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Strasbourg, 23 October 2018
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Thank you, Mr President and thank you all for having decided to put this issue on the agenda of your plenary today. I think it is extremely important for the [European] Parliament to have its voice heard on this.
Let me start by saying something basic and very clear that I think we have to start from. That a crime against one journalist – wherever in the world - is a crime against freedom of speech, freedom of information, and as such, I would say it is a crime against our societies – everywhere in the world – our way of life – in particular in Europe – our principles, our values. It is a crime against all of us.
Three weeks after the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, we now know that he was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has now arrested a number of officials in connection to the case. Yet, too many details about what happened to the journalist are still missing. The confirmation of his death is a first step towards the truth and towards accountability, but the explanations offered so far by the Saudi authorities leave many doubts and many questions unanswered.
From the very first day, we have asked Saudi Arabia to shed light on the events of the 2 October through a full, credible, transparent and prompt investigation. We expect the Saudi institutions to provide all the information they have about the case, and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
Last week, the Foreign Affairs Council, all 28 Foreign Ministers of the EU Member States agreed to demand – united – a credible and transparent investigation.
Together with the Foreign Ministers of the countries of the G7, we have coordinated our approach – first, asking for a credible investigation, and right now, in these hours, we are working on further steps and statements to be taken together.
We have also asked Saudi Arabia for full collaboration with the Turkish authorities. We hope that everyone will work towards the goal of establishing the facts. This is the starting point. The investigation must be driven by the search for the truth and not by geopolitics.
We will not just wait for more clarity or ask for it, we will also continue to act together, with our partners, for achieving clarity.
The European Union’s reaction from now on will depend on the next steps that will be taken by the Saudi authorities. We will continue to, first of all, coordinate among ourselves, with united European coordinated positions, but we will also continue to coordinate with our partners around the world. And we will continue to follow the case and work to coordinate the appropriate reaction that will have to be a united one at European level, and together with our international partners – as I said.
The Saudi leadership has promised ambitious reforms for the country. The way this investigation will be managed is a very important test – in terms of free speech, human rights and the rule of law, for all the people of Saudi Arabia.
Just a few months ago, our staff at the External Action Service in Brussels welcomed [Jamal] Khashoggi for a conference on Saudi Arabia and on the situation in the region. We engaged with him on several occasions, as a credible and authoritative voice in the debate about his country and the Middle East.
In his last op-ed, which was published after his death, he asked for a free and independent “platform for Arab voices”. Through the years, we – as the European Union – have worked precisely to support young and independent Arab voices: we have trained young Arab journalists, we have financed independent media, and we have engaged in policy dialogues through initiatives such as “Young Mediterranean Voices”.
Free speech lies at the core of our values and it will continue to be the basis for our foreign policy. We believe that national interest can never, never be a justification to curb freedom of speech. On the contrary, when basic human rights are violated, our countries get weaker.
I think this is the voice that needs to be heard in this moment of history from the European Union and from this Parliament – united. It is a point of strength to respect and protect human rights, starting from the freedom of speech. It is not a point of weakness, it is a point of strength of our societies.
Because when fundamental freedoms come under attack, there can be no peace, no security, and no human development. Repression makes States and societies weaker and not stronger.
Jamal Khashoggi had always advocated not only free speech, but also greater tolerance and respect for diversity. I think that reading some of his words today is somehow painful, thinking of the way in which the story ended. The best way we have to honour his memory is to be firm and determined in asking for the truth and working for the truth. Not only for the truth, also for accountability which is different, both from scapegoating and from revenge. I think it is important for us to say this now.
We will not only ask for justice, but we keep working for justice, for free speech and human rights in Saudi Arabia, in the region, in all the region of the Gulf and everywhere in the world.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I162418
Thank you, Mr President.
First of all, I would like to thank the Parliament, most of you, for quite a strong and united voice that I have heard from different groups, different national backgrounds that send the same message that supports very much and strengthens the work and the words that we have been doing and saying in these weeks - that we want to know the truth, that we want justice and that we will not settle for anything less.
We will continue to demand a full, credible, and transparent investigation. As this Parliament was debating this murder, we released a common G7 Statement going in the same direction, which is a good message of unity and strength. And we as the European Union, myself personally, have been very explicit so far and we will continue to do so, and also united.
You know, and as some of you have said, individual Member States have taken either steps or indicated that they would be willing to take steps. Some have decided to withdraw their participation from events in Saudi Arabia and have announced other possible measures.
Collectively, I believe, as the European Union - in the Council in particular - we will have to continue to monitor the situation as it continues to evolve in the coming days, hopefully not weeks, and decide on any measure to be taken collectively as European Union, based on, first and foremost the steps that will be taken by the Saudi authorities to establish the truth and to bring those responsible to justice. As I said, accountability, not revenge or any fig leaf that could hide the real responsibilities.
I can also point to the fact that those of you who have taken the floor come from different political groups, different countries. Most of you come from parties that are in majority in the national governments. Maybe there is something that you can also do when it comes to your national governments' positions.
I noticed that there are different attitudes among Member States on some of the measures at the moment. I noticed that there are also different attitudes within government coalitions in single countries that are quite evident in this hemicycle. We can all work on more unity and I think we have the duty to do so in the coming days to react properly, rationally, united and in coordination with our international partners.
I want to thank the Parliament also for a second reason - the constant focus that you put on freedom of speech and the support we give - not only to journalists around the world, but also to human rights activists, to civil society organisations, to political opposition in some cases, which is vital. And this will remain at the core of our foreign policy, with one key element that some of you mentioned today and that to me is really vital – that this is done and will continue to be done in our case, in the case of the European Union, regardless of geopolitics. It is not because we like one country more than the other. It is not because one country is more credible than the other or less credible than the other that we will stay more silent.
We will continue to support civil society, human rights, journalists, activists, everywhere in the world and we will continue to denounce and to oppose all measures that will be against a free, open society everywhere in the world. We will continue to engage in every situation where freedom and human rights are under attack, whoever the victim and wherever it takes place, whatever the country will be.
Link to the remarks: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I162420