Procedure : 2010/0323(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0427/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0427/2011

Debates :

PV 14/12/2011 - 18
CRE 14/12/2011 - 18

Votes :

PV 15/12/2011 - 9.8
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


INTERIM REPORT     
PDF 226kWORD 150k
30 November 2011
PE 469.859v02-00 A7-0427/2011

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part, amending the Agreement in order to extend the provisions of the Agreement to bilateral trade in textiles, taking account of the expiry of the bilateral textiles Agreement

(16384/2010 – C7-0097/2011 – 2010/0323(NLE))

Committee on International Trade

Rapporteur: George Sabin Cutaş

AMENDMENTS
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part, amending the Agreement in order to extend the provisions of the Agreement to bilateral trade in textiles, taking account of the expiry of the bilateral textiles Agreement

(16384/2010 – C7-0097/2011 – 2010/0323(NLE))

The European Parliament,

–    having regard to the draft Council decision (16384/2010),

–    having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v) and Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C7-0097/2011),

–    having regard to its previous resolutions of 15 November 2007(1), of 26 October 2006(2), of 27 October 2005(3) and 9 June 2005(4) on Uzbekistan, of 12 March 1999 on the EC-Uzbekistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (5) (PCA), of 8 June 2011 on the external dimension of social policy, promoting labour and social standards and European corporate social responsibility(6) and of 25 November 2010 on Human rights, social and environmental standards in International Trade agreements(7),

–    having regard to the Agreement between the European Economic Community and Uzbekistan on trade in textile products(8) and the Council decision 2000/804/EC of 4 December 2000 on the conclusion of Agreements on trade in textiles products with certain third countries (including Uzbekistan)(9),

–    having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part(10) and in particular Article 16, which states that 'this Title shall not apply to trade in textile products falling under Chapters 50 to 63 of the Combined Nomenclature. Trade in these products shall be governed by a separate agreement, initialled on 4 December 1995 and applied provisionally since 1 January 1996',

–  having regard to Council conclusions on Uzbekistan, such as of 25 October 2010(11), of 27 October 2009(12), 16 December 2008(13), 27 October 2008(14), of 13 October 2008(15), 29 April 2008(16), in which concerns about human rights, democratisation and the rule of law in Uzbekistan were raised,

–    having regard to the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee (2005(17) and 2010(18)), the concluding observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2006)(19), the concluding observations of the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2010)(20), the Concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2006)(21), the Report of the Working Group on Universal Periodic Review on Uzbekistan (2009)(22) and the Report the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (2010(23)), the Report of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations regarding the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (2010(24) and 2011(25)) and the Report of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations regarding the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (2010(26) and 2011(27)), which all express concern over the continued use of child labour in Uzbekistan,

–    having regard to the Communication from the Commission on 'Promoting decent work for all: The EU contribution to the implementation of the decent work agenda in the world' (COM(2006)0249),

–    having regard to the Communication from the Commission on 'A Special Place for Children in EU External Action' (COM(2008)0055) as well as the European Commission staff working document on combating child labour (SEC(2010)0037) ,

–    having regard to the Council conclusions on child labour of 14 June 2010 and its 'call on the Commission to study and report before the end of 2011 on the worst form of child labour and trade, taking into account international experience and the views of competent international organisations',(28)

–    having regard to the Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in particular to the Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission for Employment of 1973 (Nr 138)(29) and the Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour of 1999 (Nr 182)(30), which were ratified by Uzbekistan in 2009 and 2008 respectively and which were followed by the adoption of a national Action Plan in Uzbekistan,

–    having regard to Article 15 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008 of 22 July 2008 applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences for the period from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2011(31) (GSP Regulation) as well as Article 19 of the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences (COM(2011)0241),

–    having regard to calls by various non-governmental organizations(32) and by trade unions(33) for investigations concerning the GSP preferences for Uzbekistan,

