Other Questions

Foreign Conflicts

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

6 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the EU is involved in any efforts to restart talks between Israel and Palestine and, if so, if he will supply an up to date report on the matter. [43297/10]

Joe Costello

Ceist:

7 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation regarding the Middle East peace talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43148/10]

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

30 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the EU is involved in any efforts to restart talks between Israel and Palestine and, if so, will he supply an up to date report on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43100/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

36 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues continue to address the Middle East peace process; if any new initiatives have been put forward with a view to restoring a momentum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43321/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of ongoing contact or dialogue at EU and UN levels with the various parties in the Middle East; the level of progress to date; if a structure to facilitate permanent or continuous peace talks has been established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43516/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 7, 30, 36 and 122 together.

The launch of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on 2 September was a very important step towards peace in the Middle East, achieved after long effort by President Obama and his Administration. Unfortunately the talks were very quickly suspended again when the partial Israeli moratorium on settlement construction expired on 26 September. President Abbas had always made clear that he could not continue in negotiations while settlement construction continued, and the three negotiating sessions which had taken place by that time were not nearly enough to develop confidence on either side that the negotiation process was going to achieve results. I have made clear, here in the Dáil and in my address to the UN General Assembly on 27 September, our deep disappointment at this breakdown, which was clearly foreseen and could and should have been avoided.

The United States, with the strong support of the European Union but essentially in private discussions with the parties, has worked intensively to get the talks back on track. Secretary of State Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu met for seven hours in Washington last week and are widely reported to have agreed terms under which Israel will renew the moratorium for a period of three months in order to allow the negotiations to proceed. The United States is thought to have offered unspecified political and security assurances to Mr. Netanyahu in return.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have yet reacted officially to these terms and some more discussions may be needed. The Arab League foreign Ministers are likely also to be involved. However, there seems to be a genuine prospect now that negotiations will recommence in earnest.

It is crucial to stress that negotiations are necessary but not sufficient. If a period of a few months is to be won for talks, at some political cost, then it is absolutely essential that both sides seize that opportunity and engage genuinely and substantively from the outset. The goal has to be that, before the renewed moratorium expires, the two sides can see clearly and with confidence that this process has a real chance of delivering a comprehensive settlement that will ensure the peaceful two-state solution, which is the only way they can live in peace together in the future. Surely, that prize must be worth any effort, any political capital and the greatest possible restraint on both sides.

I share the Minister's concern about the breakdown of the talks and sincerely hope every effort will be made to resume them as quickly as possible. I also share his view, as does the Fine Gael Party, that the only solution to this impasse is a two-state solution, which means we have to recognise the feelings on both sides. Since I took over this brief, I have learned a little about the feeling in Israel as well as in Palestine. I am sure the Minister is aware there are views in Israel that are direct opposites when it comes to trying to reach a solution, just as there are between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah. Sensitivity is very important in all of these debates and discussions. I do not believe being seen to take one side against the other is helpful.

Does the Minister agree one of the ways to bring people to understand the sense of coming to an agreement is through economic prosperity? Therefore, the opening up of the Gaza Strip for economic investment, job creation and, in particular, foreign investment is one way of getting the people to realise the benefit of having a peaceful solution to a given problem. This is now recognised in Northern Ireland, where, as a result of the peace process, we now have foreign inward investment which stabilises the community. Does the Minister agree that every effort should be made to try to bring about the opening of the Gaza Strip to allow inward investment and increase trade, which would be a way to finding a solution to this problem?

Absolutely. We are, of course, aware of the different political perspectives towards the talks within Israel, as well as the different perspectives within Palestinian society and between different groups. This is one of the reasons we have been strong advocates for Palestinian reconciliation. In my meetings with the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the Arab League at the UN Assembly, we pushed strongly for renewed momentum in the Palestinian reconciliation process, which is essential ultimately to the delivery of a comprehensive settlement. I had a sense over some time that this momentum had gone somewhat cold.

