Speech by HR/VP Catherine Ashton on North Africa and the Arab world
European Parliament Strasbourg, 6 July 2011
Mr President, Honourable Members, the last time I spoke in this Parliament, in early May, I said that statements could and should be made – but that the priority is action.
You will remember that I announced my intention to establish an EU office in Benghazi.
The EU flag now flies above the courthouse in the newly-named Freedom Square – a symbol not just of our solidarity with its people, but of our practical commitment.
The office is now up and running, experts are arriving each week – working at how to support the security needs ofd the people, and help build the capacity of civil society.
And last week my team was in New York, coordinating our work on Libya with the UN.
Outside the courthouse in Freedom Square, I met some of the people who have been bringing democracy to life in Libya.
They thanked me; they thanked you; they thanked the European Union.
They know that we will stay with them over time, and today I am sure you join me in saluting again the enormous courage of the Libyan people – whether in Benghazi, Misrata, the Western Mountains, Tripoli or the South.
We have stepped up sanctions, to stop arms and money reaching the regime.
We have provided €140 million of humanitarian assistance to those most in need.
And we continue to work for a political resolution to the conflict, in the Contact Group (which will meet in Istanbul next week) and in the “Cairo Group”, where – at our instigation – we continue to work with the UN Secretary General and Special Envoy Mr Al Khatib, the Arab League, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, where we prepare for the days, weeks and months after Gaddafi leaves.
Actions must be rooted in strategy.
The EU was the first to offer a serious response to the Arab Spring, with our 'Partnership' Communication of 8 March.
Two months later, we launched a new and ambitious European Neighbourhood Policy.
I am delighted to have Stefan Fule with me today – my close and trusted partner in conceiving the new ENP, and on ensuring delivery on our promises.
You know the core principles of the Policy: mutual accountability; individual approaches to individual countries depending on their circumstances and aspirations; offering more support, for more reform – in Stefan's words: 'more for more'.
It has financial backing to match, in the form of an extra €1.2 billion for the next two years, on top of the €5.7 billion already pledged – so, nearly €7 billion.
To this, we should add a sum in the region of €7-8 billion, the result of the concerted efforts I initiated to unlock new investment funds from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The goal is clear: the promotion of what I call ‘deep’ and sustainable democracy and – with it – economic prosperity.
We know full well that democracy is hollow without food, safety, and jobs.