–    having regard to the Central Asia DCI Indicative Program 2011-2013(34) ,

–    having regard to Rule 81(3) of its Rules of Procedure,

–    having regard to the interim report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A7-0427/2011),

A.  whereas textiles are excluded from the PCA and were instead regulated by a bilateral agreement which lapsed in 2005, creating legal uncertainty for Union exporters, since Uzbekistan (not being a WTO member) is free to increase import tariffs whereas the Union accords Most-Favoured-Nation treatment (in tariffs) to every country in the world,

B.   whereas the Protocol aims to include textiles in the PCA, which will lead to both parties granting each other MFN status, thereby putting an end to the legal uncertainty for Union textile exporters,

C.  whereas the Union has previously rectified this legal uncertainty for Union textile exporters through amendments to PCAs with various countries (e.g. Azerbaijan in 2007 and Kazakhstan in 2008),

D.  whereas Article 2 of the PCA with Uzbekistan states that ‘Respect for democracy, principles of international law and human rights as defined in particular in the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, as well as the principles of market economy, including those enunciated in the documents of the CSCE Bonn Conference, underpin the internal and external policies of the Parties and constitute essential elements of partnership and of this Agreement’,

E.   whereas the Council stated on 25 October 2010 that it ‘remains seriously concerned by the overall situation regarding human rights, democratisation and the rule of law in Uzbekistan’,

F.   whereas the Government of Uzbekistan is in the process of taking important steps to achieve democracy,

G.  whereas the Government of Uzbekistan acts contrary to the outcome of the European Union - Central Asia Ministerial meeting in Tashkent on 7 April 2011, in which ‘the sides recalled that the development of a strong civil society constitutes an integral part of democracy development’,

H.  whereas Uzbekistan inherited and kept largely unreformed a state-run agricultural system; whereas other countries in the same region, such as Kazakhstan and to a lesser extent Tajikistan, are modernising their agriculture and addressing many of the problems(35); whereas genuine agrarian reform and mechanisation will considerably reduce the incidence of forced child labour and water wastage and will make farms more profitable,

I.    whereas Uzbek farmers may officially be free operators but they lease their land, buy their fertilizer and are required to meet quotas, all from the government; whereas the government buys its cotton at a fixed price and earns considerable amounts of money from selling the cotton at the much higher world market price,

J.    whereas the Council Presidency recalled in the Union statement at the ILO in June 2011 ‘the well-documented allegations and broad consensus among the United Nations bodies, the UNICEF, the representative organizations of employers and workers and NGOs stating that, despite the legal commitments made by the Government of Uzbekistan to eradicate forced child labour, in practice, year after year an estimated number of 0.5 to 1.5 million school-aged children are still forced to take part in the hazardous work in the cotton harvest for up to three months each year’,

K.  whereas schools are closed during the Autumn harvest period, hampering education,

L.   whereas children, their teachers and parents risk punishment for disobedience,

M.  whereas the Government of Uzbekistan stated that ‘it is traditional for older children to assist in family businesses’ and that 'the allegations concerning widespread forced labour in agriculture are unfounded’(36),

N.  whereas independent international observers have gathered evidence of forced labour and in particular forced child labour as a systematic and organised practice involving pressure on teachers and families with the participation of the police and security forces,

O.  whereas so far the Government of Uzbekistan has refused access to independent monitoring missions the purpose of which was to bring out the facts and provide information on the duration of the Autumn harvest period, the working health conditions of students, their ages and where relevant the risk of punishments for disobedience,

P.   whereas according to the Commission Union textile and clothing exports to Uzbekistan account for 0.05% of Union textile and clothing exports,

Q.  whereas the Union is one of the main importers of cotton from Uzbekistan, estimates of which range from importing 6(37)-23% (38)of Uzbek cotton exports over the past ten years,

R.   whereas, on the basis of the principles and objectives of the Union's external action, the Union has the moral responsibility to use its leverage, as one of the main trading partners and a major importer of cotton from Uzbekistan, to stop the use of forced child labour in this country; whereas, therefore, the Protocol cannot be treated as a purely technical agreement, as long as human rights concerns, such as forced child labour, are raised specifically with regard to cotton harvest,