In terms of the Israeli perspective, the Quartet's envoy, Mr. Tony Blair, has consistently been at pains to point out that Mr. Netanyahu represents the best shot at leadership within Israel in regard to actually delivering a deal, particularly within the centre to centre-right perspective within the Israeli political system. We are sensitive in our commentary, although we do not pull our punches either and when we believe something that has happened is wrong, we say it. Our experience in Northern Ireland tells us certain measures are confidence building and can aid peace, and we need to say that. The Deputy was correct to point out that the opening up of the Gaza Strip is very important for the normalisation of economic activity, for example, to facilitate exports from Gaza, which are currently not facilitated.

I have just received a letter from Mr. Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, apprising me of his experience on his recent visit to Gaza, where he met with businessmen. In his letter, which he circulated to other Ministers, he again reiterates much of what we have seen ourselves. There is a need for Israel and everybody involved to agree we need to enable business, manufacturing and infrastructure works to restart in Gaza. Infrastructure works have been too slow in coming on stream, particularly the water works, which is an iconic project that would do so much to improve the quality of life for all concerned in Gaza.

I was interested in the Minister's reference to the German Foreign Minister's letter. There is also a more recent comment by somebody who is perhaps much closer to us all, Mr. John Ging, who has said that what happened in Gaza through the widely-reported easing of some restrictions has made little difference and has not made possible the completion of the construction projects in which UNRWA was involved. Neither has it made possible significant advances in regard to infrastructure. In fact, it was small, inadequate and sporadic, and had the effect of relieving the Israeli authorities of international pressure in regard to access to Gaza.

My second point is in regard to the question of the moratorium on settlements in the West Bank. I understand — perhaps the Minister can assist us — in regard to the recent agreement with the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton, and others that the moratorium has been given at the price of there being no future moratoriums and that this would be the last moratorium. At the same time, licences for building have been issued and this has been accompanied by evictions in east Jerusalem.

Finally, the Minister agreed with me at one stage that it would have been of assistance if a secretariat was appointed to the work of the peace process and the Quartet. I happen to have little confidence in Mr. Blair's achievements but surely the US talks are emphasising once again that when the United States becomes active, the Quartet becomes inactive.

I am aware of the comments of Mr. John Ging. I am deeply disappointed at the lack of progress in regard to the Gaza situation because, as the Deputy may recall, at the time of the flotilla crisis and the appalling loss of life, there was a significant meeting of Foreign Ministers which was addressed by Mr. Tony Blair and by Commissioner Georgieva in regard to development and the need to see delivery on the ground. We were given significant assurances, particularly in terms of infrastructural works. While there has been an alleviation, there has been little in terms of the volume of goods coming in on a humanitarian basis.

However, as Deputy Barrett said, the real issue is that we need significant infrastructural investment, much of which is guaranteed by international organisations and countries. Some countries, such as Germany and France, have provided significant up-front funding to do very significant infrastructural work.

And Saudi Arabia also.

And Saudi Arabia and others. It is extremely frustrating that this has not happened because it undermines confidence among Palestinians and, in particular, among moderate Palestinian and Arab opinion that people are serious about a resolution. That is a significant by-product of all of this, apart altogether from the imperative of the humanitarian situation and the need to get infrastructure up and running.

I read that part of the deal being discussed between Secretary of State Clinton and Mr. Netanyahu was that the US would supply 25 fighter jets worth $3 billion. The point the Minister has just made highlights the fact the Germans and the EU want to invest in infrastructure rather than in items of war. Does the Minister agree it is important that the EU takes a lead role in these negotiations? With due respect to the US, it is wrong that it should be seen to take control. We can show there will be EU investment in this region if peace can be brought about.

The EU is a very significant donor to the Middle East.

It is the largest donor.

At the conference at Sharm el-Sheikh almost two years ago huge volumes of aid were promised for Gaza which have not materialised because of the obstacles put in the way of the aid. To be fair, the United States has been a significant donor to the Palestinian Authority and to the establishment of the authority's mechanisms and systems of government. The Deputy is correct in the sense that the main reported — I stress this word — elements of the US assurances relate to the supply of fighter jets at a lower cost as well as US political and security support.

