Trade & Foreign Affairs
Some of the major battles fought and still being fought by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left Group during this term of office concerned international trade agreements such as ACTA, EU-Canada and the EU-US and other bilateral and multilateral agreements between the EU and countries in the developing world.
Free trade between two partners does not always make both better off. Liberalisation of trade has caused worldwide social and ecological destruction. We need to control free trade and the free circulation of goods. We are opposed to all international trade agreements that are shaped by the interests of big business.We must change how we define trade relations. Development The EU must play an active role in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in the developing world. We fight for sustainable development, access to education, improving maternal health, and we support the fight against malaria and AIDS. With EU trade policy putting developing countries in a position where they are ever more subservient to EU trade demands, we call for a trade policy that is based on development aims and not the other way round.
ANTI-COUNTERFEITING TRADE AGREEMENT (ACTA)
One of the major battles fought by the group in the Parliament, which had important repercussions at European and world level, is the work on ACTA, a multilateral trade agreement aiming to establish an international legal framework to combat counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. This was signed by the European Union in January 2012, long before it went for scrutiny to the Parliament's plenary but after many months of negotiation at Committee level. In November 2010, MEPs failed to achieve a strong common position and critical stance against the proposed agreement when the right-wing EPP and ECR groups left the negotiating table and a common resolution tabled by the S&D, ALDE, Greens and GUE/NGL groups was rejected. Instead a resolution was adopted by a slim majority that welcomed changes to the agreement negotiated by the Commission with the World Trade Organisation. The MEPs involved underlined that it was disappointing that after common concerns were shared in terms of impact on the fundamental rights of citizens, access to medicines, geographical indications and intellectual property rights in the digital environment, all groups could not agree from the beginning on a common text. The group expressed its opinion that the MEPs who voted against the joint resolution were refusing to allow Parliament to use its new powers on trade matters. If the Commission does not address the concerns of MEPs and society before signing the agreement, they risk seeing ACTA rejected when it requires the consent of Parliament.
EU TRADE AGREEMENT WITH COLOMBIA & PERU
As human rights activists in Colombia and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights had acknowledged that there had been no improvement in human rights under the government of President Uribe, the GUE/NGL group opposed the ratification of the EU agreement with Colombia and Peru. It justified this on the grounds of the on-going persecution of unions and of human rights defenders. It maintained that this trade agreement should include a clause that would clearly assess whether the agreement would effectively lead to progress towards stopping the on-going violation of human rights in Colombia. The group also believed that the trade aspects of this agreement did not take imbalances into account. "We are talking about a country, Colombia, which is one of the countries with the highest level of inequality in the world, and many of us fear that if the trade imbalances, complementarity and fair trade are not taken into account, we could create circumstances that could further increase the inequality".
SCHEME OF GENERALISED TARIFF PREFERENCES
A compromise between the Commission and rapporteur Fjellner, asking for Parliament’s consent for a reform that would abolish the European Union’s trade preferences for a number of poor countries, was opposed by the group on grounds that the elimination of poverty is a coherent goal of the foreign policy of the European Union. It said this reform would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in countries like Ecuador, thus tipping women, predominantly, back into poverty. Countries such as Ecuador would be forced to conclude a direct free trade agreement with the European Union. The group strongly urged MEPs to support the amendments which would help ensure that the European Union would not withdraw from the global fight against poverty.
TRADE & INVESTMENT STRATEGY FOR THE SOUTHERN MEDITERRANEAN
After the historic revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, which gave tens of millions of people across the world the hope and confidence that they can shape history and overthrow the most brutal dictatorships, the group called for cancellation of debt and to ensure the free trade system with these countries will benefit them and their inhabitants and not destroy jobs and whole sectors of the economy. The group considers that as the EU and its Member States failed the people in North Africa and the Middle East through their political support and their economic ties with these brutal dictatorships, they will fail them again if they push ahead with the free trade agenda and the establishment of true market economies. There needs to be an end to gambling and speculation on food prices, maximum prices on food and other basic goods, and guarantees of a decent return for farmers, in order to guarantee food sovereignty and food security for the countries of the southern Mediterranean. The debts inherited from the dictatorships are odious: they should all be cancelled immediately to give a breathing space so that economies can develop. In addition, the natural resources and major sources of economic wealth in these countries should be taken out of the hands of the multinational corporations and the rich, and taken into democratic public ownership for use as resources to invest in the economy, health care and education, in order to create a society worthy of the heroism shown by those who participated in the revolutions.