S.   whereas fair and open international trade requires competition on a level playing-field and the economic factors determining the pricing of products exported to the Union should not be distorted by practices contrary to the basic principles of human rights and the rights of the child,

T.   whereas many textiles retailers, including European ones, have decided that they will no longer buy cotton from Uzbekistan and will notify all of their suppliers of this commitment, (39)

U.  whereas the Council stated in its conclusions on child labour of 14 June 2010 that it is fully aware of the role and responsibilities of the Union in the struggle towards ending child labour,

V.  whereas Commission President Barroso has urged the Uzbek President Islam Karimov to allow an ILO monitoring mission to the country to address the issue of any remaining child labour practices' (40),

W. whereas Union assistance for Uzbekistan in the framework of the EU-Central Asia strategy so far has paid little attention to agricultural reform,

X.  whereas the Commission is also strictly insisting on ILO monitoring missions as the only relevant monitoring body in the context of investigations of temporary withdrawal of GSP references, welcoming the Commission proposal to do away with this requirement in the context of the review of the GSP Regulation,

Y.  whereas water is an important resource in the 21st century and therefore its preservation should be a priority; whereas the production of cotton in Uzbekistan has caused a severe reduction in the volume of the Aral Sea between 1990 and 2008 due to poor environmental standards and inefficient irrigation infrastructure,

1.   Requests the Council and the Commission to take into account the following recommendations:

(i)      Strongly condemn the use of forced child labour in Uzbekistan;

(ii)     Strongly support the ILO’s call on the Government of Uzbekistan to accept a high-level tripartite observer mission that would have full freedom of movement and timely access to all locations and relevant parties, including in the cotton fields, in order to assess the implementation of the ILO Convention;

(iii)    Outline the importance of international observers to monitor the development of the situation of forced labour in Uzbekistan, as well as in other countries in the region;

(iv)    Urge the Uzbek President Islam Karimov to allow an ILO monitoring mission into the country to address the issue of forced child labour practices;

(v)    Urge the Government of Uzbekistan to allow an ILO monitoring mission and to ensure that the practice of forced labour and forced child labour is effectively in the process of being eradicated at national, viloyat and local level;

(vi)    Remind the Uzbek authorities that despite the fact that human rights principles are included in the text of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and that Uzbekistan has signed and ratified most UN conventions relating to human rights, civil and political rights and the rights of the child, this formal set of legal acts still needs to be implemented effectively;

(vii)   Contribute through policy dialogue and assistance programmes to market-oriented reforms of Uzbekistan's agricultural sector; offer assistance from the Union for the transition, ultimately, to a privatised and liberalised farming sector in Uzbekistan, in line with developments in neighbouring countries;

(viii)  Ensure that pursuing the end to the practice of forced child labour in cotton production will be a priority of the Union human rights strategy in the Union Delegation in Tashkent; insists that this should be reflected in policy, monitoring, reporting, staffing and financial assistance;

(ix)    That the Commission shall study and if appropriate submit to the European Parliament a legislative proposal on an effective traceability mechanism for the goods being produced through forced child labour;

(x)    Support the Parliament’s call to cotton traders and retailers to desist from buying cotton produced by forced child labour from Uzbekistan and to notify consumers and all of their suppliers of this commitment;

(xi)    If ILO monitoring bodies conclude that serious and systematic breach of Uzbekistan's obligations exists, the Commission should consider initiating an investigation into the temporary withdrawal of the GSP if all other requirements are met; and underlines that in doing so the Commission is merely enforcing the existing Union GSP rules, and stresses the importance of demonstrating consistency in the application of these rules;

(xii)   Outline the importance of the relations between the Union and Uzbekistan on the basis of the PCA and its democratic and human rights principles; reiterate the Union's commitment to further and deepen bilateral relations, which include trade, as well as all areas related to democratic principles, respect for human and fundamental rights and the rule of law;