Israel has long sought a long-term security presence along the River Jordan and it is unclear whether that has been agreed to. Israel's paramount issue has always been around the security of the state following any comprehensive settlement. This informs the United States response on those issues. The reassurances the US can supply to Israel on the security front therefore may be potentially helpful in terms of getting the talks process under way.

Deputy Higgins's remarks were correct. It has been reported that they would not ask for a further extension after three months and the United States has promised that it would not call for such a further extension. The EU remains of the view that these settlements are illegal and contravene international law.

With regard to taking the lead role, the European Union was pleased that President Obama's Administration prioritised the Middle East from day one of assuming office. One criticism of earlier Administrations was that they waited too long into the first term before giving the Middle East the priority it required. The United States is a remarkably important broker in the Middle Eastern situation and has influence.

As does the EU.

So does the EU. We are working together in the context of the Quartet along with Russia and others to try to effect a multilateral solution.

The Quartet always mystifies me. What has effectively taken place in the long drag of non-achievement in the Middle East is that when the United States becomes active, everyone else goes silent and when talks fail in the United States, nothing takes place. There must be continuity of action at EU level. For example, there is little activity in the Russian part of the Quartet and only moderate or occasional interest from the UN component. This leaves only the European Union and the United States. If the European Union took the positive step of establishing a secretariat for the peace talks, it would provide an insurance policy or a second strand to provide for the possibility of the US talks going wrong. The idea of a stop-go approach makes no sense. The peace centre in Israel has evaporated. It is probably difficult to get elected to the Knesset if one is not a hawk. Equally, the talks between Hamas and Fatah for reconciliation in the West Bank and Gaza have not made sufficient progress. This is the reason continuity would be served by a permanent secretariat.

I accept that there has been a clear lack of continuity in the various talks which have taken place throughout the years. We have had this discussion before. The situation of such a secretariat or where it would be located would require the agreement of both parties but it would represent an important value-added contribution to the process. Previously, it has been explained to me that the initiative of one Israeli Prime Minister may, in essence, die if that Prime Minister moves on and is replaced by another. The bones of an agreement are well known to all sides. Political will is required. We have been assured of the positions of those involved by many interlocutors during the past 12 months. The US Secretary of State, Ms Clinton, made it clear at the General Assembly, when she met EU foreign ministers, that President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu were both personally committed to a deal. This has been put to us emphatically by several people and I must take this in good faith. Ultimately, that is the only guarantor because it is not possible to get a deal if the political will is not present. People know the parameters of a deal.

It is necessary also to get the people throwing the bombs to sign up to any deal, as we have learnt in Northern Ireland.

Human Rights Issues

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

8 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. [43325/10]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

18 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide details of the most recent EU representations on the position in Burma. [43134/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

21 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ireland’s reaction to the phony election in Burma and the steps that will be taken at EU level to react to same. [43097/10]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

25 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the release of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi is conditional and if so, if he could report on the terms of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43313/10]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

29 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the outcome on the Burmese elections and in particular on the present position of Aug San Suu Kyi; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43146/10]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

40 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, given the recent Burmese Supreme Court decision with regard to the house arrest under which Aug San Kyi has been placed, he expects there is any possibility of her release being imminent; if he has recently conveyed Ireland’s abhorrence of the treatment of this person to Burmese authorities and if there is any practical action which the EU is taking in this regard. [43163/10]

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

117 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent elections in Burma and if he shares the views of various human rights groups who are urging the international community to reject the election as a sham and asking that they now focus their efforts on convincing the regime to enter into meaningful dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups at the border. [43395/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to use his influence at EU level to promote democracy in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43518/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 18, 21, 25, 29, 40, 117 and 124 together.

