Colombia 'can count on European parliament' in peace talks

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has met with members of parliament, including president Martin Schulz to discuss his country's peace process and request financial and political support.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

05 Nov 2014

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has met with members of parliament, including president Martin Schulz to discuss his country's peace process and request financial and political support.

For the past 50 years, Colombia has suffered violent conflict at the hands of various paramilitary groups, guerrillas and the government, each looking to increase their influence on Colombian territory. The conflict has claimed the lives of over 170,000 civilians, and millions more have had to leave their homes.

In 2012, the government began peace talks with rebel groups, looking to find a political solution to the conflict. While the peace process is ongoing, observers are worried that human rights continue to be violated, and that durable peace will be difficult to reach.

Martin Schulz said that "the time for peace has come" and promised president Santos that he could "count on the European parliament to be by [his] side in the peace process, which is now entering its critical phase and will serve as an example for conflict resolution in other parts of the world".

President Santos thanked Europe for its support, recalling a conversation he had with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who told him that "reconciliation is in Europeans' DNA".

He announced that "victims will be at the centre of the solution to the conflict, their rights will be respected and we are listening to them directly […] to see how we can best respond to their needs".

"There is no peace without human rights and if human rights defenders are not protected" - Tania González

Jürgen Klute, a former MEP who travelled to Colombia last May to observe the state of human rights in the country, said that "in general [the EU welcomes] the peace process, but if you look at things happening concretely in Colombia, there are many concerns [as to whether] the peace process is heading in the right direction". Klute added that "without a dismantling […] of the guerrilla groups, peace is impossible".

Tania González, vice president of parliament's delegation for relations with countries of the Andean community, pointed out that "Colombia continues to be the county where the most trade unionists are murdered". She highlighted that "the number of murdered human rights defenders continues to grow since 2010", adding that "there is no peace without human rights and if human rights defenders are not protected".

González also stressed that "there is no peace without restitution of land", explaining that millions of people living in rural areas have had to flee their homes since 1985, and that so far only 10 per cent had returned.

Richard Howitt, who is a member of parliament's subcommittee on human rights, said that "the EU today should be using its influence with president Santos to ensure that civil society groups and victims have a role to play in the peace process".

Javier Couso, a vice chair of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that "the EU [needs to] support the peace process but also needs to request that international law be respected".

Jordi Sebastià, a member of the Greens/EFA group, called for the "immediate dismantlement of military groups and the end of impunity" for the rebels. He stressed MEPs' main message, which is that "there is no peace without human rights".

The EU has yet to unveil any details on what specific assistance will be provided to Colombia.

 

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