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Thank you Mr President,
Three years ago, Colombia demonstrated to the world that even the longest and most violent of conflicts can come to an end. No one imagined that building peace would be easy. But three years on, the great majority of Colombians would never go back to the dark years of their country’s history.
High Representative [of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica] Mogherini was in Colombia last week, and she saw a country that looks forward, not backwards. President [of Colombia, Iván] Duque has confirmed his willingness to keep implementing the peace deal. The leadership of the FARC – as a political party – and the vast majority of former fighters remains committed to the agreement.
It is true that a small group of FARC dissidents have decided to take up arms again. We have strongly condemned this announcement – because more violence is simply not the answer to the challenges that the country is facing. But we must not forget that this is only a small group of dissidents.
This does not mean that we do not see the challenges the peace process is facing. The killings of local leaders, human rights defenders and ex-FARC members are alarming and unacceptable. As the local and regional elections next month approach, we also see assassinations of candidates. The High Representative has welcomed the actions taken by the Government – to ensure protection of those under threats, to bring the perpetrators to justice and to dismantle these criminal networks. But most importantly, she also offered the European Union’s practical help.
We are complementing government efforts through support to civil society, support to the Special Investigation Unit in the Prosecutors Office and – together with EU Member States – the campaign "Defendamos La Vida".
All in all, this was the main message that she delivered to the government and the people of Colombia. The European Union is with you. We want to help Colombia “win the peace”.
During her visit to Bogotà, the High Representative announced a number of measures to step up our support to the peace process. She met with the top officials in the three main institutions of the transitional justice system: the Truth Commission, the Search Unit (for Missing Persons) and the Peace Court. She announced €4.5 million in support to the Truth Commission, which adds to our support to the Search Unit, and we are planning to also support the Peace Court.
So far, the EU has invested around €645 million over these last years to support peace in Colombia, including through the creation of a specific Trust Fund. The European Union is also the largest foreign investor in Colombia, with a special focus on sustainable development in the areas that were most hit by the conflict.
On top of this, the High Representative also announced a new package to support Colombia’s solidarity towards refugees and migrants from Venezuela. We are putting an extra 30 million, on top of the 120 million already invested.
There are now 1.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela who found refuge in Colombia. Colombia's generosity in welcoming and hosting these people sets an example to the region and to the world. However, to praise is not enough: Colombia and the countries from the region need more international support. And the European Union is doing its part, leading the way among the international community.
The Colombian people know that they can count on the continued commitment and support of the EU in their daily work to “win the peace”. Since the peace deal was signed, the European Union and its Member States have invested €1.5 billion in support of peace in Colombia.
The people of Colombia are showing an amazing courage and perseverance, in seeking the mediations that are essential to build a truly inclusive and peaceful democracy. We believe in them, Europe believes in Colombia – and we will keep supporting all of Colombia’s peace-builders.
Link to the opening remarks : https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-177431
Mr President, allow me to say that this exchange of views was very useful and very timely. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Honourable Members for their interventions, comments and suggestions.
Out of the many valuable remarks I would like to respond to the MEP [Marie] Arena's question: "What is the EU doing to protect Human Rights defenders and indigenous and social leaders?"
The EU, in coordination with Member States, supports actions to help ensure that Human Rights defenders are protected and respected, and can operate in a safe and enabling environment. Assistance is provided to defenders at risk through protection programmes such as "protectdefenders.eu".
On 11 June 2019, the EU Delegation together with several Member States, launched the campaign "Defendamos La Vida" to protect and give visibility to Human Rights defenders and social leaders. On 10 July 2019, the EU launched the project "Strengthening the Special Investigation Unit" of the office of the Attourney General of the nation, worth €2 million. The Special Investigation Unit aims to implement a secure judicial investigation system able to prevent, react, control, prosecute and seek criminal punishment for grave violations against Human Rights defenders and members of social and political movements perpetrated by criminal organisations. In addition, the EU will continue to provide financial support to organisations working with Human Rights defenders in Colombia.
Mr President, from this debate I conclude that the only path towards lasting peace in this difficult context is to continue implementation of the peace agreement – with full support of the EU and international stakeholders. This is our message to the Government and the people of Colombia.
But I would like to remind us that while the peace process remains at the heart of our engagement with Colombia – our relationship has deepened and broadened in recent years – with the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, cooperation in security and defence, on the environment, to mention just a few key areas. The current challenges are very serious, and we will continue supporting Colombia in addressing them, but the overall relationship and perspectives for the future are very positive.
Allow me to express my appreciation for your attention and support in maintaining this important file on top of our agenda.
Link to the closing remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-177433