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Thank you President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
The situation in Nicaragua remains of great concern and is unsustainable.
The EU position has been consistent since the beginning of the crisis. Our policy is to support a peaceful, negotiated and above all a democratic solution. As is the case for Venezuelans, only the Nicaraguan people can choose their leaders and representatives in a free and fair election in line with international standards. Here we can say exactly the same thing as with Venezuela. And the government must respect and protect the human rights and freedoms of the people.
We established this position last January when, just ahead of a visit by the European Parliament to Managua, the Foreign Affairs Council underlined its readiness to use all policy instruments to contribute to a peaceful negotiated way out of the crisis and to react to further deterioration of human rights.
At the beginning of this year, the Nicaraguan government accepted to seek a negotiated way out and signed two agreements on the liberation of prisoners and on the reestablishment of political freedoms.
But it is clear that the government has failed to live up to these commitments. Most prisoners were indeed freed but many were arrested again immediately after. Political freedoms were not re-established.
Reacting to these negative signals, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted a framework for individual targeted sanctions on 14 October. This concretely means prohibiting the entry on European Union territory and freezing the assets of people or organisations who have taken a key role in the numerous human rights abuses carried by the regime. Our sanctions are individual, reversible and, above all, designed not to harm the Nicaraguan population, as the Parliament asked for.
There are three main areas in which tangible progress needs to be made, in order to create the conditions for a peaceful and democratic exit from the crisis. They stem from the commitments undertaken by the government itself, we are not requiring anything else but that they fulfill the agreements. We have consistently repeated [it] in public and private, including as part of the Council Conclusions last October. And they [the agreements] are in line with the recommendations of the Organisation of American States High Level Commission on Nicaragua:
First, reestablishment of political freedoms and the legal status of banned civil society organisations, as well as the release of the remaining political prisoners without charges.
Second, full cooperation with and the return of international human rights bodies to Nicaragua, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR);
Third, an agreement on electoral reforms between the government and the opposition, including the Civic Alliance. This agreement should guarantee fair and transparent elections according to international standards and be in line with the European Union electoral observation recommendations. We are ready to support with expertise and, eventually with an Electoral Observation Mission.
Mr President, Honourable Members,
The European Union stands with the Nicaraguan people and recalls that repression needs to be stopped and respect for the constitutional rights of all Nicaraguans must be reestablished, including the right to liberty and freedoms of expression, assembly, religion and peaceful protest.
That is what I want to stress again today in front of the Members of Parliament. Hoping, I am sure, that with your support you can put more pressure in order to fulfill those requirements.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182260
Thank you very much.
A peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis requires meaningful electoral reforms in order to let the Nicaraguan people decide their destiny.
We are facing a situation of repression and violation of human rights by the Ortega regime. The fact that Ortega was a long upon time a guerrillero fighting for the freedom of his country does not change anything under the current situation. Every one of you wishes the best for the Nicaraguan people. Me too. But politics is not just [about] piling up wishes.
What can we do? Some [of you] have been proposing suspending the European Union Central America Trade Agreement with Nicaragua. I think the suspension of the trade part of the EU Central American association could create hardship for the Nicaraguan population. Not only in Nicaragua, but also in the rest of the Central American region. I do not think it is not a good idea. Why not suspend EU cooperation? Once again, we have not suspended EU cooperation to avoid harming the Nicaraguan population. Our cooperation activities have been screened to ensure that they do not benefit the regime directly. Our financial instruments have been used to support human rights defenders and the Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica. Why hasn’t the European Investment Bank suspended its operations? For the same reason. We are sticking to our contractual obligations. Should we call for early elections? Well, during the demonstrations in the mid-2018, the opposition insisted on anticipating the elections. A request that President Ortega fiercely rejected.
I think that if electoral reforms are not adopted beforehand, then the electoral process would not be helpful. Our priority should be the implementation of electoral reforms on the basis of the recommendations done by the European Union in the past Observation Mission.
Why have we not sanctioned [President of Nicaragua Daniel] Ortega or vice president [Rosario] Murillo? Well, the U.S. and Canada have adopted individual sanctions against vice president Murillo and members of the Ortega Murillo family. We have not done it yet, which is something the Member States should be reflecting upon. And I don’t exclude it, but sanctions are meant to create incentive for a change. That is why and how we have to calibrate them.
Are we expecting to send an electoral observation mission in Nicaragua? Well, in the current situation of repression and the failure of the rule of law I think it would not make any sense.
What do we have to do to put our political and diplomatic pressure in order to release of the prisoners? Not only the Belgian lady has mentioned it. Many others.
I have to inform you that our Head of Delegation in Nicaragua has been visiting the families of these prisoners and in particular the father of Amaya [Coppens].
And we will continue putting political pressure because I think that really there we have a systematic violation of human rights and there is no excuse for it. It is not a matter of multinational interests, it is clearly a matter of a regime who doesn't pass any kind of test about their behaviour with respect to their people’s rights.
This would require a discussion at the level of European Union foreign affairs ministers and an agreement by unanimity. We will discuss about it and I really ask for your support in order to face the situation in Nicaragua, which is, I said, as bad as in Venezuela. But we do not talk about Nicaragua as much. Today is a good occasion to do so.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182262