I welcome the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from her arbitrary house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained, in one form or another, by the Burmese authorities since leading her political party, the National League for Democracy, to victory in the 1990 elections. During that time, she has come to symbolise the desire of the Burmese people for democracy and freedom. Despite the repeated infringements of her human and political rights by the regime, she has responded with dignity and remains unflinching in her commitment to non-violence, insisting on the use of political means to achieve positive change.

In welcoming the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, I join the many people in Burma and throughout the world, including here in Ireland, who have campaigned for her release from unfair and unwarranted detention. The Irish people hold a particular affection for Aung San Suu Kyi and her campaign has received strong support across Ireland. Some 11 years ago she was awarded the freedom of the city of Dublin.

There have been no reports to date of any conditions attached to her release. Based on past experience, we must remain cautious. I am reminded of her previous releases in 1995 and 2002 which merely led to her being re-arrested after her popularity was perceived as a threat by the Burmese authorities. Only the continued full and unconditional freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi is acceptable to Ireland, our partners in the European Union and the broader international community.

Unfortunately, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi does not, of itself, ensure real reform or change in Burma. We must not forget that more than 2,000 other political prisoners are still detained. The release without delay of all political prisoners would allow for the initiation of an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue aimed at national reconciliation, a dialogue which must involve all opposition and ethnic groups. Burma's ethnic minorities continue to suffer appalling human rights abuses and discrimination perpetrated by the regime.

The welcome news of Aung San Suu Kyi's release should not distract the international community from the flawed parliamentary elections which were held in Burma on 7 November. It is deeply regrettable that the Burmese authorities failed to avail of this opportunity to take a genuine step on the path towards a representative and democratically elected civilian government. Instead of a free, fair and inclusive process, the elections lacked any real credibility. From the outset, the restrictive electoral laws enacted by the authorities made it inevitable that the regime would control every aspect of the election's preparation and outcome.

The continued detention of political prisoners during the election period significantly impaired the ability of Opposition political parties to contest the elections. Notwithstanding this, some ethnic groups participated in the electoral process to try to take advantage of the possible opportunity afforded by the elections to secure representation in local and national legislatures. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Opposition candidates, reports of the election results indicate that, as expected, the regime has ensured the vast majority of seats have been won by its supporters.

At the Asia-Europe summit in October, which the Taoiseach attended, there was an agreed statement on Burma. In that statement, the Asia-Europe Meeting, ASEM, leaders encouraged the Burmese Government to take the necessary measures to ensure the November elections would be free, fair and inclusive and mark a step towards a legitimate, constitutional, civilian system of Government. They also sought the release of political prisoners and expressed their support for the United Nations good offices mission. The statement was a significant, positive step forward for this particular forum, which includes Burma and its regional neighbours. Unfortunately, the Burmese authorities chose to ignore not only the wider international community represented at the summit but also their closest neighbours, and pushed ahead with the deeply flawed elections.

Ireland continues to support the good offices mission of the UN Secretary General and I once again call on the Burmese authorities to co-operate constructively with the mission and with the special rapporteur for human rights. Ireland and its European Union partners will continue to engage closely with the problem of Burma. European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to have a full discussion on Burma at the foreign affairs council next Monday. This occasion will provide an opportunity to assess the election's outcome, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and potential political developments. A meeting between ambassadors and representatives of the European Union and Aung San Suu Kyi took place in Rangoon on Tuesday, 16 November. The report of the meeting will be helpful to Ministers at our discussions next Monday.

Despite my continued misgivings about the motivations of the Burmese authorities, I hope the release of Aung San Suu Kyi can provide a catalyst for genuine political change in Burma. I believe that while maintaining sanctions and restrictions against the Burmese regime, we should also stand ready to respond positively to genuine progress towards democratisation and respect for human rights. The European Union can make an important contribution to the evolution of a democratic and free society in Burma.

It is now time for the Government to acknowledge that one of the Minister's predecessors made a mistake in facilitating the Burmese presence at ASEAN, the assumption being that moral suasion would work on Burma. It singularly did not. I appreciate the reference in the Minister's reply to the 2,000 prisoners still being held in Burma.