EC-EASTERN & SOUTHERN AFRICA STATES ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT
An interim agreement with only four out of the sixteen eastern and southern African countries originally involved in negotiations for an EPA was not considered a meaningful step towards regional integration by the group. It said that in essence these EPAs were free trade agreements which completely disregard the economic and social development needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and were very far from applying policy coherence for development and respect for human rights in the external policies of the EU. Instead in reality they reflected a neo-colonial attitude. The enormous wealth present in Zimbabwe and in so many other African countries that was now enriching the capitalist class and the political elite needed to be taken out of their hands. Instead it should be brought under democratic control of the people, and run and managed in the interests of the countries’ social and economic development in an environmentally sustainable way.
GLOBAL COTTON CHAIN
The group called for concrete proposals and serious commitments from the Commission and member states on environmental, social, labour and trade union rights all the way through the cotton chain: from cotton production and harvesting to textile and clothing manufacturing. The urgency was highlighted, on the one hand, by the widespread use of forced child labour in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan and, on the other, in the tragic factory fires in Bangladesh. In many cases it is big retailers and brands, fully aware of the lack of health and safety standards and benefitting from slave wages and poor working conditions, which were making a fortune out of the misery and exploitation of – often very young – female workers. The group advocated a strong trade union movement in Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, and solidarity from the trade union movement in Europe to effectively tackle these issues and to fight for decent working and living conditions.
EU-US TRADE & INVESTMENT NEGOTIATIONS
- The group expressed its firm resistance to EU-US trade and investment agreement negotiations without giving a strong negotiating mandate to all those concerned. Addressing the Commission, the group said: "You require a mandate for negotiations with the USA which does not de facto set any boundaries. The negotiations will take place here at a time when the worst effects of the crisis in the EU are being felt by tens of millions of people. In this way, you are inevitably fuelling mistrust and encouraging questions on how you will steer clear at the negotiating table of areas that are sensitive for Europe. You are aware of the concerns of the population at large: genetic engineering in agriculture, threats to cultural diversity, data protection sell-out, reduced protection for consumers and employees, ecological production criteria and energy costs, a new ACTA, wages policy and rate settlements et al. Yes - this is also about standards and regulatory structures. If the European Council, Commission and the majority of Parliament today ignore these concerns and fail to grant a correspondingly strong mandate, they are simply showing they have learned nothing from ACTA."
- In the context of allegations that US surveillance agents had been bugging EU officials and buildings, the group called for "any negotiations on a free trade agreement to be cancelled until we find out if we are equal partners on an equal footing with equal rights and equal standards".
- The group threw its full support behind the demand to exclude audiovisual and culture from the negotiation mandate requested by the Commission for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US on the occasion of the visit to the European Parliament of top-level filmmakers. GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer said: "I ask the Commission and Council to listen attentively to the warnings of filmmakers such as Costa Gavras, the Dardenne brothers or Steven Spielberg, who are particularly sensitive to the dangers of certain initiatives to our culture. This impressive mobilization of film representatives shows how irresponsible it would be to grant such a general mandate, considering that so far the Commission has not consulted EU citizens or has not even presented a decent study on the possible impact of such an FTA on the daily life of Europeans."
COMMON FOREIGN & SECURITY POLICY
The GUE/NGL Group has maintained its position throughout this term of office that the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy should be based on peaceful principles and demilitarization, that the EU should have a civilian perspective and should be strictly separated from NATO structures. In addition, it upholds that military expenditure would be better used for civilian purposes, such as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
EUROPEAN EXTERNAL ACTION SERVICE
Since its launch in December 2010, the group has opposed the European External Action Service because, inter alia, there are no guarantees that the European Parliament and national parliaments retain not only budgetary control but also parliamentary and political control. The group is concerned that EU armies could be part of this service and opposes the militarised, non-transparent and uncontrollable structure.
The GUE/NGL Group was critical of the EU's position during the events unfolding in the Arab world, later to become known as the Arab Spring saying that the EU confuses immobility with stability; this attitude is reprehensible since it failed to hear the calls for freedom and social justice of the peoples of the region. The group urged the EU to negotiate and conclude agreements with each of the countries whose peoples sought change and together with the representatives of these peoples determine the areas in which the EU could help financially and otherwise, through the exchange of experts and the establishment of joint programmes for the socio-economic development of the region.
