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European Union: MEPs to debate Afghanistan & Pakistan, Belarus and DR Congo

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European responses to Afghanistan and Pakistan, relations between Brussels and Belarus and violence in DR Congo will all be debated by MEPs Wednesday afternoon from 1500 (16 December). It is part of a foreign policy debate between Members and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Swedish Foreign Minister Cecilia Malmström and European Commissioners for neighbourhood policy and humanitarian aid, Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Karel De Gucht.

EU's "Af-Pak" strategy

The extent to which events in Afghanistan and Pakistan are on track and whether the EU's latest action plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan is the right step is on the agenda from 1500.

In October, all 27 EU member states agreed a new strategy identifying priority areas for help and action. These areas included:

- supporting the civilian administrations of both countries

- political reform

- good governance

- improved security

- more legitimate economic opportunities

The EU already contributes around €1 billion in aid to Afghanistan a year.

Working with the new Karzai government and preparations for elections in 2010 are crucial for Afghanistan. Disarming former insurgents, fighting corruption and narcotics and helping develop agriculture are also key areas.

The first EU-Pakistan summit, aimed at improving cooperation, took place in June. A key issue is the rehabilitation and reconstruction of North-Western Pakistan which borders Afghanistan. In recent times it has been the site of fights between government forces and the Taliban.

Other issues to be debated include institution building, support for civil society and democratic elections as well as counter-terrorism dialogue involving the police and the judiciary.

DR Congo: will UN force have its mandate extended?

Continued violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled Eastern Kivu provinces (bordering Rwanda) and the north-western Equateur province are causing concern. Monday 21 December sees a crucial vote at the United Nations about whether to extend the mandate on the MONUC peacekeeping force - the UN's largest at 20,000 plus troops.

Despite a peace agreement in early 2008, fighting has continued with Hutu rebels attacking civilians in Kivu province.

According to the UNHCR the 1998-2003 conflict in the DRC has claimed more than 5 million lives, many from hunger and disease, and its aftermath is still causing, either directly or indirectly, as many as 45,000 deaths every month.

In the north-western Equateur province, ethnic violence has driven 115,000 people from their homes. Some 77,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring Congo Republic, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported.

You can follow the three successive debates (Afghanistan/Pakistan, Belarus, Congo) from 1500 to 1800 Wednesday afternoon.