nobody – not even the Presidency – has claimed that we can be satisfied with the human rights situation around the world; the reverse is the case, for it is a daily occurrence to see human rights trampled underfoot.

I cannot allow the argument – which I think originated from Mr Allister – that the European Union is turning a blind eye, to go unchallenged. Even though we cannot be satisfied with the way things are, and even if we suffer setbacks, the Union has, in the past, done a very great deal to change things and improve the conditions under which people live. I can, for example, refer the House to something that has featured in various committees over the past few days and also in the plenary debate this morning, namely the fact that, in the ongoing discussion of the Central Asia strategy in the Council of Foreign Ministers last Monday, not only was consideration given to our interests in energy and resources – which sometimes calls forth criticism – but we also expressed the desire for an in-depth human rights dialogue with the countries of Central Asia. We take exactly the same line with China, even though we cannot always see the necessary progress immediately.

Last Tuesday, in Luxembourg, there was a meeting between the EU and ECOWAS, the countries of the West African Economic Community, and that again made clear just how important the human rights process is in those countries. Perhaps, too, I could refer you back to last year’s summit meeting of the African Union and the European Union on the subject of migration, which discussed how to address the factors that cause people to become refugees.

The fact is that we cannot deal with all of them; it is important that we should have protective measures, but good governance, giving people prospects and securing their freedom and fundamental liberties are essential if it is to be ensured that people stay in their own countries, and I do believe that the European Union, not least through many actions under the ESDP, has helped to secure respect for human rights.

There is another point I would like to make specifically for Mr Pannella’s benefit, and it is that there has been no conspiracy on the part of the Presidency, and the Council too, which once more considered the issue of the moratorium for the death penalty on Monday, wants it made perfectly clear that that is what we are campaigning for. Nor are there any delay mechanisms in place, so it can be said loud and clear that the German Presidency, supported by all the Member States, will step up its démarches and its endeavours to achieve this common objective, in order that we may be able, in May, to achieve it by means of the submission of a final report.

It would be a shame, though, if precipitate action at United Nations level were ultimately to deny us the achievement of that objective for lack of the necessary majorities.

I would like, once more, to thank your House for this lively debate. In many interventions, you have made it clear that you are not going to relax your grip and that you want to make sure that the Presidency, the Member States, the governments, and the parliaments, too, do not allow this issue to recede into the background, but instead keep it right at the top of the agenda.

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I warmly welcome the adoption of this report and will pass on the valuable suggestions you have made during the debate and in the report to Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner.

I would like to emphasise that the Commission fully shares the European Parliament’s support for the EU Guidelines on Human Rights, which are potentially one of the most effective instruments the EU has in this field.

Within this framework I am happy to announce that the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights will be the main focus of this year’s internal training programme on human rights for Commission staff, and we will also instruct our delegations accordingly.

The Commission has reservations regarding the suggestion the report makes to identify, in the context of the annual report, a list of countries of particular concern with respect to human rights violations. We should avoid listings in this area as it would be difficult to establish the criteria based on such general grounds. This is different from listing, for example, countries allowing the recruitment of child soldiers, where there are very clear indicators. The Commission would prefer to support the practice of identifying countries to be targeted by demarches and actions on a case-by-case basis.

Let me now briefly touch upon some of the issues raised during this debate.

Concerning Guantánamo, the European Union has underlined repeatedly that the fight against terrorism must be conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Commission believes that the Geneva Conventions apply to all persons captured on the field of battle. The Commission also takes the view that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention against Torture apply to Guantánamo Bay. Every person detained must enjoy a status under international law and is entitled not to be detained arbitrarily and to receive due process and a fair trial. Guantánamo is an anomaly and the European Union continues to call for its closure.

Concerning Belarus, the Commission will continue to work to counter human rights abuses in Belarus. Although the authoritarian nature of the current government makes it impossible for the European Union to offer Belarus full participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Commission believes that the launch of the shadow ENP action plan for Belarus has been very useful in raising awareness amongst Belarusian citizens of the benefits which the European Neighbourhood Policy would offer if the authorities were to demonstrate respect for democratic values and human rights. The Commission is already funding a wide range of projects to support civil society, such as projects to promote freedom of the media in Belarus and to support the European Humanities University in exile. The Commission will naturally seek to support similar initiatives in the future.

