Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-05-24-Speech-4-012"

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". Madam President, I followed with great interest the very lively debate in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Kashmir report by Baroness Nicholson. There is much food for thought in this report. It is too comprehensive for me to be able to respond in detail today, but I should like to reflect on some of the issues which it raises. I would just like to add that I would have loved to have stayed for the whole debate but, as communicated, I have to leave before the end due to long-standing commitments which I could not alter after Parliament’s change to the agenda, but my colleague Mrs Grybauskaitė will take over and stay on in the debate. The focus on Kashmir is timely. On the political front, there have been many positive developments, which, for the first time in many years, give some hope that this long-standing issue is getting closer to a solution. Both India and Pakistan have indicated that the Line of Control could become a ‘soft border’. The European Union has expressed its firm support for the reconciliation process between India and Pakistan. But the road is still full of pitfalls. It is encouraging that the composite dialogue process remains on track despite terrorism. I was in Delhi when the terrible attacks on the daily Lahore-Samjhota Express train took place last February. It would indeed be tragic if the peace process could be taken hostage by terrorists. I see no alternative to both countries addressing their differences through dialogue. This will, hopefully, lead eventually to settlement of all bilateral issues. I also feel it is important that the Kashmiris themselves have become more involved in the arrangements for the peace process. I would like to say a few words about the terrible earthquake that struck Kashmir on the morning of 8 October 2005 and which, as Baroness Nicholson’s report describes, had a devastating impact on the lives of the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control, especially in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province. I had the opportunity to visit the earthquake-affected areas in person when I visited Pakistan to represent the European Commission at the earthquake reconstruction conference in November that year. The European Commission responded to this tragedy by providing humanitarian aid of EUR 48 million and by committing, in December 2005, a EUR 50 million programme on ‘Earthquake Recovery and Reconstruction support to Pakistan’, which covers rehabilitation of education and health facilities in the affected areas, an emergency education programme and community-based livelihood recovery schemes. Thus, we are aiming to do what the report recommends, namely help the most vulnerable and restore economic activities in the affected area. This earthquake response comes in addition to other development programmes in Pakistan under our country strategy. Although the Commission has been quick to react to this challenge, I nevertheless expect that the reconstruction effort will still take a number of years. The Commission’s reconstruction programme will be implemented over a period of five years. As far as the Northern Areas of Pakistan are concerned, the Commission has been active there over many years in developing human resources especially, in improving the public school system and in cooperating with the Aga Khan Education Services. While implementing our programmes there, we have ensured that all communities – and government schools – benefit from project activities. Before I conclude, I would like to thank Baroness Nicholson for the encouraging words she found to recognise the work of the Commission’s delegations in Islamabad and New Delhi. This is much appreciated."@en1

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