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Debates
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. A new strategy for Afghanistan (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on a new strategy for Afghanistan.

 
  
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  Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. – Mr President, our overall strategy in Afghanistan remains to assist the Afghan Government and people to be able to run their own country.

Ten years after 2001, we have embarked on what the Bonn conference called last December a ‘transformational decade’, sustaining our engagement but changing its nature, and putting Afghans more and more in control.

There has been some real progress – more than half the country and half the people are already under Afghan security control. But, equally, insurgency remains a major threat to security across the country. I want to extend my personal condolences to the families of the four French soldiers who were killed on Saturday.

Many challenges lie ahead. Afghanistan needs, above all, better governance. Without functioning politics and institutions that can be seen to be legitimate and effective, the transition will not succeed. But we also need better action against drugs, better management of public finances, better rule of law and better human rights protection. Continued and increased Afghan leadership will be vital to meeting these challenges.

As the transition advances, it is right that we look to the government of Afghanistan to set out its own long-term strategy for the country. We are working with the government, Member States and others in the international community to put in place a strategic framework and agreed priorities.

We will play our part. Provided the government of Afghanistan meets its obligations, the EU and Member States have committed to enhancing their assistance in Afghanistan for the next ten-year period. We have begun negotiations with the Afghan Government on a new framework – the cooperation agreement for partnership and development – which will provide a legal basis for our cooperation in all civilian fields and assistance to Afghanistan. We expect that assistance from the EU budget will focus on where we can add most value: on health, agriculture, governance and civilian policing.

It is crucial that we have confidence that our assistance is being used for the purposes for which it is intended – to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. That is why we have laid such emphasis on the transparency of public finances. The Arlacchi report – and I pay tribute to Mr Arlacchi, who is here with us this evening – is right to insist that we must, and I quote ‘ensure transparency and accountability in relation to the assistance provided to the Afghan Government, international organisations and NGOs’.

I have read the allegations of mismanagement of the Law and Order Trust Fund by UNDP with grave concern. I welcome the fact that a full investigation has been announced, and we will await the conclusions of that investigation and take action as appropriate.

Of course, we are now in the midst of three different conferences that will determine the relationship between the international community and the Afghan Government. Last month, I attended the NATO summit in Chicago, where we set out plans to sustain and develop the Afghan National Security Forces. Both President Barroso and I highlighted the importance that we attach to civilian policing and we announced that we would increase our funding for civilian police by 20% for the period 2011-2013; and also that we intend to make an enhanced contribution post-2014.

With both the Afghan Government and international colleagues, I emphasised the critical role that a uniformed police – distinct from the military – needs to play in any democratic society so that people can have confidence in the rule of law and the fair administration of justice.

Our EUPOL training mission provides important support to this role – training police and improving the links between the police and justice. Cooperation with the NATO training mission is working well and, as suggested in the report, we continue to aim for a more complementary division of tasks at both strategic and operational level. We are currently undertaking a strategic review of EUPOL and will reach conclusions on this in the summer.

Counter narcotics will remain an important element of our engagement. The problem of drugs cannot be tackled by crop substitution alone. It needs to be addressed in all our programmes.

On 14 June, we will have an important conference in Kabul which will focus on increased regional cooperation – advancing the ‘Heart of Asia’ initiative that began in Istanbul last year. That meeting will highlight the important role countries in the region have to play in supporting conflict resolution, better security and development. The European Union has much experience on how to advance regional cooperation and we stand ready to offer that expertise and support to Afghanistan’s neighbours.

Honourable Members will know that I have just returned from Pakistan, where I raised these issues with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and other leaders. I stressed that while we would continue our engagement, Afghanistan’s transition could not succeed without a constructive stance by its neighbours, and we recognised Pakistan’s crucial role in this respect.

Then, in Tokyo next month, there will be the opportunity for the Afghan Government to set out its development strategy for the country. In Tokyo, the EU will make it clear that our commitment requires a corresponding commitment from the government of Afghanistan to make progress on the issues that matter to us: electoral reform; public finance management; justice and human rights. Above all, we will emphasise that the focus needs to be on results. That means the political will to drive through difficult reforms, and it also means having the necessary security to allow development to take place, especially outside of Kabul.

In line with the recommendations of the report, the EU will press for better coordination of donor support, and a better alignment between the Afghan Government and donors on priorities. We will consider joint programming of EU and Member States’ assistance as circumstances allow.

