President. − The next item is the debate on seven motions for resolutions on Venezuela(1).(2)
Ana Miranda , author. – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, we deeply regret that some issues are being dealt with as urgent topics.
This specific issue is not an urgent topic, because it is a likelihood that was announced in a ruling by the Supreme Court of Venezuela in 2008. It is not news, therefore.
The fact is that any excuse is used to take advantage of an issue at election time, whereas, in politics, ethics should always prevail over utilitarianism. Equity should always take priority over pre-established positions as regards governments that are democratically elected, whether we like them or not.
A procedural question has therefore been raised by the co-President of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance regarding the system of urgent debates in the European Parliament and its real effectiveness in achieving the purpose for which this instrument was created, that is, urgent debates in cases of violations of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. That does not apply in this case.
We value and support the existence of regional human rights instruments, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. We regret the fact that 24 of the 34 members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) have not yet ratified these instruments for protecting human rights.
We believe that Venezuela is currently a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a party to that convention, and that it also actively participates in the mechanisms of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We therefore support a strengthening of those regional human rights mechanisms and we call on the EU to increase its financial and technical contributions.
We take a very positive view of the work done by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in promoting full respect for social rights, and the rights of women and indigenous people, and in making their procedures more expeditious. We also encourage the government of Venezuela and the other members of the OAS to cooperate with these human rights mechanisms.
Véronique De Keyser, author. – (FR) Mr President, I would say, like my fellow MEP who has just spoken, that my group was somewhat surprised, not because Venezuela was the subject of an emergency motion, as we have had many of these in the case of Venezuela, but because this motion related to Venezuela’s possible withdrawal from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
There are a great many emergencies in the world, and we are a little baffled by this motion, all the more so as the decision of whether or not belong to this Commission falls clearly under national jurisdiction.
Might I remind you that neither the United States nor Canada chose to belong to this Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. That triggered no response from Parliament, as far as I am aware.
Now, what does Venezuela have against this Commission? That it is politically biased, and has called the country to account much more over recent months than it had done, previously, over a period of 30 years, although the situation, according to Venezuela, has not deteriorated in any way.
Our position is very clear. We support the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; we would like to strengthen it; and we, in my group, are extremely attentive to what is happening in Venezuela. However, this motion, in light of everything else that is happening in the world today, really seems to be a distraction, if I may use that expression, from our Thursday afternoon session on human rights.
Renate Weber, author. − Mr President, I strongly disagree with my previous colleagues who spoke. I think the resolution we are about to vote on is very much in line with this Parliament’s commitment to uphold human rights in Europe and outside Europe, and this is always a matter of urgency. International and regional human rights systems must be defended every time their normal and effective functioning is under threat. The Inter-American system has proven to be very effective in Latin and Central America, the Inter-American Commission being a highly respected institution. Therefore, a country’s decision to leave it represents a genuine threat, the more so when such a decision is likely to influence other countries.
At the beginning of May Venezuela announced its decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and in just a few days procedural steps have already been undertaken in this direction. This action is in line with the government’s refusal for the last 10 years to allow any visit of the Inter-American Commission to the country, and it is also in line with the criticism expressed by the Venezuelan Government every time the Commission decided on human rights violation in Venezuela.
But the defence of human rights is precisely about holding governments accountable for their wrongdoing, the more so when the separation of powers within the state is almost non-existent and victims of human rights violation cannot find redress in their own country. In such cases international institutions are their only hope for justice.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Véronique De Keyser (S&D), blue-card question. – (FR) Mr President, might I ask Ms Weber whether Venezuela has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, or whether, on the contrary, it has complied with the majority of this Council’s orders in the regular review of the human rights situation?
Ms Weber, you have led us to believe that, as soon as anybody wished to leave an international human rights organisation, this automatically gave rise to an emergency motion. Might I ask you to tell us about the position of Venezuela at the UN Human Rights Security Council in Geneva, in the regular review of the human rights situation, and outline in what ways it has followed up on the observations made to it?
Renate Weber (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (FR) Ms De Keyser, I can give you the following response: we are talking about a State which has decided to leave a human rights organisation because it does not agree with its decisions. That is not proper, and is one way of undermining the authority of an international or regional human rights organisation.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
María Muñiz De Urquiza (S&D), blue-card question. – (ES) Mr President, Ms Weber, you said that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a well-respected institution. It is so well respected that neither the United States nor Canada are members, and it is so well respected that eight further members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) are not part of it. What is more, it is so well respected that another country, without causing the least concern to your group, has withdrawn from the organisation. I am talking about Trinidad and Tobago.
Do you have anything to say on this matter? Or do you continue to state that it is well respected because Venezuela has announced the fact that it may withdraw?
