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Speech by Dr Laima Andrikiene, MEP at the meeting with Mme Ingrid Betancourt in the European Parliament

Dr Laima Andrikiene, MEP
European Parliament
9 October 2008

Dear Mme Ingrid Betancourt,

As the Coordinator of the EPP-ED in the Subcommittee on Human Rights I would like to join my colleagues in welcoming you here in the European Parliament and in the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Thank you for your brilliant speech, your message in the plenary yesterday, which came from the bottom of your heart, and was touching, and giving a lot of food-for-thought about our society, our values and our future.

I think I have to say that in February of 2005 I went to Bogota for the first time, and the reason of my trip was you, Ingrid, liberation of Ingrid Betancourt. Belgian senators initiated that visit, and they asked Members of this House to MEPs to strengthen their team. I decided to go. We went to Colombia, where we had a lot of meetings with the officials, journalists, and I learnt a lot about you and the faith of other people kept by FARC. We also met different NGOs, members of the families of kidnapped people including your mother Mme Jolanda, mother of Clara Rojas and many many others.

So I am delighted to see you among us, and as you rightly pointed out yesterday, 3 thousand people, 3000 soles kept by FARC, their liberation should be on our agenda.

Following my visit to Bogota in September of 2005 we organised a Study day in the European Parliament on the peace processes in Colombia. The Study Day was aiming to boost the new and more efficient initiatives of the European Union in achieving a stability and peace in Colombia.

Our participants included different NGOs active in the field and also Prof. Eduardo Pizarro Leongómez, President of the Reparation Committee, Vice President of Colombia Francisco Santos, Prof. Antanas Mockus, Former Mayor of Bogotį and Presidential Candidate for 2006 Presidential election in Colombia; Mr. Eduardo Herrera Verbel, Coordinator of the Peace Processes Team from the High Peace Commissioner“s Office was also with us here and many others. Your name was mentioned so many times that sometimes I felt as if you would have been with us.

We all knew that for several decades, Colombia“s internal situation has been dramatic, with countless murders, kidnappings and violent acts of all kinds, a reign of terror perpetrated by guerrillas and paramilitaries, the highly sensitive issues of drug production and consumption, human rights trampled underfoot and a state apparatus incapable of mastering the situation.

It is clear that the fight against violence, kidnapping of people, other abuse of the human rights might be succeeded only having eliminated its ground and the roots of narco mafia. I understand that Colombia needs our support as well as our efforts to fight the drugs in Europe. Observers believe that it is practically impossible to win the war by military means without engaging in dialogue, due to Colombia's geographical characteristic and the weakness of its army. With President Uribe in the Presidential Palace in Bogota there are many positive developments.

I have two questions for you:

1) Are President Uribe and the Government of Colombia doing enough to restore peace and stability in the country? What about the Justice, Truth and Reparation Law and its impact on the peace process in Colombia - is this law implemented effectively? And Law on Peace and Reconciliation - does this law and its implementation meet the expectations of the leadership of the country and the people of Colombia? What is missing in the policy under implementation to have a real success?

2) Colombia has been chosen as one of the priority countries for EU measures in the field of human rights. The Colombian peace process enjoys international support, with regular meetings which involve both Colombian players and numerous international participants, including representatives from the EU. How do you see the role of international community and the EU in particular in Colombia? What would you propose to us to focus and concentrate our efforts on?