The EU and Member States are making a real contribution to Afghanistan. The Afghan Government is doing a lot, but it needs to do more to fulfil those key commitments: to hold credible and transparent elections; to improve the management of public finances and to advance human rights, especially the rights of women and children.

I want to end with a word on the role of women in Afghanistan. I have met with representatives of Afghan women on several occasions – and did so last in the margins of the Bonn conference in December. Their stories and their leadership are remarkable. Afghan women leaders and civil society activists are very concerned that the gains and achievements women have made in the last decade are fragile. This will be a critical issue in any peace talks, but equally we must continue to focus on Afghanistan’s governance and, in particular, the justice institutions: they are key to ensuring that the Afghan Government is able to respond to the commitments it made in London, in Kabul and in Bonn. This is one area where the EU can, and must, play a strong role.

I believe that, in many respects, Afghan women hold the key to the future of their country – and we need to do our utmost to support them as the transition unfolds.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, since the introduction of the counter-insurgency strategy in 2009 and the surge in ISAF troops, tactical success has been achieved, where regions like Kandahar and Helmand are secure, by Afghan standards, and the number of police and army soldiers has doubled.

A phased transition of security responsibility from ISAF to the Afghan National Security Forces is on its way and, soon, 75% of Afghanistan’s population will be living in areas where the Afghan forces have taken the lead on security from ISAF, which will be completing its mission gradually by December 2014.

In the meantime, we encourage an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of peace and reconciliation for a stable Afghanistan, which breaks ties with international terrorism, and complies with the Afghan Constitution, including its provision of human and women’s rights.

The insurgent groups are not the only adversaries of Afghanistan: the narcotics network, the thriving corruption of officials and criminal networks are converging and mutually reinforcing threats. The Afghan police force has to further develop and professionalise. It should evolve towards a credible law enforcement force, for the protection of the civilian population and the system of the rule of law.

The EU and NATO commitment to the stability and development of Afghanistan, but also to its security, goes beyond 2014, with perhaps a shift from combat mission to new training, advising and enhanced assistance along the lines you have just described, Madam High Representative.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ALEXANDER ALVARO
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, I listened carefully to Ms Ashton’s statement and I am not happy about what she said.

Ms Ashton, you spoke on the report on Afghanistan by this Parliament as if it was released a couple of weeks ago. We are talking about a report which was approved by this Parliament in December 2010, so I would have preferred to have heard from you something about the implementation of the report in the past year and a half.

You spoke a great deal about things to be done in Afghanistan. Some of them are absolutely reasonable and right, but you did not mention two major issues that were contained in my report: firstly, the issue of the peace process. What to do with the peace process in Afghanistan is the crucial political point for the future of the country, particularly now that the military occupation is ending.

The second point was the narcotics issue: the only reference you made to that was that crop substitution alone cannot solve the drug problem. Of course; but no one would dissent in any way from this statement. The report contained a very detailed call for a five-year plan to eliminate opium production in Afghanistan through alternative development. This plan has never been carried out in Afghanistan; it was urgent two years ago and it is more urgent now that opium production is still continuing to increase.

We developed also a relationship with the Russian Federation – along with Europe, the major victim of Afghan opium. We had here the internal contacts responsible for the Russian Federation and we developed ideas and plans. Russia was also ready to fund, to co-fund with the EU, a plan to eliminate opium production. Nothing happened; we never had from your office any answer to that.

These are the reasons I am not happy.

 
  
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  Norica Nicolai, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I am happy with Ms Ashton’s discourse. I am not happy with Afghanistan’s future.

According to the Lisbon Summit, the ISAF mission will be finished in 2014. We are now analysing 10 years of partnership between the international community and Afghanistan. What has happened in these ten years? We can all report some achievement in economics, in freedom, in human rights, in women’s rights, in health care, but are these achievements enough to consider Afghanistan a stable and democratic country?

Is Afghanistan today a country which certainly has a democratic future? If I look to the NATO summit, I see a lot of optimism. I believe that we must look behind this optimistic approach, and behind this optimistic approach we will see still increased drug production in Afghanistan, increased corruption and widespread unemployment in that country.

I am really sure that women can play an active role in democratisation, but for how long will women be allowed to play this role after the withdrawal of the ISAF mission?

I am afraid that our strategy for a future Afghanistan is not a realistic one and it is going to be really difficult to implement.

