Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-04-23-Speech-3-362"

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"Madam President, I firstly wish to thank the Commissioner for her explanations, and immediately state that the Socialist Group in the European Parliament feels signing the FTA with the Gulf Cooperation Council is an objective we share. We must, in fact, do this as soon as possible. This will be to the benefit of Europe, and to the countries that comprise the GCC. It is also true, however, that the mandate for negotiating this agreement is rather old. It is a mandate which does not contain the necessary clauses to focus on today’s key issues such as human rights, employment or the environment. I am therefore pleased to hear the Commissioner tell us that the Commission intends to do all it can to include these matters in the agreement. This would otherwise be totally incomprehensible, because we are not only talking about trade or economic exchanges. We are all aware that these are important countries, with one of the planet’s greatest sources of wealth, oil, an essential component of our modern societies. These countries, however, do not just have oil. They have people, men and women; men and women born in these countries, and other men and women who come from other countries to work there, and I feel that human rights are not respected in these countries as they ought to be, for example, in terms of freedom of expression or freedom of association. With respect to the women’s lack of equality, we cannot but feel ashamed and indignant when, for instance, we read news such the reports by Human Rights Watch, stating that women in some of these countries require permission from a so-called ‘guardian’, who may be a father, a husband, or even a son, to work, travel, study, or even get access to health services. This is simply unacceptable, totally unacceptable. However, we could of course also talk about the situation that was previously mentioned of the immigrants working in those countries, who constitute a strong workforce. Are their rights guaranteed or not? Moreover, what are the environmental concerns of major oil-producing countries such as the GCC states? Are they interested in climate change or in the price of crude oil? This must be said amicably, but in all clarity. It is for this reason that we are pleased that the resolution we will be voting on tomorrow has finally included paragraphs as important as paragraphs 17 and 19, of which we feel we are the joint authors. They refer, for example, to human rights as the subject of a clause that ought to be an essential part of the free trade agreement to be signed with the Gulf Cooperation Council, or the need for the parties to ratify the conventions of the International Labour Organisation. We have also tabled additional amendments, which we hope the groups can support, thereby reinforcing these issues. We must be careful, however, not to send out the wrong kind of message to our allies: human rights must be defended whether or not there is any oil in the picture."@en1

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