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Procedure : 2000/2137(COS)
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Document selected : A5-0060/2001

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Thursday, 15 March 2001 - Strasbourg
EU election assistance and observation

European Parliament resolution on the Commission communication on EU Election Assistance and Observation (COM(2000) 191 - C5-0259/2000 - 2000/2137 (COS) )

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the Commission communication (COM(2000) 191 - C5-0259/2000 ),

-  having regard to Articles 3, 6, 11 of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 3, 177 of the EC Treaty,

-  having regard to Article 21.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the OSCE Commitments, agreed upon in Copenhagen in 1990;

-  having regard to Article 17(2) of the Cotonou Agreement,

-  having regard to the EU guidelines on common criteria for the selection of electoral observers(1) and the EU guidelines on electoral observation(2) ,

-  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 975/1999 of 29 April 1999 laying down the requirements for the implementation operations which contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms(3) and Council Regulation (EC) No 976/1999 of 29 April 1999 laying down the requirements for the implementation of Community operations, other than those of development cooperation, which, within the framework of Community cooperation policy, contribute to the general objective of developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and to that of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in third countries(4) ,

-  having regard its resolution of 16 March 2000 on the Annual Report on International Human Rights and EU Human Rights Policy(5) ,

-  having regard to its resolution of 19 December 1997 on the Commission report on the implementation of measures intended to promote observance of human rights and democratic principles (6) and on setting up a single coordinating structure with the Commission responsible for human rights and democratisation(7) ,

-  having regard to its implementing provisions governing the work of delegations,

-  having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

-  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and the Committee on Development and Cooperation (A5-0060/2001 ),

A.  whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that the right to elect freely chosen representatives in secret, periodically held, and genuine elections, on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is one which all citizens should enjoy, and is an essential element of democracy and the rule of law, to which the European Union is committed in its Treaties,

B.  whereas election observation and election assistance are key elements of the EU global strategy for the respect of human rights, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law and the promotion of development in its relations with third countries,

C.  whereas the election period is a democratic expression of political pluralism and must be organised in accordance with internationally recognised standards,

D.  whereas although the number of elections world-wide has been increasing over the last decade, and 60% of the world's countries have now held elections within that period, the fact remains that many governments describe themselves as democratic despite the fact that this flies in the face of social realities, while in many countries democracy remains new and fragile, particularly in the developing world and whereas some developing countries are lacking adequate provisions in their constitutions to guarantee the political rights of all their citizens,

E.  whereas the Cotonou Agreement gives a mandate to the EU/ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly, which includes 77 Members of the European Parliament, to promote democratic processes through dialogue and consultation,

F.  whereas promotion of democracy through electoral support has to be based on prior long-term observation of the political environment of the country in question and scrutiny of elections must be part of a continuous process of observations,

G.  whereas the scrutiny of elections is mainly aimed at strengthening the legitimacy of the electoral process, increasing public confidence in the elections, avoiding electoral fraud, better protecting human rights and contributing to conflict solution,

H.  whereas the European Parliament ought to assume a prominent role in the EU's scrutiny of elections, given its democratic legitimacy and specific expertise, and whereas its doing so raises the political profile of such missions,

I.  whereas the Commission's communication follows up Parliament's request to evaluate EU participation in international electoral observation and to strengthen the role of the EU and the European Parliament in such operations,

J.  whereas lessons learned from the past have led the Commission to present a systematic plan for its future action in the area of electoral assistance and election observation, in order to act in a more coordinated and coherent way,

K.  whereas this new EU strategy includes adequate instruments, sufficient funding, the best use of resources, visibility of action, the definition of the role of the European Parliament and a much better coordination between Council, Commission and European Parliament on one side, and between the EU institutions and the relevant international organisations on the other,

L.  whereas, since the entry into force of Council's Regulations for human rights and democracy, the political and financial decision both to provide election assistance and to send EU observers must be taken under the first pillar, on the basis of Commission proposals,

M.  whereas the importance of the decision as to whether or not to observe an election reinforces the need for international organisations to adopt a consistent and credible approach to this question, which will ultimately strengthen the message sent by the international community,

1.  Welcomes the Commission's communication and hopes that the communication will be the first step towards a well-defined EU strategy for electoral assistance and election observation putting an end to eight years of ad hoc interventions and giving a higher profile to its action;

2.  Confirms its own determination to fully support the evolution of democratic processes, by using all instruments and policies at its disposal;

