The EU considers the brutal retaliation against the mass demonstrations in Syria unacceptable, and it will continue to exercise pressure on Syria in the interest of social reforms, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zsolt Németh, declared on 6 April 2011, in Strasbourg, in the European Parliament’s plenary debate about the situation in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen.
Mr Németh was speaking on behalf of Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Concerning all these three Arab countries, he stated that the policy of the EU is based on three principles, i.e. it requires peaceful treatment of mass movements, and the promotion of social dialogue from the governing powers; and it will support any reforms if they originate from within the affected countries.
Talking about Syria, Mr Németh said, “The brutal retaliation prompted against these movements, is completely unacceptable.” He reminded the representatives that Ms Ashton has already urged the Syrian authorities on several occasions, to stop employing violence and respect the right to demonstrate peacefully.
He criticised the President of Syria, Bashar Assad, for failing to include in his 30 March speech, “Either a clear reform programme or a schedule for the implementation of the reforms.” He added, “The EU will continue to exercise pressure on Syria, for the immediate implementation of the reforms.” He stated that the EU expects real reforms, “Not merely superficial actions.”
According to Mr Németh, the situation in Yemen, “Continues to give cause for concern.” He reminded the representatives that, “After the terrible violence of 18 March,” High Representative Ashton, and later the Foreign Affairs Council, condemned the violence employed against the demonstrators. The State Minister called the messages of the Yemen leadership, received since then “less clear.” He stressed that, “Together with the international partners, the EU has actively participated and will continue to do so, in the efforts aimed to resolve the dangerous situation in Yemen.
Concerning Bahrain, Mr Németh said, “The situation is back to normal to a certain extent, in the streets, the situation is still tense and authorities continue to arrest people.” He reminded the representatives of Parliament, that the Union and the High Representative, “Openly condemned the employment of violence in Bahrain, and invited the authorities and the law enforcement agencies to fully respect human rights, and fundamental freedoms.” Mr Németh highlighted that the EU has already urged a dialogue in Bahrain, and the High Representative will convey the same message to the Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is to take placein the near future.
Cooperation and sanctions at the same time
In the debate after the speech of Mr Németh, several MEPs urged that the European Union (EU) initiate convening, an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. They objected to the EU’s continued export of weapons to these regimes.
In response to these remarks, the State Minister considered it possible to apply, “Cooperation and a certain kind of sanctions,” concerning these three countries. He added, the military intervention applied in Libya and Ivory Coast, should serve as a warning to these three countries. He stressed that the intervention in Libya and Ivory Coast, is not “Analogous to Iraq, but rather to Rwanda or Kosovo, where the international community had to intervene, in an effort to protect the civilians.”
Mr Németh stated that the EU’s neighbourhood policy is under review, in relation to the events unfolding in the Arab countries. Therefore, he described it as a, “Fortunate situation” that the “Eastern neighbourhood summit, is not going to happen in a few weeks,” as this gives it a chance to incorporatethe MEPs‘proposals, in the review of the neighbourhood policy.
4th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries
Mr Németh presented the position of the Council concerning the fourth United Nations Conference, on the Least Developed Countries. The conference will be held between 9 and 13 May, in Istanbul.
Accordingto the position of the EU, the conference in Istanbul should focus on three issues, efforts must be made to reduce the economic vulnerability of least developedcountries, favourable conditions should be created for the sustainable development of these countries, and their sustainable and inclusive economic development should be encouraged.
Mr Németh highlighted that the EU has always been one of the most generous donors of aid, to the least developed countries. It donated the highest amounts to these countries, not only in the form of money, but by other means as well, such as the opening of markets or debt cancellation.
Over the last ten years, the economic growth of the least developed countries has been uneven; especially in the area, south of the Sahara, Mr Németh highlighted. He emphasised that the mechanism of assistance should be made more efficient, and emerging economies should take on a proportionate part in giving aid to least developed countries.
Today, 49 states fall within the group of least developed countries, out of which 33 are in Africa, 15 in Asia and the Pacific, and 12 are small island countries. Owing to the structural weaknesses of their economies and often to adverse natural conditions, these states are especially exposed to external economic shocks, natural or man-made disasters. A total of 815 million people live in least developed countries.