Certainly, we need a strong partnership, not only between the European Union and Afghanistan, but I believe also between the United States and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, coming back to the NATO summit, I can see one chair left empty. It is Putin’s. Maybe Russia can start to play an active role in the area.

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(FR) Mr President, Baroness Ashton, if the NATO summit officially records a decision to pull out of Afghanistan, it might as well be officially recording the defeat of the West.

If we were to compare the statements made by NATO and the Council with information coming from Afghan civil society and the NGOs, you would think that they were talking about two different countries: the resurgence of the Taliban, who are champing at the bit to stamp their authority on the entire country and take their revenge on those who collaborated with the West. I refer of course to women, and I remember how, in 2001, the plight of Afghan women was exploited to justify a military intervention that the population had not asked for.

After the bombings and destruction, they were promised reconstruction, peace and democracy. They have failed. According to the Minister, Mr Eftekhari, 6 million children are suffering from extreme poverty, abuse and violence. Under pressure from the Taliban, schools have been burned, teachers threatened and killed. Nearly 550 girls’ schools have closed their doors in 11 provinces. Young people flee the country to come to the West, the land of promise. There is no point dwelling on the reception or rather the lack of reception waiting for them in Europe: we should be ashamed of ourselves.

In addition, Pakistan and Iran have decided to expel hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees from their countries. Given the EU’s commitment to the Afghan people, are we prepared, Baroness Ashton, at Council level and in the European External Action Service (EEAS), to adopt a plan to help and take in these refugees? Will we welcome and support the threatened teachers, the women’s rights activists, all those who have put their trust in us and who have to choose …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Mirosław Piotrowski, on behalf of the ECR Group. (PL) Mr President, if the European Union has ambitions to become a global player, it must pay particular attention when creating its common foreign policy to the regions that can be described as black holes in the geopolitical map of the world. Afghanistan belongs in this category. This is a country that has been devastated by long-standing wars and is associated primarily with terrorism, the drugs trade (a subject discussed by Baroness Ashton), the arms trade and human trafficking. Led by the desire to bring about positive change resulting in democracy and the creation of a civil society, the European Commission and Member States send enormous sums of money to Afghanistan, and I would be very glad if Baroness Ashton could tell us how much the European Union spends on this goal each year.

The problems in Afghanistan may appear to be many thousands of kilometres away from the borders of the European Union, but, living in our global village, we are directly impacted by the consequences of the crisis in that country, the flow of illegal immigrants being just one symptom. In continuing its efforts to stabilise the situation, the European Union should make better use of the experience of certain Member States, such as Poland for example, which have a good understanding of the stabilisation process in this region and have long been involved in it.

 
  
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  Jacek Włosowicz, on behalf of the EFD Group. (PL) Mr President, Afghanistan is a war that has been lost by the West. After over a decade of our involvement, it has not been possible to defeat the partisans or to gain the support of the civilian population. The main pillar of our activities was intended to be security and victory in the fight against the rebel forces. Despite the consensus between Europe and the United States, as well as support from Russia, it has not been possible to cut Taliban forces off from their bases in Pakistan and Peshawar. It has not been possible to stabilise the internal situation. In practice, acting together with the Afghans, we control only part of the country.

What can we do in this tragic situation? At a time when the President of France is talking about the early withdrawal of forces and the United States has no plan at all, we should concentrate our efforts on the fight against sources of funding for the terrorists so that, deprived of funds, they no longer represent an alternative to the government in Kabul. The European Union should increase funding to encourage Afghan farmers to stop cultivating poppies. In addition, funds allocated for development should be disbursed centrally for regional projects. There is a particular need for infrastructure in the fields of water and agriculture. We should remember that a continued break-up of Afghanistan could result in the Somalisation of the country and its division into warring tribes.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(ES) Mr President, I would like to thank Baroness Ashton once again. I agree with those who have said that we are faced with a failure. That must be acknowledged. Above and beyond NATO’s image campaigns, which is what they are, what is clearly true is that with regard to 2015, we do not know where the peace process will be, in other words, whether the Taliban will have more or less control of Afghanistan by then, if there will be more or less peace, or if there will be more or less corruption. We do not know anything about the plan to provide an alternative for all the opium drug crops; there is nothing, no information. Neither do we know what the withdrawal plan is, as it seems that Pakistan is refusing to negotiate this possibility. We therefore have a scenario in which, above and beyond propaganda, the only concern and the only data that we are being given is that the armed police force is 53% larger than planned. We know nothing more, however.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (S&D). – Mr President, the military presence of allied forces is coming to an end, and I think that is right, because it is time for the Afghan people and the Afghan leaders to run their own country.

