- Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU and its 28 Member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report, as well as for his report on the Strategic Review. I would also like to thank Special Representative Yamamoto for his briefing.
First, I would like to stress our deep sorrow for the spate of terrorist attacks which took place throughout January, in particular three major attacks in Kabul that inflicted hundreds of casualties as well as the attack against the NGO Save the Children in Jalalabad. I would like to express our most sincere condolences to the Afghan people and the Government for the horrific attacks against Afghan civilians and security personnel. I would also like to express the EU's unwavering engagement to stand by Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism which is a global threat. At the same time, the EU calls for an in-depth investigation of these crimes and identification of the perpetrators, who must be brought to justice.
As stated on several occasions, the EU strongly acknowledges the crucial role played by UNAMA and all the UN agencies in supporting the Afghan people, encouraging peace and reconciliation, monitoring and promoting human rights, and in coordinating the international community's assistance. The EU wishes to have the closest and strongest relationship with UNAMA, in a spirit of transparent and open cooperation on the ground and in international formats for the ultimate benefit of Afghanistan.
The European Union fully supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process that will bring all Afghans together and pave the way to a better future for Afghanistan and to the whole region, and is ready to accompany this process.
The European Union welcomes the second meeting of the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation that took place on 28 February 2018 as an important step towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The European Union commends all those that made this conference possible, the Afghan government itself as well as all the participants, Afghans, regional actors, and international partners.
In this meeting the Afghan Government put forward an important and welcome offer for peace to the Taliban. We encourage the Taliban to seize this offer and expect that this offer will lead towards the establishment of a genuine peace process. A further meeting of the Kabul Process should, in the near future, look at the progress made, on peace and on shared measures to counter terrorism, inside Afghanistan and in a regional perspective.
The EU has had its first meeting of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Committee under the Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development on 8 February this year. The EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) applies provisionally as of 1 December 2017 and establishes a formal bilateral relationship between the EU and Afghanistan.
Ahead of the Joint Committee, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, and the Minister of Finance of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Eklil Hakimi met and emphasised their strong commitment to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Respect for human rights, full and equal participation of women and democratic elections continue to be a focus for the EU's dialogue with the Afghan authorities and the EU's actions in the country.
In fact, human rights now form an integral part of the structured dialogue between the EU and Afghanistan under the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) framework which I have just mentioned.
The human rights situation remained fragile and worrying in Afghanistan in 2017. There were positive achievements in adopting Human rights legislation such as: the finalized Penal Code and Child Rights Protection Law. As well as the anti-torture legislation; a National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriages; the adoption of the Women’s Economic Empowerment National Priority Programme (WEE-NPP); the finalization of the National Action Plan for socially vulnerable persons and persons with disabilities and the efforts made by the Government to consult with civil society on improving the draft Law on Gatherings, Strikes and Demonstrations. This took place against a difficult background, where problems and challenges continue to exist in several areas, such as women's rights, children's rights and education access, prevention of torture and ill treatment, protection of the human rights defenders (HRD's).
Progress has also been noted on the implementation of National Action Plan NAP 1325 and the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) where Afghanistan has prepared a Strategy on EVAW implementation. However, more needs to be done to ensure practical implementation of the adopted legislation and succeed in increasing women's participation in the public life, their committed engagement in the reconciliation process and their economic empowerment. Accounting for half of the population, no inclusive Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution will succeed without women’s full and effective participation in all peace talks.
The EU is particularly pleased that the Kabul Process conference last week recognized the fact that special attention must to be paid to safeguarding achievements made in the field of women’s rights in recent years and that no concession should be made in this regard. Moreover, elections scheduled for 2018 and 2019 must ensure women's participation as candidates, voters or staff members, thus safeguarding their rights as equal citizens.
Death penalty remains a topic of discussion, and the EU repeats its call for a moratorium. On the positive side we note that, in the new Penal Code, the number of crimes where capital punishment applies has been considerably reduced.
The EU welcomes progress made as regards anti-corruption through the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy, including strengthening of the legal framework on anticorruption. The EU calls for more concrete and accelerated actions as regards the implementation of the Strategy, including an independent monitoring mechanism for that purpose.
With regard to elections some progress has been made as regards the appointment of the leadership of the Independent Election Commission and concerning voter registration. Electoral preparations for the parliamentary and district elections must be accelerated to allow for democratic, inclusive, transparent and credible ones to be held in 2018. The EU and its Member States remain committed to support the Afghan electoral process. The EU has committed € 15.5 million to assist the parliamentary and district elections alongside other members of the international community and under the coordination of UNAMA.
The EU and Afghanistan continue to engage in a comprehensive dialogue on migration. The implementation of the EU-Afghanistan Joint Way Forward is part of this discussion, with several planned common actions related to cooperation on addressing and preventing irregular migration and on return of irregular migrants, the fight against smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and awareness raising activities on illegal migration. The objective of the Joint Way Forward is, in this regard, to establish a rapid, effective and manageable process for a smooth, dignified and orderly return of Afghan nationals who do not fulfil the conditions in force for entry to, presence in, or residence on the territory of the EU, and to facilitate their reintegration in Afghanistan in a spirit of cooperation.
The European Commission continues to support Afghanistan with programmes targeting Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries of approximately EUR 200 million. Our aim is to support a safe, manageable, predictable, voluntary and dignified return process of Afghan migrants by approaching migration and mobility also, but not exclusively in their humanitarian and development aspects, addressing the root causes and leading to long-term sustainable reintegration of returnees using a comprehensive approach in line with the Government’s needs and priorities.
In 2017 UNAMA documented 10,453 civilian casualties (3,438 deaths and 7,015 injured), a decrease of nine per cent compared with 2016 – a year which saw record highs in civilian casualties. The persistently high levels of violence and its corresponding impact on civilians remains a deep concern for the EU. It is extremely worrying that the proportion of women and children killed and injured remains high. We call on all parties to protect the civilian population, especially women and children. Conflict-related violence also destroyed livelihoods, homes and property, displaced families and limited access to education, health and other services.
We need to continue to protect the vital role of humanitarian agencies and respect their impartiality and humanitarian space in addressing the most urgent needs of the most vulnerable. In view of the threat posed by the many mines and IEDs to the population, the EU also encourages Afghanistan to maintain the current demining rhythm.
We support NATO-led Resolute Support Mission efforts to provide further training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions.
The EU is alarmed by the sharp increase of opium production in Afghanistan by 83% in 2017 compared to 2016 according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The illegal narcotics production and trade remain major critical challenges to the long-term stability and sustainability of the state, while providing significant funds to anti-government forces and criminal networks. The EU continues to fight this illegal activities including through supporting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Programme in the region and other programmes in relation to addressing illegal money flows and cross border law enforcement.
To conclude, Mr. President,
It is important that the international community remains strongly committed to support Afghanistan towards long-term peace, security and stability. The recent Kabul Process on Peace and Security meeting was a clear offer of peace to the Taliban and we expect that this offer will now lead to the establishment of a genuine peace process. The EU continues to consider UNAMA as a key partner in achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan. UNAMA has an invaluable role in ensuring the broader possible international support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. The EU will continue to support these efforts with all the means at its disposal.
Thank you very much.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.