With regard to the discussions that the European Union and Ireland have from time to time with the Chinese authorities, has there been any significant shift in the Chinese support for the military regime? The Minister made reference to ethnic minorities. Is the Minister concerned about the major increase in the number of refugees who have poured over the Thai border and are now in camps, and the use of military action by Burma against these fleeing minorities?

Ireland has been particularly strong in supporting Burma at home and internationally, and I commend those who have been supportive of the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi in particular, including Mr. Kilgallen and others who have been effective in keeping the issue alive in Irish public opinion.

We have raised the issue of Burma and acted bilaterally with its neighbours, and we believe they can play a constructive role in promoting political and human rights progress in Burma. We have worked on this agenda in our meetings with these countries in international forums and in our political consultations with China, India, the EU, ASEAN and ASEM. We believe ASEAN not only has a role to play but has an obligation and a responsibility in this regard.

During my visit to China this summer, I raised the issue of Burma directly with the Chinese foreign Minister and articulated our view of what should happen. It is difficult to detect any shift in the approach of Burma's neighbours. Behind the scenes one senses that there has been engagement and dialogue, but not with any great impact in terms of results, because the elections were clearly flawed——

——and farcical. It remains to be seen what happens in the aftermath of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. I have covered that in my reply.

I join with others in congratulating Aung San Suu Kyi on her release and commend the dignified way in which she has behaved since. However, any country that is still holding 2,000 political prisoners has little intention of changing its ways without the application of extreme pressure in various ways. We should begin by encouraging the international community to condemn out of hand the sham elections that were recently held and seek the opening of discussions with Aung San Suu Kyi and the minority ethnic groups on the border. Ireland, because of our neutrality and because we are small and not a threat to anybody, has a tremendous opportunity to lead the way at European level to force ongoing discussion and pressure on regimes such as that of Burma to open up and give democracy a chance. Now that there is a ray of hope, we should not let this opportunity slip. I would appreciate a commitment from the Minister that he will personally keep this high on the agenda at every European Council meeting so that we are seen to be leading the charge. As a small country, we can do a lot if we take up this cause and seek the release of the 2,000 people who are being held because of their political views.

Absolutely. We have taken a leading role in keeping the issue of Burma alive in international forums as well as domestically. We were clear in our opposition to the elections and also to the constitutional provisions that were designed by the military regime to maintain its stranglehold on Burmese political life. The military were allocated 25% of the seats in Parliament, and it was stipulated that no changes could be made to the constitution unless more than 75% of members of Parliament supported such a change, which is virtually impossible to achieve. That is what one is up against.

We have been supporting civil society organisations working on long-term development projects globally. In Burma, this funding has enabled Trócaire, for example, to run programmes to strengthen civil society in Burma and support some 500,000 Burmese refugees and internally displaced persons in the Thai border area. Irish Aid also supports the UNICEF programme in Burma, providing basic health care for women and children and protection for vulnerable groups. My Department has also supported and funded a number of initiatives of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, including the Second and Fourth Congresses of the Members of Parliament Union Burma, which were held in Dublin. We provided financial support to enable that to happen. A consultation meeting was organised with a range of opposition and ethnic groups in Dublin in January of last year — I met those concerned at the time — and a similar follow-up meeting took place in Jakarta in August. We have also been a strong supporter of Burma Action Ireland, as I said earlier.

As part of our refugee resettlement and integration programme, Ireland welcomed a group of 97 refugees from the Burma-Thailand border in 2007, and 78 Burmese Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh. All in all, we have played a constructive and significant role in dealing with Burma, and we remain committed to this.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

9 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide details of the most recent contacts between the EU and Colombia on the subject of human rights and the contents of these contacts and discussions. [43135/10]

Human rights-related concerns are the subject of a dedicated regular bilateral dialogue with the Colombian Government, which was launched in April 2008. The third session of this dialogue took place in Bogotá in May 2010 and the next round of discussions is expected to take place in the first half of 2011. Following the inauguration of Juan Manuel Santos as President of Colombia in August, Vice President Garzón visited Brussels in October and met with Commissioners De Gucht, Reding and Piebalgs as well as representatives of the European Parliament. During these meetings, a broad range of issues was discussed, including human rights, security policy, the EU-Colombia free trade agreement, social policies and the fight against drugs.

