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"President Ghani's proposal is an opportunity that cannot be wasted. It is up to the Taliban to take their decision, and show the courage of making peace. Today I am here to put on the table the European Union's readiness to accompany a peace process with all our tools, from economic support to our diplomatic convening power, from our political backing to our technical expertise", said High Representative Mogherini opening the conference.
The EU currently helps implement one peace agreement (with Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin), supporting dialogue and reconciliation between the ex-fighters, civil society, women, and ulemas.
More broadly, the European Union and its Member States are the largest international donor to Afghanistan and its people, with more than 5 billion dollars in investment committed for 2017-2020 (out of more than 15 billion dollars committed by the international community in support of peace, security and economic development in Afghanistan). Last year the EU also signed a new Cooperation Agreement with Afghanistan. We have set up a constant dialogue on all issues we care about, from the economy to the training of Afghan police forces, from women empowerment to human rights.
The EU has also strongly supported a regional approach to peace and development in Afghanistan, bringing together all neighbouring countries, as well as the United Nations and all regional powers, and investing in cross-border cooperation.
EU programmes have supported joint border management to tackle all sorts of trafficking, both to stop the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan and to stop financing for criminal groups. The EU has also worked to monitor the movements of foreign terrorist fighters – which is a security interest shared by the people of Afghanistan, of Central Asia and of Europe.
Regional cooperation can also be a great opportunity for development, in Afghanistan and in the entire region. This includes large infrastructure projects and energy corridors, connecting the region to the rest of the world – aiming not for trade only to bring natural resources out of Central Asia, but equally to support sustainable development inside Central Asia.
The EU is already contributing to some regional initiatives – spanning from energy infrastructure to railway connections between Afghanistan and its neighbours and is ready to do more in this sector also.
For long-term change, however, a peace agreement is critical. "The European Union will be on your side," said Mogherini. "But the decision on peace and war does not belong to us – it belongs to the Afghan people, and the Afghans only. To those who are still fighting, our message is clear. Take President Ghani's offer. Choose the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Have the courage of peace."