The European Union continues to hold human rights consultations with Russia twice each year. Those consultations give the European Union the opportunity to raise a wide variety of concerns, such as the situation in Chechnya, the treatment of human rights defenders and the impact of the revised NGO and anti-extremist laws. Moreover, the European Union does not raise human rights issues only at the consultations, but also at other meetings as appropriate.

Concerning China, the Commission welcomes Parliament’s constructive comments on the EU-China human rights dialogue. The Commission also recognises that there is a need to strengthen and improve the EU-China human rights dialogue and has said as much in the clearest of terms in its recent communication, ‘EU-China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities’.

Some of the hard-won successes over the last 10 years should not go unnoticed. The visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture in December 2005 had been a regular request of the EU for over five years. His arrival in Beijing was therefore a considerable achievement. The review of death penalty cases by the Supreme Court, as mentioned in Parliament’s report, has been a key delivery of the dialogue.

In relation to forced labour, the Commission, like Parliament, is concerned at the high incidence of Laogai camps and the export of goods produced within them.

Concerning the Human Rights Council, as I had the opportunity to state earlier, and notwithstanding initial scepticism, this remains the most important human rights forum and has shown positive signs, such as in the case of Darfur. The Commission is committed to working with the other EU institutions and like-minded partners to break the HRC’s politicisation, and to working with partner countries.

Concerning the Fundamental Rights Agency, it was clear from the debate in the Council during the adoption of the regulation creating the Agency that the weight of opinion is clearly against extending the mandate of that Agency to cover third countries. Nevertheless, the regulation provides that, after the Agency has been in operation for three years, an evaluation of its performance will be undertaken. That evaluation would cover the question of whether the scope or tasks of the Agency should be extended.

 
  
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  President. To conclude the debate, I have received one motion for a resolution(1) pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12.00 noon.

Incidentally, since we have heard that Mr Coveney is going to leave our Parliament, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him not just on this wonderful report, which has been recognised as such by all of the speakers, but also on the work that he has been doing, and to wish him every success and happiness in his new duties and activities.

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) Mr President, the remarks in the human rights report on the situation in Turkey now deserve to be updated with the latest news. I refer to the brutal murder that took place last week in Malatya. Five young Muslim students broke into the office of a small Christian publishing house, tied three men to chairs by their hands and feet and tortured them, and in the end slit the throats of all of them. One of the murdered men was a 46 year-old German with three children of school age: the other two were Turkish. There were more than 160 stab wounds on the German’s body.

Regrettably, what happened cannot be seen merely as a one-off act of violence, with no political dimension. Its connection with the propaganda which is practised and tolerated in the country is very evident: prior to the killing there had been anti-Christian, and especially anti-missionary, propaganda going on for years throughout Turkey, and particularly in Malatya. The media in all its forms as well as authorities, the police, the Governor, imams and teachers joined in. The same sort of propaganda is discernible in the media all over the country, and it has occasionally assumed absurd proportions, when, for example, claims are made that missionaries are trying to divide Turkey to get their hands on the country’s huge mineral resources.

The events are a logical consequence of the sort of nationalism and xenophobia which the media engages in. Its target is sometimes Kurds, and sometimes Jews or Christians. It is odd that whilst freedom of speech under Article 301 of Turkish penal code is dramatically restricted, the same Article on the denigration of Turkishness seems to prompt people to engage in writing material that is quite without justification and is felt to act as the fuel in these acts of violence.

I would stress that I am not opposed to Turkish membership of the EU. Turkey nevertheless has to be able to convince Europe that it wants to put an end to this propaganda, which has become part of everyday life and which is now costing human lives.

 
  
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  Jules Maaten (ALDE), in writing. (NL) I warmly welcome this human rights report, and, in particular, the line it takes on self-evaluation. It is important for the efficacy of European human rights policy to be held up to the light, and for a critical assessment to be drawn up.

I am equally persuaded that consistent European foreign policy must give absolute priority to promoting democracy, since a democratic society can be the only basis for respect of human rights.

I am also in favour of an independent, operational European instrument for promoting democracy, broadly modelled on the example of the Endowment for Democracy in the United States, because we need a human rights policy that is independent of diplomatic or economic relations.

 
  

(1) see Minutes.

Last updated: 6 July 2007Legal notice