Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2001-03-14-Speech-3-278"

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"Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, it goes without saying that we associate ourselves with the guiding spirit behind the Commission’s communication on election assistance and observation, namely the principle that encouraging genuine democracies is not only an ethical imperative but also a condition of sustainable development and lasting peace, a specific mandate of the Union in application of the Treaties, and the foundation of our foreign policy. We advocate the creation of an adequately staffed election department within the Commission, and one of our amendments calls specifically for numbers equal to the task facing the Commission. In our opinion, a greater and different kind of flexibility in the European Union’s commitment criteria is needed. First, elections and regional elections may not be sufficient parameters for recognising when it is appropriate to intervene. We are participating in the election observation in Peru and that is certainly not the first election. Flexibility is definitely needed in the evaluation standards. The two words ‘free and fair’ do not cover everything Parliament and the European Union should focus on in their election observation activities. This is not rigidity; it is rigour, and a necessary rigour, because what has primarily been lacking over the last few years has been rigour in choices and approaches. Moreover, strategy consists of rules and objectives. In conclusion, we feel – as does the Commission – that democracy is a process, not a choice made on a single day. We know that genuine democracy in many countries starts to be built on polling day and goes on from there. We want to continue to make our resources available, and not just economic resources but the resources of our democratic heritage and our political commitment as well. I would like to add that it is also something else: it is a commitment that is not formal, but is difficult, which cannot be relegated just to declarations of principle but which must be built through consistent, practical political acts. That is therefore the role of the European Union and the European Parliament in election assistance and observation, given that free elections are a necessary precondition for democracy. Two 1999 Council Regulations represent the legal basis for transforming our role into a substantial commitment. In what way? A consistent political strategy is necessary. So far, we have chalked up eight years of totally generous election assistance and observation, often with excellent results: I refer to Zimbabwe and Russia. However, it has been a matter of occasional interventions, so we are very much in favour of the Commission’s communication, which provides us with a coherent political strategy. Another necessary step is to extend that strategy to every stage of the intervention in the observation which precedes and accompanies the elections, because the democratic process is not exhausted on polling day. It involves establishing the proper connections between electoral support and development aid policies, a structured relationship with the international organisations, the NGOs and civil society, not using the mechanisms of the delegation, which we have often settled for, but rather the mechanisms of genuine political cooperation. Our report has sought to make contributions in a number of areas, first and foremost on the role of Parliament. Under no circumstances – especially not in this specific case – can Parliament be regarded as a mere notary, called upon to ratify an electoral process or the quality of an electoral process. Our legitimacy and our function are political in nature and our presence in the Union’s observation missions – our proper political role – can represent added value for the European Union. So it is useful for the European Parliament to be present at every stage, including the stages preceding election observation in the strict sense, and it is desirable – where the right conditions exist – to have the European Union mission led by a Member of Parliament. What is more, our record is excellent: our former colleague, Mr Schori, led the mission in Zimbabwe. Moreover, political role and visibility are being won in the field, and I see them as a resource not only for Parliament but for the European Union as a whole. Another fundamental point is the need for institutional coordination between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council. We advocate a permanent consultation mechanism, regarding this as preferable to an interinstitutional agreement which would be more cumbersome and require very demanding inputs of time and management and implementation methods. Taking up the suggestions of certain Members, we advocate a half-yearly timetable allowing constant monitoring of what is happening, given the very violent accelerations political history records these days."@en1

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