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Catherine Ashton EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Address at the United Nations Security Council United Nations New York, 8 February 2011
Commission Européenne - SPEECH/11/77 08/02/2011
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EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission
Address at the United Nations Security Council
New York, 8 February 2011
Thank you for again giving me the opportunity to address this esteemed Council on the EU's contribution to international peace and security.
As you know, we have a long-standing commitment to effective multilateralism with a strong UN at the core. Regional organisations are building blocks for global governance, with a dual responsibility. First, a responsibility to enhance security, development and human rights in their own region. And second, to support UN efforts to promote these goals around the world.
When I spoke to the Security Council last year, I updated you on the progress regarding the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and the promises this held for strengthening the EU’s contribution to addressing international concerns.
I am pleased that as of 1 January the European External Action Service, one of the Lisbon Treaty's main innovations, is up and running. It operates under my authority and brings together all our global instruments.
In our view the Lisbon Treaty and the External Action Service are not just good for Europe. They also make us a better partner for the UN. We are grateful for your help in recognising this.
In many countries today we are seeing people demand greater freedoms, democracy and accountability.
In North Africa and the wider Middle East we are seeing demonstrations of the basic wish for people to be guaranteed political participation, fundamental freedoms, social justice and economic development.
Last Friday, the 27 Heads of State and Government of the EU, "saluted the peaceful and dignified expression by the Tunisian and Egyptian people of their legitimate, democratic, economic and social aspirations which are in accord with the values the European Union promotes for itself and throughout the world."
Our position is clear: the democratic aspirations of citizens must be met through dialogue, genuine political reform, and free and fair elections that are well-prepared.
These are not just words. The EU will offer practical support to the transition processes. I have discussed this with the new Tunisian Foreign Minister Ounaies and I will visit the region next week to clarify how the EU can help.
We know from our own experience how difficult the establishment of genuine democracy can be. These are not linear processes. So we will not just help countries to run free and fair elections, but also to fight corruption, make local administration more transparent, ensure independent media and make the justice system fully independent.
We are witnessing major change in the Middle East. The contours of what will eventually emerge are not clear yet – they cannot be. But we do know that urgent progress on the Middle East peace process is vital, now more than ever.
This weekend I chaired an important meeting of the Quartet in Munich, to review the current situation and chart a common plan of action.
The search for a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has dominated the region for decades.
Current developments must bring us closer to that goal, not further away. I am pleased that the Quartet agreed on a specific path to do this, with a follow-up meeting of our envoys in Brussels. For the first time, the Quartet will meet separately with Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to hear their views.
We further agreed to meet again at Ministerial level in March, to ensure the momentum is kept up, and we confirm our support for having a framework agreement in place by September 2011.
The parameters for peace as seen by the European Union are well-known: two states, co-existing in peace and security, with a Palestinian State that is sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable, based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as future capital of two states. Our position on this, and on related issues, including settlements, remains unchanged.
We are also active through practical measures to lay the foundations of a future Palestinian State. The European Union is at the forefront of providing budgetary support and assistance on security to the Palestinian Authority. During my last visit to the region, I confirmed that the EU will frontload an initial financial package of EUR100million for the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the 2011 budget.
I discussed the new Palestinian National Plan with PM Fayyad in Paris last week and reconfirmed our support for his plan. The EU will also host an Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in Brussels on 13 April to promote efforts on Palestinian state building.
This Council knows well the great needs of the people of Gaza. The European Union is fully committed to support them. I have proposed a comprehensive package of EU support for the Gaza crossings, focusing on infrastructure, equipment and training. Our objective remains an unconditional opening of these crossings, while addressing Israeli legitimate security needs.
There is a third issue that affects the landscape of the wider Middle East, and indeed global security, and that is the Iranian nuclear issue. On 20-21 January I chaired a series of meetings between the E3+3 with Iran. Given the well-known difficulties, our aim was not to look for an immediate agreement but to focus on building confidence.
The fundamental problem is that we do not have confidence that the Iranian nuclear programme is purely civilian in nature. Regrettably, our concrete proposals to build confidence and transparency were met by an Iranian request that we should first recognise "Iran's right to the entire fuel cycle, including enrichment" and a lifting of sanctions.
