Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-11-15-Speech-3-092"

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"Ladies and gentlemen, your Highness, I would like to welcome the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa al-Thani. I would also like to point out that we have a visit from the President of the Parliament of Ukraine, who is in the official gallery. That channel now broadcasts in English and contributes to dialogue and understanding amongst civilisations. Perhaps we too will one day recognise the importance of a channel in Arabic and English and perhaps we will also one day have a European television channel broadcasting in Arabic. Your Highness, we are extremely interested to hear what you have to say to us this morning. We wish to hear your views on the development of democracy in Qatar. We would also like, however, to hear your ideas about how we can promote peace in Palestine. And peace and stability in Iraq. And how to reduce the tension with Iran. Throughout my term in office – which will come to an end soon – I have insisted on the importance to Europe of our relations with the Arab and Islamic world. I believe that this is one of the most important geostrategic challenges facing us Europeans: our relations with the Islamic world, which must go much further than our relations with our immediate neighbours, the countries of the Mediterranean. This Parliament is therefore pleased that the negotiations have begun on a trade agreement between our Union, the European Union, and the Member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Let us hope that these negotiations can conclude shortly so that we can have relations with Qatar and its neighbours with greater strategic and political content. This makes your visit to the European Parliament today all the more significant and relevant. Your visit, your country’s visit, is important to us for many reasons, and furthermore it is taking place on a symbolic day, because, also today, the United Nations working group on the Alliance of Civilisations has just presented its recommendations to the Secretary-General, Mr Annan, in Istanbul. This is a good time for you to be here amongst us in Strasbourg, in the heart of Europe, so that your views and the views of the Arab world can bring us closer together and make it possible for us to move forward into the future in a more united fashion than has been possible in the past. It is an honour for us to welcome you today, as the first Head of State of a Gulf country to address the European Parliament. In fact, this is the first time we have had the pleasure and honour of receiving a Head of State from the extremely important region of the Gulf. You have been a pioneer in your region's process of democratisation. You have promoted a written Constitution, approved by means of a referendum, which guarantees a whole series of democratic reforms, including, of course, recognition of freedom of expression and opinion, the granting of universal suffrage to all adults, men and women, and the creation of a Parliament that will be elected in elections to be held next year. Furthermore, your Highness, you have played an important role on the international stage. You and your country. A small country with just 200 000 citizens, as well as more than 600 000 immigrants. A country that organised the conference in Doha that launched the WTO round that is still taking place. It is the only Arab State that is currently a member of the United Nations Security Council. It is a pioneer in the granting of financial aid and the sending of troops to the peace-keeping force in Lebanon. Its troops are there together with our troops. It has provided significant impetus in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel, being one of the very few Arab States with trade relations with Israel. You also took an important decision, which has had great worldwide repercussions, ten years ago now, in 1996, when you authorised broadcasting by the television channel, Al-Jazeera, significantly transforming access to news and information in the Arab world."@en1

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