Check against delivery!
Thank you Madame Chair.
Over the past month, we have seen quite a dramatic sequence of events in Chile. The country has been shaken by a wave of protests and violent incidences.
The government declared curfews and a state of emergency. It deployed troops to the streets for the first time since Chile returned to democracy 30 years ago. Both the curfews and the state of emergency were lifted, but protests – mostly peaceful – continued throughout the country. On October 25 they culminated in the biggest demonstration in Chile's history, with over one million people marching to request profound social and economic changes. The mobilisation continues up to date, and it has broad support across all sectors of the society.
The toll of the crisis is high: the National Institute for Human Rights – an independent state institution – has reported 22 deaths. Five of them have been directly attributed to security forces. Two thousand people were injured, and over five thousands have been detained. Almost 300 judicial actions have been presented including for homicides, sexual violence and cruel treatment.
Human Rights violations have mobilised constant demonstrations calling for justice over the abuses. While in the margins of peaceful protests, serious acts of violence occur.
We call once again for a swift investigation of all crimes and human rights violations, from all sides. This is an important moment for Chile's democracy – a strong democracy built after decades of dictatorship. A democracy that now needs a new social contract, with a stronger focus on the fight against inequalities and on social inclusion. The government has started to respond to protests with a series of important measures: the announcement of a social agenda, a Cabinet reshuffle, the launching of a national citizens’ dialogue.
Chile has announced that it will not host the APEC and COP Summits to focus on the domestic priorities.
And last Monday, a process leading to a new Constitution was launched – addressing a long standing aspiration of many Chileans, as the current Constitution still dates back to the times of dictatorship. We also highly appreciate the Government's invitation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' office and to other Human Rights organisations to send experts. It is essential to keep listening to the requests that are coming from the people of Chile, and to address them. In these weeks, over 3.5 million Chileans have demonstrated peacefully in town-hall meetings and local assemblies. They are showing their determination to build a society that is more inclusive and more just.
Such vibrant society is the foundation of a functioning and strong democracy. This request for justice and equality must not and cannot be overshadowed by the acts of violence committed by a minority in the margins of the demonstrations. In fact, the large majority of the citizens and all political parties have condemned violence as unacceptable, from all sides. Chile's human rights institutions are playing a critical role in coordinating with the government, monitoring the rights of Chileans, and working tirelessly to protect those rights. These institutions have all been shaped by the last 30 years of democracy and they are now playing a critical role in the protection of that same democracy.
It is also important that the economic actors and the private sector in its majority have affirmed to be ready to do their part, in support of a new inclusive social pact. We have condemned from the beginning all acts of violence and called for the respect of human rights and the due investigation of all violations. Our Delegation in Santiago and the 19 Member States' ambassadors resident in Chile have passed the exact same message in a coordinated manner at all levels. All our interlocutors in the government have expressed the absolute, irrevocable and irreversible commitment to the respect of human rights in all circumstances.
At the same time, we want to re-confirm our readiness to support the country and its people in this moment of transition. First of all, we have decided to maintain our cooperation programmes dedicated to COP25, to support Chile in its presidency beyond the Summit that will now be held in Spain. To address the protesters' demand for social justice, it is also essential to tackle the impact of climate change and to make the green transition more sustainable. But there is much more. The European Union is Chile's third-largest trade partner and the first foreign investor. Chile is the European Union's oldest partner in Latin America, and we are now negotiating the modernisation of our Association Agreement.
Our countries have solid ties. Both Europe and Chile have experienced the tragedy of dictatorship and the return to freedom. In the darkest moments of Chile's history, we have opened our doors to our brothers and sisters fleeing from persecution. I come from a country that has experienced that very closely. We are more than just friends. We are family.
And today we share the Chilean people's aspiration to greater social justice and a more inclusive democracy. These values are at the core of our new Association Agreement, which focuses exactly on sustainable development, human rights and climate action. Europe is ready to accompany Chile in this delicate moment of its history, towards a new and more inclusive social contract. We have full confidence that Chile's democracy is strong enough to address its people's demands, and to use this moment as a step to grow even stronger and more inclusive.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-180568
Thank you Madame Chair.
I would only take a few minutes to say first of all that most of the views that were expressed on this point will obviously guide our action in the coming weeks and months and those of the next Commission. Be sure that what happens in Chile will always be at the centre of our attention, because of the ties that are there – not only economic ties, but as I said social ties and even family ties. It is a country that because of history and culture is very close to Europe. This is why we will continue to be at the side of Chile in this delicate moment.
Let me also conclude by thanking the work that the European Parliament has been doing and is doing in its relations with Chile. I want to conclude with that, in particular on Chile, but also in other situations, the work that you do in parliamentary diplomacy is vital to the work of the European Union diplomacy. I want to thank you for that and for representing the vibrant European democracy with a variety of views. Your engagement and your constant work with the parliaments, civil society, activists and the private sector around the world is extremely important. I believe this is an integral part of our work and I would like to use this opportunity also to thank you for your work to keep the ties between the European people and the people in Chile through parliamentary diplomacy.
Thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-180570