MEPs were also critical of the lack of EU response to the situation of unrest in Tunisia and the fact that it had turned a blind eye for so long to the corrupt and violent Ben Ali regime that reigned over the country for decades. At the beginning of February 2011, a delegation of GUE/NGL MEPs went to Tunisia to express solidarity and support for the Tunisian people. The Group tabled a resolution on Tunisia for the February plenary session.
- In May 2011, 4 GUE/NGL MEPs - Marie-Christine Vergiat, Georgios Toussas, Paul Murphy and João Ferreira - went to Tunisia to meet activists involved in the Tunisian revolution. They met Tunisian associations and civil society activists, visited the migrant camps in the Tunisian-Libyan border region at Ras Jedir, participated in a public meeting on Tunisian debt and visited Gafsa, Redeyef, Kasserine and Tala.
- Marie-Christine Vergiat travelled as part of a European Parliament delegation to Tunisia to observe the constituent assembly elections taking place in the country in October 2011. The GUE/NGL reiterated its support of the Tunisian revolution as well as on-going popular uprisings for freedom, democracy and justice elsewhere in the Arab world.
- Following the murder of Mohamed Brahmi, a Member of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, the GUE/NGL group expressed its deep indignation and sadness. The Group recognised Mohamed Brahmi's fight for social justice in Tunisia and across the Arab world and expressed its solidarity with his family and friends and reiterated its support of the Popular Front and the People's Movement and all those fighting for democracy and social justice in Tunisia. It said the first responsibility of the Tunisian government is to ensure the safety of all Tunisians, especially those fighting for democratic freedoms and justice. The GUE/NGL called for their killers to be brought to justice. Instead of pushing for a free trade agreement, the EU should stand up for Tunisian democracy.
GUE/NGL saluted the courage of the Egyptian people who were braving threats and repression in their call for social justice, economic measures to pull them out of poverty, to fend off hunger and an end to speculation on food prices and corruption by the Mubarak regime which had been in place for 30 years.
NORTH AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST
GUE/NGL organised a conference on the struggles for liberation in North Africa and the Middle East in the European Parliament during which it strongly criticised EU policy in the regions and offered full solidarity with those campaigning for their political and social rights.
The group expressed its strong support for and solidarity with on-going popular uprisings for freedom, democracy and justice while guests at the conference shared their experiences. "In Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine, Western Sahara and beyond, people are fighting back against oppression and autocracy, yet the EU is more concerned with protecting the interests of big corporations than human rights. Europe must support struggles for liberation and follow through on its human rights rhetoric."
The group was vociferous in its criticism of the lack of information and data provided by EU foreign and security Chief Catherine Ashton on Afghanistan. "Above and beyond NATO’s image campaigns, what is clearly true is that with regard to 2015, we do not know where the peace process will be, in other words, whether the Taliban will have more or less control of Afghanistan by then, if there will be more or less peace, or if there will be more or less corruption. Neither do we know what the withdrawal plan is. We therefore have a scenario in which, above and beyond propaganda, the only concern and the only data that we are being given is that the armed police force is 53% larger than planned."
GUE/NGL President Lothar Bisky participated in the inauguration ceremony of re-elected Bolivian President Evo Morales. During his visit, Bisky also met other political figures to talk on socio-economic questions and climate change. He supported Morales' appeal for a "World conference of the people on climate change and the rights of Mother Earth" which took place at the end of April 2010.
After the liberation from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, and her participation in the process of shaping her country, the group warned that the country still has a long way to go. "The overwhelming support which she received during her election to parliament clearly demonstrates that she carries the hopes of the Burmese people. However, the parliament to which she was elected does not have the power to take the country in a different direction from that planned by the military. The generals have adopted a constitution which guarantees that they retain control over parliament in future. The spotlight on Aung San Suu Kyi must not blind us to the fate of other political prisoners, to the on-going military action against parts of the population, to the misery of the refugees and to the wealth of a small elite in a desperately poor country. My group supports the call from Aung San Suu Kyi to suspend EU sanctions, but not to lift them permanently. This would give her country the opportunity to overcome poverty and encourage the military to continue along the road to democracy."
The GUE/NGL Group supports a solution to the Cyprus problem based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the principles on which the EU is founded. It supports efforts aimed at achieving a peaceful solution through the on-going dialogue between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.
- When the Commission came up with a proposal for direct trade with the occupied areas of Cyprus in April 2010, the group issued a statement calling for the proposal to be revoked: "The revival of a European Commission proposal for trade with those areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which the Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not exercise effective control puts up important barriers to efforts for the reunification of the island. The European Commission must respect and promote the immediate implementation of European Union decisions concerning Turkey."
