Question of Palestine home
28 January 2004
SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS CONFERENCE WITH EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PRESIDENT PAT COX, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER CHRIS PATTEN AND IRISH FOREIGN MINISTER BRIAN COWEN
Brussels, 29 January 2004
MR COX: Ladies and gentlemen good morning. Welcome to this press conference. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first and only time ever that we've had the three political institutions of the European Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations share a platform in a press conference in this way. You are aware today that the Secretary-General has attended the House for the award of the House's annual Sakharov laureate. It was awarded this year to the United Nations and in particular in recognition of the dedicated international service of Sergio de Mello and his colleagues who died in the terrorist attack in Baghdad on 19 August last. The Secretary-General today has given a moving appeal to our conscience and to our sense of global responsibility on the theme of migration. We were today as you know joined by former laureates of the Sakharov Prize and by relatives of those who died in Baghdad and by a number of survivors, and we are very grateful that they came. Secretary-General I should now like to pass the floor to you, should you like to make any comment.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much Mr Cox. I've said a lot this morning, and so let me just say that I am extremely happy to be here, and I am honoured to receive this prize on behalf of my colleagues and the work that we do. I am also extremely grateful to the European Union for the support and the solidarity they have demonstrated. They are strong and effective partners and we look forward to working with them, and of course, through the European Union, they have given a wonderful example to the world on what multilateralism should be, on the capacity and ability of people or nations to work across borders. I think, in effect, they are giving practical meaning to all that the UN is about. It is an inspiration and I want to thank you and your parliamentarians for this wonderful show of support and solidarity. Thank you.
MR COX: President in office of the Council, Mr Cowen
MR COWEN: I'll be very brief, President. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words, to join with you in welcoming the Secretary-General here today. I would like to thank him for an outstanding speech which was cogent, clear and I think challenges all of us to meet commitments that our common humanity demands of each other. I thank him once again for an outstanding speech.
QUESTION: Marie-Louise from Reuters. I have my three questions of the day. First, for the Secretary-General. You talked about the migrants right and their wish to come to Europe and to integrate but also maintaining their identity. We're seeing moves in Frances towards banning headscarves and other religious symbols in schools. In work places across Europe it's an accepted practice that you can ban Muslim women from wearing their headscarves. Do you see that as a positive move towards integration? My second question: during your speech and also after your speech several conservative members of the Parliament showed a clear display of their disagreement with you. Is that the kind of leadership you want in Europe? For the President of the Parliament: how concerned or disappointed are you with the display of leadership from the EPP and the fact that they did not show any visible support for the Secretary-General on this very important day?
SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me say that I do attach a great importance to religious freedom and freedom of expression, and basic human rights of individual citizens. But, of course, it is up to each country and each society to organise itself in a manner that gives meaning to these rights. Human rights should not be foreign to any country, but we have to apply them in our own national way. But, we must respect religious freedom and freedom of expression. On the second issue, your second question: I did not see the comments form the members as rejecting my views as such. In fact, the question they posed had already been answered, indirectly, in my speech. The question of "shouldn't we create conditions in the developing countries, or from the countries of origin of the migrants, so that they have reasonable chance of making a decent life in their own countries, and therefore do not have an incentive or the pressure to move on". In other words, can we give more development assistance? Can we open our markets? Can we give them access to markets? Can we help them earn their way out of poverty and make a decent living at home? Of course I am for all that, and I’ve said that time and time again. I say, to those parliamentarians who believe that this should be part of the solution, that I agree 100 per cent with them, and I would want them to vote laws that would give the support that the Third World needs. Thank you.
MR COX: As regards your remarks on the EPP, I think they are rather severe. From where I sat, the EPP gave the warmest of welcomes to the Secretary-General before, during and after his speech. As for a very small minority, who may have by one means or another articulated less than entire consent, we have to observe about public life, that you cannot please all the people all the time.
QUESTION: This is a question for the Secretary-General. I am from Politis newspaper in Cyprus. Secretary-General: Turkey has asked for a strong negotiator, as they put it. Will you agree for someone like Colin Powell taking an active and a supervising role in the whole process together with you?
SECRETARY-GENERAL: I believe my good friend, Secretary of State Colin Powell already has a job, and he has his hands full. But let me say that I have been engaged with the Cyprus process for quite a while. I have had a very good negotiator, whom most of you know, Alvaro de Soto who knows the issues inside out. In the process we were helped by representatives of several friendly countries, and I think if we were to resume the process because of the time factor I would want to have somebody in charge who knows the issues. We will accept assistance from governments of good will and who have influence and capacity to help us, and try and get these negotiations concluded as soon as possible. But that will only be possible if the parties show the will and the determination to engage seriously in a sustained manner and reach results in the very short time that we would have. Thank you.
