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Press Release – Dr. Marcoullis discusses human rights around the world and foreign affairs issues at the European Parliament Plenary
12.12.2012, 22:56 (CET)
Cyprus’ Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, discussed issues of foreign affairs, during her appearance at the European Parliament (EP) Plenary today, December 12, in Strasbourg.

Dr. Marcoullis attended the EP Plenary on behalf of the High Representative (HR) of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, and discussed issues of human rights, the situation in Egypt and the Israeli government’s decision to expand settlements. On behalf of the Council of the EU, she briefed the Parliament on the 2012 progress report on Albania and the issue of a possible influx of asylum seekers from Syria.

Human rights around the world

Representing the HR before the Plenary on the issue of human rights, Dr. Marcoullis spoke on the annual report on human rights and democracy in the world and the review of the EU’s human rights policy.

“Human Rights are not only at the heart of the EU's founding principles,” stated Dr. Marcoullis. “They are a silver thread that runs through all our external policies.” 

She informed the European Parliament of the important work undertaken on issues of human rights in the world, underlining that indeed more work is needed. In this framework, Minister Marcoullis reiterated that the EU stands ready to support the democratic transition in the Arab world to provide assistance in addressing crises such as the ones in Syria and Mali/Sahel. She also emphasised that, in promoting human rights, the EU works closely with international and regional organisations like the United Nations, the OSCE, the African Union and the League of Arab states. Finally, she stressed that the contribution of the European Parliament is vital for the work of the Union in the field of human rights. 

EU calls for a de-escalation of the situation in Egypt

Dr. Marcoullis also made a statement to the EP Plenary, on behalf of the HR, on the situation in Egypt, where there have been violent clashes during demonstrations as a result of President Morsi’s Constitutional Declaration setting the Presidency beyond judicial control.

“We all follow with increasing concern the domestic political situation in Egypt”, said Dr. Marcoullis, adding that in Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council, ministers agreed on the need for a de-escalation of the situation and an all-inclusive dialogue to find a solution based on consensus and joint ownership.

“Evidently, Egypt needs a strong constitution that represents all Egyptians”, the minister stressed, adding that: "Egypt belongs to the Egyptians and we should and cannot impose a solution".

She also referred to the HR’s constant communication with the main political protagonists in Egypt, passing on messages on the need of de-escalation and conciliatory moves. Furthermore, she recalled that the HR also reiterated in a public statement the importance of Egypt continuing its democratic transition and called for inclusive dialogue.

Dr. Marcoullis pointed out that the process of sustainable democracy is long and difficult and added that it requires hard work, commitment and patience domestically and internationally.

“What we can do now is to show that the EU supports the people of Egypt through the democratic transition and continue our call for inclusive dialogue, for a solution based on consensus,” said the minister. Referring to the EU-Egypt Task Force of November 13-14, she concluded that the EU needs to convey firmly and clearly its expectations for a democratic transition in the country.

Israeli settlements

On the Israeli government’s decision to expand the settlements in the West Bank, Cyprus' Foreign Minister reminded the plenary that the Foreign Affairs Council of December 10 expressed its deep dismay and strong opposition to the plans, announced after the UN General Assembly resolution of November 29.  Referring to the 1980 Venice Declaration, Dr. Marcoullis underlined that the EU has since held that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.

“Implementation of such plans would not only have an impact on the prospects of a Palestinian state; it would also have an impact on EU-Israel relations”, she emphasised. Dr. Marcoullis also underlined that the EU also called on the Palestinian leadership to pursue constructively the new status of non-member Observer State granted to Palestine in the UN and not undertake steps which would deepen the lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.

Moreover, the minister pointed out that the EU’s call to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas calls on them to work towards a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with renewed purpose. She stressed that the EU will also work with all those who are willing to join in such a quest for peace, stability and prosperity.

