STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. LOUIS MICHEL,
PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN
UNION, VICE PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF
FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF BELGIUM
56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 10th November 2001
Mr Secretary General,
Heads of State and Government,
I have the honour today to speak on behalf of the European Union, which congratulates you on your election, which testifies to the esteem of the international community for your country and yourself. I would like also to commend the speed of action and efficiency you have shown, in the face of the tragic events of 11 September, in adapting the agenda for the work of this Assembly.
I would like, moreover, to associate with this tribute the Secretary General of the UN, Mr Kofi Annan.
Mr Secretary General, your re-election had already drawn attention to the unanimous appreciation of the Member States for your exceptional qualities as a manager, politician and humanist. The Nobel Committee paid an even wider tribute by awarding you the Nobel Prize for Peace. The United Nations themselves, here at your side, were the recipients of this message of hope, from a world in a state of shock appealing to the United Nations Organisation to remain at the center of the international community’s action for peace and development.
(Fight against terrorism)
It was the fundamental values constituting the foundation of the United Nations which were attacked in so cowardly a fashion right here in New York on 11 September this year, while our host country, several thousands of its citizens and nationals of over sixty countries were the victims of a barbaric act of aggression for which no direct or indirect justification can be accepted.
That attack, by its enormity, has opened our eyes to the worldwide threat that terrorism has become. It is our open, democratic, tolerant and multicultural societies which have been attacked through the United States. The terrorist threat must be hunted down in each of our countries, in our various regional organizations and, at world level, through the United Nations.
The European Union has most categorically condemned the 11 September attacks, and the fight against terrorism is more than ever one of our priority objectives. The Union has declared its total solidarity with the United States. It has reaffirmed its unreserved support for the military action undertaken in the name of legitimate defense and in conformity with the United Nations Charter and Resolution 1368 of the United Nations Security Council.
On 21 September, an Extraordinary European Council adopted an action plan for an unprecedented campaign against terrorism. The plan contains a number of specific measures intended to enhance judicial and police cooperation, including in particular the introduction of a European arrest warrant. It also includes measures to put an end to the financing of terrorism and to improve air security. The European Council also acknowledged that the fight against terrorism requires greater participation by the Union in the efforts of the international community to prevent and stabilize regional conflicts. By developing the Common Foreign and Security Policy and bringing the European Security and Defense Policy into operation as soon as possible, the Union will be at its most effective.
At world level too, a fresh impetus needs to be given to the fight against terrorism, and the United Nations naturally has a central role to play in the development of a coordinated and diversified strategy. We warmly welcome the major steps which have already been taken to that end.
The most remarkable was the adoption of Resolution 1373 by the Security Council on 28 September. The European Union and its Member States are already committed to rapid enactment of the measures needed for its implementation. We call upon all countries to cooperate actively with the follow up system set up by the Security Council, and we reiterate our readiness to provide aid in doing so to any countries which may have technical difficulties in meeting its requirements.
It is also essential that all States ratify without delay the twelve Conventions concerning the fight against terrorism and apply all their provisions. The United Nations Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism is a decisive aspect of international action and needs to be speedily signed and ratified.
Lastly, the European Union welcomes the recent progress made in negotiating a General Convention on international terrorism, on the basis of the draft submitted by India. The remaining difficulties must now be dealt with as soon as possible so that this instrument can be put up for signing early next year.
(Promotion and protection of human rights and democracy)
The efforts we are making to combat terrorism must form part of overall endeavours to build a better world, a world in which human dignity is sacrosanct, in which human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected.
The promotion and protection of human rights and an attachment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law are essential components of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and of its development cooperation and external relations. The European Union will actively pursue its work on consolidating human rights and fundamental freedoms, with insistence in particular on the universal, indivisible and interdependent character of all human rights. It will continue to support the efforts made by the Secretary General to integrate human rights into United Nations activities, at all levels and in all fora, and to cooperate with all UN human rights mechanisms.
(Establishment of the International Criminal Court)
The European Union welcomes the imminent realization of the much awaited establishment of the International Criminal Court. The Union sees this as being of prime importance and urges all States which have not yet done so to accede to the Rome Statute as soon as possible. More than ever, we need a universal and permanent court capable of sanctioning the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and thus contributing to peace and security in the world. It is vital that the United Nations give effective support to the establishment of the Court.
(Protection and promotion of the rights of the child)
Following the tragedy of 11 September, the Special Session of the General Assembly on the ten year review of the World Summit for Children had to be postponed. However, until it is held we need to keep up the momentum developed in the preparatory discussions. We must continue to integrate the specific dimension of the child into our actions and strive to ensure that every child’s life is free from terror, the horrors of war, abuse and exploitation, hunger and poverty.
