Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2005-03-10-Speech-4-225"

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"Mr President, the first ever nation-wide electoral process in the history of Saudi Arabia is under way, with the local elections in Riyadh completed last month and continuing in the rest of the country until April. Riyadh had an 82% turnout of men only, even though the Saudi Arabian electoral law states that citizens are eligible to vote. The authorities have declared that women will be entitled to vote in the future. I acknowledge that last October they ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination on all Forms of Discrimination against Women. Those elections were witnessed by a delegation of the European Parliament and I wish to thank the authorities for the kindness and hospitality extended to all its members. I favour a substantial strengthening of EU-Saudi relations and urge the EU institutions to increase our presence in the region. I welcome the enactment of new codes of judicial procedure and criminal procedure and the establishment of a standing committee to investigate complaints of torture and a national programme to eliminate poverty. I hope these very positive moves will translate into practice on the ground very soon. I know that centuries of cultural and religious practice separate the EU and Saudi Arabia. However, I must urge the Saudi Arabian authorities to lift the restrictions on women's freedom, including the prohibition to drive, to work, to hold public office – restrictions on their very legal personality. While countering terrorism and fundamentalism is essential, we must at the same time safeguard basic human and civil freedoms. I would also urge more tolerance in relation to religious freedom. I look forward to very fruitful relations continuing between the EU and Saudi Arabia. I am particularly concerned here as a woman and a public representative of a small country that up to 30 years ago had prohibitions on women's rights in many areas; women were not even allowed to work once they got married. We have come a long way. We do not always get it right in our part of the world, but let us look at the women's issue in Saudi Arabia and move ahead on that together."@en1

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