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MEPs protest FTA with Colombia

Colombia Reports | Wednesday, 08 December 2010

MEPs protest FTA with Colombia

Cameron Sumpter

Members of the European Parliament say that the E.U.’s free trade agreement with Colombia should not be approved as there has been little progress on human rights in the Andean nation, reports ABC.

British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Richard Howitt presented a statement signed by ten MEPs saying that the agreement could not be signed until the Colombia’s human rights record improves.

Negotiations for the FTA ended in May, and the agreement is now in a process of legal review and translation into the Union’s 23 official languages. Following this stage the FTA will need to be approved by both the European Parliament and the Colombian Congress.

The FTA includes a clause which provides for the pact’s suspension in the event of a “flagrant” violation of human rights.

Howitt said that shortly before taking office this year President Juan Manuel Santos met with a group of MEPs and vowed to improve respect for human rights in Colombia, but that this has not taken place.

Howitt said that on Tuesday a group of human rights organizations presented an outline of the present situation in Colombia to the European Parliament, and reported said that murders and coercion in which "the police are involved" persist in Colombia.

"In Colombia there has been a change in government, but not in the pattern of violence," said Howitt.

"The president gave us assurances. However, the evidence that was brought to the European Parliament this week show that we have been disappointed," he said.

President of the United Central Workers (CUT) in Colombia, Tarcisio Mora, said that so far this year, 41 trade unionists and five indigenous leaders have been killed in the country, and there have been over 260 threats, 20 attacks, and ten attempted murders of trade unionists.

Hewitt said that it would be “unacceptable” for MEPs to sign an FTA with a country that “fails to tackle human rights abuses and ensure the rights of trade unionists.”

"The European Parliament has an obligation not to ratify the treaty before [Colombia] shows concrete progress on human rights," the British MEP said.

 source: Colombia Reports