Summary: February 13, 2004: Statement by Mr Colin Wrafter, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union. Report of the Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia; the Candidate Countries, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey; the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro; and the EFTA countries, Iceland Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
The European Union expresses its appreciation to the Council for affording us this opportunity to address the situation in Guinea-Bissau. The constructive engagement of ECOSOC in Guinea-Bissau through the work of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group is to be commended. The European Union welcomes the increasing interaction between the Security Council and ECOSOC in addressing the challenges of peace building in countries emerging from conflict, and considers the Ad Hoc Group on Guinea-Bissau to be a good example of that interaction. This joint approach allows for a comprehensive and coherent evaluation of the multiple needs of Guinea-Bissau. The UN system has gained significant experience in guiding transition processes. It is right that it is at the centre of the Guinea-Bissau transition. The UN and international community must continue to work in partnership with the transitional Government of Guinea-Bissau to prevent a slide back into conflict and to address longer-term sustainable development and governance issues.
We congratulate the chairman of the Group, H.E. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, Permanent Representative of South Africa, for the work undertaken by him and the members of the Group. The European Union looks forward to the publication of the report of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group and we intend to study it carefully.
The mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group is to examine the humanitarian and economic needs of Guinea-Bissau and, in consultation with all the key stakeholders, to promote international cooperation. Given the current transitional situation, it is too soon to make a final judgement on the usefulness of this ad-hoc group. Certainly, much work remains to be done. We are convinced that the Ad Hoc Group continues to have an important role to play in assisting Guinea-Bissau and in encouraging the international community to remain engaged. The European Union therefore would favour an extension of the mandate of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Guinea-Bissau.
Since we last met to consider the work of the Ad Hoc Group, there have been encouraging developments in Guinea-Bissau, which the European Union welcomes. The European Union has engaged in a useful political dialogue with the transitional Government of Guinea-Bissau and we are encouraged by the steps taken towards constitutional normality. The European Union looks forward to the holding of credible, free and fair elections in Guinea-Bissau, with legislative elections scheduled for March 28th next. The conduct of those elections shall be followed closely by the international community.
Elections however do not mark the end of the transition phase; rather they are an important step towards consolidating democratic governance and legitimacy and an impetus to further advancement. During this transition phase, the EU is anxious to see a rapid return to constitutional legality in Guinea-Bissau and until that is achieved, wishes to be sure that fundamental freedoms, human rights and political pluralism will be respected.
Guinea-Bissau remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The financial and socio-economic situation in the country is very serious. Guinea-Bissau needs stability in order to reduce poverty, spread stability in the region and to integrate itself more closely into the regional and world economy. The creation by UNDP of a multi-donor Emergency Economic Management Fund is an important step, aiming as it does to address the most urgent needs of the population, to fund essential recurrent budgetary expenditure in key sectors, and to help promote transparency and accountability in the provision of emergency assistance. Generous and urgent responses to that Fund are required. Member states of the European Union are important contributors to the Fund and of development assistance to Guinea-Bissau.
The EU welcomes the sustained commitment of the Bretton Woods Institutions to Guinea-Bissau. We commend ECOWAS for its constructive role and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) for its continued positive engagement.
The international community has been given an important opportunity to help Guinea-Bissau. It is essential that the international community remain engaged during this critical transition phase after many years of political turmoil and economic stagnation. This is a vital phase, which will be decisive in ensuring the future stability and prosperity of the country. It will also have an important stabilising influence on the sub region. As we begin to move out of transition to a development phase, longer term development needs must also be addressed. The international partnership approach advocated by the Ad-Hoc Advisory Group should remain our guide as we endeavour to assist Guinea-Bissau move to a more stable and prosperous future.