Renate Weber (ALDE), blue-card answer. – (ES) Mr President, the fact that the other 10 members of the two American continents are not part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights does not mean that it is not a very well-respected institution. I believe that the role it has played in Latin America and Central America is of great importance.
Cristian Dan Preda, author. − (RO) Mr President, I would like to begin by saying that, in my capacity of negotiator for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) regarding this resolution, I invite you and all Members of Parliament to vote for the joint project of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
I have three reasons for this, as seen in today’s meeting: the Socialists and the Greens, and I expect the Communists as well, would like to portray Chávez as champion of human rights, which is probably what will result from our meeting.
Secondly, I believe we must vote for the PPE-ALDE-ECR project because many of us, Members of this Parliament, fear for the quality of the Venezuelan political life. The decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights means there will be nothing standing in Chávez’s way when he attempts, as he has done before, to take control over state powers. Thirdly, there is the risk that this withdrawal leads to Ecuador’s withdrawal, which would enable Venezuela and Ecuador to try to establish a parallel judicial system, favouring revolution to the detriment of human rights.
Inês Cristina Zuber, author. − (PT) Mr President, we would first like to raise a question of principle. The fact we are here today to discuss this subject is in itself inadmissible and unbelievable. It is unbelievable that the European Parliament as an institution has agreed to schedule a debate that has no purpose other than to interfere in, manipulate and influence the election process that will take place this year in Venezuela, the Presidential elections of October 2012.
The scheduling of this meeting by the European Parliament is an act of interference in the election process to come and signifies that this institution is being used for all-too-evident political purposes: to influence public opinion with regard to the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela during the pre-election campaign.
The European Parliament has demeaned itself as an institution by putting this on the agenda and has even brought itself into disrepute. It is important to clarify some things about the issue behind this debate, which we could describe as an act of right-wing election propaganda. Today Venezuela is a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The decision on whether to leave these organisations or not is the sole responsibility of the sovereign and democratic institutions and powers of Venezuela, and this Parliament has no right to interfere in this matter.
As has already been mentioned, of the 34 countries that make up the Organisation of American States only 24 have ratified the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and this has never worried this Parliament. The United States of America and Canada do not form part of the Commission and have never had any intention of joining. Again, the right-wing in this Parliament has never been perturbed by this.
The decision as to whether Venezuela should stop participating in this body is the sole responsibility of its government and its people. In any case, it would be strange if Venezuela was not raising this question. When the criminal and anti-democratic coup of 11 April 2002 took place, perpetrated by the most reactionary forces against the will of the Venezuelan people, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognised the illegitimate Carmona government and the entire undemocratic situation created, in an attempt to legitimise a coup that had tried to depose an elected president.
Democracy was restored with the widespread support of the Venezuelan people, to the great regret of various American and European governments. This situation continues to stick in the throat of the right, as proved by this debate. That is why it has promoted allegedly urgent debates on Venezuela in this Parliament. Coincidentally, every one of them has been held in years in which elections have taken place in Venezuela.
If anyone who supports this inadmissible interference is truly concerned about human rights, they should know that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela actively participates in the United Nations Human Rights Council and that it is actively involved in setting up human rights organisations under the framework of the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
If those supporting this inadmissible interference are truly concerned with human rights, why do they not propose a debate on the social advances that have taken place in Venezuela, particularly at the level of social rights? Why do they not discuss the reduction in poverty and extreme poverty, which has fallen from 17.1% to 7.9% in just 10 years?
Why do they not listen to the praise from the relevant officials of the FAO and UN regarding the enormous progress achieved in the right to food and the Millennium Development Goals?
This debate could be of some use for understanding that there are paths other than those advocated by the majority in Parliament and the governments of the European Union, where social, economic and labour rights – that is, human rights – are increasingly being attacked and undermined and where poverty is increasing at an alarming rate.
Laima Liucija Andrikienė , on behalf of the PPE Group. – (LT) Mr President, I congratulate the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on its work defending human rights in American States and call on it to continue this work to guarantee human rights. I believe that we have to support regional human rights organisations and institutions because they are part of the international human rights system. At present the united support of the EU Member States and the EU institutions, as well as the European Parliament, is particularly important as the worrying news reaches us about the possible withdrawal of Venezuela from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I would like to stress that, to my understanding, the Venezuelan Government’s decision to withdraw from this system would aggravate the human rights situation and I therefore call on and invite the leaders of Venezuela to keep Venezuela a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
María Muñiz De Urquiza, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (ES) Mr President, I am very concerned that, with the number of serious human rights violations that are currently taking place around the world, we are devoting the platform of the European Parliament, which is so important in the defence of human rights, to the announcement that a country may be leaving an international human rights organisation. I find this worrying and, above all, I think this constitutes what is known as the ‘political instrumentalisation of human rights’, a misuse that is particularly disgraceful when we have not denounced the fact – and it does not even feature in the resolution put forward by the right-wing parties – that only 24 of the 34 member states of the Organisation of American States (OAS) are part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Furthermore, those non-members include the United States and Canada, as well as eight other countries. What is more, the United States and Canada have not signed the protocols against torture and in favour of social rights either.