- In a later development (January 2011), on the occasion of a general strike and meetings organised by trade unions, parties and associations within the Turkish Cypriot community to protest against economic measures imposed on them directly linked to Turkey's policies in the occupied part of Cyprus, the GUE/NGL expressed its solidarity. "The GUE/NGL expresses its support with this struggle and its solidarity with the forces within the Turkish Cypriot community, which continue to work in parallel for the solution of the Cyprus problem based on the UN resolutions and for a free reunified Cyprus based on a bizonal bicommunal federation."
- The Group denounced threats made by the Turkish government against the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus regarding natural gas exploratory drilling due to start at the end of September 2011. "Turkey is jeopardizing the sovereign rights of an EU member state, threatening the peace process for the solution of the Cyprus problem, and endangering stability in the region. The Republic of Cyprus, acting according to International Law and after signing agreements with its neighbouring countries, is conducting official exploration within its Exclusive Economic Zone for hydro carbonates. Turkey has never accepted this legitimate fact. The threats are becoming facts: warships have been dispatched and a so-called “agreement” with the occupied part of Cyprus for exploring the EEZ of Cyprus concluded."
Following the announcement of the imminent closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and the resettlement of its detainees, the group called on High Representative Catherine Ashton to press the US government to close Guantanamo rapidly. The Guantanamo Bay prison was originally scheduled for closure by the Obama administration in January 2010.
The group expressed shock at the horror and suffering brought about by the earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010 and called on the European institutions for their immediate support and solidarity.
Following news that democratically-elected president of Honduras José Manuel Zelaya had been ousted from power by a military coup in June 2009, the group demanded the reinstatement of Zelaya and his government. Willy Meyer, Vice-Chair of the EUROLAT Parliamentary Assembly, travelled to Honduras to evaluate the situation there. While there, he met with General Secretary of OAS, the Organisation of American States, José Miguel Insulza, various political and civil society organisations and trade unions. On his return from Honduras, some 90 MEPs from various political groups signed a Declaration condemning the coup and expressing solidarity with democratic forces there. A copy of this declaration was handed to exiled President Manuel Zelaya in Managua by a new GUE/NGL delegation led by GUE/NGL MEP João Ferreira in August that year.
In February 2012, the group told Baroness Ashton that the EU's most recent sanctions were sabre rattling measures and that attempting to get Iran to compromise by exerting more pressure was politically naive and also irresponsible. "Our group does not want any nuclear programmes, including in Iran. We strongly condemn the Iranian regime on account of its horrendous human rights violations, oppression of religious minorities and persecution of human rights activists. Stopping Iranian oil as a result of the de facto trade ban with Iran’s Central Bank will ultimately hit ordinary citizens. It will also help the Iranian regime’s election campaign ahead of the elections in March this year and will increase the risk of war throughout the region. There is as yet no genuine proof that Iran has a current nuclear weapons programme. There are indications up to 2003, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has provided no evidence for the period thereafter in its report. It has assumptions and the claims of the secret services."
During a debate with the EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs on the situation in Iraq in January 2010, prior to that country's Parliamentary elections, the group was critical that the Commission was not sending observers to scrutinise the process. "We do not share your optimism either on the situation in Iraq or on the benefits of the Coalition, as it borders on blindness. Iraq was invaded and occupied on the basis of deliberately deceptive information concerning the presence of weapons of mass destruction. As a result, 17 of the 27 EU Member states were dragged into the attack and occupation of Iraq. The country lies in ruin, its heritage plundered, its population deeply divided."
MEP Paul Murphy went on an official group delegation to Kazakhstan in July 2011 to meet with trade union representatives and activists to discuss on-going human and workers' rights abuses in the country and, reported on his return that striking oil workers in that country were being brutally repressed. Following this, 48 MEPs from 17 countries and 6 different political groups in the European Parliament sent a letter to the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, expressing concern about the violence used by state forces against striking oil workers, their supporters and families in the city of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan on 16 December of that year.
- The fact that 50,000 electors in the city of Zhanaozen in Kazakhstan were to be barred from voting in January 2012 parliamentary election spurred reaction by GUE/NGL, which called for its postponement and for international observers to take up the issue with the authorities. "Zhanaozen is at the heart of the area where thousands of oil workers have been on strike for over 6 months. Up to 70 strikers and supporters were killed by state forces on 16 December 2011 in a brutal crackdown. Now, with the extension of the state of emergency, the government will exclude the electors in this city, many of whom have personally experienced the violent anti-worker attitude of the Nazarbayev government. This adds insult to the injury of elections that have already excluded any genuine opposition parties."
