Der Präsident. − Als nächster Punkt folgt die Fragestunde mit der Vizepräsidentin der Kommission und Hohen Vertreterin der Europäischen Union für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik.
Wir haben es hier mit einer ersten Fragestunde dieser Art zu tun. Frau Ashton hat sich bereit erklärt, zum ersten Mal für eine Fragestunde, wie wir sie sonst mit dem Präsidenten der Kommission abhalten, zur Verfügung zu stehen. Ich will Sie noch einmal an die Regeln erinnern: Die Fragestunde ist in zwei Teile unterteilt, zunächst können die Fraktionsvorsitzenden oder die von ihnen beauftragten Kolleginnen und Kollegen eine Frage von einer Minute stellen, die Frau Ashton jeweils in einer Minute beantworten wird. Ich gebe dann die Möglichkeit – im Falle, dass das gewünscht wird – zu einer Zusatzfrage, die auf eine halbe Minute begrenzt ist, ebenso die Antwort.
Fragen der Fraktionen
José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, en nombre del Grupo PPE. – Señor Presidente, señora Vicepresidenta de la Comisión/Alta Representante de la Unión para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad, quisiera referirme al caso del periódico El Universo de Ecuador.
Los hechos son conocidos: el Presidente de la República ha presentado una querella criminal por un delito de opinión contra el autor, el periódico y los propietarios. Esta querella se ha traducido en una condena, en doble instancia, a tres años y en una multa de 40 millones de dólares, lo que amenaza seriamente la propia viabilidad del periódico.
A este hecho se han referido diversos organismos, como Human Rights Watch, Periodistas sin Fronteras y otros medios e instancias internacionales relacionados con los derechos humanos.
La pregunta, señora Ashton, es muy sencilla: ¿conoce usted estos hechos? y ¿qué opinión le merecen?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I would like to thank Mr Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra for giving me notice of this question. I am very grateful to him.
Indeed the EU delegation is following extremely closely. We know that the USD 40 million fine that has been imposed on the newspaper would put it out of business. As you have rightly pointed out, the facts that lie behind this case are of concern to us. Freedom of the press, freedom of the media is something that I know that people in this House feel very strongly about. It is something that is absolutely at the heart of our European values and therefore we are watching closely.
For the moment, as you know, it has gone to the highest court. We are waiting to see what that judicial process will reveal. We have made it clear that we expect the highest judicial standards to be followed and we are now watching to see what the outcome of the court case will be. Then of course we will decide what further action we should take.
José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, en nombre del Grupo PPE. – Usted sabe, señora Ashton, que el Ecuador se encuentra vinculado a la Unión Europea a través de un Acuerdo de diálogo político y cooperación cuyos elementos esenciales son la cláusula democrática y el respeto de los derechos fundamentales, entre los que se encuentra el derecho a la libertad de expresión.
Ha dicho usted que, efectivamente, el próximo día 10 la Corte Suprema va a resolver en casación este caso, en el que el Presidente Correa ha dicho que, si se le pide perdón, estaría dispuesto a retirar la demanda.
Más allá de la preocupación que usted ha expresado por la libertad de expresión en el Ecuador, ¿qué estaría usted dispuesta a hacer para encontrar una solución equilibrada, justa y respetuosa con el principio de libertad de expresión?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − First of all we have to see what the Court is actually going to do. If the Supreme Court overturns what has been done, then the solution has been found through a judicial process. In my view it would be right and proper to watch the Court and see what happens.
If they do not do that, then I think you are completely right. We have obligations in our agreement and we would want to look at what kind of démarches to take and what response we would like to give. I think the Government of Ecuador knows we are watching the situation extremely closely, but for the moment I feel we should let the judicial process take its course and then react afterwards. We should certainly keep in touch on this.
Véronique De Keyser, au nom du groupe S&D. – Madame la Haute représentante, le 23 septembre dernier, le jour même où Mahmoud Abbas déposait sa demande à l'ONU, le Quartette rédigeait un communiqué de presse établissant une feuille de route qui avait une échéance importante, le 26 janvier. Le 26 janvier, les deux parties devaient définir leurs positions sur la sécurité et sur le tracé des frontières censées fournir la base de ces négociations. Tout le monde a salué cette initiative du Quartette. Le 26 janvier, il ne s'est rien passé. Une partie – les Palestiniens – avait présenté sa position mais les Israéliens ne l'avaient pas fait.
Madame la Haute représentante, la question que je vais vous poser ressemble à celle du film de Labaki, "Et maintenant, on va où?"
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I was with President Abbas on 26 January and before that I was with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I feel very passionately that the work that the King of Jordan has initiated to bring the two chief negotiators together should be supported as long as – and this is your point – there is real progress.
The Quartet statement talked about three months from 26 October but – as I have made clear to both parties and have been very open about – if they wish to carry on talking longer, that is fine. The question is that, within the overall timeframe that was set out, we expect serious resolution to be reached. Currently there is work going on. The Jordanian Foreign Minister is very engaged. I spoke with him yesterday. There is a lot of work going on to try to find ways in which President Abbas can feel comfortable for these conversations to be ongoing, but we watch and wait now in these next few crucial days to see if we can see the progress that you quite rightly point to.
Véronique De Keyser, au nom du groupe S&D. – L'horloge tourne, et très bientôt il y aura probablement des élections en Palestine. En même temps, le Hamas fait actuellement une tournée au Moyen-Orient, puisque Khaled Mechaal est allé en Jordanie aussi.