3.  Recognises the important role of the European Union in the organisation and effective observation of competitive, multiparty elections;

EU Coordination

4.  Considers it vital, for the success of any EU election observation mission, that close coordination take place between the Commission, the Council Presidency, the diplomatic missions of the Member States in third countries, the EU Electoral Unit, and the EP delegation;

5.  Underlines its decisional autonomy but considers it essential, in order to apply a common approach, that the decisions on the EP and EU election observation missions should be taken every six months in the framework of consultation machinery formally laid down between Parliament, Commission and Council;

6.  Requests that the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agree furthermore on a set of rules as regards their respective roles and responsibilities in election assistance and observation, possibly in the framework of a memorandum of understanding; to this end, calls on its President to initiate formally the necessary procedures;

7.  Stresses that the regular presidential trilogue should be a forum to discuss questions related to the participation of EU observers, and in particular of MEPs, in election observation;

8.  Calls on the Commission to involve Parliament from the earliest possible moment in the preparation of election observation, including joint assessment missions, the definition of the nature of any EU participation and, in particular, the appointment and definition of the mandate of the Head of the EU Observation Mission;

9.  Recommends, in order to maximise the EU's profile and visibility, that the Union should appoint one Chief Observer per mission, who will have the necessary expertise, will preferably be a Member of the European Parliament and will bear prime responsibility for communications with the media;

10.  Stresses that the European Parliament should investigate the adoption of guidelines to cover the nomination of Heads of Observer Missions, but should accept that the present informal approach which has produced three EP Heads of Mission is satisfactory so far;

EP Organisation

11.  Suggests the establishment of an EP "Election Coordination Group" composed of representatives of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, the Committee on Development and Cooperation, the European Parliament members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and representatives of the Interparliamentary Delegations;

12.  Suggests that the "Election Coordination Group" examine all questions related to the planning, organisation, evaluation and follow-up of the European Parliament's observation missions, ensuring adequate cooperation with the Council and Commission, and coordination with the relevant international organisations; believes that in view of the subject matter secretariat back-up should be provided by expanding the existing Human Rights Unit, with an appropriate number of additional staff;

13.  Believes that, whilst MEPs will usually only be present for a limited period, their role will, by definition, be different from other short-term observers because, as elected parliamentarians, they provide a particular political perspective, expertise and experience;

14.  Recognises that the Council adopted criteria on 28 June 1998 which provide a good basis for determining EU involvement in election observation and assistance, and decides to review the provisions in force and similarly adopt clear and transparent criteria for determining its own involvement and further calls for decisions to support and observe elections to be taken on a case by case basis;

15.  Notes that the democracy process is a steady process starting from the lowest local and regional level and that it may be important to observe also elections following the first democratic elections;

16.  Recommends that the European Parliament's missions for election observation should be authorised by the Conference of Presidents on the basis of a half-yearly timetable submitted by the "Election Coordination Group", in order to ensure adequate time for preparation of the European Parliament's election observation missions;

17.  Recommends, as a general rule, that Parliament should participate in EU electoral observation missions and should, whenever appropriate, participate in election observation under the umbrella of the relevant international organisations;

18.  Recommends, in this connection, examining the possibility of sending an observer mission even if this is requested only by a minority, by part of a minority or by consolidated associations of citizens;

19.  Recommends, in order to facilitate decision-making in particularly sensitive political situations, the sending of an ad hoc delegation to carefully examine the situation in the country concerned before the final decision is taken whether to observe these particular elections;

20.  Notes that only the EP can determine the size and composition of an EP election observation mission and that only the EP can determine the duration of the mission;

21.  Considers it vital, for both representation and visibility, that a minimum number of participants should be established for EP delegations, broken down according to membership of committees and political groups which would be increased subject to the significance of the mission;

22.  Considers also that the missions should cover all phases of observation including the preparations for the elections in the country, the election campaign, the counting of votes, and the official declaration of the results;

23.  Takes the view that as irregularities in election campaigns mostly occur during the run-up to the elections, the European Parliament should, as far as possible, coordinate monitoring at this stage of the elections with the Commission and the Council; proposes that Members of the European Parliament consider being present in the country during the preparations in order to gain more insight into the conduct of elections;

24.  Considers it important that European Parliament delegations to observe elections should, whenever possible, have a gender balance;

25.  Requests that members of the Committee on Development and, in the case of ACP countries, European Parliament members of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly should participate in the observation of elections in developing countries;