QUESTION: This is a follow-up question on Cyprus again. Yesterday, Secretary-General, you had referred to some proposals you received from Premier Erdogan. What are these proposals? Is it an executive summary of your plan, of the Annan plan? Is it a simplified document of the Annan plan? Could you please elaborate on this? And, would you envisage talks beginning not on Annan plan, on something else, on another document?
SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think the parties in the discussions that we have had in the past know that, if we are going to proceed and we are going to become engaged, it has to be on the basis of the plan. I had very good discussions with Prime Minister Erdogan. We did not exchange documents, if that is what you have in mind. What is important is that Turkey has indicated clearly its desire and willingness to see talks resume, negotiations resume. They will support and actively play a role in the negotiations. The effort will be sustained until we come to a conclusion, and they also are aware that it has to be done before 1st May. They accept that. Of course, as to details of positions, that will have to be discussed at the table with the others, not in a public forum like this. I would not want to get into anything else.
QUESTION: I'm Carolina from BBC Brazil. Mr Annan, you talked about creating more opportunities in developing countries. I would like to know your opinion on the proposal of the Brazilian President Lula to create an international tax for reducing the world poverty.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: This is a proposal that has been around for quite a while. I would be delighted if we can do that. Not only would it be extremely helpful for the kind of work we do, but it would help millions, if not billions, around the world. But, I think there's going to be a real struggle. There are governments who see this as taxing their citizens, and they believe only they can tax their citizens. But, the idea of finding a creative way of raising money for development and to assist the poor and to fight poverty, fight diseases and epidemics, is a real challenge and I think we need to explore all creative ways of raising funding for development. There are other ideas and we should pursue them all.
QUESTION: From the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardía. Mr Annan, I would like to know your opinion about the situation in Guantanamo Bay. Thank you.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: There are lots of others on the podium with me you know
. Let me say that I have had the chance to say that in our fight against terrorism, we need to be careful to respect the legal rights and human rights and civil rights of those accused. I have also warned that we need to be careful not to get into a trap of believing that there is a trade-off between effective action against terrorism and human rights. There is no trade-off. All nations have to be careful not to fall into that trap. As I look around the world, in some countries, in fact the "T" word is being abused and exploited. Even opposition leaders are tagged with the "T" word and then you can do everything that you want. So, I think we need to be careful to respect the rights and laws and human rights, because if we are not careful, we will hand to the terrorists victory they cannot win on their own. When you are asked to give up your civil liberties and human rights for security, and you do, do you in the end have security? Thank you.
QUESTION: Danish television. Mr Cox, you said that the Secretary-General has made a moving appeal to our conscience, and you, Mr Cowen, said that this was a speech that challenges all of us. How should the Union react to the challenge? What concrete measures are you going to take to stop immigrants from being stigmatised, vilified and de-humanised?
MR COWEN: If I may. The concrete measure that can be taken during this presidency is to complete, as we envisaged in 1999, the Tampere agenda, which was to be concluded by the middle of this year. I am conscience, and I think I am the sixth or seventh presidency in succession which has the challenge to try and get agreement on outstanding and remaining aspects of the Tampere agenda. But, we did set out in October 1999 to expand the area of freedom, security and justice in the European Union. So, I think one of the ways we could meet the challenges set by the Secretary-General this morning is to complete that agenda, and to set out for ourselves what further policies we need in the aftermath of the completion of that Tampere agenda, to ensure that we do have a truly inclusive, tolerant and pluralist Europe. There are many member state governments - all of them - who are, in their own national spheres, implementing policies to stop racism and xenophobia. We need to also educate our public of the trends an the realities - that it is not only about diversity between states that is the division of Europe, but how we accommodate diversity within states. I think that is a point that is well taken, and one we must address both nationally and at the EU level. So, I think there are concrete things we can do in the immediate time ahead, and to prepare for a wider agenda going forward.
MR COX: Can I just remark, on behalf of the European Parliament, that on all of the elements of the Tampere package, which we have been asked to deal with, we have dealt with them on time. On one of the element, which has been agreed by the Council, in respect to a directive on family reintegration, the European Parliament is bringing the Council before the European Court of Justice because we believe those aged 12 and over should be considered as capable of affecting integration and reintegration with their families, and we are not satisfied in the Parliament with the
on the Council on this matter.
QUESTION: Pierre, Agence France Presse. There was another suicide bombing in Jerusalem today, and I would like to know what the EU and the UN can do to give new momentum to the roadmap. About Iraq: did you receive some assurances from the US about security to send your mission to Baghdad? Thank you.
MR COWEN: Regarding the situation in the Middle East: clearly the bombings, both this morning and yesterday, the killings are absolutely deplorable. They represent the path of violence there certainly contrary to the interests of peace to the people in the region. Regarding our continuing effort to implement the roadmap, this presidency has begun a series of visits which we will undertake to the region already. A high representative will be in the region; we will work closely with them, and with the Council. We need to see visible, concrete steps, even if modest initially, to get this process moving. The international community, through the quartet mechanism, working with the United Nations Secretary-General, the Russian Federation and the United States have to do everything we can to bring leverage and facilitate movement forward. It's a very deeply pessimistic background against which we are operating, but inaction is not an option. As has been said, in relation to what the Secretary-General was speaking about today, we need to summon the collective political will to make a difference to people who are suffering far too long in the intractable problem. We are committed to doing what we can during this presidency to improve the present appalling situation.
