|Vol.7, No.24, 14.6.01, p9
THE European Commission's latest efforts to promote human rights around the world are facing stiff resistance from campaign groups, who argue they fail to take into account situations in which the EU disagrees with other donors.
Colombia is being cited as the main example. The Union's stated aim of supporting social and economic projects to promote the peace process there clashes with the US intensive drugs eradication programme, which many observers predict may provoke renewed violence.
External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten last month unveiled a strategy document, outlining how human rights should be given a higher priority in the Union's foreign dealings. But Britta Madsen, a spokeswoman for Brussels-based Action on Colombia, told EU officials she does not feel the paper is sufficiently explicit. "The communication does not say what the EU is going to do if it disagrees with the strategy of another donor," she says. "This is the case in Colombia, where the US is fuelling war with its military aid, while the European projects pretend to support the peace process with a different approach."
Washington has seized on concerns about the rising international availability of cocaine from the Andean region to justify its backing for the €8.9 billion 'Plan Colombia'.
Devised by the Bogota administration, this has the twin objectives of ending the conflict and devastating the narcotics trade, but its most controversial aspect has been the destruction of illicit coca plantations through aerial spraying with herbicides.
Conducted by US-hired private contractors, the effort has been blamed for damage to the environment, human health, and the livelihoods of farmers.
While the embassies of some EU member states in Bogota have expressed concerns about the US behaviour, the Union has never issued any formal critique.
And while US congressmen have queried why the US is using businesses to wage a "secret war" in Colombia and Peru, European opponents of Plan Colombia have been alarmed at how the EU's foreign policy supremo Javier Solana backed it last year, despite the reservations of several member states.
He has softened his language on the issue recently, but activists feel that he is still influenced by the policy of his native Spain, which has strong political and economic ties with President Andrés Pastrana's government.
However one Solana aide said: "I am not aware that he has expressed any strong support for Plan Colombia. During his two visits to Colombia over the past year, he has placed the emphasis on the European package of assistance, which is mainly social and economic in character."
A special EU fund of €330 million for Colombia was unveiled at a Brussels conference in late April. Patten's spokesman Gunnar Wiegand said this would go entirely to civilian projects, including the establishment of "peace laboratories" in areas where a cessation of hostilities has been agreed between government forces and guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Located mainly in the Magdalena Medio region, these "laboratories" undertake projects which aim to boost local economies and institutions. "Some NGOs [non-governmental organisations] do not want to see any involvement of the EU in Colombia," added Wiegand. "But practically all of the member states support the peace process. We have seriously taken into account the suggestions made by human rights groups."
The European Commission's latest efforts to promote human rights around the world are facing stiff resistance from campaign groups, who argue they fail to take into account situations in which the European Union disagrees with other donors.
|Values and Beliefs
|Countries / Regions