Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2009-03-25-Speech-3-327"

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"Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have been addressing the Interim Agreement with Turkmenistan here in the European Parliament for nearly three years. Almost three years ago we had reached the point where the Committee on International Trade had adopted a report, but it was rejected by plenary, one of the reasons being that the Council and the Commission stopped working on this issue and Parliament said that, if the Commission and the Council are not pushing ahead here, then there is no need for us to either. I am particularly pleased that we are in a different situation today, even if the situation in Turkmenistan is still a long way from meeting our standards. Human rights are still disregarded in many areas and there is still a great deal of justified criticism in terms of the lack of democratic structures in this country. Individual freedoms are very restricted. Freedom of information in this country leaves a great deal to be desired. At the moment, according to information channelled to us by non-government organisations, a campaign is under way to remove satellite dishes and hence further obstruct access to the free media. The education system still fails to come up to the standard that we want in order to educate people in an enlightened and, more importantly, informed manner in terms of democracy and human rights. Also, the situation in the prisons and the question of political prisoners and Red Cross access to these prisons is still totally unsatisfactory and unexplained. On the other hand, there is also a great deal of unjustified criticism which keeps being passed on to us. There have been numerous false reports by so-called non-government organisations over recent years. Several non-government organisations have given me the impression that they are perhaps fronting for companies from other countries which have an interest in doing what they can to prevent talks from taking place between the European Union and Turkmenistan. It is my impression that behind many of the statements and much of the false information leaked to the European Union there was a very deliberate interest in obstructing talks between the European Union and Turkmenistan. I am thinking here of reports that all the hospitals in the country have closed with the exception of two in the capital, that all but two libraries have closed, that there has been an outbreak of plague because medical conditions are allegedly so appalling. These reports have all proved to be false. So what is the main problem? It is absolutely impossible to get a realistic picture of this country, mainly because its government does not let us take a proper look at it and because we, as the European Union, unfortunately have no foreign office to take the necessary action there. However, we can see that the new president has started numerous reforms. The European Union’s Central Asia strategy adopted a while ago here in Parliament focuses on the Central Asian countries. This Interim Agreement could possibly be a first small step to show the Turkmens that we are taking up the reins of dialogue, are pushing ahead with dialogue and also want to help them follow the slow – but hopefully constant – path towards human rights and democracy. Our resolution, which was tabled here in Parliament as a resolution by numerous groups, clearly addresses many of the causes for criticism. It also clearly addresses some of the positive developments which we can see, but the point for us is that we do not want to give out any free tickets to ride, we most certainly do not want to sell out on values that we hold dear to Turkmenistan; we want to defend and maintain our values. That is why the partnership and cooperation agreement should not be a foregone conclusion and, as the previous speaker said, the Commission and the Council must make clear statements about the possible suspension of the Interim Agreement if Parliament should so demand at some point in the future. Parliament has set out numerous questions in writing to the Commission and the Council. I would be delighted if you could examine them and give us very emphatic answers, so that hopefully we can together get this Interim Agreement under way tomorrow."@en1

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