S'il n'y a pas d'avancée dans le cadre des négociations, c'est effectivement un cadeau que nous ferons au Hamas pour les futures élections en Palestine. Donc, l'enjeu est de taille.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − As always you are right. There is a lot at stake. I met with Hanan Ashrawi and also with Prime Minister Fayyad while I was in the region to talk to them. They are both passionate advocates of seeing the elections happen. They believe it is important to be out campaigning and trying to get a strong resolution. But we are, as always in this region with this issue, at a critical moment. I hope the Government of Israel will show and demonstrate its commitment in some way.
Can I just say that it is very nice to see you because I know you have had an accident. It is lovely to have you here.
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, au nom du groupe ALDE. – Madame la Haute représentante, chers collègues, je voudrais vous emmener sur un autre continent, nommément en Afrique subsaharienne et je voudrais vous interroger concernant les plus récents développements en République démocratique du Congo, où les élections présidentielles, dont les résultats ont été – et demeurent d'ailleurs – contestés, ont eu lieu dans une atmosphère extrêmement controversée, très troublée, et où les résultats des législatives ne sont publiés qu'au compte-gouttes et sont à leur tour contestés.
Je voudrais savoir quel est votre point de vue et quel est le sentiment au sein des institutions de l'Union européenne, à l'heure actuelle, à cet égard?
Deuxièmement, je voudrais pointer du doigt une évolution particulièrement préoccupante au Sénégal, où un candidat fort important a été refusé par la Haute cour et où le président sortant – à mon grand regret, parce que c'est un ami personnel – va quand même participer aux élections pour la troisième fois, et cela en dépit de sa propre Constitution.
PRESIDENZA DELL'ON. ROBERTA ANGELILLI Vicepresidente
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − First of all, in the Democratic Republic of Congo President Kabila has a real responsibility to learn from what has happened in these elections as we move forward to the local elections that are due to take place. You will know that I have put out a statement saying that we needed not just calm, but real reflection on what has happened. I am very worried about the potential for a setback in the DRC. It is extremely worrying.
It is a country for which we have provided a great deal of support – I think it is just over EUR 1 billion over the five-year period – and that is extremely important. We have two missions there which are being reviewed, but I hope reviewed with a purpose, to see what more we can do. It is very worrying to see that.
In terms of what is happening for the Senegalese people, we have been very clear on their rights to be able to demonstrate peacefully, to see that there is no violence of any kind, and that we have everyone adhering to the legal procedures that need to take place. So we will want to follow that electoral process very closely.
As the Honourable Member has such clear contacts, I think this is a good example where the work of parliamentarians is going to be vital. I know that many Members of this House have been engaged with the DRC and with Senegal. We need to keep that up.
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – We will certainly do that, Madam High Representative. Let me express my conviction that, even if someone is a great artist or a personal friend of some MEPs, this does not mean they can flout the constitutional roles that are applicable in their country.
Franziska Katharina Brantner, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Baroness Ashton, the US is moving away from Europe. What does this mean for us? Of course we have to look at the future of pooling and sharing within the common security and defence policy. It is advancing very slowly. Maybe my daughter might see some results one day. It is not your fault – it is the Member States.
However, with that as a background, there are three things that have become even more important and they actually come under your responsibility: first, conflict prevention; second, better crisis management; and third, peace building. These come under your responsibility and we need the best of our tools – former Commission and former Council – coordinated and embedded in one structure in order to develop common concepts and approaches, for example in the rule of law, security sector reform and border management.
Developing common approaches is different from managing day-to-day crises. We need to be ready for crises. I thank you for establishing the crisis platform, but where is the appropriate structure you were promising during the negotiations of the External Action Service? Where is it happening? My question is, when will we see that structure and how will it be reflected in the budget for 2013 that the External Action Service is currently drafting?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I agree with you about the need to move more swiftly on pooling and sharing. I was at the European Defence Agency yesterday, where the theme of what I was saying – which has been widely reported – was the need to see that in this economic climate pooling and sharing becomes even more important.
You are right to refer to what is happening in the United States because the Defense Secretary there, Mr Panetta, has been very clear too. He has high expectations of us. That also means that it needs to be reflected in our structures, and I agree with you. We have just finished what we call the screening exercise to try to pull together exactly how the structure should work. The crisis platform is meant to be the practical manifestation of how everybody works together: testing our systems for the kind of disaster or crisis that we might face – as well as being ready to develop its work – and exporting our ideas on this across the world.
As you know, we have been engaged with the Arab League in supporting the setting-up of a situation room for them. We have just had a team down in Indonesia helping to support their approach to dealing with crisis. We will make sure that we develop this even further. Conflict prevention and crisis management are critical parts of how we move forward.
Franziska Katharina Brantner, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Please would you allow me to have a very precise follow-up question. In the External Action Service we are currently building up the Conflict Prevention and Mediation Unit, which has a great Head. It currently has financing due to a pilot project which was initiated by this House. This runs out at the end of 2012. I do not want to see the work of that Unit coming to an end, so my question is, will you integrate this into the regular budget, starting in 2013? This is now happening in the next two weeks.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I really want it to be integrated into the full budget for two reasons. One is, because of the nature of the way pilot projects run, I cannot use the money in quite the way that we might want to. I want to build up our capacity to deal with these issues and to look at mediation and support in-house as well as externally. I think we really could build on some of the work that we are doing – and I agree with you about the quality of the people we have got – so I am very pleased at the support you offer me on that.
Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – At a time of austerity in Europe, the ECR is concerned about your demands for a further EUR 25 million to cover an expected overspend in this financial year in the External Action Service. It seems to us to betray a desire to grow the service beyond its existing remit, before the EEAS has been able to fully prove that it brings real added value in terms of the improved efficiencies which were promised at the outset, such as cuts in EU Member State bilateral embassies as a result of the new EU multilateral diplomatic input.
