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01/28/2015 12:00:00 AM


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Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru

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Motions\Environment\Waste management\regulations

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Motions\Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru

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Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru\Motion
Environment\Waste management\regulations
Motions\Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru
Motions\Environment\regulations\Waste management

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Free Trade Agreements between the European Union and Columbia and Peru

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Snippet Contents:

I saw the injustices that had been inflicted and visited grieving widows whose sons had been targeted by the military. I also saw that approximately one third of the country was under the control of a terrorist organisation, FARC, that a civil war was under way and that the former President, Mr. Álvaro Uribe, had been opposed to peace talks. For better or for worse, the people of Colombia voted for a new President, Mr. Juan Manuel Santos, who has thankfully been engaging with FARC in an attempt to create a peaceful Colombia.
With the backdrop of a terrible conflict between the Government of Colombia and FARC, one can immediately identify where human rights can be abused by terrorists and establishment forces. We are debating the best way forward for Colombia and how to protect the human rights of front-line defenders and trade unionists.
It is interesting to note that this motion relates to an agreement with Colombia and Peru. The problem with last night's debate on the agreements with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia was that no one from Moldova was present, because it is a small, weak country. Similarly, it is only due to our NGOs' presence in Colombia that we are as aware of that country as we are, but what do we know about Peru? Is it worse or better than Colombia? I say this to highlight the power of the NGO movement in influencing and enlightening us.
I am not satisfied that we should reject this agreement. I will explain my reasons. Justice for Colombia is a powerful, professional NGO and I was amazed at its ability to open the doors of the most senior politicians, Departments and prison governors in Colombia. It was so empowered and had such access that it is my firm belief that Ireland, along with the 27 other EU countries and the US, can collectively apply the pressure we believe is appropriate to the Colombian authorities to bring about democratic, military and police structures that are answerable to a proper body.
As a small country, I acknowledge the work that Ireland has done through its diplomatic corps and its ambassador, who is based in Mexico and has responsibility for Colombia. By applying pressure and engaging in dialogue, the ambassador has been able to gain the ear of the highest-ranking members of the Santos Government. I thank the Department for its briefing, which explained to and convinced me that Ireland and our colleagues in the EU formed a more powerful body of states than those who would stand outside the agreement and point fingers at Santos.
Two issues run in tandem. We must support the peace process as much as we can. If we do not and the talks fail, there will be a vicious backlash, because the former President, Mr. Uribe, is opposed to the peace process. As much as we have reservations about President Santos and his Government, we must recognise that the movement for peace is the premier goal of the EU and Colombia.
The US struck a deal on the human rights issue, but most people are disappointed that its labour clause has not been implemented. I applaud Irish foreign affairs officials for insisting in Europe on the inclusion of comprehensive human rights clauses. Regarding the agreement with Europe, the director of Justice for Colombia stated: "Whilst the inclusion of the human rights clause within the European agreement, namely 'Article 2' which includes obligations to reach standards on human rights, good governance and democracy, was a huge step forward, the unfortunate reality is that this clause is also not binding." We have a wonderful clause that argues for responsible governance, but we do not as yet have the power to have it implemented. It is my firm belief that Ireland and the 27 other EU member states that have insisted on these clauses are in a powerful position and can tell President Santos to comply with them if he does not progress along the agreement's lines.
In this light, perhaps the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade should receive annual or six-monthly reports on how the agreements are being implemented. Agreements tend to be signed and forgotten. It is important that, if we as a nation state sign agreements, there be a feedback mechanism. I appeal to the Minister to recognise that the joint committee, given its obligation to discuss human rights issues throughout the world and how Ireland prides itself on the relevant clauses, should have a mechanism whereby it could be briefed by the embassy in Mexico on how the Colombian and Peruvian Governments are implementing the agreements into which we are entering.
I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, who, on behalf of the committee and Justice for Colombia, made a personal intervention in the case of Senator Iván Cepeda, an Opposition Senator whose security detail was being removed. The issue has been resolved.
President Santos is under legal pressure to listen to those of us who are signatories to the agreement and to implement it. If we do not sign the agreement, we might as well be throwing snowballs at him and his Government. He would simply respond by asking who we were and pointing out that we were not a part of any agreement.