(Full realization by women of their human rights)
The European Union is resolved to continue the fight against all forms of discrimination and violence against women and to ensure that all countries take strong measures to apply the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Women must be able to enjoy their human rights in full, on an equal footing with men. Girls must have the same opportunities as boys, in particular in education and access to social services. The European Union insists that there must be equal rights to property, credit facilities and social services, including reproductive health services. It is in the interest of everyone that women should be able to participate fully at all levels in economic and political life.
The Union stresses the importance of implementing Security Council Resolution 1325 and the special attention which must be given to the participation and full association of women on an equal footing in all endeavours to maintain and promote peace and security.
(Fight against racism)
We must also vigorously pursue our essential fight against the racist excesses, discriminatory tendencies and intolerance which are daily realities throughout the world. The World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance has shown us the way. It has also enabled us to advance discussion on the causes and origins of racism and to acquire a new perception of our past. What matters now is the will to close the darkest chapters of our history so that we can build a new relationship based on mutual respect, solidarity and partnership.
The terrible humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan holds the attention of the international community every bit as much as the political, diplomatic, military and economic aspects of the situation in that country. It is the first time that the international community has adopted such a global approach in an armed conflict. We are convinced that it is the best, if not the only, means to plan an effective way out of the crisis. The coordination of aid efforts, chiefly on the ground and as part of the range of actions undertaken by the United Nations, remains essential.
Emergency humanitarian aid to Afghanistan constitutes an absolute priority of the Union, which has undertaken to mobilize an aid package of over EUR 320 million without delay. The Union expresses its concern at the difficulties regarding access and the convoying of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. It supports the efforts of the United Nations. Specialized Agencies, the ICRC and all the humanitarian organizations in seeking practical and flexible solutions. It also calls on the countries of the region to facilitate by all possible means humanitarian operations to deal with new influxes of Afghan refugees.
The European Union recognizes the vital role of the UN in seeking a peace plan for Afghanistan. It intends to support the initiatives of the Secretary”General and of his Special Representative and to make a constructive contribution to them, both with regard to the pursuit of an internal political solution and to a plan for rebuilding the country. The Union also stresses the importance of the regional dimension of stabilization in Afghanistan.
We must make contributions that are sufficient to ensure that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs functions efficiently. The European Union attaches particular importance to the provision of aid to persons displaced within their countries. We therefore welcome the fact that a unit has been established within the Secretariat to cater for their specific needs. Following the recent attacks against humanitarian aid personnel, the European Union can only call once again for a strengthening of the arrangements, particularly those of a legal and financial nature, for guaranteeing the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers and UN workers in general.
(Promotion of disarmament and non-proliferation)
More than ever, disarmament and non proliferation form the cornerstones of any peace and security structure and must therefore be subject to binding multilateral norms. It is against this background that we wish to strengthen non proliferation regimes, promote the rapid entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. We must also combat the proliferation of ballistic missiles and the illicit trade in light weapons and continue to work for the complete elimination of antipersonnel mines.
(Peacekeeping arid maintenance of security)
With regard to peacekeeping, the United Nations has shown in the past year that it was better equipped and better organized than in recent times. By way of example, I should like to mention the operations in East Timor, Eritrea and Sierra Leone. Thus some progress has already been made, on the ground, in implementing the recommendations of the Brahimi report. However, much remains to be done, and the European Union will continue to give active support to improving peacekeeping capabilities and advocate that the Organization receive the resources necessary to enable it effectively to discharge its increasingly complex responsibilities.
In order to resolve differences of opinion, consolidate peace and prevent a resurgence of conflicts, a comprehensive, long term approach is required. The European Union, which is currently establishing its own military and civil crisis management capability, is actively engaged in strengthening its cooperation with the United Nations and other international organizations in the area of conflict prevention, crisis management, humanitarian aid, post conflict reconstruction and long term development.
The Balkans, a region so close to our countries, remains at the center of the European Union’s external action. We resolutely maintain our commitment to contribute there to building an area of security, prosperity and democracy where multi ethnic societies are free to flourish. While the progress made has been remarkable and encouraging, the situation in many cases remains fragile. The international community must remain vigilant and not let extremists, of whatever kind, use violence to destroy the stabilization work carried out.
The European Union remains gravely concerned by the situation in the Middle East and continues to act on a daily basis, in conjunction with other States, to persuade the parties to put an end to the infernal cycle of violence. Everyone must realize that there is no alternative to the peace process. The recommendations of the report of the Fact Finding Committee ("Mitchell Report") should be implemented without delay and efforts concentrated on urgently opening up the prospect of a peaceful solution.