It has also become your baby, Baroness Ashton. I must give you initial credit for the setting-up, at a time of general EU crisis, of this controversial service which understandably you believe deserves more taxpayers’ money. But the ECR has consistently argued for budget neutrality and for rationalisation of the EEAS’s resources.
The EU missions and their relative sizes are often still distributed according to historical legacies and, some cynics might even argue, pleasant postings, with large delegations in some parts – e.g. Fiji – and none at all in other growing regional economic hubs, such as Panama, which do not always reflect the EU’s current geopolitical priorities. So please, how can you justify this structural expenditure rise, on top of the existing EUR 400 million a year for their running costs? Why do we need this extra money, Baroness Ashton?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − Let us begin with the reality of the story, which is that we have been allocated a number of staff and a number of delegations across the world, where most of the staff – I should add, and particularly in Fiji – are actually working on development across the region. There are certain places in the world where we have a hub and they go out from that hub to work in different parts of the region. There are several places that I could point to where that is the case.
The second issue is that, in inheriting the staff which I was given, I also inherited the terms and conditions which are part of the regulations and which require me to do certain things. That requires me to have additional expenditure, and I have been very clear and very open about that. The staff regulations demand that I pay these salaries and that I make these salary increases and I make these increments at these times.
The third issue is that Member States and Members of this House have been very keen to see the European Union active in places where we have not been active before. I will give you the example of Libya, where Members here were very pleased when I opened an office in Benghazi and have now opened a delegation in Tripoli, but to do so requires resources that are not in the budget that I inherited.
Equally, I have to make places secure across the world. In Iraq our European Union delegation is housed with the British, who are leaving Iraq. I have to find a secure home for them in this time of great difficulty.
So everything that I am asking for is in that context, but I would also say that I have done a ten-percent cost efficiency on missions, I have done a five-percent cost efficiency on representation and I continue to look, for exactly the reasons that you point out, to save money and not to have excessive expenditure. But there is a challenge for me with a new service, with the expectations of this House and the Council and the requirements that are legally on me, and I am trying to meet those in the most cost-efficient way I can.
Charles Tannock, on behalf of the ECR Group. – I would just like to put a supplementary question. Given the fact that your EEAS is so well funded, what measures are you now planning to undertake to unblock the Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council on augmenting global sanctions against the Syrian regime’s systematic, brutal attempts to repress – including by shooting innocent children and women – the uprising whose demands are simply more freedom and democracy in that country? The EEAS is very well funded. What are you doing right now in New York to unblock the Russian and Chinese vetoes?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I wondered if Mr Tannock was suggesting we should be on the Security Council?
The first thing to say is that we work very closely with our Member States who are on the Security Council. In the discussions I have had with Sergey Lavrov and with the Chinese state councillor, whom I meet with regularly, we always talk about these important issues, of which Syria is number one.
It is absolutely alarming what is going on in Syria and you are absolutely right to point to it, but our delegation in New York – coordinating with all Member States, but working very closely with those Security Council members from the European Union – are pushing every day, every hour with Russia and with China. Last night I spoke with the Russian Ambassador about this very subject – my political director is currently on a plane back from Moscow, where she has spent two days on this – and I spoke with President Medvedev at our summit. It is really important that we try to find something through the Security Council that can really support what Nabil Elaraby and the Arab League have been moving to do. The discussion I had with the GCC was exactly on this so you make an incredibly important point. I accept that.
Willy Meyer, en nombre del Grupo GUE/NGL. – Señora Presidenta, señora Ashton, tenemos un problema de credibilidad a la hora de intentar impedir que algunos Estados se hagan con la tecnología suficiente para tener armamento nuclear.
Son los Estados que tienen capacidad nuclear los que no quieren que otros Estados se hagan con esa tecnología; por lo tanto, yo creo que ha llegado el momento, señora Ashton, de que la Unión Europea impulse un tratado internacional para prohibir y destruir ecológicamente todo el arsenal nuclear mundial.
Yo creo que esa sería la mejor propuesta política creíble, a nivel internacional, para acabar efectivamente con esta hipocresía, por la cual los Estados armados nuclearmente no quieren que otros Estados puedan tener esa capacidad. Me corrijo: no todos; algunos, sí, como es el caso del Estado de Israel, que no ha recibido nunca ninguna sanción, y todos sabemos que tiene armamento nuclear.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − The first thing to say is that you specifically raised the Middle East and, as you know, we play a very active role in looking for a Middle East that is free of weapons of mass destruction. I think that what the international community is engaged in is trying to find the right way to move states which are thinking about nuclear capacity, nuclear weapons capability, and which could potentially pose great danger, and of course to continue the work that has been going on for some time – and which we saw with President Obama in his dialogue over the last few years – to reduce the arsenals of nuclear weapons and to try and move forward in that direction.
It is very important that we take our responsibilities seriously. That of course will bring me to mention Iran where, as you know, I played the role of chief negotiator, on behalf of the E3+3, and where we are consistently trying to deal with this through dialogue while recognising our obligations to put pressure on and to make sure that Iran understands its obligations.
Willy Meyer, en nombre del Grupo GUE/NGL. – Señora Ashton, el problema es que en la misma zona no se ha utilizado la misma vara de medir con otro Estado, que es Israel. No se le ha impuesto nunca ningún embargo, ni ha recibido nunca ninguna advertencia, ningún aviso, y el Estado de Israel tiene armamento nuclear. Por lo tanto, yo creo que ese discurso es el que hay que volver a enderezar.
Y mi última pregunta sobre esta cuestión es que espero que ninguna hoja de ruta de embargos ni sanciones en relación con ningún Estado de la zona pueda terminar en una intervención militar, y que no se esté pensando en una solución así. Yo espero y deseo que no se esté planificando ninguna intervención militar.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I can assure the honourable Member that the Member States of the European Union, in discussing the issues of Iran, were very clear that the twin-track approach that we are describing is the way that we wish to proceed. That approach involves applying pressure, through our economic ability and political ability, to show Iran what it should do, while showing, through our approachability, our desire to hold discussions, dialogue and talks. I think that was very clear.