(xiii)  Actively contribute to the improvement of the social, economic and human rights situation of the population of Uzbekistan by promoting a bottom-up approach and by supporting civil society organisations and the media in order to achieve a sustainable democratisation process;

(xiv)  Provide the Parliament regularly with substantial information on the situation in Uzbekistan, especially with regard to the eradication of forced child labour;

2.   Concludes that Parliament will only consider the consent if the ILO observers, have been granted access by the Uzbek authorities to undertake close and unhindered monitoring and have confirmed that concrete reforms have been implemented and yielded substantial results in such a way that the practice of forced labour and child labour is effectively in the process of being eradicated at national, viloyat and local level;

3.       Instructs its President to request further discussions with the Commission and the Council;

4.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission and the Government and Parliament of Uzbekistan.

(1)

OJ C 282 E, 06.11.2008, p. 478.

(2)

OJ C 313 E, 20.12.2006, p. 466.

(3)

OJ C 272 E, 09.11.2006, p. 456.

(4)

OJ C 124 E, 25.05.2006, p. 422.

(5)

OJ C 175 E, 21.06.1999, p. 432.

(6)

Texts adopted, P7-TA(2011)0260.

(7)

Texts adopted, P7-TA(2010)0434.

(8)

OJ L 123, 17.5.1994, p. 745.

(9)

OJ L 326, 22.12.2000, p. 63.

(10)

OJ L 229, 31.8.1999, p. 3.

(11)

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/117329.pdf

(12)

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/gena/110783.pdf

(13)

http://ec.europa.eu/sport/information-center/doc/timeline/european_council_12-12-2008_conclusions_en.pdf

(14)

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/gena/110783.pdf

(15)

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/103295.pdf

(16)

http://www.eu2008.si/si/News_and_Documents/Council_Conclusions/April/0428_GAERC4.pdf

(17)

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Convention Abbreviation: CCPR, Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Uzbekistan. 26/04/2005. (CCPR/CO/83/UZB. (Concluding Observations/Comments)), http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CCPR.CO.83.UZB.En?Opendocument

(18)

United Nations, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Distr. General, CCPR/C/UZB/CO/3/UZB 25 March 2010, Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee, Uzbekistan,

www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/co/Uzbekistan98_AUV.doc)

(19)

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/%28Symbol%29/E.C.12.UZB.CO.1.En?Opendocument

(20)

United Nations, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW/C/UZB/CO/4, Distr.: General 5 February 2010, Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Uzbekistan, (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/co/CEDAW-C-UZB-CO-4.pdf)

(21)

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Uzbekistan. 02/06/2006. (CRC/C/UZB/CO/2.), (http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CRC.C.UZB.CO.2.En?Opendocument)

(22)

http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session3/UZ/A_HRC_10_82_Add1_Uzbekistan_E.pdf

(23)

International Labour Organisation, 2010 Report of the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, 99th Session, Geneva, 2010, (http://www.ilo.org/global/standards/applying-and-promoting-international-labour-standards/conference-committee-on-the-application-of-standards/lang--en/index.htm)

(24)

International Labour Conference, 99th Session, 2010, Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, (http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_123424.pdf)

(25)

International Labour Conference, 100th Session, 2011, Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (ILC. 100/III/1A), (http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_151556.pdf)

(26)

. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_123424.pdf

(27)

. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_151556.pdf

(28)

Council of the European Union, Council conclusions on child labour, 3023rd Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Luxembourg, 14 June 2010, (http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/115180.pdf)

(29)

The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation, Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment (Note: Date of coming into force: 19:06:1976.) Convention:C138, Geneva 26.06.1973, (http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/convde.pl?C138)

(30)

The General Conference of the International Labour Organization, C182 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999, Geneva 17.06.1999, (http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/cgi-lex/convde.pl?C182)

(31)

OJ L 211, 6.8.2008) p. 1.