MR PATTEN: I'd just like to make one point. I don't myself think that the stalemate in the process means that we have stability. I think that stalemate means that the situation is deteriorating. We have been providing substantial humanitarian assistance and help to establish the institutions of the Palestinian Authority. The humanitarian situation continues to be extremely grave, which isn't the best backdrop for encouraging people to be moderate, and the Palestinian Authority faces a huge deficit, which we will somehow, the international community, have to help fill if the authority is to be able to continue to provide basic services. So, the situation is very, very grave, and made more difficult, as the minister said, by the deplorable violence of the last couple of days.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: I agree with everything that has been said on the Middle Eastern situation, and of course, as a member of the quartet, and I think most members of the quartet will share my views, I am sometimes frustrated and disappointed that we have not been able to press ahead with the roadmap as fast as we can. Here, we cannot do it without the will and the determination of the parties on the ground. But, as the minister has said, we are going to our best and press on with this implementation. It is in distress, but it is not dead. I would once again want to appeal to the leaders, for the sake of their people and their nation, to summon the courage and the leadership to get back to the table and begin to make reciprocal and parallel concessions, and take confidence-building measures to move the process ahead. We need to encourage and find the ways of ending this cycle of violence, revenge and attacks as we have seen today. We will do the best we can, but they have to show the leadership for the sake of their own people and their nation, and that is what, after all, leadership is about. On security, let me say that the coalition, or the US has indicated that they will assist us and provide security. The arrangements are being discussed and worked out. As I had stated earlier, my team will go in once those arrangements have been completed and we are advised.
QUESTION: Secretary-General, you mentioned the situation in Africa. I wonder whether you will send in troops to the Ivory Coast.
SECRETARY-GENERAL: (interpreted from the French) Well, I, on behalf of the Security Council, sent in a report about the use of UN troops, and the Security Council is discussing that. I am of good hope and I hope that we will be able to deploy these troops. But, there, too, the political leaders in the Ivory Coast must work both with us and amongst themselves and try to find a way of bringing peace in that country.
QUESTION: Secretary-General I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you very warmly. I think that this is an excellent thing that the Parliament has just granted you this prize, and it is a tribute and a way indeed of recognising Africa and Africans whom you represent. You chose to speak about immigration, but I would like to talk about the African Charter of Human Rights and Peoples, which was drafted recently. I'd like to hear your comments on that. And, before you came to Brussels just now, you were in Stockholm, speaking about the prevention of genocide. There is another form of prevention that you gave priority too, that is the prevention of armed conflict. Now, in the African Union there are mechanisms to bring peace. What is the UN thinking of doing decisively to end these conflicts which survive in Africa?
SECRETARY-GENERAL: (interpreted from the French) Thank you for very kind comments, first of all. I think as far as conflict in Africa is concerned, the United Nations are working very closely with the African Union, and with Ecowas, with Sadek and with other sub-regional organisations. Now, we are working not only to maintain peace, but also to prevent these conflicts. We are working very closely either with our delegations in Liberia, Burundi, the Ivory Coast and also with the Sudan recently. We are trying to help these countries to develop their own institutions, in order to be able to try, themselves, to come to terms with these armed conflicts. The heads of state in Africa and their institutions have been very much involved in these efforts recently, and I very much appreciate that.
QUESTION: From Portuguese radio. Mr Secretary-General, the UN peacekeeping force in East Timor is finishing its mandate next May. The East Timor leadership is very concerned about the possibility of some of the rioting that followed the referendum will repeat itself, and they will ask for the UN peace-keeping force to stay on for some more time. Do your people on the ground confirm these concerns about the repeating of the events of 1999, and do you think it's possible for the peacekeeping force to stay for some more time in East Timor?
SECRETARY-GENERAL: Obviously, all peacekeeping operations do come to an end one time or another. What we want to do is to be able to make sure that the gains we have made are not lost when we withdraw. We will be sending a team to East Timor to make an assessment of the situation and we will be looking at objective achievements we have made to determine how to withdraw, and when we withdraw what sort of follow-on mission will be established in East Timor. Honestly, I have not received any reports that the dramatic events and the tragic events that you refer to are likely to be repeated. We are working very hard to train East Timorese police and security forces who will be able to sustain or maintain the law and order and the efforts that we have made. But, I will have a better sense when the team that will be analysing the situation comes back. But, even if we withdraw the force, when we withdraw the forces it is quite likely that we will have a follow-on mission which will remain in East Timor to assist. Thank You.
* * *