In terms of the region as a whole, as I have already indicated, we are very engaged in looking to find ways to have a region free of weapons of mass destruction, which of course includes nuclear weapons.
Fiorello Provera, a nome del gruppo EFD. – Signora Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, Alto rappresentante baronessa Ashton, la Primavera araba ha prodotto non solo mutamenti politici ma anche nuove sfide e minacce alla stabilità. Una di queste è il fenomeno crescente del contrabbando di armi.
Dalla caduta di Gheddafi in Libia, le autorità egiziane denunciano un forte aumento dell'attività di contrabbando di armi nella penisola del Sinai. Missili terra-aria, razzi e cannoni antiaerei sono stati trafugati dalle caserme abbandonate dall'esercito libico e alimentano un mercato nero di armi destinate in particolare alla Striscia di Gaza e ad Hamas. Si tratta di un fenomeno molto preoccupante perché queste armi hanno la capacità di abbattere aerei civili in fase di decollo e di atterraggio e possono finire nelle mani di gruppi terroristici come Al-Qaeda, per esempio nel Maghreb.
Com'è possibile, le domando, contribuire a mitigare questa crescente minaccia e con quali possibili alleati?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − It is a very important issue and you are absolutely right, Mr Provera, to raise this. It is an issue that we have been discussing with the Egyptians and with Israel, because of the issues of the Sinai desert, and of course with the Libyan authorities which have engaged with us on looking at how we deal with border management and how we might support them in trying to tackle the huge number of weapons that are in Libya and leaving Libya.
We have also, as you know, developed our Sahel strategy. I met with the foreign ministers of the four countries – Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Algeria – to talk about how we could support them as well, as they try and develop their security strategies for the region: firstly, by a combination of collaboration with those governments to try and find ways in which we can offer our expertise, knowledge and support; and secondly, to try and help them deal with their borders, which is a big issue.
Turning to Gaza, I was there last week. We have a constant theme of trying to keep the crossings open and the tunnels closed, so there can be proper trade. I visited places in Israel which have been on the receiving end of the rockets and missiles that have come from Gaza. All of these things are very high on the agenda of the work we are trying to do in supporting this region in transition.
Fiorello Provera, a nome del gruppo EFD. – Signora Presidente, solo pochi secondi per chiedere all'Alto rappresentante se le autorità libiche sono concretamente in grado di controllare la situazione sul terreno.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − With help, I think, with help. They need international support to do it. They have got people but they need the help from Europeans, from the Americans and others who have got the expertise in how to actually track where weapons are and to destroy weapon stockpiles when they are found.
Béla Kovács (NI). - Tisztelt Főképviselő asszony! Az ITRE Bizottság tagjaként szeretnék kérdezni Öntől: konkrétan az Európai Unió által Irán ellen hozott energiaembargóval kapcsolatban, amely véleményem szerint egyértelműen politikai döntés.
Amikor ez a döntés megszületett, jól átgondolták-e Önök, hogy ennek milyen súlyos következményei lehetnek az európai biztonságos energiaellátásban keletkező zavarokkal kapcsolatban? Hogyan fogjuk majd választóinknak itt Európában elmagyarázni azt, hogy miért kerül egy liter üzemanyag több mint 2 euróba, illetve hogy fogjuk majd megoldani azt a problémát, hogy majd kígyózó sorok fognak kialakulni a benzinkutakon?
Kérdezem én ezt annak a tükrében, hogy tudomásom szerint az iráni állam beengedi területére a Nemzetközi Atomenergia-ügynökség vizsgálóbizottságát, és jelenleg nem találtak, illetve nincs semmiféle bizonyíték arra, hogy Irán valójában háborús célokra fejlesztene ki atomenergiát.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I have to say that this is an interesting interpretation of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report because I would not necessarily – if you will forgive me – agree with you on what they say they have found.
I think you should be reassured that, long before any decisions were taken, there were many discussions, between Member States but also through experts, on looking at the implications, domestically as well as internationally. The purpose of sanctions is to create a strong economic action in order, as I have indicated, to succeed in bringing Iran to the negotiation table.
But, in any sanctions that we introduce, we are very mindful of the domestic impact because the effect is not designed to hurt us. Therefore you will see within the sanctions built-in review periods and periods to check the impact. Just to reassure you further, we also talked with a number of oil-producing countries. I personally did that – I was in the region to do that – as did others, so we could try to guarantee and be certain of that. But all sanctions are kept under review and one of the reasons is to ensure that we understand and we minimise any impact.
Procedura “catch the eye”
Philippe Boulland (PPE). - Madame la Haute représentante, Madagascar est l'un des pays les plus pauvres au monde et vit une crise politique dont l'issue passera par l'application de la feuille de route conduisant aux élections présidentielles et législatives. La croissance de ce pays est négative. En temps normal, notre contribution avoisine les 50 % du budget de ce pays. L'Union européenne a suspendu, à juste titre, son appui budgétaire aux programmes indicatifs nationaux (PIN) des 9e et 10e FED mais pas aux OMD. Pendant ce temps-là, la population souffre et les entreprises implantées à Madagascar sont parfois mises à contribution malgré elles.
Tout en appuyant votre prise de position, nous souhaitons que vous pesiez de tout votre poids, avec la SADC, pour que l'imbroglio juridico-judiciaire concernant le retour de l'ancien président soit réglé au plus tôt, ce sujet étant l'un des éléments les plus sensibles de l'application de cette feuille de route.
