Summary: 11 September, 2007, Brussels - Opening Speech by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, at the European Commission / Parliament Lessons Learned Seminar - EU Election Observation Missions
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here. This seminar is highly relevant. Election observation missions are a key instrument of EU foreign policy, and an area in which the close cooperation between the Commission and Parliament creates important synergies.
Election observation is clearly among my political priorities. It enables us to put our commitment to democracy and human rights into practice. Sowing the seeds of democratization and good governance is vital in today's world and in Europe's own interest. Election observation thus makes EU foreign policy both more effective and more visible. It helps the EU to become an ever "smarter power" on the global stage.
Thanks to the consistent methodology applied by our missions and the joint efforts of all EU institutions, the Union has - in a short time - gained credibility as one of the main actors in this field. We should be proud of this achievement!
We have made a political investment in this critical sector over the past years: Since 2004, the number of EU EOMs has grown year after year: 8 in 2004, 12 in 2005, and 13 in 2006. In 2007, 7 missions have been deployed so far. Since 2000, close to 60 EU EOMs were organized.
A second point I would like to stress is the successful cooperation among the EU institutions. I attach great importance to the role of the Parliament in election observation.
I seize the opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the energy devoted by the Chief Observers to credible and successful election observation missions.
This partnership between EU EOMs and EP Observation Delegations is a key to our success. In the last couple of years, EP observation delegations were associated to more than half of the EU EOMs.
The combination of the long-term deployed EU EOMs and the Parliament's short-term observers is very useful: The long-term experts bring in a comprehensive, methodological approach. Parliamentary observers add their political experience and sensitivity and thus make an important contribution to the democratic process in our partner countries. Together this gives the EU EOMs a unique toolbox for assessing the elections.
Also, this cooperation ensures that European observers speak with one voice and make a coherent assessment of an election. Giving such a clear, joint message is the strength of our missions, and we should continue working on this basis.
Consequently, I will continue to consider Members of the European Parliament for the post of Chief Observer, as I did already in recent years.
This will give indispensable political visibility to our missions. They often operate in sensitive environments. They need to judge facts independently but also remain conscious of the political environment. Hence the need for clear leadership!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This seminar allows us to discuss our joint accomplishments in the field, to learn lessons from our missions and to see where and how we can further enhance our institutional partnership. I therefore look forward to an open and frank exchange of views.
What has worked well, what is a "best practice"? Where do we have room for improvement, including in the cooperation between our institutions and in the follow-up to the recommendations of EU EOMs? These are questions which I hope will feature in today's discussions.
I am very happy to see Chief Observers, Heads of EP Delegations and Heads of Commission delegations present to provide inputs into the debates.
Four particularly relevant cases will guide this afternoon's discussions. They reflect key issues, notably relations with the media and mission visibility; logistical and security aspects; the cooperation with other EU actors on the ground and with other international observers; and not least the delicate relations with local authorities and civil society organizations.
The EOMs deployed to Haiti and the DRC are examples of observation missions deployed in post-conflict elections, to countries in which the international community including the EU have been massively engaged. The EU has also been present in the DRC with ESDP operations, including EUFOR.
I would be interested to have your views on how the cooperation between the different EU missions worked, as well as with the UN peace support missions deployed to the DRC and to Haiti.
The missions in the DRC and the West Bank/Gaza were among the largest EU EOMs ever deployed. And the EP Delegation to West Bank/Gaza was the largest ever observation delegation sent so far by the Parliament. Given the volatile political context and difficult logistical and security environment of these missions, analyzing them will be particularly instructive.
The same holds for the sensitive context in which our mission to Lebanon had to operate.
Looking at the political developments in these four cases, I believe we can say that the EOMs came up with a thorough and credible assessment of the elections. More fundamentally, they illustrate the strengths and limits of our mandate and tasks.
Therefore, I am sure that we can take valuable political insights for the future from these cases, also drawing on the specific recommendations made by each observation mission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The EU EOMs are and must remain an integral part of the broader EU strategy for institution-building and democracy support. Strengthening election observation helps to boost the overall effectiveness and consistency of EU action abroad. That must be our common goal.
I look forward to our discussions today.