The Afghans should have ownership of their country, but, of course, we should not repeat the mistake made after the end of Soviet intervention to leave Afghanistan and to leave the Afghan people to their own destiny. We should be helping: we should be helping with international aid; we should be helping with the training of the police and continuing to help the Afghans prepare to run their country. We should also have an alternative strategy as far as the economy is concerned.

We talk a lot about the narcotics trade, but have we developed an alternative over the last 10 years? Afghanistan is potentially not a poor country: Afghanistan is a country rich in mineral resources, in natural resources. So, for instance, I would like to see more involvement on the part of our countries, of the Member States, with regard to exploiting Afghanistan’s natural resources. If the Chinese can be involved there, then why not us?

On combating narcotics trafficking, we should cooperate with our allies and with Afghanistan’s neighbours. The Arlacchi report mentioned Russia. I do not think we did enough where cooperation with Russia was concerned. I would also propose that we cooperate more intensively than we do now with Iran, because the Iranian police forces and young people in Iran are paying a very heavy price for the narcotics trade. Through this approach, we could also develop in a closer, more confident way with Iran.

In other words, our presence is over, but we should not just leave Afghanistan to its own destiny; we should be helping.

 
  
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  Ewald Stadler (NI).(DE) Mr President, this item is entitled ‘A new strategy for Afghanistan’. However, what you, Baroness Ashton, have presented here today is not new at all. The fact is that the West has had another historic failure in Afghanistan. Also, we do not know whether Mr Karzai or his successor will survive or be able to keep the Taliban under control.

What has the whole International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission cost and what has it achieved? There is just the same amount of terrorism, the Taliban are still out of control and drug cultivation is increasing. Thousands of people have died and this is referred to as collateral damage. The very people who, in an earlier debate, complained strongly about the fact that people are dying in Syria are trivialising the deaths in Afghanistan by calling them collateral damage. This is pure cynicism. We must learn once again to give more respect to the cultural and political sovereignty of other peoples, as a basis for the cooperation called for by the previous speaker. We will not be able to impose our system on other countries as we did in colonial times. We will have to learn humility again. The situation in Afghanistan makes it clear how quickly we will have to do this.

 
  
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  Krzysztof Lisek (PPE). (PL) Mr President, Baroness Ashton, I would like to start by saying that for the first time, I am very happy that there is someone missing from the Chamber, as I will speak faster than planned, since the match between Poland and Russia kicks off in 25 minutes.

Moving on to Afghanistan, however, we should not already be talking about a military operation, although I would like to make just one comment: the Polish Government, in the words of the President or Minister Sikorski, has said that we went into Afghanistan together and we should come out together. I would like to add one comment about other countries: it is a shame that the politics of the day and the fight for votes determine the decisions of those in power, as the consequence of this is that we shall not come out of Afghanistan together, since there are those who will leave earlier.

Of course, the situation continues to be very uncertain and there are many concerns about the future of Afghanistan. At present, we have two years to prepare Afghanistan for an independent government and for the country to function independently. In this context, what the High Representative said on this subject is obviously very important: training, consultancy, those soft measures which, in the future, will enable Afghanistan to function normally. I think that we must help to find a way for this country to function and to find out how it should develop economically, what it should produce and what it should export abroad. These are very important matters. However, the development aid that we provide must be sensible and thought through, without wasting money.

 
  
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  Thijs Berman (S&D). (NL) Mr President, Lady Ashton, when the NATO forces leave Afghanistan in 2014, will the country be able to take its future into its own hands in a peaceful way? As things stand, that does not seem likely. First of all, Mr Karzai’s government is weak, it is embroiled in corruption controversies, it is internally divided and it is split over the importance of reconciliation. Secondly, the Afghan army is still not able to take over the role of the NATO troops and, thirdly, there is still very little in the way of Afghan leadership in the negotiations between the parties and in the region. They are being dominated by Washington, with its own American agenda, and that will not lead to a successful outcome.

This conflict will not end without a negotiated political agreement, but Mr Karzai’s government is unlikely to be in a position to contribute to that. The International Crisis Group made a good suggestion: let the UN team of mediators, accepted by all parties, provide a realistic new start to the negotiations.