Following a Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on the possibility of adding Lebanese party Hezbollah to the EU's blacklist of designated terrorist organisations, the group described the EU's foreign policy in the Middle East, and in Syria, as being fraught with countless political and diplomatic errors which have shattered European influence in the region. "Adding Hezbollah to the EU's blacklist of designated terrorist organisations, as some political circles of the European Parliament would like, would be another significant geostrategic error. Such a suggestion risks further isolation of the EU, and will do nothing to improve the situation or change the regional geopolitical balance. European diplomacy has an obligation to include all actors in the region. It must not pander to interests that are totally outside efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution to the instability in the region, including in Lebanon. The EU must categorically refuse to participate in projects that seek to further destabilise Lebanon, rather it should help safeguard the political and institutional integrity of the country. The proposal to put Hezbollah on this so-called 'blacklist' is not acceptable and is based on unconvincing evidence of its alleged involvement in terrorist acts. The credibility of EU foreign policy risks being definitively undermined by such handling of the Lebanon question. The EU should focus on supporting Lebanon and its institutions, notably the government, parliament and the army, in order to protect the country's sovereignty and stability and strengthen EU-Lebanon relations."
Before the war broke out in Mali, the group warned of the tenuous humanitarian and health situation in a strife-ridden country. "Since the beginning of January, civilians and, in particular, women, have been the victims of the worst acts of violence. Now more than ever, the European Union must not abandon them. However, an assessment must be made of how previously transferred funds have been used, as these are clearly not getting to the civilians. It must offer support so that an independent investigating committee can shed light on all the atrocities that have been committed. Everything must be done to strive for, without interfering, a political solution that includes all parties, including civil society representatives."
Once the war had ended, the group criticised the fact that the military intervention initiated for the conflict situation in Mali had not provided a solution, but had led to a hardening of uncertainty and oppression in the region. "In addition to the national context for the crisis, there are a host of international factors that caused the outbreak of the conflict. The causes of the crisis must be resolved and in this case, the international framework conditions of the IMF and the World Bank changed. On top of this, land grabbing must be ended, uranium extraction forbidden and much more besides. And finally, the role of many secret services in organised criminal activity and in encouraging Salafi groups must be questioned. A policy that is apparently acting in the name of humanity has no legitimacy if it is actually being used to promote uranium extraction and hence malformations in children, lung cancer and fatal poisoning of the environment. Mali is a rich country. But the people remain poor and must continue to suffer in order that others may enjoy their riches."
In June 2010, four Members of GUE/NGL visited Chisinau, Moldova. While there, they met Vlad Filat, Prime Minister of Moldova, Natalia Gherman, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, as well as national parliamentarians from different political parties and the EU ambassador. GUE/NGL had been following developments in Moldova with concern and a key reason for the visit was moves to restrict democratic freedoms and rights there.
The situation in Palestine has been at the heart of GUE/NGL concerns during this term of office, and a number of missions, delegations hearings and other activities were organised by the group since June 2009 during which it reiterated its support in favour of a peaceful, two-state solution for this part of the Middle East.
- December 2009: a European Parliament delegation was denied access to Gaza on grounds that there was a security risk. Two GUE/NGL MEPs were part of the delegation which had intended to observe humanitarian conditions in Gaza, to promote a viable Palestinian state and to check on the use of EU funds in the area
- January 2010: Three GUE/NGL MEPs travelled to Gaza and participated in the largest 50-member parliamentary delegation (European and national parliaments) ever to visit the besieged region. They were in Gaza as part of the visit organised by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG).
- February 2010: Following a violent attack by the Israeli army against the offices of the Palestinian People's Party and of NGOs, GUE/NGL expressed its condemnation in a group statement. "These organizations work legally and their sole "crime" is the demand of the inalienable human rights and freedom of the Palestinian people. This is yet one more oppressive act, part of the Israeli policy against the Palestinian people that should be denounced. The EU should send a clear message to Israel that such actions are unacceptable and weigh heavily on its relations with the EU."
- July 2011. Seven GUE/NGL MEPs were in Palestine for a conference and visit to Jerusalem to support and promote the objective of recognition of a Palestinian State on the borders of 4 June 1967 two months ahead of a key UN General Assembly that discussed Palestinian statehood. "Our conference and visit to Jerusalem and the West Bank could not come at a more opportune time: during the biggest popular and peaceful uprising in the Arab world; in the aftermath of a most welcome reconciliation agreement between the Palestinian factions; only one day before an important conference of the Quartet; just one month before the already reached target which Prime Minister Fayyad set to complete state building; and only two months before the Palestinian Authority is set to submit the question of Palestinian statehood to the General Assembly of the United Nations."