26.  Requests that, in view of the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement, the desire of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly to send an observer group consisting of representatives from both sides should, if appropriate, be respected;

27.  Recommends that the composition of the ad hoc delegation take account of the special knowledge of Members; stresses the importance of adequate information for the EP delegation about the pre-electoral situation, both from the Commission and the Council before departure and on the spot, possibly completed by a special briefing on the election observation procedures by the Head of the (EU) Observation Mission;

28.  Points out that it is extremely desirable for members of a European Parliament observation mission to be thoroughly prepared for their task as observers before the mission starts;

29.  Suggests that international election experts should assist Parliament in pre-election advice and could also give training for European Parliament's desk officers engaged in external policy;

EU Capacity

30.  Calls, in view of the highly political dimension of EU missions to observe elections, for an adequately staffed election unit to be set up within the Commission as the main contact for Parliament and the Council, which on account of the political dimension should fall under the DG RELEX and not be located within the European Aid Cooperation Office, which has executive and administrative responsibilities, and which should ensure a systematic and coordinated EU strategy for participation in the observation of elections;

31.  Calls on the Commission to select carefully the organisations providing technical and logistical coordination and observers; recommends strongly that the EU criteria for the selection of electoral observers should be respected and stresses, in particular, the importance of the responsibility of observers towards the EU in EU election operations; calls on the Commission to conclude long-term contracts with organisations that have proved to correspond to EU requirements;

32.  Urges the Commission to improve the EU's visibility and representation when it participates in the observation of elections, for example by improving the composition and terms of reference of the election observation team and deploying a media/public relations adviser with EU experience in order to ensure the requisite press and media attention; considers that appropriate and generous use of the EU logo and other EU symbols is to be recommended;

Country Assessment and Sustainable Support

33.  Stresses that the EU's involvement in election observation has to be completed by sustainable long-term support in the democracy process in which the EU assists political and social forces in the country concerned in setting up an agenda of priorities and needs for the proper organisation of elections, including the right timing and the commitment to invite EU observers;

34.  Stresses that, in view of the often broad framework, election assistance must start as early as two years before the actual observation of elections;

35.  Calls on all developing countries to guarantee in their constitutions the political rights of all their citizens in order to allow through the electoral process the development and expression of a pluralistic society;

36.  Stresses that, in the framework of the parliamentary dialogue, the European Parliament should enhance its political role by becoming involved in setting up the "democracy gap” agenda;

37.  Recommends that discussions about the strategic priorities in the area of human rights and democracy promotion, including EU involvement in election operations, should be part of the future common agenda between the Council, Commission and Parliament;

38.  Calls on the Commission to develop coherent country strategy papers, which include provisions to assist in and/or observe elections; stresses that electoral support and development aid should be linked and conditionality renewed;

39.  Stresses the importance of a prior thorough and systematic analysis of the political conditions, the practicability and, in particular, the political usefulness of EU involvement in electoral operations;

40.  Asks that the country reports of the EU's diplomatic missions and the Commission's delegations in third countries and the assessment mission reports should be made available to Parliament on request, in order to provide sound information about the country holding elections, and underlines the importance of adequate reporting about the election process itself and the post-election period;

41.  Suggests that the Commission, in order to facilitate country assessment, establish partnerships with independent organisations which have acquired acknowledged expertise and experience in the field of democracy support, in particular election observation and election assistance;

Election Assessment

42.  Considers it necessary to adopt clear and transparent criteria for assessing electoral processes as regards respect for human rights, the rule of law and the democratisation of society in general;

43.  Stresses that merely to use the words "free and fair” as a verdict on an election is often inadequate and that other criteria should be included before an election is declared as having been in accordance with democratic principles; believes that standards of assessment of election processes need to be applied with flexibility and consistency;

44.  Considers that the election assessment made by the EU Observation Mission must be exclusively based on the findings of the electoral process, without being subject to any interference from Member States;

45.  Calls on the Commission to formulate guidelines and standards for a proper assessment of EU electoral support, notably concerning pertinence, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability, possibly taking into account analysis by local stakeholders and independent electoral experts;

46.  Recommends that the European Parliament's observer delegation should coordinate and if possible issue the preliminary statement jointly with the EU Chief Observer, and in case of non- EU missions, where applicable, with other observing delegations; considers, however, that its special role should be emphasised by presenting a final report, focusing on the political consequences for future EU policy towards the country concerned;

