Helping Arab citizens in their fight for democracy, pressing for the release of political prisoners in Belarus and investigating organ trafficking allegations in Kosovo were among the key priorities chosen by MEPs to drive EU’s foreign, security and defence policy in the coming months.
This policy should be reshuffled to improve EU institutions’ co-ordination and create synergies between civilian and military operations in third-country crises, said the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
In an effort to review all current international conflicts and set out coherent EU foreign and security priorities, the Foreign Affairs Committee approved two resolutions which together call for an overhaul of EU foreign policy, placing human rights at the top of the agenda in relations with third countries and in international agreements such as those being negotiated with Russia or India.
Another key issue for MEPs is the need to improve co-ordination among EU institutions, including the new External Action Service, and to ensure the EU’s presence in key international organisations such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank). France and the UK should push the UN Security Council to allow EU High Representative Ashton to present “the Union’s position” to it when needed, say MEPs. The conflict between Cyprus and Turkey must be resolved since it prevents the EU from building closer relations with NATO, MEPs added.
MEPs said they regretted the lack of cohesion among Member States on the military intervention in Libya and welcomed the Council’s decision to set up a military operation for humanitarian assistance (EUFOR Libya operation). They also urged EU Member States to comply with the EU code of conduct on arms exports and avoid selling weapons to Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.
Finally, they acknowledged the failure of EU policies with the region in the past and call for an overhaul of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the working methods of the Union for the Mediterranean.
MEPs called for a thorough EULEX investigation into allegations of organ trafficking during and after the war in Kosovo. They noted that the situation in the country remains stable but fragile, since some Member States still have not recognised its independence. The European Commission is urged to define a road-map for visa liberalisation with Pristina.
Current EU sanctions (visa ban and asset freeze) against 157 Belarusian officials should remain until all political prisoners are released, said MEPs, who welcomed the EU’s pledge of €17.3 million to support civil society and ease mobility of students and young people.
MEPs want to ensure that a commitment to improve Human Rights and fight corruption will be “an integral part” of the new EU-Russia agreement still under negotiation. They also urged Russia to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and to give access to EU monitoring missions to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The committee said current UN and EU sanctions against Iran’s nuclear agenda were “unavoidable”, and condemned the Iranian President’s “wipe out Israel” rhetoric, as well as voicing grave concern about the high number of state executions and called on EU foreign policy High Representative Ashton to re-establish an EU delegation in the country.
The other countries mentioned in the resolution (drafted by Gabriele Albertini (EPP, IT), were Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Japan, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, Peru, Colombia, the Mercosur countries and the US. The text was adopted with 52 votes in favour, 5 against and 11 abstentions.
EU military autonomy
Current rigid distinctions between EU military and civilian crisis-management operations are counterproductive and create unnecessary overlaps, said the committee in a separate resolution on EU defence policy, drafted by Roberto Gualtieri (S&D, IT). The text advocates greater military autonomy for the EU, and also ensuring its ability to deliver help in the event of natural and man-made disasters such as the Pakistan floods in 2010.
Among many proposals to strengthen the EU’s defence capabilities, MEPs stress the need to equip it with a permanent civilian-military planning Operational Headquarters (OHQ), to enable it to respond more cost-effectively and manage larger missions. They also call on it to hold an extraordinary Council meeting on security and defence and to set up regular meetings of the External Action Service’s Crisis Management Board.
Finally, MEPs welcome the Council’s decision to set up a military operation in Libya but regret that its mandate is limited to humanitarian assistance, rather than taking the lead in maritime surveillance and assistance to Frontex. Member States vetoed a broader mandate for Eurofor Libya while at the same time conducting such operations on their own, complained MEPs.
This resolution was adopted with 55 votes in favour, 9 against and no abstentions. The plenary vote will take place at the May session, at which the GUE group plans to table its own minority report calling for the demilitarisation of the EU.