Je souhaiterais votre avis sur le sujet et vous indique aussi que le groupe d'amitié Union européenne-Madagascar, que nous venons de créer au Parlement européen, est disponible pour œuvrer avec vous et la Commission dans l'intérêt du peuple malgache et pour la défense des valeurs de notre Union.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − (microphone off at start of speech) ... an offer of help and I would be extremely pleased for us to have the opportunity to talk more about Madagascar. We are very clear that this is a country where Article 96 applies, where you have this unconstitutional change of government. As I understood it from the SADC road map, this was an important African leadership move where, in a sense, we were able to give our conditional backing to the transition process, but I appreciate that this is now a country with immense challenges. Our new ambassador has just arrived and presented credentials and I am hoping that we will get further information on how best we can engage with it, apart from the obvious support that we are offering. It is difficult and we are in touch with SADC to see what more we can do to support them. You are right to point to their road map as being an important element of this, but we should talk further with the group.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras (PPE). - Señora Presidenta, señora Ashton, el método que está siguiendo la Unión Europea en sus relaciones con el régimen iraní es una combinación de diplomacia y sanciones. Pero no nos engañemos: estamos hablando de un régimen brutal, dictatorial e inhumano, y todos sabemos que es imposible razonar con aquellos que son irrazonables. Basta recordar el ataque a la Embajada británica en Teherán para advertir qué concepto tiene el régimen iraní de las relaciones diplomáticas.
En este contexto, mi pregunta concreta es la siguiente: dado que el régimen iraní está claramente violando el Tratado de No Proliferación, ¿no sería indicado establecer una fecha límite, fija e improrrogable, para que cumpla sus obligaciones y, si no lo hace en ese plazo, imponer sanciones adicionales realmente efectivas?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I think that the approach that we have taken is one I would describe as ratcheting up the sanctions. It is important when we impose them to make sure that they are effective and, as you know, to be careful that we look for ways that they are being evaded by countries.
We began with sanctions from the EU. We have ratcheted these up and continue to look at them. For the timeframe, I think we have to go back to the Security Council. The work that I do in discussion and negotiation with Iran is determined by the Security Council who have given us this task.
The message that I have sent to Iran through every interlocutor that I have met – and I travel a great deal and I talk about Iran a great deal – is to say: you tell me you agree with the way I have tried to carry out these negotiations, but there is a limit to how long that approach will work before the Security Council will want to discuss it again. I mean nothing more than that. I am not hinting at anything. I am not suggesting anything. I merely say that the Security Council will want to reflect on whether Iran has responded to all the sanctions that have been put on it.
Ana Gomes (S&D). - (sem microfone) imediata condenação pública pela sua parte, da receção dada em Trípoli ao Presidente Omar al-Bashir, que está sob mandato de captura do Tribunal Penal Internacional por crimes de guerra, genocídio e contra a humanidade no Darfur. Foi-nos, entretanto, explicado, na Comissão dos Negócios Estrangeiros deste Parlamento, que haviam sido, de facto, feitas diligências em Trípoli para vincar as obrigações internacionais a que a Líbia está vinculada, mas que elas não haviam sido publicitadas porque alguns dos nossos Estados-Membros se opunham.
Pode indicar-nos quais são os Estados-Membros que se opõem, que razões invocam e por que razões a Alta Representante se há de submeter a essas razões? E face às graves violações dos direitos humanos que as agências noticiosas e as organizações não-governamentais têm reportado das cadeias líbias, com torturas, desaparecimentos, assassinatos de prisioneiros, o comunicado entretanto emitido em seu nome é pouco incisivo. Quer isto dizer que não aprendemos nada com o silêncio cúmplice em relação às barbaridades cometidas por Kadafi e continuamos a silenciar e a nada exigir às autoridades líbias atuais?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − Indeed, Ms Gomes, there is going to be a démarche by the delegations and the Hungarian Ambassador will probably do it on our behalf in Libya. There was a meeting on Sunday of Heads of Mission in Tripoli. It was decided that there would be a démarche. We have made clear to the Libyan authorities our view of this visit for all the reasons that you know well, and I expect the démarche to happen very soon.
Richard Howitt (S&D). - There has been no shortage of opportunity for Baroness Ashton to speak in this Chamber, but this is the first time we have had question time and I very much welcome it.
So many of the debates that we have had in this past year, one year after the Arab Spring, have been about the humanitarian crisis where repression has continued. Instead can I ask her to comment today about where progress has been made – in a country like Jordan, and she has already referred to the King of Jordan in relation to the Middle East peace process. Are there lessons to be learned about transition without the need for violence? And in a country like Tunisia – where of course we have had what were widely accepted constituent elections and where the Arab Spring began – what lessons are there for the depth of the deep democracy for which she strives? Could she comment on the lessons that she has learned?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I am delighted that the Prime Minister of Tunisia has chosen, on his first visit outside the country, to come to Brussels and that he will be here tomorrow.
It is not an accident. It is because of the work that we have done, particularly through our delegation, to whom I pay tribute, but also because of the taskforce we set up, which enabled us to bring together economics and politics. With business leaders, the European Investment Bank, the EBRD, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, with Members of this House, with others from different institutions such as the Commission and so on, we were able to pull together a package of support for Tunisia that was about democracy – deep democracy, not elections just once, but continuing – and economic support and growth. I am very pleased that he will be here tomorrow.
In Jordan we are about to do the same. We have a taskforce in February where we will pull this together in order to support the changes. I will be very pleased that representatives of this House will be with me to do that.
Marita Ulvskog (S&D). - Fru talman! Tack, fru Ashton, för att ni är här. Två svenska journalister sitter sedan åtskilliga månader tillbaka fängslade i Etiopien. De beskylls för att ha ägnat sig åt terrorbrott. De anklagas för det, trots att de bara har bedrivit journalistisk verksamhet och gjort sitt jobb.