(32)

Business Social Compliance Initiative, C.W.F Children Worldwide Fashion, Anti-Slavery International, Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights and Ethical Trading Initiative

(33)

the ITUC-ETUC

(34)

European Commission, External Relations Directorate General, Directorate Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus, Central Asian Republics, DCI Indicative Programme 2011-2013, page 54, (http://www.eeas.europa.eu/central_asia/docs/2010_ca_mtr_en.pdf)

(35)

What has changed? School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, November 2010, (http://www.soas.ac.uk/cccac/centres-publications/file64329.pdf)

(36)

2011 ILO Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, page 429, (http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_norm/@relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_151556.pdf)

(37)

Source: European Commission DG Trade and

(38)

http://unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/cotton/market.htm

(39)

International Labor Rights Forum, http://www.laborrights.org/stop-child-forced-labor/cotton-campaign/company-response-to-forced-child-labor-in-uzbek-cotton)

(40)

Statement of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso following his meeting with the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/40&type=HTML)


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The European Parliament is asked to give its consent to a protocol amending a partnership and cooperation agreement. The rapporteur proposes an interim report in order to work towards a positive outcome with Council and Commission. The rapporteur believes it would in the current human rights situation not be appropriate for the EP to give its consent without getting changes in Uzbekistan and in EU policies. The rapporteur wants to enter into dialogue with the Council and the Commission to obtain these changes so that the EP can reconsider at a later stage to give its consent to the Protocol amending the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

Textiles and the PCA

The PCAs were concluded with the countries of the former Soviet Union at the end of the nineties, when textiles were still a sensitive issue in international trade. Until 1995, textile and clothing quotas were negotiated bilaterally and governed by the rules of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA). This provided for the quantitative restrictions when surges in imports of particular products caused, or threatened to cause, serious damage to the industry of the importing country. Between 1995 and 2005, import quotas were gradually phased out.

Since the EU had a bilateral agreement with Uzbekistan, the EU decided to include Article 16 in the PCA, explicitly excluding textiles from the PCA. For other sectors, the PCA provided for mutual most favoured nation status.

At the end of the transition period for textile import quotas were forbidden. Only import tariffs were allowed. The EU gave, as a general rule, Most-Favoured Nation status to non-WTO members in terms of tariffs; this included Uzbekistan. Many WTO members do the same. Uzbekistan as non-WTO member, on the other hand, does not have the obligation to bind its tariffs. It has the freedom to increase (or decrease) its tariffs as it pleases. This leads to considerable uncertainty amongst EU textile exporters.

By including textiles in the PCA, textiles would fall under the title ‘trade in goods’. That title foresees the according of the MFN status, trade free of quantitative restrictions, the principle of free transit, trade at market related pries, a safeguard clause and prohibitions or restrictions on imports, exports or goods in transit justified on grounds of public morality, public policy or public security.

For other countries, such as Tajikistan, the PCA foresaw the automatic deletion of the Article in cases where the bilateral agreement lapsed. This was not the case for Uzbekistan. At the moment, Article 16 is still valid, so textiles are still excluded from the PCA. Explicit deletion of Article 16 is needed to include textiles in the PCA. The protocol on the table today does just that. Uzbekistan is not the only case. The EU also concluded PCA amending protocols with Azerbaijan (2007) and Kazakhstan (2008).

The protocol and forced child labour

The rapporteur understands that this protocol is beneficial to EU exporters since it creates legal certainty for them.

In economic terms, however, this agreement should not be overestimated. The value of EU textile export to Uzbekistan is EUR 16.4 million - 0.05% of total EU textile export.

Moreover, an agreement with Uzbekistan in the textile sector cannot be treated as a separate technical matter. The fact that the Economist Intelligence Unit puts Uzbekistan 164th out of 167 countries in its ‘Democracy Index’ and that ‘Freedom House Index’ gives a special place to Uzbekistan, ranking amongst the 9 ‘worst of the worst’ is giving rise to concerns about the actual respect for fundamental human rights. It should also be recalled that the EU imposed sanctions against Uzbekistan from 2005-2009 and that the Council adopted conclusions every 6 months during that period.