That was disappointing. As this Council has underlined on several occasions, Iran is at present not complying with various obligations under the NPT. From our side, we reiterated that we remain committed to the path of dialogue. Our practical proposals remain on the table. If Iran were to adopt some of the transparency measures that most countries already implement, we would be starting a process that could go far.
As I mentioned, electoral processes are essential mechanisms for enabling people to enjoy their political rights. But they are also very delicate. The situation in three countries has shown just how important it is for electoral processes to be underpinned by comprehensive political strategies.
Let me first refer to the successful developments in South Sudan. The preparations and organisation of the referendum have gone well. I would like to praise the Sudanese authorities for their willingness to find a peaceful solution ensuring the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They should continue to do so and resolve all outstanding issues.
I would also like to commend the UN for the political leadership shown in this process. This confirms that real progress can be made when the international community persists with concerted efforts.
We now have to stay focused so that the region doesn't slip back into the violence that has marred it for decades. The European Union contributed to the referendum through the deployment of an important observer mission. We will continue to engage with the North and South alike – including on the crucial task of building the vital democratic institutions – in full cooperation with the UN and other partners.
Unfortunately, in some cases, electoral processes aimed at helping states move on from conflict and internal strife have run into difficulties. Here we have to remain engaged and firm.
In Ivory Coast, the European Union fully supports the leadership of the AU and ECOWAS and the key role played by UNOCI. The EU recognizes President Ouattara as the winner of the elections and has also adopted targeted sanctions on individuals and entities closely allied to former President Gbagbo to step up the pressure and persuade him to heed the results of the election. Going forward, we all want to see real results from the process that was launched at the recent AU Summit, and which the EU supports.
In Haiti, the recent electoral crisis proves that reinforcing democratic institutions is essential. The Provisional Electoral Council (PEC) has taken a positive step in announcing the final results of the first round of the presidential and legislative elections. Now all political forces in Haiti need to contribute responsibly to the electoral process so that the second round can be concluded in line with the Constitution and the will of the Haitian people.
A transparent democratic transition and political stability are prerequisites for success with Haiti's recovery and reconstruction. The EU is contributing significant resources to both civil administration and the wider reconstruction of the country.
The ideals of freedom, democracy, accountability are universal but they require the presence of some forms of state order. As this Council knows well, the international community also has to deal with failed states where warlords and criminal gangs prevent the establishment of the rule of law. In these situations, we should focus first on ensuring stability and security as the basis for any economic and social development.
There are several cases around the world where the international community is working to build functioning states where current structures fall short. Somalia is a clear example. The EU has an important and successful naval operation off-shore, called ATALANTA. But there can be no long-term solution to the problem of piracy without more stability on-shore and greater regional capacities. Therefore we are working hard on these three tracks, as part of an overall regional strategy.
Security, development, and democracy, good governance and respect for human rights are all inter-linked. We must pursue these goals in concert – or none will succeed.
This means addressing both the wider root causes of conflict and developing appropriate tools to address them. For example, we know that in some cases the question of politicized access to natural resources can cause or perpetuate conflict. Similarly, climate change has a real impact on vulnerable people and places and hence on global peace and security. These issues cannot be tackled by fragmented approaches.
We should all invest more in conflict prevention, finding ways to channel grievances through peaceful means while addressing the underlying causes: underdevelopment, weak institutions and lack of democracy and respect for human rights.
In this context, I want to commend the Brazilian Presidency of the Council for convening a special session next Friday on the links between development and security. The EU is very engaged in making and supporting the necessary connections between these areas, both at headquarters and in the field, in full coordination with the UN and other international partners.
I have limited my comments to some of the cases which are perhaps the most pressing.
But there are many others in which the EU is engaged, with, and in support of, the UN, to protect the vulnerable and ensure that genuine democracy can take root.
Let me end by acknowledging the great responsibility of this Council in steering the international community away from conflict and confrontation. In carrying out its tasks, it can count on the full commitment and support of the EU.
Thank you very much.