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Your Excellency President Ashraf Ghani,
Honorable Members of the Parliament,
Honorable Chief Justice, Attorney General, members of the judiciary,
Dear Colleagues of the diplomatic corps,
Representatives of the academia, civil society, business community and media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you,
I feel privileged to be with you today at the Presidential Palace on the occasion of the 5th EU annual conference on anti-corruption.
Allow me to convey my first words of gratitude to HE President Ashraf Ghani who has kindly accepted to host this conference this year again and deliver opening remarks.
A vote of gratitude goes to UN SRSG HE Ambassador Tadamichi Yamamoto who has kindly accepted to offer the closing remarks of the conference.
I would like to also thank our three keynote speakers,
And of course I wish to thank all of you for making time this morning not only to listen to the deliberations but also to take an active part in what will certainly be a vibrant discussion.
The theme chosen this year is “A journey to peace, a moment of accountability”. It echoes last year’s title “Corruption in recess, Peace in progress”, thus underlining the sense that while the drivers of the Afghan conflict are multiple, fighting corruption is pivotal in ending the war and ensuring a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
Today we would like to focus our attention on the role anti-corruption should play before, during and after the conclusion of a peace agreement.
This role, our three keynote speakers will address it each along a different angle but towards the same underlining conclusion: there can be no sustainable peace in Afghanistan without a resolute and aggressive anti-corruption policy.
The most recent developments reinforce the necessity and urgency of this debate.
It is clear to everyone that the Afghan scene is overwhelmingly dominated by the pursuit of peace, and rightly so. The US-Taliban negotiations in Doha, now coupled with the starting of an intra-Afghan dialogue, have created expectations that genuine negotiations, the real peace negotiations I would say, could finally start between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.
We at the EU support this collective mobilization and hope it will soon produce concrete results, primarily in terms of reduction of violence.
But regrettably this urgent and legitimate call for peace has also opened the way to some less helpful debates which have in common to put peace in competition with other top priorities. The most notorious of these debates has introduced a false sense of exclusion between peace and elections, suggesting that peace should come first and elections, notably the presidential election, later.
The Head of the EU Diplomacy, Ms Mogherini, with the full endorsement of the 28 ministers of foreign affairs of our Member States, has clearly expressed our doctrine on that count: peace and elections should be pursued in parallel, each driven by its own dynamic and specific timeline. Or else Afghanistan would run the risk of having no peace and no elections.
Several domains other than elections could be subject to the logic that in the name of peace, a pause, a break, an interruption of some sorts is needed. Other key national agendas could be similarly fall victim of this syndrome, considering that achieving results in those fields now becomes lesser of a priority. And anti-corruption is one of them.
In that context, our speakers will certainly suggest that when searching for peace, combating corruption is not lesser of a priority, but just the opposite: promoting a sustainable peace in Afghanistan should call for intensifying anti-corruption efforts.
At this juncture it is therefore important to have in mind how much corruption is a conflict enabler while anti-corruption is definitely an accelerator towards a sustainable peace.
On that note allow me before I conclude my remarks a couple of quick observations.
The first one is that corruption is a prime war enabler.
This reality is acknowledged worldwide but it takes an all too familiar shape in Afghanistan, starting with the illegal economy, mainly incarnated by illegal mining and drug production and trafficking, which provides massive financial resources to the insurgents. Illegal economy would never reach such heights without networks of corrupt officials being involved.
Possibly less discussed but equally critical is how corruption leads scores of disenfranchised citizens to support the insurgency.
If you consider the Taliban in sociological terms, I would say that they arguably fall into two categories: Taliban by design and Taliban by incident. The former have joined the movement by ideology while the latter were not meant to become insurgents but did it out of economic deprivation aggravated by a sense of injustice. An aggressive anti-corruption engagement would deprive the Taliban by design from one of their favorite narrative while giving the Taliban by incident, who are by far more numerous, a second chance to join the mainstream Afghan society.
My second observation is that peace cannot be built on corruption. Fighting corruption stands high among the key drivers towards a sustainable peace. Hence the title of our conference: a journey to peace is also a moment of accountability.
Our keynote speakers will certainly develop the argument in quite convincing terms. I just wish to point out two striking realities:
There is no sustainable peace without trust, and combating corruption is definitely a way to build trust and confidence not just among the elite but throughout the Afghan society and beyond, including with the international community by strengthening the mutual accountability regime.
There is no sustainable peace without a peace economy, and there again an effective and result-oriented anti-corruption démarche is pivotal in bringing investors who will create jobs, jobs which will divert many from the temptation to embrace violence and illegal activities.
Forty years of war in Afghanistan have undoubtedly impacted the fundamentals of the Afghan culture, of the Afghan moral, and created an appetite for quick gains which doesn’t reflect the Afghan traditional values and principles. The way towards Peace offers an historical chance to rebuild the social contract between all Afghans. But this necessary and ambitious objective cannot be achieved overnight. Reaching, on the basis of trust and confidence, a solid and inclusive peace agreement that will augur well of a sustainable peace will take time. Real Peace cannot be bought. All Afghans and partners of Afghanistan can count on the European Union to undertake this journey on their side.
I thank you for your attention.