Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2001-04-04-Speech-3-129"

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"Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in the guidelines for participation in the UN’s third conference on the least developed countries, which the Council adopted on 22 December 2000, the European Union confirms its firm intention to do everything to ensure that the UN Action Plan for sustainable development in the least developed countries and for the progressive incorporation of these countries into the global economy contains practical and operational political guidelines and measures that are based on three factors. Firstly, active and responsible participation by national authorities, civil society, the private sector and local players in the least developed countries. Secondly, a worldwide partnership for the least developed countries, which means, amongst other things, mobilising the entire international community and increasing the coordination between everyone working on development issues at international, regional and national level. Thirdly, an effective evaluation of the results of the Action Plan that was adopted in 1990 and an analysis of the needs and expectations of the least developed countries as established during the preparations for the conference. Within the framework of the Union’s development assistance policy a very great part of the assistance is devoted to precisely these least developed countries, particularly through the ACP/EU conventions. I would remind you that 40 of the 49 least developed countries are also included in the group of ACP countries. The Union feels that the elimination of poverty in these countries should be the central aim of the conference. The Union supports the reinforced HIPC initiative and its implementation, i.e. in accordance with the terms confirmed in Cologne in 1999, which enables countries to get debt relief and increases the focus on the fight against poverty, i.e. the idea that the resources that are released by debt write-offs within HIPC are to be used to fight poverty. The Union cannot accept the commitments and/or obligations in respect of debt write-offs that go beyond the terms that apply under the HIPC initiative. This means that any claims for a moratorium on debt payments before the debtor countries reach the so-called end point, and/or 100 percent debt is written off at this point, cannot be accepted. Poor countries that do not qualify for debt relief in accordance with the terms that apply to the HIPC initiative but which are having payment difficulties are instead advised to attempt to renegotiate their debt with the Paris Club, the London Club or another relevant creditor. The resources that are released under the HIPC initiative are to be used to fight poverty in accordance with the countries’ own poverty strategies. On 28 February 2001 the Council approved a Regulation extending exemption from duty with no restriction on quantity to include products originating from the 49 least developed countries in the world with the exception of arms and ammunition – what is known is the ‘Everything but arms’ initiative. The Regulation became applicable on 5 March this year. Discussion of this matter began with the Commission putting forward a proposal in October last year. I am pleased to be able to confirm that the main principles of the Commission’s proposal were expressly retained in the final text adopted, i.e. that the Community should take meaningful measures to improve the economic situation in the least developed countries by guaranteeing free access to its markets for all such products, even if this would mean additional costs for the Community. In nearly all cases this access was established from 5 March this year. Only in the matter of bananas, sugar and rice was it established that this should enter into force at a later date. However, the crucial factor was that a particular period and timetable for full access to the market was agreed for these products. The market for bananas will be fully liberalised from 2006 and that for sugar and rice from July 2009 and September 2009 respectively. During this period duty on these three products will be reduced and duty-free quotas will be established for sugar and rice. The Regulation is therefore of crucial economic significance for the least developed countries. However, it also has an even greater political and economic significance in respect of the preparations for the next round of negotiations in the WTO. The fact that in this regard it is, in the first instance, development priorities that have formed the basis for a decision on a trade matter has incredibly great symbolic value. The decision shows our partners in the WTO negotiations – both developing countries and industrial countries – that the Union is serious in its commitment to incorporate development issues into these negotiations. It shows that we will enter into the negotiations with the firm intention not just of serving our own interests, but also the interests of the most needy members of the global society, particularly the least developed countries. It shows that the Union fully accepts a moral and economic responsibility in accordance with the Union’s position as the world’s biggest trading bloc."@en1

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