Other countries have left the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, such as Trinidad and Tobago, and nobody in this House was concerned enough to denounce that fact. Even within the EU there are Member States that have expressed their reservations and exceptions to the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and they are not under suspicion for that.
I would say to the groups on the right that they cannot play around with human rights or use human rights unjustly as if they were just another piece in the political game, if only for the sake of Parliament’s credibility.
Please vote in favour of the resolution put forward by the progressive parties, because we support the International Commission on Human Rights but we do not criticise a country for something it has not yet done and, if it does so, it would be exercising its sovereignty.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), blue-card question. – (RO) Mr President, I have a question for Ms Muñiz. What is the object of today’s resolution, Venezuela or the United States? I thought it was Venezuela.
María Muñiz De Urquiza (S&D), blue-card answer. – (ES) Mr President, Mr Preda, unfortunately we are talking about Venezuela, which should not be the subject of a resolution on human rights violations, because it has limited itself to announcing that it may exercise what in international law is called ius ad tractatum, which is the option that states have, when exercising their sovereignty, to sign or not to sign international agreements.
However, as we are talking about an international body – which should be protected in order to defend human rights – let us strengthen it by calling on all those states that have not yet done so to join it and to recognise and implement the decisions and rulings of that body, which is not the case of the United States or Canada or eight other member states of the OAS, which are not members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. We therefore fail to understand why there is this obsession with Venezuela.
Eduard Kukan (PPE). – (SK) Mr President, the celebration of the democratic system and its control mechanisms is one of the main causes of the difficult situation concerning the protection of human rights in Venezuela. Without proper control, the State will undermine the right to freedom of expression and association and the rights of protectors of human rights to freely draw attention to their abuse, and will help the impunity of those who violate these basic human rights. The control mechanisms that would prevent this simply do not work in Venezuela. In my opinion, the attempts to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights are another bad signal. Colleagues say that this is the right of every sovereign state. I would like to say that it is likewise my right, as a Member of the European Parliament who considers the human rights situation in Venezuela to be very bad, to express concern about this action of an independent State that will worsen the human rights situation even more.
Seán Kelly (PPE). – I think Hugo Chávez’s proposal to withdraw from the Inter-American Human Rights Commission should be seen in context. Certainly, saying that the Inter-American Commission is a tool that the US uses against us is scarcely credible, and it is only right we should express our concerns about it. It should also be seen in the context of what has been happening in Venezuela under Chávez.
I happen to have a brother, a Catholic missionary, who has been based in Venezuela since 1979, so I am fairly familiar with what is actually happening on the ground. Certainly it is not ideal, as some people seem to suggest. There has been increasing control over the media, in particular, and in January 2010 five satellite and cable networks were ordered off the air. Also, life has been very difficult for opposition politicians.
I think it is very important for us to see that next October’s elections are fair, so that if Chávez survives – which is unlikely in view of his state of health, from what I hear – there will be democracy, and not authoritarianism, in Venezuela.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE). – (FR) Mr President, as part of these discussions on Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from an inter-American human rights organisation, I would like to draw Parliament’s attention to the fact that very important trade negotiations are currently under way between two trade blocks, the European Union and Mercosur, comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and that Venezuela is a candidate for accession to Mercosur. That might appear a little irrelevant, but I believe that we, ourselves, cannot work with areas which do not respect a body of rules of law.
We are clearly not going to interfere in the procedures for States to become members of Mercosur, in the same way that Mercosur has no right to intervene to decide whether Croatia joins the European Union or not. Nevertheless, in the negotiations between these two blocks, I feel that the European Union and South America should share in a common destiny. It would therefore be a very bad signal if Venezuela did not respect human rights, and that is an issue that this Inter-American Commission is meant to monitor.
Ana Gomes (S&D). − (PT) Mr President, President Chávez is undeniably a leader with popular support thanks to the social advances his presidency has brought to the overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan population. Having said that, he is also a demagogue and populist and, personally, I am not a fan. There are human rights violations in Venezuela. They are perhaps not as serious as in other countries, but they exist.
I have a great deal of respect for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. However, I do not think this resolution is justified, as any decision to leave is a sovereign decision. While it is one that can be criticised, it has not yet been taken and I hope it will not be taken.
Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – Mr President, first of all I would like to say that I fully support the joint resolution signed by my Group and other groups. If Venezuela withdraws from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it will miss an important opportunity for constructive human rights dialogue, as well as for the improvement of human rights together with other Latin American states and partners. I am afraid that Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Inter-American system could lead to its isolation and would not be good for the Venezuelan people – that is the most important point. I really hope that our doubts are ‘early-warning’ doubts.
Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, this debate has aroused strong feelings. I do not think that we need worry about compromising Venezuela’s sovereignty in any way with a resolution of this kind. It is the European Parliament’s right to express its opinion on this matter. We should take measures to strengthen regional human rights organisations, since they help to improve the human rights situation. If a large, important country such as Venezuela intends to withdraw from an organisation of this kind, and put it in a worse position in terms of its operations, it is Parliament’s right to voice its criticism of this situation. Venezuela’s sovereignty will not suffer in any way as a result, and so I will vote in favour of the motion for a resolution tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Mr President, although I share the legitimate concerns of all those who have reservations about the establishment of a state committee to evaluate the possibility of the withdrawal of Venezuela from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I fear that our views will not be crucial in the decision making of the state administration Venezuela. Great leaders of small countries often want to look like great leaders of large countries. Neither the United States of America nor Canada has signed the American Convention on Human Rights, and we therefore cannot be surprised when a leader of a small country decides to follow the example of a larger country. Especially when he feels that an institution that his country helped establish in good faith is today acting towards his country with hostility. In any case, however, we will have to continue to monitor closely the protection of human rights in the country, regardless of the final decision of the Chávez government. Especially because they are preparing for such a controversial decision.
Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE). – (FI) Mr President, I am very worried about Venezuela’s repeated threats to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Chávez has done much to promote the rights of the indigenous peoples. He should now also take responsibility for his country’s development in the area of the human rights of others. The situation is especially serious because human rights in Venezuela are at the very least fragile with regard to certain issues. Problems have included restrictions on freedom of expression, attacks against journalists and dissidents, the harassment of human rights defenders, poor prison conditions, and the absence of an independent legal system.
Now the Venezuelan President has sent a clear message that he does not intend to commit his country to human rights obligations. In addition, he has urged other countries to break away from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to establish separate regional bodies. This is an alarming move, because this human rights system has specifically promoted the cause of democracy and the rule of law in many countries.
Vicente Miguel Garcés Ramón (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to express my indignation at this instrumental debate on a proposal that is trying to pass judgment on events that have not yet happened. It is a proposal based on a judgment of intentions, given that Venezuela has not left any human rights body; it has the aim of interfering tendentiously in the presidential election campaign in that country and it seeks to drag the European Parliament towards interfering in decision-making processes that are the sovereign responsibility of a sovereign nation.
Neither the people of Venezuela nor the democratic principles of the European Union deserve this inappropriate debate.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, we are also concerned at Venezuela’s announcement that it will start the procedure to evaluate the possibility of withdrawing from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The European External Action Service has already conveyed our concerns to the Venezuelan Ambassador in Brussels, encouraging Venezuela to continue fully cooperating with the regional and with the international human rights protection mechanisms. We are monitoring the situation very closely and are staying in touch with the Organisation of American States and its members.
The Inter-American Commission and Court for Human Rights are instrumental in the promotion of democracy and the tackling of human rights abuses in the region. The EU has always supported the autonomous and integral character of the Inter-American Human Rights System. The EU is one of the Organisation of American States’ largest voluntary donors and has assisted it in its efforts to strengthen democracy and promote human rights across the region. We underline the need for regional leadership in favour of the Inter-American Human Rights System. Countries within the region should actively manifest this support. This summit in Cochabamba is a good occasion to do so.
We are also following closely initiatives to create a new regional human rights system around UNASUR or the newly created Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. If such initiatives progress, it will be crucial that they are based on the same universally agreed human rights principles and comparable structures of competence and independence to the existing OAS human rights protection system, so as to avoid any weakening of the protection of human rights in the region.
At the same time I would like to underline that we are trying to engage Venezuela more actively. This could include deepening existing dialogues such as economic dialogue and opening new ones on energy and climate change.
Finally, EU readiness to mobilise an election observation mission to the October 2012 presidential elections, or alternatively an electoral experts’ mission, has been reiterated to the President of the National Electoral Council on the 25 April. So far the Venezuelan electoral authorities have not communicated their position.
President. − The debate is closed.
The vote will take place shortly.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE), in writing. – (RO) I am deeply worried about a possible withdrawal of Venezuela from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. President Chávez’s decision of 2 May 2012 to create a State Committee that analyses the possibility of such withdrawal is a step backward in terms of human rights protection. The Commission has constantly tried to raise awareness on the issue of human rights in the region, and has warned Venezuela several times with regard to violating the political rights of its citizens, such as the freedom of speech. We cannot approve of such actions, which are, nonetheless, supported by both the President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court and the Attorney General. Their stand undermines international legal rules, and is proof that the democratisation process in Venezuela has slackened. The EU must adopt a clear stand on this topic.