Presidency Statement at ‘Afghanistan and the International Community
A Partnership for the Future’ conference, Berlin

by President of the Council, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen

President Karzai, Chancellor Schroeder, Mr Brahimi, Special Representative Ogata, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; I am very pleased, in my Presidency capacity, to have the opportunity to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union. At the outset, I wish to thank the German Government for its tremendous contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan and for its commitment in co-hosting today’s conference.

This conference is a very clear demonstration of the unprecedented co-operation between the Transitional Authority, the UN and the international community in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. The announcement today by President Karzai that direct presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in September of this year is very positive evidence of what can be achieved by this co-operation.

There have been significant and positive developments since the Bonn agreement. The Emergency Loya Jirga establishing the Transitional Authority in June 2002, and the adoption of a new constitution following the Constitutional Loya Jirga in January of this year, both confirmed the resolve of the people of Afghanistan to determine freely their own political future in accordance with the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice. The participation of women and all ethnic and religious communities in both Loya Jirgas has contributed to the legitimacy of the transition process.

The Tokyo Conference in January 2002 demonstrated the international community’s practical commitment to helping the Afghan people achieve stability, security and prosperity. The European Union greatly values the United Nations’ commitment and that of individual nations to assisting Afghanistan in reconstruction and security sector reform. The contribution made by non-governmental civil society and humanitarian organisations is also vital.

The renewed partnership between Afghanistan and the international community was born out of the need to respond to the atrocities of terrorism. The people of Afghanistan and the European Union are both victims of terrorism driven by fundamentalist ideology. In confronting the challenges posed by terrorism, war, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ethnic and religious conflict, the international community must work to bring about a more humane world where people can live in security and dignity, free of want and fear, and with equal opportunities to develop their human potential to the full.

The provision of security remains absolutely critical to everything the Afghan Transitional Authority and its international partners are trying to achieve. The expansion of ISAF is a demonstration of the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan and will play a key role in assisting the Transitional Authority in providing security for the electoral process. Individual Member States have made very significant commitments to providing for Afghanistan’s security through participation in ISAF and Provincial Reconstruction Teams, as well as serving alongside their allies under Operation Enduring Freedom. The sacrifices that have been made, both by Afghans and non-Afghans, are not forgotten.

The people of Afghanistan, however, also experience insecurity as a result of the weak rule of law, the absence of an effective national police force and army and the spread of opium production, which fuels crime and corruption. Afghanistan’s efforts, in partnership with lead nations, to address these issues must be supported by the entire international community. Adequate security and an end to narcotics production are not only ends in themselves; they critically underpin all of the future progress that we are hoping to chart over the next two days.

High Representative Solana will later address the Security aspects of the European Union’s commitment to Afghanistan.

Commissioner Patten will address in the second session today the detail of the EU’s close partnership with, and support for, the people of Afghanistan. Let me just say here that the EU has been, and will continue to be, one of the major donors backing the country’s reconstruction.

In February, I led a timely EU Ministerial Troika to Afghanistan, where we met President Karzai, amongst others. We came away with a sense that, although there are many challenges to be overcome, the new constitution has provided a certain momentum and hope for the future. The work-plan presented by President Karzai to this conference today will channel this momentum and ensure that a functioning democracy is the only way ahead.

With the approval of the Constitution by the Constitutional Loya Jirga, the people of Afghanistan have begun to take the reins of their own political destiny, and to define that destiny together. The men and women of Afghanistan, of whatever ethnic or regional identity, may now aspire to live in a society governed by the principles of freedom, justice and democracy. That aspiration is a challenge; but it is a challenge that Afghanistan will face alongside the international community.

The European Union believes firmly in the protection and promotion of human rights and in this regard welcomes the positive developments in Afghanistan, and the Afghan Transitional Authority's commitment to meet its obligations under international human rights law. We urge the Afghan Transitional Authority and future governments to work to enable the full participation of women and girls in Afghanistan’s civil, cultural, economic and political life and emphasise their responsibility to ensure the full implementation of the Constitution’s provisions on human rights, including those of women and girls.

We commend the work of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in carrying out its mandate to protect and promote human rights despite the difficult environment in which it operates. It is important to ensure that the AIHRC remains independent, with proper financial and political support and that its mandate is clearly articulated in the law. The European Union will continue to encourage and support efforts in Afghanistan to promote a society where the human rights of all are fully respected.

The election and formation of a fully representative government should be a priority for all parties in Afghanistan. The EU fully supports UNAMA’s preparations for elections in the face of difficult circumstances, especially its efforts to ensure the participation of women. We will endeavour with UNAMA and the Afghan Transitional Authority to ensure that elections, both for the position of president, and for the legislature, can be held in accordance with the principals agreed at Bonn. Efforts to develop Afghan Civil Society and a free media are an important part of this undertaking.

In the past two years, Afghanistan has made great progress. While many challenges remain to be overcome, and the complexity of these may seem daunting, we believe that the people of Afghanistan have the courage and determination necessary to overcome them. They can rely on the support of the European Union, its Member States and the entire International Community.

Thank you.

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