European Union External Action

Colombia: Speech on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate on the 5th Anniversary of the Peace Agreement

Brussels, 29/04/2021 - 13:57, UNIQUE ID: 210429_8
HR/VP speeches

Speech delivered by Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs

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Thank you Madam President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

I am pleased to join today’s important debate on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President [Josep] Borrell.

Colombia will soon celebrate the 5th anniversary of its Final Peace Agreement. Although we are not yet there, our debate is an opportunity to underline, once again, the European Union’s support to Colombia in this process. The ending of more than 50 years of conflict, with 9 million victims, is a much-needed piece of good news for the entire world.

The Colombian Peace Agreement is cited internationally as a model, because of its determination to address the root causes of the conflict and its central focus on the rights and dignity of the victims. All parts of the agreement need to be implemented, as they are interrelated and thus necessary to achieve the goals.

The [European] Commission commends the commitment demonstrated by both the government and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], who has now disarmed and transitioned to politics with the name of ‘Comunes’. However, important challenges and setbacks persist in this process.

The Commission’s main concern today is the persistence of violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups and criminal organisations, including the National Liberation Army and FARC dissidents, who keep fighting over illicit economies. Recent months have seen massacres of civilians; the deterioration in the humanitarian situation of local communities in some regions; violence against ex-combatants committed to peace; against social leaders, human rights and environmental defenders, with a particular incidence on women indigenous, afro-descendant people. This illustrates the fragility of peace. Violence must end.

The European Union has conveyed this concern with the government of Colombia through various different channels. Among others, the High Representative/Vice-President’s Spokesperson issued a statement welcoming the recommendations included in the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms [Michelle] Bachelet.

The situation is very complex. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is not helping. And we cannot but praise all efforts and progress achieved in Colombia, for example in areas such as rural development or reincorporation of former combatants. Still, Colombia needs faster and additional practical solutions.

First, the presence of the State in conflict-affected areas has to be strengthened: both military and, in particular, civilian presence. Socio-economic development of the territories is crucial for a sustainable peace. In this exercise, working closely with civil society remains essential. Fighting impunity is another key.

The transitional justice system is now up and running, but needs to advance. The European Union is proud to support the work of this three main institutions: the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Truth Commission and the Search Unit for the Disappeared.

Of course, stronger efforts are needed by all actors to resume a genuine dialogue for a comprehensive peace. Here, I also call on the ELN [National Liberation Army, Ejército de Liberación Nacional in Spanish] to stop its campaign of violence, to release all kidnapped victims and stop the recruitment of minors. The European Union will continue to support all possibilities for dialogue.

Dear Members [of the European Parliament],

In Europe we know too well that peace is a continuous process of rebuilding, renewal, restoration and reconciliation. This is why our support has been unwavering and united since the beginning.

Overall, the European Union has invested over €648 million in the peace process in Colombia. This includes the European Union Trust Fund, which today stands at €130 million -with contributions from 21 Member States, the United Kingdom and Chile-, as well as pledged loans by the European Investment Bank, short-term actions and ongoing programmes. There are 30 projects running on European Union contributions to support victims, development of rural communities and reintegration of ex-combatants.

The continued work of the European Union Special Envoy for Peace in Colombia, Eamon Gilmore, appointed in 2015, is an important sign of our long-standing commitment. His contribution has been outstanding and the High Representative/Vice-President has asked the Special Envoy to continue in his role.

The European Union is not alone in the support for Colombia. The international community has been united in supporting the peace process, including the United Nations Security Council. This commitment is vital for the future of Colombia.

From Europe, we will continue working with Colombia in this and all other areas of our relationship, ranging from political dialogue and cooperation in security and defence, to trade and sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change.

The current challenges are very serious, and we will continue supporting Colombia in their efforts by using all the available tools in the most effective way.

Thank you very much for your attention and I look forward to this exchange of views.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-204717

Closing remarks

Thank you Ms President, dear Members [of the European Parliament],

In this difficult context, the only path towards lasting peace is the full implementation of the peace agreement in all its parts – with the continued support of the European Union and international stakeholders. This is our message to the government and to the people of Colombia.

A comprehensive and sustainable peace will necessarily require further efforts to resume a genuine dialogue, to end and to prevent further violence. This is crucial for Colombia’s socioeconomic development as well.

Colombia is a key partner of the European Union in Latin America, a stable democracy and a like-minded country in many areas. We share the ambition to deepen and broaden our relationship. And you can rest assured that peacebuilding will remain a shared priority.

I agree with those that have mentioned the importance to protect human rights defenders and social leaders. The [European] Commission is providing concrete support through the campaign #DefendamosLaVida, and through direct assistance to defenders at risk, with protection programmes such as ProtectDefenders.eu.

We also give support to the Special Investigation Unit in the Prosecutor's office for the dismantling of organised crime and the protection of human rights defenders, as well as to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia and to the Ombudsman's Office, to strengthen their human rights monitoring capacity - including on early warnings against attacks on human rights defenders and social leaders.

As you all know - and many of you have mentioned – almost 2 million Venezuelan migrants are refugees in its territory. Colombia is by far the most affected country in the region. With its hospitality and generosity, Colombia has set an example for the world. The European Union has so far provided €320 million in assistance to regional efforts to cope with this migration crisis and will continue to stand by its Latin American partners.

The High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Commissioner [for Crisis Management] Janez Lenarčič published the praised Colombia’s historic decision to grant temporary protection status to Venezuelan migrants.

At the same time, the continued deterioration of the situation in Venezuela also affects Colombia from a security perspective. Armed groups, the National Liberation Army and FARC dissidents are finding refuge behind the Venezuelan border. The European Union follows closely the recent clashes, which seem to be the consequence of disputes over control of illicit economies, and which have forced many civilians to flee their homes.

Dear Members,

The situation is very complex and challenges remain serious. The European Union will continue supporting Colombia in addressing them, making the best use of all available tools and areas of our cooperation.

I appreciate the support of this Parliament in maintaining the focus on this important peace process.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-204799 

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