“It is in the fundamental interest of the EU to support peace and democracy in the entire region and a strategic priority to see an end to this conflict which will continue to undermine peace and security along the EU southern borders, as long as it remains unresolved”, underlined Dr. Marcoullis.

Last but not least, she concluded that there will be no sustainable peace until the Palestinians' aspirations for statehood and sovereignty and the aspiration of Israelis for security are fulfilled through a comprehensive negotiated peace based on the two-state solution.

Albania’s 2012 Progress Report

Speaking on behalf of the Council on the issue of the 2012 Progress Report on Albania, Dr. Marcoullis underlined that the EU cooperates widely with Albania in a range of areas and conducts extensive political dialogue. EU – Albanian relations are increasing in importance, reflecting the significant and growing role of Albania in the region.  Dr. Marcoullis thanked the Parliament for its valuable contribution to this debate and extended her appreciation to the rapporteur Nikolaos Chountis for his valuable work, adding that “there is a great deal on which the Council and Parliament can agree.”

The minister referred to the General Affairs Council conclusions adopted the previous day, in which the Council welcomed the progress made by Albania to meet the 12 key priorities that were outlined in the Commission's Opinion of 2010. In order however to be granted candidate status, Albania must demonstrate further  and sustained progress, in particular in the area of judicial and public administration reform.

“Strengthening the independence of the judiciary, its efficiency and accountability, the fight against corruption and organised crime, as well as protection of minorities, are all key areas which are at the very core of the country's path towards the EU”, added Minister Marcoullis. 

She also stressed that the successful conduction of the elections in June next year will be a crucial test for the smooth functioning of the country's democratic institutions, concluding that “sustained political dialogue and continuing efforts in all the areas covered by the key priorities will remain critical to the reform process and for Albania's future progress towards the European Union.”

EU’s preparations for asylum seekers from Syria

On the issue of EU preparations for a possible influx of asylum seekers from Syria, Dr. Marcoullis stressed that the Council shares the concerns of the Parliament on the situation in Syria and, in particular, its impact on the civilian population.

“We continue to monitor developments, as we have been doing since the beginning of this crisis, focusing in particular on the issue of humanitarian assistance to Syrian nationals who are victims of the crisis. Many of them have been obliged to leave their homes and are currently displaced in other parts of Syria or across the border in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq”, she said.

In addition, the Foreign Minister informed the EP that in October, the Council reaffirmed the continuing commitment of the EU and its Member States to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected population, also underlining the need for further funds and calling on all donors to increase their contributions to the latest UN appeals for funding humanitarian assistance and refugee assistance. The Minister pointed out that the EU and its Member States are together providing the largest contribution to the Regional response Plan for Syrian refugees launched by the UNHCR and other organizations in September. To date, this assistance has reached a total of about 228 million euro - amounting to 53% of the overall international response.

Given that there are no signs that the internal crisis in Syria is likely to be resolved in the near future, the Council is also taking action to prepare for the medium and long-term challenges that could result from a further increase in migratory pressure. In October, the Council endorsed a proposal from the Commission to establish a Regional Protection Programme, which is foreseen to become fully operational in Spring 2013.

This Programme is designed to cope with the specific situation in Syria; it will help contribute towards enhancing the capacities of the authorities and of the organisations dealing with international protection and refugee issues and will provide lasting solutions to the plight of those who have been forced to leave the country.

“We stand ready to take any further action that might be needed to cope with the problems of migratory pressures as and when the evolving situation in Syria might require” stated Minister Marcoullis.

The 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus also participated in the awarding ceremony of the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The Sakharov prize was given to representatives of human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh and film director Jafar Panahi.

Presidency Spokesperson in Brussels
Nikos Christodoulides

Coreper II

Email: nchristodoulides@mfa.gov.cy
Telephone: +32 27395152
Mobile: +32 473400441
Communications Officer
Charis Christodoulidou

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Email: cchristodoulidou@mfa.gov.cy
Telephone: +357 22401165

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