European Parliament to hold emergency debate on Afghanistan

MEPs calling for extensive EU action on accepting refugees and protecting ‘those who worked and cooperated with us’
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a Brussels-based journalist and copy editor

18 Aug 2021

The situation in Afghanistan continues to focus the minds of European leaders. Faced with a possible humanitarian crisis inside the country, and a likely refugee crisis spilling into neighbouring countries and beyond, emergency meetings have been held or scheduled for Thursday.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s President David Sassoli commented from Vilnius, that Europe has a responsibility to accept Afghan refugees, saying, “We must protect those who worked and cooperated with us, we cannot allow them to be left to face revenge.

He added, “I think that European Commission can authorise an even distribution of them among the Member States to keep parity, and this can be done quickly.”

The chairs of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister, Development Committee, Tomas Tobé and the Delegation for relations with Afghanistan, Petras Auštrevičius, issued a joint statement, calling for extensive action, including on foreign policy.

The three senior MEPs said, “The EU, together with other partners, needs to tackle urgently the humanitarian crisis in the country and the region, caused by conflict, displacement, food insecurity, droughts and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It is in our own interest to prevent another migration crisis. The EU needs to develop a new Strategy for Afghanistan and the region taking into account the new circumstances, considering that Russia and China will quickly try to fill the political vacuum. In particular, Pakistan, Iran and India should be urged to play a constructive role in Afghanistan.”

“We must protect those who worked and cooperated with us, we cannot allow them to be left to face revenge" European Parliament President David Sassoli

The Parliament’s second largest political group, the S&D, called upon EU Foreign Affairs Ministers, meeting on Tuesday, to do everything in their power to protect Afghans at risk, but also appealed to the Taliban.

Portuguese MEP Pedro Marques said, “Ensuring the security, safety and dignity of its citizens - particularly the most vulnerable groups such as women, children and minorities - is the highest responsibility and duty of any government. Girls must continue to be able to go to school. Women must have access to healthcare and be able to work and move freely. Women’s and girls’ rights are not negotiable for us.”

For their part, the Foreign Affairs Council issued a statement after their meeting, in the name of EU High Representative, Josep Borrell in which the S&D’s sentiments were echoed.

“The EU calls on all parties in Afghanistan to respect all commitments made and to pursue further an inclusive, comprehensive and enduring political solution. The protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process.”

They added that, “cooperation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations”.

On Wednesday, EU leaders issued a statement co-signed by Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America.

“It is in our own interest to prevent another migration crisis. The EU needs to develop a new Strategy for Afghanistan and the region taking into account the new circumstances, considering that Russia and China will quickly try to fill the political vacuum. In particular, Pakistan, Iran and India should be urged to play a constructive role in Afghanistan” MEPs David McAllister, Tomas Tobé and  Petras Auštrevičius

It reads: “We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection. Afghan women and girls, as all Afghan people, deserve to live in safety, security and dignity.”

“Any form of discrimination and abuse should be prevented. We in the international community stand ready to assist them with humanitarian aid and support, to ensure that their voices can be heard.”

How much of this is likely to being listened to by the Taliban will perhaps be one of the questions raised in Thursday’s extraordinary hearing of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Development committees, and its Delegation for relations with Afghanistan with High Representative Josep Borrell.

The European Parliament extraordinary joint meeting begins at 9am on Thursday morning.

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