47.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to assess the election process, in particular in the case of major elections observed by the EU, in the framework of a statement in plenary and on the basis of the final reports of the Head of Mission and the EP delegation, in order to take due account of Parliament's political assessment of the observed election and at the same time to increase visibility of the EU action;

48.  Urges consideration of an amendment to the rules of procedure which would allow MEP Heads of Mission to address Plenary;

49.  Decides to uphold the serious commitment that constitutes election observation by also closely monitoring post-election developments - central to the credibility to the electoral process - and taking them into consideration in future relations with the country concerned and urges the Commission to do likewise;

50.  Recommends that the EU annual report on human rights should include more detailed information about EU electoral operations and their effectiveness,

51.  Recommends that the future agenda of the annual Human Rights Forum should include discussions about lessons learned in election observation, with the active participation of Members of European Parliament who have taken part as observers,

International Coordination

52.  Stresses the importance of avoiding overlapping and duplication of effort between different organisations involved in monitoring elections in a country and observes that the EU's involvement should not be an end in itself where other election monitoring organisations are represented;

53.  Calls on the Commission to establish partnership agreements with relevant international organisations such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations for election observation and assistance missions, in order to ensure better cooperation, coordination of working methods and EU/EP visibility;

54.  Recommends that the Commision organise a conference to this end with the participation of Parliament, Council and Member States and the relevant international organisations;

55.  Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with other international organisations, to draw up common criteria for assessing the electoral process; stresses, however, that such partnership agreements must guarantee the EU the necessary political manoeuvrability required to make an independent assessment free of constraint from any international organisations;

56.  Suggests, where applicable, that the EP delegation should co-chair the international election observation mission jointly with other parliamentary delegations, such as from the OSCE or the Council of Europe; recommends regular consultations between the European Parliament and these organisations;

57.  Stresses the importance of agreeing, where applicable, on a coordinating body in a particular election operation for all international organisations involved; suggests as a rule, that, particularly if the EU is the major donor, it should coordinate and take the political lead for the overall assessment of the elections;

58.  Insists that, once the EU decides to assist and observe an electoral process, the necessary arrangements must be made, together with international partners, to ensure a clear acknowledgement of the EU's financial contribution;

59.  Recommends that international cooperation should include joint assessment missions, with the participation of the European Parliament, in order to verify minimum conditions for the credibility of the electoral process and the requirements for the proper conduct of observation;

60.  Recommends that international cooperation should include long-term planning, information gathering, briefing and training, joint deployment, uniform analysis and reporting methodology and sharing critical resources;

61.  Stresses the role of national observers and civil rights organisations in the electoral process, both in itself and as part of the learning process leading to the stabilisation of democracy in the countries concerned; calls on the Commission, therefore, to help develop their capacities by means of technical assistance and training progammes;

62.  Stresses furthermore the importance of providing necessary information to domestic observers about the role and the nature of international observer delegations;

63.  Notes with satisfaction the increasingly important role of civil society in the promotion of democratic values and calls therefore for it to be drawn more than at present into a cooperative relationship which is not restricted to the election period but also focuses on the development of democratic traditions;

Budgetary Questions

64.  Welcomes the fact that a heading related to election monitoring and support, which is a clear priority of the "European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights”, has been maintained under this chapter and suggests further consolidation of appropriations under the specific budget line;

65.  Calls on the Commission to earmark an adequate amount of funds in each geographical budget line for electoral support;

66.  Considers that annexing a detailed breakdown of EDF appropriations to the general budget, including contributions to electoral assistance, would be an important step towards budgetary unity;

67.  Calls on the Commission to submit regular evaluation reports of its actions, including co-funding with other actors and the cost-effectiveness of its electoral operations;

68.  Recommends the systematic electronic transmission of data about project implementation and recalls in this context Parliament's request for the establishment of a "European Network for Human Rights and Democracy”;

o   o

69.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Council Decision 8728/99 - PESC 165 - COHOM 4, 28.5.1999.
(2) Council Decision 9262/98 - PESC 157 - COHOM 6, 3.6.1998.
(3) OJ L 120, 8.5.1999, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 120, 8.5.1999, p. 8.
(5) OJ C 377, 29.12.2000, p. 336.
(6) OJ C 14, 19.1.1998, p. 399.
(7) OJ C 14, 19.1.1998, p. 402.

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