I am curious as to how Lady Ashton will respond to this proposal. Perhaps, the EU could insist on this. The EU’s role must be political, about more than material assistance, more than simply the training of police officers, and also more than the financial assistance that we must continue to provide. Whatever happens, the EU should continue to support the strengthening of Afghan democracy, Afghan institutions, the electoral system, decentralisation of power, the consolidation of local parties and local authorities. This, together with the fight against corruption, is essential for a credible, viable administration after 2014.

 
  
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  Michèle Striffler (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Baroness Ashton, almost 10 years since the start of military action in Afghanistan and it is clear that the situation on the ground is still particularly uncertain. The efforts of the international community have failed to put an end to the Taliban insurgency, and peace and stability in Afghanistan have still not been achieved.

France has recently lost four soldiers – yet another four soldiers – in a suicide attack in Kapisa province. This strategy highlights the fact that there is no obvious end in sight in Afghanistan. I worry about an early withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2012, as it is both tactically difficult and considered unfair by our allies. However, I would like to congratulate the European soldiers who have done a great job in training the Afghan army.

In December 2010, Parliament adopted a very clear report on the strategy to be adopted in Afghanistan focusing on four priority areas for action, in particular, training the police, coordinating international aid and the elimination of opium poppy cultivation. This is an angle of attack that I fully support, but I would warn the international community against an early exit from Afghanistan.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE). (FI) Mr President, we Members of the European Parliament voted in favour of a new EU strategy for Afghanistan back in 2010, when it was observed that only about 20% of EU aid reaches the people who need it. We asked, for example, for a reform of international aid, for the destruction of poppy seed plantations, and for the Afghan police to receive better training.

The EU’s External Action Service’s country strategy expires in 2013, and we have not, as part of the international community, been able to help Afghanistan in the way that we wanted to. It would seem that the country is still in a desperate state, and this has only become worse as a result of the Taliban’s spring offensive.

The Foreign Affairs Council in May reminded us that Afghanistan is to hold elections in 2014 and 2015. However, the country is not ready for elections, and the EU must ensure that Mr Karzai’s government undertakes to reform its electoral system before May 2013. The EU would be a good partner in implementing these reforms and in strengthening independent institutions.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D). (PL) Mr President, what Baroness Ashton has said is certainly heading in the right direction as, in my opinion, it is sensible to change the policy followed by the European Union, and more broadly speaking by the West, from a policy of replacing the Afghan authorities to a policy of helping these authorities take responsibility for the security and development of their own country. In this regard, I would like to draw attention to an opportunity that we in the European Union have been failing to exploit sufficiently. I believe that the European Union should launch a special programme of scholarships for young Afghans. I am thinking here, in particular, about training specialists in such areas as medicine, land reclamation or geology. I believe this would yield better results.

 
  
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  Nick Griffin (NI). – Mr President, in May, President Barroso bragged of the EU and its Member States throwing EUR 1.2 billion a year down the Afghan drain. But EUR 1.2 billion is only a fraction of the true cost. Britain’s contribution alone to the Afghan farce, according to the British Ministry of Defence, is already over GBP 18 billion, plus GBP 3 billion in aid, plus GBP 4 billion in equipment that is to be left behind, plus GBP 5 billion that will be screwed out of the British taxpayer to run Afghanistan for a further 30 years.

Most importantly, 417 British dead are the highest price of all and the most obscene, because it is a war that has nothing to do with Britain. We should bring our troops home at once and put the neo-con crooks who sent them there on trial as war criminals.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. – Mr President, let me begin by saying that those in this House who believe that we need to commit to Afghanistan will recognise that this is a long-term commitment and that the stability and security not just of the region, but way beyond the region, are partly dependent on the success that Afghanistan can achieve and the way that its people can be supported into a better future.

There is no doubt, too, that this is a commitment that is difficult at times. It requires us to continue to push hard on ensuring that what we believe should be done by the Afghan Government is indeed done, and that we ensure that our resources are well spent.

The European Union spends EUR 200 million a year in Afghanistan on a range of different programmes to try and support stability, economic growth, the role of women, health care, rural development – a whole range of different projects – and especially to support the building of a civilian police force, so essential to the state’s future, when justice and the rule of law can be not only talked about but can be seen to be effective across the country. In addition, EUR 1 billion are spent by Member States across the European Union to try and support these efforts.