Uzbekistan is the world’s fifth-largest producer of cotton and its third biggest cotton exporter. In Uzbekistan, the political and economic systems are under state control. Cotton is produced on private farms but the harvested cotton must be handed over to state-owned firms for a price dictated by the state. According to a study by the World Bank, the amount officially paid to farmers is only a third of the export price.

Government employees mobilize children as a cheap source of labour during the cotton harvest. The estimates range from 200.000 to 2 million children from 9-15 years old. The State dictates quotas for cotton, which must be fulfilled. Compliance with these quotas is implemented hierarchically: at the beginning of the harvest the governors of the provinces pass on binding orders to their respective district governors to close schools and send children out to work in the harvest. The district governors then send on these orders to the educational departments of the respective districts. From there, the command is issued directly to schools. Each province must fulfil its allotted quota within the framework of the national cotton plan. This quota is divided among the individual districts to the quota of cotton an individual child has to harvest.

Schools are obliged to send children out into the cotton fields. Administrative employees and teachers who refuse to comply risk losing their jobs. The families of children who refuse to work are pressurized by the police and the prosecution service. The authorities threaten to withhold pension and social support, to cut off electricity, gas and water supplies and even to arrest, imprison and charge members of non-compliant families.

The farmers then take over the organization of the labour: they collect up the cotton harvested by the children and pay the children their meagre wage. The farmers finance the field work via the school administration and the teachers dispatch money each week. Those farmers who provide food for the children deduct the costs incurred from the children’s wages.

In accordance with this system, many schools, particularly those in agricultural regions, are closed from September until November/December. As a consequence, the children involved miss two to three months of school every year.

The response of Uzbekistan, the EU and the rest of the international community

The government of Uzbekistan denies the existence of the problem and states that this is a family farm activity. Continued allegations of forced child labour led the Uzbek Government to ratify in 2008 the two ILO conventions on child labour: on Minimal Age of Employment (138), on Prohibition and Immediate Action for Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (182) and it approved the National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the conventions.

Over the years, many international organisations (including those of the UN and ILO) have expressed concerns regarding the use of (forced) child labour in Uzbekistan. However, the Government of Uzbekistan does not allow independent international observers in the country during the harvest season to verify the implementation of the ILO Conventions. The government misses the opportunity to prove numerous reports, stating that claims that forced child labour occurs are wrong.

The EU Presidency acknowledged at the ILO this June 'the well-documented allegations and broad consensus among the United Nations bodies, the UNICEF, the representative organizations of employers and workers and NGOs’ about forced child labour in Uzbekistan.

Many textile retailers, such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Levi Strauss & Co, GAP, C&A, Wal-Mart (USA) have made commitments to address forced child labour in Uzbekistan's cotton industry.

The EU is a major importer of Uzbek cotton. According to UNCTAD, for a number of years the EU imported 23% of Uzbekistan cotton. Those figures give the EU the moral responsibility to address the issue of forced child labour. It should use its leverage to improve the fate of the children of Uzbekistan.

In line with Article 207(1) of the TFEU, the common commercial policy shall be conducted in the context of the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action and that, pursuant to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union, it must contribute, inter alia, to the protection of human rights. The rapporteur is therefore of the opinion that the Protocol cannot be treated as a purely technical agreement, as long as human rights concerns, such as forced child labour, are raised precisely with regards to the cotton harvest.

The European Parliament should not allow the economic interest to prevail on the worrying issue of forced child labour in Uzbekistan in the interest of 0.05 % of our textile export with a value of EUR 16.4 million.

Initiatives such as the strong statements by the EU (such as the statement by President Barroso on 24 January 2011 in favour of access for an independent monitoring mission to Uzbekistan) are very welcome, as well as the attention for the child labour issue in the context of all EU-Uzbekistan meetings. But there is room for more to be done.