Vice President Garzón, who has been given specific responsibility for dealing with the Government's programme in this area by President Santos, reiterated the importance attached by President Santos's administration to addressing human rights issues in Colombia. Vice President Garzón stressed the Government's willingness to work with civil society on human rights. The vice president also outlined the content of the Government's land reform Bill, which aims over the next four years to return 2 million hectares to farmers who were forced off their land by illegal armed groups, and a victims' law Bill which would provide reparation for more than 4 million victims of Colombia's long-standing armed conflict.

On the question of security policy, Vice President Garzón emphasised the Colombian Government's continuing commitment to fighting against illegal armed groups, drug traffickers and organised crime organisations within a framework of respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

Vice President Garzón stressed the importance of the EU-Colombia free trade agreement in contributing to Colombia's social and economic development, particularly with regard to increasing employment and alleviating poverty. Finally, the fight against drugs was discussed, with a particular focus on the links between terrorism, drugs and organised crime.

Vice President Garzón is a former trade union leader and in our meetings with him a few weeks ago he stressed labour rights as well as human and other rights. While people have disappeared and children have been inducted into narco-terrorist gangs and so forth, of the 70,000 people who have been killed in the past two decades the largest proportion is of trade unionists and trade union membership is now 50% of what it was 20 years ago because of the attempted terror directed at the right to organise. I understand a group from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will visit Colombia on 9 December and will no doubt stress this point. On the relationship of the European Union with Colombia, will the European Union seek to require of multinationals with head offices in European countries that they comply with ILO regulations in terms of the environment, consultation, work practices and rights? I am referring to European Union companies involved in the natural resources area, in particular in the extractive industries.

This matter was raised during the discussion of Priority Question No. 1. Front Line and the International Office for Human Rights Action in Colombia informed us late yesterday of the arrest of Mrs. Carolina Rubio Esguerra by the Colombian criminal investigation unit on her return to Colombia following her visit to Brussels, which is of concern. During her visit to Brussels she had attended the general assembly meeting of OIDHACO which is a network of European and international non-governmental organisations that seeks to contribute to the construction and strengthening of democracy, rule of law and peace with social justice. It does not augur well in terms of that situation. We have articulated our concern with the ambassador and so on.

The issue of the other two lead trade unionists was raised with the ambassador by me this morning.

I appreciate that. It is important that multinationals and particularly European multinationals would conform to the ILO provisions. We will certainly continue to raise that issue with the European Union in the context of the agreement, which still needs to go through a ratification process through the European Parliament and so forth. As I said in an earlier reply, the European Union initiated an investigation in El Salvador over the failure of the Salvadoran authorities to incorporate ILO provisions in its domestic employment law so the Deputy can take it that the matter will be pursued in the case of Colombia also.

Earlier I made a point on Colombia to which the Minister replied. The pressure that will be brought to bear on the economic benefits, which are real, between the European Union and Colombia may override, if one likes, the necessary progress that is made on human rights defenders and trade unionists. Unfortunately the former president, Mr. Uribe, in his visits to the European Union has been presenting himself as the person who is the victor over terrorism and the person who brought peace and stability. His legacy is one that has left narco-terrorist gangs in several parts of Colombia. I wish President Santos well if he is different, but as a former cabinet member of the previous president he needs to establish credibility and deliver on the human rights agenda.

We are in agreement that it is all about delivery. From a European perspective it is about vigilant monitoring of the situation there. There is always a need for balance and this is the challenge. One could do nothing and things would not progress at all, but on the other hand the conclusion of a trade agreement can provide leverage and a catalyst to ensure continued progress. It is imperative that we do not allow human rights issues to slip down the pecking order in terms of priority. However, economic development and progress can help to normalise societies. That is the challenge facing all concerned in this case.