Nyligen höll Afrikanska unionen ett toppmöte i Addis Abeba. Jag vill veta om det fördes några diskussioner om de svenska journalisternas situation vid det mötet. Jag vill gärna veta om kommissionen var representerad vid mötet. Jag vill framför allt veta vilka insatser EU kan göra för att dessa två journalister, Johan Persson och Martin Schibbye, ska få komma hem. När får de komma hem? Det är bråttom!
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − We are watching this case very closely and we are talking with our colleagues in Sweden about it. You know that the legal process is now finished and that the two Swedish gentlemen are now looking to find a way that this can be settled within the framework of Ethiopian law.
You will understand that there is a lot of work going on, but I am not at liberty to elaborate on the talks that are being conducted at the present time. I am sure that we can perhaps talk to you privately a little more about that; this is only for their benefit, not for any other reason.
The African Union summit took place and Mr Piebalgs was due to be there. I know he was ill; I do not know if he made it for part of the summit. For me, our managing director, Mr Westcott, was there to ensure that we were fully represented at the meeting. I do not know whether there were specific talks on this topic. As you know, it was a summit which featured some quite difficult discussions on a number of subjects, but we will certainly find you the answer to that question.
Andrew Duff (ALDE). - Baroness Ashton, with regard to Turkey what are you planning to do if Turkey carries out its threat to boycott the Cypriot Presidency of the Council? Surely this will be destructive of the positive agenda and contribute only to further increasing the instability in the Eastern Mediterranean? Would you not agree that the Cypriot Presidency is in fact a perfect pretext for Turkey to join the European and international mainstream and recognise the Republic of Cyprus?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − A number of remarks have been made, but there is no public position from Turkey. I can reassure the House that my relations with Ahmet Davutoğlu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, on issues of foreign policy and concern are very strong and will continue throughout the course of this year, and in a sense throughout all the Presidencies in my time in office.
I think what is important is that we continue to support all the efforts that are being made to try to resolve the issue for Cyprus, and that we work closely with our Cypriot colleagues and Members of this House – and in the European Council and Foreign Affairs Council and elsewhere – to try to seek such a solution, of course with the UN in the lead, which is so vital. So we will continue on that course throughout the Presidency.
Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE). - Madame la Haute représentante, je voudrais vous parler du Kazakhstan. Savez-vous que la grève massive des travailleurs du pétrole lancée en mai dernier dans la province de Manguistaou a donné lieu à une brutale répression et à l'arrestation des syndicalistes ainsi que de leur avocate? Le 16 décembre dernier, une manifestation pacifique à Zhanaozen s'est achevée dans le sang. On parle de nombreux blessés, au moins quinze morts, des arrestations, des mauvais traitements, de la torture, des viols.
Les élections législatives du 15 janvier dernier ont été qualifiées par les observateurs de non libres et de non démocratiques. Enfin, des défenseurs des droits humains et des militants des partis d'opposition, invités récemment à s'exprimer devant des membres de notre Parlement, ont été arrêtés à leur retour et risquent de longues peines d'emprisonnement.
Face à cette dérive autoritaire et répressive, le silence de l'Union européenne n'est pas acceptable. Comment comptez-vous réagir, Madame la Haute représentante, à ce que je viens de vous énoncer?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − As indeed you said, the elections on 15 January 2012 – as the OSC said – were not in accordance with the principles of democratic elections and we have commented on that. The ensuing violence that we have seen between striking oil workers and the police is extremely worrying and again we have sought that the Kazakh authorities should investigate and find a solution to this. I am quite worried about the situation.
Tomorrow the Foreign Minister, Minister Kazykhanov, will be here and I will be meeting with him. I will not only express my own concerns; I will of course, on behalf of honourable Members, make our concerns known to him. It is very important that, especially in their current role in the OIC, they really do take these issues seriously and deal with them properly.
Struan Stevenson (ECR). - You will not be surprised that I want to raise the question of Camp Ashraf.
As you know, last December Martin Kobler, the UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) Special Representative in Iraq, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Iraqi Government without first having got the approval of the residents of Camp Ashraf which he had pledged to get in advance. Nor was he acting in accordance with the wishes of the UN Secretary-General, who said that the Ashraf people must approve the MoU. Yesterday he issued a press release saying that Camp Liberty is ready for the displacement of the 3 300 people from Ashraf, when in fact there is no freedom of movement – they will not be allowed to take their personal possessions, they will be surrounded by thousands of military and police.
This is not a refugee camp, this is fundamentally a prison. Please, can you insist that the Iraqi Government uphold its obligations and not allow them to get away with this kind of unorthodox treatment.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − As you know, I have raised these issues with the Iraqis from the beginning. You and I have been in many dialogues about this and rightly so. It is a very worrying situation.
I do know that Martin Kobler has been in touch with the residents of Camp Ashraf throughout this process. There is a lot of information so that it is quite hard to unpick exactly what is happening. There are different kinds of interests at work in this whole process. He will be here tomorrow and I know he is meeting with you. He knows not only how important this is to you, but how important it is to Members of this House. He will also be in Paris to have discussions. The ambition is to now find the solution that will take these people to a better future, enabling them to live the lives that we all want them to lead. I hope that the transition through Camp Liberty is a way of ensuring that they move forward in the future and that their needs are properly addressed. We will be meeting with him tomorrow to make sure that those messages get through.
Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE). - Madam High Representative, Belarus remains the only country in Europe which imposes the death penalty and carries out executions.
