PRESS NOTICE Brussels, 17 November 2009 All Irish MEPs ask the European Union to immediately suspend FTA negotiations with Colombia


In a letter to the EU Commissioner Catherine Ashton, they stress that “it must be made clear to the Colombian authorities that the EU and its Member States do not condone the current human rights situation in Colombia”.
They propose that the EU investigate this serious situation and labour rights in Colombia
Last week in the European Parliament the European Commission’s negotiations with Colombia were severely criticised

Brussels, 16 November 2009. In a letter to EU Commissioner Catherine Ashton, the twelve Irish members of the European Parliament (MEPs), from four different political groups, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ‘ask the European Commission,’ headed by Ashton, ‘to immediately suspend the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia’. The signatories stress that, with the suspension, ‘it must be made clear to the Colombian authorities that the EU and its Member States do not condone the current situation in Colombia’. They also call for the ‘launch of an open EU investigation into Colombia’s labour and human rights performance’ in that country.

In the letter they remind the Commission that ‘Similar trade agreements between Colombia and Canada, Colombia and the EFTA group of countries and Colombia and the United States have all been delayed owing to human rights concerns.’ They also argue that ‘…President Obama himself has publicly cited anti-trade union attacks as the principal reason for his opposition to the deal’. The signatories then continue by stating that if the EU were to press ahead with such an agreement it ‘would send completely the wrong signal, damage the international consensus around this issue and demonstrate an astonishing lack of regard for human and workers’ rights.’

For its part, OIDHACO, a European platform consisting of about 30 organisations from 10 EU countries, can not understand the European Commission’s attitude to these negotiations. Emmanuel Raison, OIDHACO’s spokesman, explained that this organisation has joined various MEPs from a range of EU countries in calling for the European Commission to act on the human rights reports presented to it by trade unions and Colombian and international organisations – including Justice for Colombia, EU-CAN Network, and Grupo Sur – and on the demands of the UN and ILO that Colombian government take proper measures to protect Colombian trade unionists and human rights defenders.

‘The European Parliament’s International Trade Committee has serious concerns about the FTA negotiations with Colombia”. Raison explained that ‘many MEPs have demanded that the European Commission open an urgent investigation into human rights in Colombia, before reaching any final agreement’. ‘In last week’s debates, the role of the Commission was called into question, as it continues negotiating as if it knew nothing about the current situation, although it had been presented with very worrying reports concerning trade union and workers’ rights’. OIDHACO’s spokesman stated that the organisation he represents endorses the words of many MEPS who condemn Colombia as ‘a cemetery for trade unionists and human rights defenders’. ‘The number of trade unionists murdered each year represents 65% of all trade unionists murdered in the world.’

‘The European Union must lend its support to Colombia’s victims; dialogue with the Colombia’s government is important but not enough,’ stresses Raison. ‘The EU needs to make a firm statement on the human rights situation in Colombia, as well as carrying out a study on the impact that an FTA would have on that country.’ ‘If not’, he continued ‘it would be sending out a message to the international community that trade is more important than people’s lives and respect for human rights,’ as have said various MEPs loud and clear, ‘The European Commission has not responded seriously to the situation in Colombia. It is amazing that they say there is no problem in Colombia. Why won’t the Commission launch an investigation into human rights? 30 trade unionists have been killed this year. How many more will have to be killed before the Commission admits that there’s a problem?’

‘This is a clear warning from the European Parliament which, under the recently-approved Lisbon Treaty, will have to ratify the agreement’, concluded Emmanuel Raison.

Brief des ‚Irish Congress of Trade Unions‘, unterstützt von allen 12 irischen EU-Abgeordneten (PDF Datei):