- September 2011: GUE/NGL MEPs were vociferous in their demands for EU support for Palestinian membership of the United Nations and the recognition of the Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, in a debate in advance of the September 23rd 2011 request by the President of the Palestinian Authority to the UN General Assembly for recognition of the State of Palestine.
- September/October 2011: A letter co-signed by members of Group was sent to Mrs Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, concerning the situation of the 6,000 Palestinian prisoners who were on hunger strike since 28 September 2011 to protest against their conditions of detention. The GUE/NGL welcomed an agreement reached between Israel and Hamas in October 2011 on the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as well as of about a thousand Palestinian prisoners over the coming months.
- February 2010: In 2009, South African judge Richard Goldstone led a UN fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations during the Gaza War. The ensuing report, published in September 2009, highlighted the crimes and violations of international humanitarian law by Israel against the Palestinian people. The European Parliament debated the implementation of the report's recommendations in February 2010.
- June 2012: Israel continued its policy of expanding settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, a policy that GUE/NGL has continuously condemned. "Israel is still destroying on the ground in Palestine any chance of the two-state solution to which the international community is committed. The recent decision to erect 800 new units for settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories is the last in a series of such acts. We condemn the persecution of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which is designed to change the demographic make-up of that town. We condemn the demolition of houses, the continuing long-term imprisonment of Palestinians and the continual human rights violations. We call on the European Union to recognise an independent Palestinian state that will secure a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis and contribute to the stability of the entire region.
- July 2012: During a debate on the EU-Israel agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products, GUE/NGL pointed out that the EU must not improve trade relations with Israel while there is daily proof that it is guilty of human rights violations. "Any such improvement both infringes the agreement and neutralises the only specific instrument at our disposal for putting pressure on Israel to honour its obligations in terms of human rights and humanitarian law, both inside Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. We are therefore against giving our consent to this agreement."
- November 2012: Calling for the force of politics to replace the violence of the politics of force, the Group called on the European Parliament to adopt a clear and strong resolution to support a ceasefire and encourage a lasting peace and a two-state solution. "In this matter, there are the people of Gaza who are being blockaded, and the other side that is dominating them. The truth is that by calling Hamas the enemy and the representative, we have undermined the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which decided 20 years ago to abandon their armed struggle and participate in a process of dialogue. The international community and the European Union have undermined, and even humiliated, the Palestinian Authority and allowed Israel to act with complete impunity. Not a single political initiative has ever been taken to ensure respect for international law. That is what fuels the radical fundamentalist groups, which, now and always, justify this unacceptable policy of blockade, of colonisation and of war."
: Three so-called Freedom Flotillas set sail from ports throughout the world with the aim of breaking the siege of Gaza and bringing food, medicines and building supplies to the besieged population. The first was a fleet of nine ships carrying 750 participants from more than 60 countries, including governmental, parliamentary, European and Arab officials as well as activists of all ages This ship was attacked by the Israeli army and 9 people were killed. Two GUE/NGL MEPs joined the second Freedom Flotilla of under the auspices of the Free Gaza Movement and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza. The trip was aborted after two boats were sabotaged and the Greek authorities refused to allow several boats berthed in Greek waters to sail from its ports. A third flotilla saw the arrest of MEP Paul Murphy and other participants in the Freedom Waves Flotilla by the Israeli authorities in international waters off the coast of Gaza. Following this arrest, the Group took action both in Brussels and in other EU member states when a letter was sent asking EU President Jerzy Buzek to intervene for the release of those detained as well as letters of protest to Israeli embassies throughout the EU. The Group organised a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Brussels against the incident and demanding the release of those detained.
PERU & COLOMBIA
In June 2009, a group of 8 GUE/NGL MEPs spoke out against a wave of violence by Peruvian government agents against the indigenous people of the Amazonian region. In a declaration, they urged the Commission to cancel a round of EU-Andean negotiations scheduled to be held in Bogota.
Less than one year later, the Commission concluded free trade talks with Peru and Colombia despite growing opposition among civil society in both countries because of the content of the agreement and the human rights situation. The group considered that in rushing to conclude these negotiations with the two governments with the worst human rights record in the region, the European Commission is sending a message that it gives priority to business interests over civil liberties and democracy.
