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 TheEuropean Parliament: RECOMMENDATION
 on the proposal for a Council and Commission Decision
 on the conclusion of the Partnership and Cooperation
 Agreement between the European Communities and
 their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic
  of Uzbekistan, of the other part, 19 february 1999

 
 
 

Recommandation on the proposal for a partnership with Uzbekistan



 
 

A DRAFT DECISION

Decision on the proposal for a Council and Commission Decision on the conclusion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part (7652/96 - COM(96)0254 - C4-0418/96 - 96/0151(AVC))

(Assent procedure)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the proposal for a Council and Commission decision [COM(96)0254 - 96/0151(AVC)](1),

- having regard to the Council's request for Parliament's assent pursuant to Article 228(3), second subparagraph, of the EC Treaty (7652/96 - C4-0418/96),

- having regard to the Interim Agreement between the European Community, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part, on trade and trade-related matters [COM(96)0466 - 10521/96 - C4-0082/97 - 96/0236(CNS)],(2)

- having regard to Rule 90(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

- having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on External Economic Relations and the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy (A4-0071/99),

1. Gives its assent to the proposal for a Council and Commission decision;

2. Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of Uzbekistan.

B EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

In April 1997, your rapporteur submitted an initial working document (PE 221.587) to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy.

That document was followed by a revised version setting out the reasons why the Committee on Foreign Affairs, following the conclusions of the European Parliament's fact-finding mission to that country, was not in favour of ratifying the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan for the time being.

I. BACKGROUND

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan was signed on 21 June 1996. It will not enter into force, however, until after it has been ratified by the European Parliament and the parliaments of all the Member States of the European Union.

On 25 September 1996 the Committee on Foreign Affairs decided, in view of the situation with regard to human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan, not to draw up a report immediately but to monitor developments in those fields over the following 18 months. At the end of that period, it would reassess the situation and, if it was found to be satisfactory, submit a report recommending that the European Parliament ratify the agreement.

The aim of the present report, therefore, is to reassess the human rights situation in the light of the reports of the main human rights organisations and the conclusions of the European Parliament delegation which visited Uzbekistan.

In the intervening period, the Interim Agreement, which was approved on the basis of a report by the Committee on External Economic Relations, enabled the section of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement relating to trade to enter into force, which conferred a number of immediate and tangible advantages on Uzbekistan.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will add provisions on political dialogue to the provisions relating to trade, thus enabling the Union to play a more specific role in promoting the process of democratisation in Uzbekistan.

II. SUBSTANCE OF THE AGREEMENT

The agreement is almost identical to the other partnership and cooperation agreements already signed with countries of the former Soviet Union.

It lays down the framework for extensive cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan in many fields (excluding military matters). The partnership established between the parties is based on respect for democratic principles, human rights and the principles of the market economy.

If these principles are infringed, the Union will be able, pursuant to the final provisions of the Agreement, to 'take appropriate measures'; in cases of special urgency, it may take any measures required without consulting the Cooperation Council beforehand. Such measures may include the suspension of the agreement.

The parties will cooperate on all questions relevant to the establishment or reinforcement of democratic institutions, inter alia by means of technical assistance programmes (Article 68). The parties will also cooperate on social protection (Article 60) and action to combat drug abuse (Article 71).

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement contains many clauses designed to facilitate trade, the setting-up of companies, the protection of intellectual property and the movement of capital. A separate agreement is to be negotiated on trade in nuclear products.

It should be noted that an Interim Agreement was signed in November 1996 to allow certain provisions of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement to enter into force in advance of the agreement as a whole.

The Interim Agreement contains articles relating to democracy and human rights: it provides for economic and trade cooperation but does not include the political provisions contained in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

III. HUMAN RIGHTS IN UZBEKISTAN

Although Uzbekistan is a presidential republic, whose 1992 constitution provides for the separation of powers and political pluralism to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and respect for human rights, the situation on the ground is quite different.

Since Uzbekistan declared its independence in 1991, its president has opted for a gradualist approach. The authorities are very keen to improve the country's image in the eyes of the international community. The opening of the OSCE and Human Rights Watch offices, the institution of the office of ombudsman (who has been a Member of Parliament since the 1995 session) and the setting-up of the national centre for human rights are clear signs that there has been an improvement.

That does not mean, however, that the situation is ideal. President Karimov should continue his efforts to establish democratic pluralism by allowing the setting up of active opposition parties.

The government must make further progress towards establishing freedom of the press, freedom of expression and an end to censorship, to ensure the emergence of a free press.

The European Parliament wishes to see the introduction of guarantees to ensure that citizens' rights are systematically respected. It again urges the authorities to stop using detention as a means of repressing the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms.

Capital punishment is still in force, although the actual number of executions has not been published

(3). The European Parliament calls on the Uzbek authorities to commute all death sentences already passed and abolish capital punishment.

Amnesty International's annual report for 1997 notes the existence of prisoners of conscience, appalling prison conditions and ill-treatment. It is to be hoped that the president will announce an amnesty for these prisoners.

IV. EXTERNAL RELATIONS IN THE REGIONAL CONTEXT

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the independence of many Islamic countries, including Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

These countries' independence led in turn to a reappraisal of the interests of the powers present in the region. Hence the renewed interest in economic and cultural developments in Central Asia.

Afghanistan is the main source of anxiety for all the countries of Central Asia.

These anxieties relate not only to the political instability of the region but also to the problem of illegal drugs.

The fundamentalism of the (Sunni) Taliban is also a subject of concern. The risk of fundamentalism spreading through the region must be taken seriously.

The Uzbek authorities are afraid of the possibility of Islamic fundamentalist training camps being set up in Uzbekistan. The possibility of the crisis in Afghanistan spilling over into the whole surrounding region cannot be excluded.

Another significant factor is the support the US gives to the Taliban.

The European Union must, for these reasons, pay particular attention to its relations with the countries in the region (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, etc.).

This region, which has only 50 million inhabitants, is part of the CIS and is also liable to experience the repercussions of the Russian crisis.

Moreover, these countries' resources have borne the full brunt of the reduction in the price of commodities (including cotton, wool and oil).

V. CONCLUSIONS

The Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy:

1. Welcomes the efforts of the Uzbek authorities to strengthen the process of democratization and respect for human rights and calls for the stepping-up of the political dialogue between the European Union and Uzbekistan,

2. Calls on the Uzbek Government to implement its commitments with regard to democratization by allowing the emergence of a multi-party political system,

3. Calls on the Uzbek authorities to facilitate the work of the ombudsman in transposing into Uzbek law economic, civil and political rights in accordance with international norms, which should lead to the reform of the existing judicial system; also considers that improvements should continue to be sought in areas such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the cessation of arbitrary arrests and detention,

4. Calls on the Commission to:

a. ensure, in cooperation with the presidency of the European Union, that democracy and human rights are fully taken into account at all levels of the political dialogue and that the European Union offers Uzbekistan all the assistance it requires in these fields;

b. submit an annual report to the European Parliament on developments in the fields of democracy and human rights;

c. keep the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy fully informed of the matters dealt with and progress achieved in the context of the political dialogue.

24 July 1996