I would like to draw your attention to the case of two young Belarusians – Dmitry Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalyov, aged 25 and 26 – who have both been condemned to death and could be executed at any moment without warning. They were accused of committing terrorist attacks in Vitebsk in 2005, in Minsk in 2008 and in the Minsk metro in April 2011. The guilt of these two young men has not been proven and even relatives of the victims expressed their doubts that Konovalov and Kovalyov are guilty of committing these crimes.
My question to you is: are you aware of this case? What actions have been undertaken by you, or do you foresee undertaking, in order to save the lives of these two young men?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I could not agree with you more: it is terrible that the death penalty should still exist in our neighbourhood. I passionately believe that there should be a universal moratorium on the death penalty – especially in a case like this in Belarus, where the situation is frankly deteriorating and where I am extremely worried about what is happening to ordinary people, to civil society, as that country frankly fails to understand the opportunity of the relationship with the European Union, and fails to live up to its obligations.
I do know about the two young men – I think Mr Konovalov’s mother was here recently. We are watching this very closely. We have made it very clear that we do not believe that the death penalty should be used in any circumstances, but it is especially worrying in the current climate and situation in Belarus.
Tunne Kelam (PPE). - I would like to return to my colleague Mr Stevenson’s question because I think the UN mediation negotiated by Mr Kobler has not provided sufficient guarantees for the safety and freedom of choice for more than 3 000 people there. This is contrary to the position taken by Parliament several years ago, because the Iraqi authorities have clearly violated the relocation programme, launching missile attacks against the camp. I think the role of your representatives has lately been rather marginalised because they have even been denied a visa for Iraq.
I put it to you that, if you say that the relocation to Camp Liberty is the way for the future, I think it is a very ominous way. I urgently call upon you to use your authority, to speak more vocally and more decisively to solve this humanitarian crisis, which is still pending, because these are people who have consistently advocated a truly democratic, secular and nuclear-free Iran, which is what we need.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I do not believe that we have been marginalised at all. I think that we have been extraordinarily active in the most appropriate way we possibly can.
This is the country of Iraq. We have to respect that. We have to work with the UN and Martin Kobler, who I feel has been the subject of some terrible things in terms of what has been said to him and who is doing his real best to find a way through this.
It is going to keep these people safe. We have heard lots of different reports about missile attacks over the period. The question for me is how to get them to safety and how to get them to their future. It is clear that they have to move – that seems to be accepted by everybody – and to do so in a way that is as safe as possible. I have made many offers to the UN and to Iraq to be as engaged as we possibly can in that and I will continue to do so. But I really do think we now have to work through what is inevitably a bit of a compromise, frankly, to try to get these people to safety. That is what we will continue to do.
Jacek Protasiewicz (PPE). - Pani Przewodnicząca! Pani Wiceprzewodnicząca/Wysoka Przedstawiciel! Koleżanka Andrikienė mówiła już o sytuacji na Białorusi. Ona się rzeczywiście pogarsza nie tylko w związku z wyrokami śmierci, ale również z procesami wobec działaczy praw człowieka czy podejrzeniami o tortury stosowane wobec byłych kandydatów na prezydenta. Wiem, że Pani oraz ministrowie spraw zagranicznych mają tego świadomość, bowiem 23 stycznia podjęliście decyzję o rozszerzeniu podstaw prawnych dla nowych sankcji dla Białorusi. Jednak w tym samym czasie, mimo że zostały nałożone sankcje wizowe na ministra spraw wewnętrznych Białorusi, mógł on podróżować do Francji, wziąć udział w konferencji Interpolu w Lyonie i bezpiecznie wrócić do Mińska. Z drugiej strony, mimo sankcji ekonomicznych, cały ten mijający rok 2011 był rokiem wzrastających obrotów handlowych między państwami Unii Europejskiej i Białorusią. Jak Pani ocenia efektywność obecnych sankcji i czy widzi Pani możliwość wprowadzenia skutecznych sankcji, które powstrzymają białoruski reżim od dalszych represji?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − I am very happy to look at where people have been and this is part of trying to review the designations for sanctions, for the reasons you rightly say – to keep the pressure on and to make sure that they are targeted. But one of the big challenges for us is to make sure that ordinary people are not unduly affected, and that means having the discussions which we are now engaged in in Minsk with opposition groups, with civil society, to try and make sure that we are reaching out to ordinary people. Somehow we have to develop this in a way that helps them.
That is why, for me, it is so important that the discussions in the February Foreign Affairs Council reflect what we know and what we learn from our discussions on the ground with civil society, opposition groups, and so on, so that we target it appropriately. I do not want to hurt the relationship between European countries and people in Belarus. I want to find ways we can strengthen this while, at the same time, continuing to ratchet up our sanctions and concern with the government. That is really the challenge we have to face and that means we have to think about the economic issues alongside the political ones.
