Strasbourg, 12 March 2019
Delivered by Commissioner Neven Mimica on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini
Check against delivery!
Mr President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
After decades of war, Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. Last year was the deadliest ever for civilians since the start of the war in 2001. And yet 2019 could be the year of peace. In these years, the European Union has engaged even more closely with the government of Afghanistan to accompany the country in this delicate moment of its history. This is the goal that we have set both in the Afghanistan Strategy of 2017
and in ourlatest Council Conclusions
The Agreement is now applied provisionally
, and we already had a promising start of our structured dialogue and cooperation. Two bilateral meetings took place in 2018
, where we discussed a number of key issues that we have agreed together with our Afghan friends. These include human rights, gender issues and good governance, development cooperation, trade, regional cooperation and migration. On all of these files, Afghanistan wants to make substantial progress for the benefit of its citizens, and we Europeans have offered assistance and support.
We paid special attention to the situation of Afghan refugees in the region. The European Union remains committed to work towards finding a comprehensive and durable regional solution by supporting the predictable, safe, orderly and dignified return of Afghan nationals residing in neighbouring countries and to continue to implement the EU's regional programmes on migration and forced displacement.
In your report you drew a realistic picture on the situation in Afghanistan. I would like to elaborate a little more on the current developments related to peace. The situation on the ground remains worrying and innocent Afghan men, women and children continue to suffer from this conflict. Yet, there are good reasons to hope that this year could finally bring good news for the country.
President Ghani's peace offer to the Taliban in February 2018 – just a little over a year ago – has created an unprecedented opportunity for peace. And since September last year the US and the Taliban are negotiating international troop withdrawal and counter-terrorism commitments.
We know that lasting peace will take time. A quick agreement is not necessarily a lasting one. This is why the European Union is committed to support Afghanistan before, during and after a peace agreement to ensure that peace will be sustainable.
Since then, we have been working closely with our Afghan partners to better define our assistance. We are launching a dedicated peace mechanism to help prepare and build capacities for inclusive negotiations. As the High Representative said in Geneva, "the Afghan people are asking to move forward, and there is no going back."
During the coming months, we will continue to work together with the international community to support a better electoral process for this year's Presidential elections in Afghanistan.
With other development partners, we are exploring how to adapt the existing development programmes to a peace scenario. This would includesupporting post-conflict reforms, social cohesion at community level and cross-border trade and regional connectivity.
Afghanistan has a unique chance for peace. We European will do all in our power to help the people of Afghanistan turn this opportunity into a truly sustainable and lasting peace.
Closing remarks by Commissioner Mimica on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini
Mr President, allow me to thank you for this useful and very timely exchange of views. I conclude that we should pursue the implementation of the CAPD and the overall EU effort to support Afghanistan, especially in this moment where increased commitment from all the international community is needed.
We will keep the European Parliament associated and informed about our on-going work and dialogue.