The European Union finds the status quo in Cyprus unacceptable. We would express our disappointment at the unjustified decision of the Turkish side to decline the Secretary General’s invitation to pursue negotiations. We continue to support the Secretary General’s endeavours to arrive at a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Cyprus question in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.
The scale of the dramas witnessed on the African continent calls for resolute action on our part, at all levels, aimed at tackling the direct and structural causes of the conflicts. Conflicts in Africa have become increasingly complex and their cross border effects more and more destructive. The crises in the Great Lakes region of West Africa, as well as in Zimbabwe and the Horn of Africa, call for increased vigilance on the part of our organization.
These crises also show the need for an international approach that is comprehensive and integrated. We gave an enthusiastic welcome to the launch of the new African initiative at the Lusaka Summit. The European Union expressed its willingness to respond and has already entered into a dialogue at the highest level with the African Union.
(Fight against poverty and promotion of sustainable development)
Together, at the Millennium Summit, we pledged to achieve a set of development objectives. It is an ambitious project which involves, inter olio, good governance in each country and at international level.
The Union underlines the need for a strengthened partnership between rich countries and poor countries to achieve the development objectives of the Millennium Declaration. That partnership entails obligations and joint but varied efforts on the part of all countries.
Firstly, we must make every effort to eradicate poverty. New, concrete commitments were made at the 3rd Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Brussels last May. The European Union committed itself to untying aid, to opening up its markets by means of the "Everything but arms" initiative and to the full financing of the HIPC initiative. It is now a question of finalizing the follow up mechanisms of the Programme of Action. The European Union will also continue to give priority to the development of Africa.
Two major international conferences will present us with the opportunity to take up the challenges and achieve the principal objectives of the Millennium Declaration. At the Financing for Development Conference to be held next March in Monterrey, Mexico, we shall attach importance to improving cooperation between all the development actors, using resources more effectively and mobilizing them better.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in October 2002, we wish to promote the sustainable use and management and the protection of the natural resources which underlie social and economic development. We also wish to integrate actions aimed at the environment and poverty, make globalization serve the needs of sustainable development and promote better ways of managing public affairs and participation. The European Union would like to explore with its partners the scope for achieving a Global Pact on Sustainable Development at the Summit. This Pact should contain commitments both from governments and from the other actors. A Global Pact should lead to concrete action to improve the implementation of sustainable development policies.
We hope that the UN Member States will without delay undertake to be represented in Monterrey and Johannesburg at the highest political level.
The Convention on Climate Change was one of the major results of the 1992 Earth Summit. We welcome the progress made in Bonn and in Marrakesh and we undertake to ratify the Kyoto Protocol rapidly.
We have also just reached an intergovernmental consensus at the highest level on the strategy that needs to be followed to halt the appalling global AIDS pandemic. That is a major step forward, but the urgent and dramatic nature of the problem require us to be more ambitious. We will actively contribute to the creation of a new global Fund to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and we will play an active role in all the other processes that emerged from last June’s Special Session so that the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS is put into practice by means of concrete measures.
Of the other challenges, the demographic changes that lie ahead are of particular interest to the European Union. The Second World Assembly on Ageing to be held in Madrid in April 2002 will be an opportunity for us to work together to build a society for all ages.
The Millennium Summit, the prime objective of which was to strengthen and give new impetus to the United Nations, allowed us to tackle, at the highest level, the major challenges facing the global community. We must now turn our attention to the process of following up the Declaration of the Heads of State and Government, with all due regard for the lofty and balanced aims of that cardinal text. For that we need to call on reliable data, the existing follow up machinery and processes and the concerted efforts of the various actors in the international community who can help us to achieve the objectives set.
We must also continue reforming the United Nations system as a whole, including the specialist institutions and the Operational Funds and Programs. The strengthening of the Security Council and its comprehensive reform in all its aspects should be pursued with determination. If we want a Security Council capable of responding even more effectively to the major challenges of the moment, we should intensify our efforts.
Mr Secretary General,
Heads of State and Government,
Looking beyond the tremendous and growing complexity of our actions in the world, our debate should highlight this basic truth: if we want to build a world made more peaceful by respect for the law, solidarity and tolerance, we need to strengthen our cohesion in the face of the new challenges that have been thrown down, but also to step up our efforts to promote human rights, eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.
In this forum of the United Nations we set against the messengers of destruction our common ideal, which will be stronger than hatred and divisions among mankind. That edifice, whose foundations are set in our spirits and our hearts, will be unassailable.
Thank you for your attention