ILO access remains essential to establish the facts and to begin working towards a solution for the children of Uzbekistan. The IPEC program of the ILO would be important in this respect.

The rapporteur welcomes the agreement on setting up an EU Delegation in Tashkent and believes it should be used to obtain information on the ground and to increase the EU’s political profile. Forced child labour must be a priority issue in the EU human rights strategy in Uzbekistan, translated into monitoring, reporting and financial assistance.

The rapporteur favours a positive approach, which should also include assistance to Uzbekistan. EU assistance should focus on agricultural reform through the promotion of reducing administrative regulation in cotton. In Kazakhstan, and to a lesser extent in Tajikistan, progress is being made. Making cotton production more profitable for farmers themselves would lead to less adult labour leaving Uzbekistan and would lead to more investment in machines on farms.

The rapporteur also welcomes the Council’s call on the Commission to report on the relationship between the worst forms of child labour. This report should come with proposals on how the EU can effectively trace products produced using the worst forms of child labour.

The rapporteur believes that, as long as the Uzbek Government continues to refuse ILO full access, the EU should initiate an investigation into the temporary withdrawal of the GSP rights for Uzbek cotton. The rapporteur is aware that, in the past, the Commission was awaiting the establishment of an ILO committee of inquiry. The rapporteur welcomes, in this sense, the new GSP proposal that eliminates this condition in order for an investigation to take place.

However, the rapporteur stresses that the current procedure to start an investigation should not be seen as an impediment for acting. The EU should not be giving preferential access to cotton import produced through forced child labour.

Conclusion

The rapporteur has drafted an interim report on the textiles protocol in order to allow the EU to show its leadership in the field of a common commercial policy in line with the values and objectives of the Union. The rapporteur wants to enter into dialogue with the Commission and the Council in order to frame a coherent EU policy towards Uzbekistan, in which human rights concerns are at the core. The positive instruments for change are there but they also need to be implemented.


OPINION of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (6.10.2011)

for the Committee on International Trade

on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part, amending the Agreement in order to extend the provisions of the Agreement to bilateral trade in textiles, taking account of the expiry of the bilateral textiles Agreement

(16384/2010 – C7-0097/2011 – 2010/0323(NLE))

Rapporteur: Nicole Kiil-Nielsen

The Committee on Foreign Affairs calls on the Committee on International Trade, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its interim report:

A. whereas Article 2 of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan states that "Respect for democracy, principles of international law and human rights as defined in particular in the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, as well as the principles of market economy, including those enunciated in the documents of the CSCE Bonn Conference, underpin the internal and external policies of the Parties and constitute essential elements of partnership and of this Agreement",

B.  whereas, according to the Uzbek authorities, the practice of employing children in cotton harvesting is now limited to teenagers only, this practice takes place on private farms and is not a state-condoned policy and moreover forced labour is illegal and repressed; whereas however the level at which the Uzbek Government sets farm prices and centrally planned production objectives should be revised in order to take into account the existing limitations of resources so as to make full enforcement of the legislation by local authorities in the field a reality and to guarantee that the system will not exert any further pressure such that it inevitably relies on forced child labour,

C. whereas the Council has stated in its conclusions on child labour of 14 June 2010 that it is fully aware of the role and responsibilities of the Union in the strife towards ending child labour,

D. whereas independent international observers have gathered evidence of forced labour and in particular forced child labour as a systematic and organised practice involving pressure on teachers and families with the participation of the police and security forces,

E.  whereas fair international trade requires competition on a level playing-field and moreover the economic factors determining the pricing of products exported to the Union should not be distorted by practices contrary to the basic principles of human rights and the rights of the child,

F.  whereas water is an important resource in the 21st century and therefore its preservation should be a priority; whereas the production of cotton in Uzbekistan has caused a severe reduction in the volume of the Aral Sea between 1990 and 2008 due to poor environmental standards and inefficient irrigation infrastructure,