Commenting on the 2012 enlargement report for Serbia, the group highlighted the importance of the Serbian economy for the Balkan region. "By helping Serbia become integrated into the family of European nations, we will actually be assisting European stability. Serbia is the central economy of the Balkans, and the integration of Serbia will stabilise the Balkans as a region. Serbia has begun a courageous fight against organised crime, as well as a very ambitious reform of the judiciary. It has, in a short space of time, removed 1 600 judges who had links to organised crime. We should support this effort."
After a police massacre of striking miners in South Africa in September 2012, the group condemned this slaughter: "Workers were engaged in a justified strike for higher wages and for better working conditions. They were mown down by the police, some of them shot in the back while running away, with the police acting as private security guards for the mines. The evidence suggests that this massacre was premeditated. The attempt to charge the miners’ colleagues with their murder, which has thankfully been dropped, indicates how far to the right the government of the African National Congress has been driven under Jacob Zuma."
The GUE/NGL organised a conference on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, which called for a genuinely independent and impartial inquiry into massive human rights abuses committed during the recent war in Sri Lanka.
SUDAN & SOUTH SUDAN
The group voiced its opposition to the splitting up of Sudan and south Sudan as well as its concern for the conflict in the latter. "‘Yet another war over oil’ could be the heading for an intervention on the current conflict in Sudan. Once again, the civilian population of both countries are enduring indescribable suffering. All violent attacks and assaults are to be condemned, and we must call for a peaceful solution to the conflict. However, that does not absolve us from talking about the causes, or from looking back critically at whether the EU’s clear commitment to the splitting off of South Sudan was responsible given the current circumstances. There will be no quick solution; that much is certain. It is also certain, however, that the problems cannot be resolved by means of armed conflict. Right now, it is essential that we maintain the arms embargo in order to prevent further escalations."
Since the beginning of the unrest in Syria in 2011, GUE/NGL MEPs have calling for a negotiated settlement instead of foreign military intervention as well as a ban on arms supplies in the regions.
- April 2012: Support to Syria should not include supplying arms to the country but the introduction of dialogue and negotiations for a nuclear and weapons free Middle East. "We need to support the view that no arms should be exported to Syria, regardless of what method or what route, and we also need to support the Annan plan without accepting any infringements in respect of Syria. No more people should die in Syria. Instead of an escalation, we need a human rights dialogue and serious negotiations for a nuclear weapon-free Middle East and peaceful coexistence throughout the region. That is what the EU should be doing instead of making the current situation worse."
- September 2012: After months of bloodshed in Syria, GUE/NGL condemned war and warned that EU military intervention would only lead to more chaos in the region. "These four walls have already witnessed heated debates in favour of war, in favour of military intervention, allegedly as a means of resolving conflicts. In no way whatsoever do we share people’s need to turn Syria into another Iraq or Afghanistan, where insecurity has increased, where death and destruction have been caused. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, al-Qaeda was not responsible, and yet intervention took place. In Syria, we have to condemn Mr Assad’s crimes and repression, but also those of the opposition, as well as the opposition’s terrorist acts, jihad and links with al-Qaeda. The only possible solution is peace. We should not push for a foreign military intervention that will lead to chaos in the region – nothing but chaos."
- September 2012: With the threat of US, French & UK military intervention looming because of the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons on civilian populations, the group set out its strong opposition to military action saying The GUE/NGL Group strongly condemns the use of chemicals against the civilian population and considers it a crime against humanity. But the only way to avoid further harm is through a political solution, not foreign military intervention. Military action against Assad will only serve to exacerbate the violence and spark further conflicts in the region.
Speaking about how the EU should tackle the flow of Syrian refugees, the group warned that if there is no change in EU asylum policy then EU interior ministers would be complicit in the deaths of refugees. "If we don't do something to deal with this humanitarian catastrophe we are burying our heads in the sand. More solidarity is necessary now. We must do something tangible and we need to change how asylum policy is structured. Member states also need to avail of the legal instruments that already exist. If you look at how many of these so-called 'illegal immigrants' per million EU habitants are being taken in the numbers are really minuscule. All this talk about solidarity is meaningless if we don't open our eyes and offer assistance, in Syria and elsewhere."
The group hosts an annual conference on EU, Turkey and the Kurds and offers its continued support to the EU-Kurdish groups and associations both within and outside the Parliament.
