By Lourdes Castro
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A new debate surrounding the Commercial negotiations between the EU and Colombia took place yesterday in the European Parliament (EP) in the Commission of Development initiated by Gay Mitchell, member of the European Popular Party.
His initiative of discussing the issue with a focus on human rights is inspired by his worry about the grave violations perpetrated against the Colombian union movement; 60% of the assassinations of union members world wide occur in Colombia. Mitchell calls this situation “intolerable.”
Faced with this dramatic situation, the debate has turned to weather or not the trade with Colombia should continue. In practical terms the debate faces EP members with the dilemma of whether or not to ratify the business accord.
The debate illuminated the positions of its two major political groups: the Popular Party and the Socialist Party.
Some members of both political groups agree that the EU should suspend business negotiations with Colombia for coherent political reasons corresponding with EU principles. Others, on the other hand, argue that the negotiations should continue, citing the human rights compromises and advances required of Colombia as well as the positive and dynamic aspects of the Colombia-EU relationship.
The debate becomes even more complex – above all for the Socialist party – if you take into account the prior Commercial Negotiation Accords between Colombia and the United States, Canada, and members of EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) in which their respective Parliaments have suspended trade due to human rights considerations. The specific reason stated by the various Parliaments are the numerous crimes perpetrated against the Colombian union movement.
Returning to yesterday’s debate, the most disconcerting for the attendees was to witness the “closing of ranks” between the Spanish Socialist members and the Popular members, in favor of concluding the negotiation. This situation can be explained through the compromise made between the government party (Socialist) and the opposition (Popular) regarding the defense of fixed priorities of the Spanish President. Among the priorities was the signing of the accord between Colombian and Peru this semester.
It could not be clearer! In the middle of a debate jeopardizing the community space, and moreover bringing into discussion the coherency of European foreign policy regarding its human rights debates, the Spanish members of Parliament are taking a position of national defense: the interest of the Spanish President.
The Greens Parliament member Catherine Greze, in a statement given to the press immediately after the debate, expressed, with reason, that it is “evident the that Spanish President wants to present the Accord as a victory” in the EU–Latin America summit that will be held in Madrid during the month of May, but she asks if when they speak of a “qualitative leap” (alluding to the phrase contained in the text of the priorities of the Spanish President in relation to the Accords) “you should not consider the wellbeing of the population with respect to the workers and the freedom of expression.”