1.  Requests the Council and the Commission to take into account the following recommendations:

(i)   Remind the Uzbek authorities that despite the fact that human rights principles are included in the text of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and that Uzbekistan has signed and ratified most UN conventions relating to human rights, civil and political rights and the rights of the child, this formal set of legal acts still needs to be implemented effectively;

(ii) Outline the importance of the relations between the Union and Uzbekistan on the basis of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and its democratic and human rights principles; reiterate the Union's commitment to further and deepen bilateral relations, which include trade, as well as all areas related to democratic principles, respect for human and fundamental rights and the rule of law;

(iii) Strongly condemn the use of forced child labour and outline the importance of international observers to monitor the development of the situation of forced labour in Uzbekistan, as well as in other countries in the region;

(iv) Support the request by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to assess the situation regarding the alleged practice of forced labour and in particular forced child labour in harvesting cotton; insist in this regard on the Uzbek Government implementing comprehensively the formal prohibition of this practice in Uzbek legislation and the international conventions ratified by Uzbekistan; stress the need to establish reforms to modernise and motorise the agricultural sector, which would contribute significantly to the abolition of forced child labour;

(v)  Urge the Uzbek President Islam Karimov to allow an ILO monitoring mission into the country to address the issue of child labour practices;

(vi) Actively contribute to the improvement of the social, economic and human rights situation of the population of Uzbekistan by promoting a bottom-up approach and by supporting civil society organisations and the media in order to achieve a sustainable democratisation process;

2.   Concludes that Parliament will only consider the consent after international observers, in particular the ILO, have been granted access by the Uzbek authorities to undertake close and unhindered monitoring and have confirmed that concrete reforms have been implemented and yielded substantial results in such a way that the practice of forced labour and child labour is effectively in the process of being eradicated at national, viloyat and local level.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

4.10.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

57

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Pino Arlacchi, Franziska Katharina Brantner, Frieda Brepoels, Elmar Brok, Tarja Cronberg, Arnaud Danjean, Ana Gomes, Andrzej Grzyb, Richard Howitt, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, Jelko Kacin, Ioannis Kasoulides, Tunne Kelam, Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, Evgeni Kirilov, Maria Eleni Koppa, Andrey Kovatchev, Eduard Kukan, Vytautas Landsbergis, Krzysztof Lisek, Sabine Lösing, Ulrike Lunacek, Barry Madlener, Kyriakos Mavronikolas, Willy Meyer, Alexander Mirsky, María Muñiz De Urquiza, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, Norica Nicolai, Raimon Obiols, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Ioan Mircea Paşcu, Alojz Peterle, Cristian Dan Preda, Libor Rouček, Tokia Saïfi, Nikolaos Salavrakos, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Werner Schulz, Adrian Severin, Hannes Swoboda, Inese Vaidere, Sir Graham Watson, Boris Zala

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Véronique De Keyser, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Elisabeth Jeggle, Agnès Le Brun, Norbert Neuser, György Schöpflin, László Tőkés, Traian Ungureanu, Luis Yáñez-Barnuevo García, Janusz Władysław Zemke

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Paul Murphy


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

23.11.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

26

0

1

Members present for the final vote

William (The Earl of) Dartmouth, David Campbell Bannerman, Daniel Caspary, Marielle De Sarnez, Christofer Fjellner, Bernd Lange, David Martin, Emilio Menéndez del Valle, Franck Proust, Helmut Scholz, Peter Šťastný, Robert Sturdy, Gianluca Susta, Keith Taylor, Iuliu Winkler, Jan Zahradil, Pablo Zalba Bidegain, Paweł Zalewski

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Josefa Andrés Barea, George Sabin Cutaş, Małgorzata Handzlik, Salvatore Iacolino, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, Jörg Leichtfried, Miloslav Ransdorf, Marietje Schaake, Carl Schlyter

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