Γεώργιος Παπανικολάου (PPE). - Κυρία Πρόεδρε, κυρία Αντιπρόεδρε, έχει περάσει περίπου ένας χρόνος από τότε που η Επίτροπος Malmström ανακοίνωσε στο Κοινοβούλιό μας ότι ολοκληρώθηκαν οι διαπραγματεύσεις με την Τουρκία για την συμφωνία Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης-Τουρκίας σχετικά με την επανεισδοχή υπηκόων τρίτων χωρών που παρανόμως εισέρχονται σε ευρωπαϊκό έδαφος προερχόμενοι από την Τουρκία. Διευκρινίζω στο σημείο αυτό ότι, σήμερα που ομιλούμε και έχουμε την ευκαιρία να σας απευθύνουμε ερωτήματα, όπως εξάλλου συμβαίνει καθημερινά, περισσότεροι από 320 υπήκοοι τρίτων χωρών έρχονται από τη Τουρκία σε ευρωπαϊκό έδαφος διασχίζοντας τα σύνορα στη Βόρεια Ελλάδα και συγκεκριμένα στην περιοχή του Έβρου. Παρά την ολοκλήρωση της συμφωνίας και παρά την έγκριση από το Συμβούλιο πριν από ένα χρόνο περίπου, η Τουρκία δεν έχει ακόμη προχωρήσει στην έγκριση της συμφωνίας και βεβαίως ούτε στην εφαρμογή της διότι ζητά ως αντάλλαγμα, σύμφωνα τουλάχιστον με τις δηλώσεις Τούρκων αξιωματούχων που διαβάζουμε, την απελευθέρωση των θεωρήσεων για τους υπηκόους της που ταξιδεύουν προς την Ευρώπη. Σας ερωτώ, κυρία Αντιπρόεδρε, πέραν των όσων κάνει η Επίτροπος Malmström, εάν σκοπεύετε να λάβετε εσείς πρωτοβουλία για το συγκεκριμένο θέμα και εάν σκοπεύετε να κάνετε κάτι περισσότερο.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − The first thing to say is that Cecilia Malmström will be following this up herself. She has not raised this directly with me, but now that you have asked me I will make sure that I talk to her about it.
It is a general problem. We have to find ways in which these agreements can be properly implemented. Certainly she is tireless in her work to try to make sure not only that she gets agreements but that they are properly dealt with. So, if I may, I will ask her perhaps to send you a fuller answer from her perspective as the Commissioner responsible.
Piotr Borys (PPE). - Szanowna Pani Przewodnicząca! Nawiążę do sytuacji w Kazachstanie. Miałem okazję organizować z panią Kiil-Nielsen wysłuchanie (hearing) z udziałem kazachskiej opozycji. Jeden z jej liderów, pan Władimir Kozłow, został aresztowany, nie ma możliwości uczciwego procesu, ani nie ma adwokata.
Na to nakłada się tragedia zamordowanych ludzi. Wczoraj rozmawiałem z ambasadorem Kazachstanu i z prokuratorem generalnym, a także ze świadkami tej tragedii i apelowałbym o trzy rzeczy: po pierwsze o to, aby wesprzeć możliwość międzynarodowego procesu w sprawie tej tragedii w Żanaozen, gdzie zginęli ludzie. Wiem, że prokurator generalny Kazachstanu też będzie o to prosił. Po drugie chciałbym, aby poprzez działania dyplomatyczne zapewnić możliwość pomocy rodzinom ofiar. Wiele osób potrzebuje wsparcia. I po trzecie, aby starać się dyplomatycznie wpłynąć na to, by opozycja, jeżeli jest aresztowana, miała prawo do obrońców, aby te podstawowe prawa były zachowane. Dziękuję bardzo!
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − As you know, the Kazakh authorities have said that these arrests are to do with their investigation into events in December but you are quite right, they are extremely worrying. As I have said already, I have the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan coming to Brussels tomorrow. We will have a meeting. At that meeting I have a number of issues to discuss with him, but it will not surprise you that these issues will be top of the agenda.
We need to find out exactly what is happening. If there is a case to answer, we need to see the transparency of that system; we need to see that things are done properly and so on. Until we see that, I agree with you that it continues to be worrying. We shall continue to look at this and see what more we should do.
ΠΡΟΕΔΡΙΑ: ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΣ ΠΑΠΑΣΤΑΜΚΟΣ Αντιπρόεδρος
Tarja Cronberg (Verts/ALE). - Two years ago, in the context of the NATO strategic concept, there was a lot of discussion about the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from European soil. There were also discussions about removing Russian tactical nuclear weapons on the other side of the border. Are the European Union and your office taking any initiatives or are you involved in any initiatives about the reduction of tactical nuclear weapons either in Europe or in Russia?
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − We keep ourselves involved with these issues. You are right to raise the importance of the European Union being engaged in what are important matters for the security and safety of our citizens but also, as you rightly point out, the reciprocal work being done with Russia. Within the External Action Service we have the capacity to look at these issues from a disarmament perspective. As you know, I attend meetings at NATO of foreign ministers and defence ministers, and I will be at NATO tomorrow.
So we are engaged in this. Our concern is that the work we do, as I was describing earlier – for example on a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction – is geared to our commitment to try and support all these initiatives that will reduce the numbers.
Sajjad Karim (ECR). - Madam Vice-President/High Representative, may I firstly welcome you back after your successful visit to India. It was very well received and I have no doubt that it will help us enormously in making headway in the negotiations that are due to take place.
Your office has already confirmed to me that we are due to meet in order to discuss some of the human rights issues that I have previously raised, so I shall not touch upon them here today. However, could you please give me some indication of what measures you were able to negotiate or discuss in relation to our motor manufacturers, who really do believe they are going to feel the pinch right across the European Union as and when this agreement is finalised? If you could give some indication of that today I would be obliged.
Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. − Thank you for all the support that you have been giving in the work that we are doing in India and in Pakistan. As you know, I will be in Pakistan in a few weeks’ time.
The free trade agreement has a whole range of key sectors within it. I hesitate to speak too much on this because this is Karel De Gucht’s territory and I stray onto it at my peril – quite rightly too. What we try to do is to make sure that in each of the discussions there is a real dialogue with the industries who are going to be directly affected. A free trade agreement in principle is designed to support and enhance the opportunities of all countries and of all sectors of industry, but one has to be very mindful of the implications that there can be for individual sectors.
So, if I may, I will find out more about where those particular discussions might be. For my part, my role was to try to ensure that we were moving forward in the bilateral relationships with India on security issues, on issues of human rights and on economic matters, in order that we have the strongest possible relationship with a country that we will be debating later in the context of what we now call the BRICS.