- The group condemned the decision by the Constitutional Court of Turkey in December 2009 to ban the Democratic Society Party - DTP and for imposing a five-year ban on political activity on 37 leading DTP members as well as on Leyla Zana, a political activist of Kurdish origin and 2004 Sakharov Prize winner. DTP President Ahmet Turk and Vice-President Ayse Turgut were deprived of their parliamentary status.
- The group strongly condemned the conviction of Leyla Zana, former Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Sakharov Prize recipient - as a step backwards for Turkish democratization. She was sentenced by the Diyarbakir Criminal Court in April 2010 to three years in prison on charges of propaganda for a terrorist organization because she spoke in the Kurdish language at two events organised by the Democratic Peoples' Party in Diyarbakir in 2008.
- In September 2009, GUE/NGL expressed its solidarity with the Turkish trade union KESK (Confederation of Civil Servants) ahead of the trial of 22 of its members and condemned this latest example of intimidation aimed at repressing the union's struggle for workers' rights and democracy. GUE/NGL sent MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou to observe the trial.
- GUE/NGL supported Turkey's accession to the EU, following the vote on the country's progress report in March 2011, but underlined the need to meet all the Copenhagen criteria and obligations towards the EU and all its Member states.
- The 2012 enlargement report for Turkey sparked a discussion about the plight of Turkish Cypriots as well as that of the Kurds. The group considered that we have to go beyond wishful thinking when it comes to the problems of the Kurdish population in Turkey, of whom there are 10 million. Why does Turkey not give the rights demanded for the Turkish Cypriots to the Kurds also? Why does it not apply them to its own people? We weep tears over abuse of the human rights of Turkish Cypriots – and rightly so – but they are due to the fact that Turkey is not prepared to demonstrate that will. Turkey’s refusal to have contacts with the Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus in a few months’ time is not only an insult to Cyprus; it is an insult to us too, to our institutions, to the European Union itself and its modus operandi. We are in favour of the accession of Turkey; we demonstrated as much with our vote in favour of the opening of negotiations on the accession of Turkey. It was a very critical moment and Cyprus gave the go-ahead. However, Turkey needs to honour its undertakings, like every other country.
- The group welcomed the bold start-up of dialogue with Abdullah Öcalan and the PKK by the Turkish authorities in February 2012 and said it was an important first step to a political and peaceful solution. "The discussions between the Turkish Government and Öcalan are an important step, but this is only a first step on the way to a political and peaceful solution. The road to peace and reconciliation is still a long way off. It can only be trodden if trust can be built up. Peace negotiations are not power games. Peace negotiations can only be won or lost by the participants. The Turkish Government has taken the initiative. In this way, it has responded to the demands that parts of the Kurdish movement have been making for years. Negotiations need reliability. Attendance at the discussions must not develop into a lottery. Consequently, the way ahead must be for the parties to the conflict to agree how negotiations should proceed and reach an understanding on who must participate in them. I believe I am speaking on behalf of all our colleagues present if I call on both parties to the conflict not to allow themselves to be diverted from the negotiation path pursued."
- When Turkish protestors were violently repressed by the Turkish authorities during the Taksim Square protests in June 2013, the Group called on the country's government for greater respect for democracy and public opinion. "Democracy means listening carefully to the people who may not agree with us. It is more than obvious that the Turkish government has no idea of what respect for different opinions means. We fully support the demonstrators and we call upon the Turkish government and the police forces to refrain from any further acts of violence and suppression. There can be no democracy in Turkey without giving the Turks and Kurds their fundamental freedoms. There can be no democracy in Turkey without restoring the fundamental rights of the Cypriots, both Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots alike."
In December 2009, Willy Meyer travelled to Lanzarote to visit Aminatu Haidar, the Saharawi human rights defender who was expelled from Morocco, retained in Spain against her will and who had been on hunger strike for 17 days. The group reiterated its support for Ms Haidar and the Saharawi people during the December Strasbourg plenary session by holding a protest outside the hemicycle. Plans by GUE/NGL MEP Willy Meyer in November 2010 to visit the Saharawi camp on the outskirts of El Aaiun to acquire information about the situation of some 20,000 Saharawi people who moved there in protest at their situation in territories occupied by Morocco were thwarted when Moroccan police boarded the plane and prevented him from disembarking. Days later, the European Parliament's Intergroup of Solidarity with the Western Saharan People denounced the violent attack on a Saharawi Dignity Camp in El Aaiun by the Moroccan police and army. At the end of November 2011, Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the situation in Western Sahara and calling on the EU to act urgently to put in place mechanisms that would ensure the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.