There are good news stories. Unfortunately, it is very difficult sometimes to understand the positive side of what is happening in Afghanistan, but we have seen health care improve, infant mortality going down, and very many girls in school and finally getting the education they deserve. Access to health care at a primary level, which used to be less than 10%, is now more than 60%. These are important, alongside many of the other ways in which we can try and support this country into the future.

I am sorry that Mr Arlacchi feels disappointed in this. I know that you met with our chief operating officer a few weeks ago, and I hope that was a useful meeting.

I will just comment on a couple of issues I know are of particular importance to you. We are supportive of the Afghan-led peace process and reconciliation but we talked again in Bonn about the ‘red lines’ that have been restated. We have to be clear that we need respect for the Afghan constitution, including its human rights provisions; I believe that is indispensable. I believe you agree with me on that, because only then will this process be truly inclusive, representing the legitimate interests of all the people of Afghanistan, regardless of gender, regardless of social status. We said in Bonn that we must see the region respect and support the peace process and its outcome.

So the Istanbul process is under way and, in a few days, the ministerial regional conference in Kabul should hopefully provide some real concrete evidence of the growing understanding by Afghanistan’s neighbours that they have got a lot to gain from a sovereign, stable and united Afghanistan.

I know, too, that the proposals on eradication of opium cultivation were to set aside EUR 100 million and to create an agency with its own budget and staff. But we have chosen to try and back the structures that we have actually got in place on the ground, to try and work with the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, the Ministry of Rural Development and the Ministry of the Interior, because, in truth, trying to eradicate the cultivation of drugs is about a whole raft of programmes. It means rural development, it means health, it means law enforcement and it means border management.

What we also know, of course, is that the areas where you have greater persistence in opium poppy production are those that have neither security nor governance, so not areas where we are able to operate, nor indeed would we be able to pursue the policy in the way that I know you would wish to see.

The commitment, though, is there. We have got to try and find ways to tackle the real issues that stand in the way of Afghanistan going forward. But we have to recognise that this is a long-term commitment and a commitment that moves us beyond 2014 into the work we need to do on development. If we do not, I believe the consequences will be enormous, not just for the people of Afghanistan, but actually for us too.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE), in writing.(RO) NATO has confirmed in Chicago that ISAF military operations in Afghanistan will end in 2014 after a gradual transfer of responsibility to the Afghan authorities. I wish to emphasise again, as I have also done in my previous speeches on this subject, that the Afghan Government’s full involvement is required to ensure long-term stability. At the same time, international support must also continue after 2014, especially through the training and assistance programmes. I believe that the EU can also make a valuable contribution to this process. This is why I welcome the decisions made by the Council in May on supporting the efforts to achieve stability in Afghanistan, and I hope that they will be implemented as soon as possible. With this aim in mind, I suggest looking into the possibility of structured cooperation between EUPOL and other training missions. I also call for specific attention to be focused on the programmes for improving the situation of women as part of development assistance. I should mention that my country has already confirmed that it will maintain its commitment to Afghanistan until the end of the ISAF mission, being due to provide security in the Zabul region. Last but not least, I acknowledge the courage and devotion of Romania’s soldiers who are contributing, sometimes paying with their lives, to establishing security, stability and democracy in Afghanistan.

 
  
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  Iosif Matula (PPE), in writing.(RO) After 11 years of effort by the international community, the current situation in Afghanistan still requires considerable improvements. Violent extremism, prevalent both inside and outside the region, the problem of drugs grown and produced in Afghanistan, as well as socio-economic indicators, highlight the need for the EU to play a much more active role in the reconstruction and development of the region. The EU’s efforts must focus on improving the operation of the Afghan Government’s structures. The strategy for Afghanistan must emphasise the significant involvement of Afghan institutions and citizens in developing their country with the aim of achieving stable governance supported by the international community. It must focus all its efforts on socio-economic development. The European Union is one of the biggest partners taking part in the reconstruction of Afghanistan through the logistical aid and equipment it provides. I wish to point out that the way in which the aid reaches Afghanistan and is distributed needs to be readjusted. I believe that a larger proportion of the aid needs to be channelled directly via Afghan institutions, which is a better solution than distributing it via the international cooperation and development agencies. The Afghan Government’s legitimacy stands to grow if it is going to take responsibility for delivering aid.

 
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