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Take a stand for human rights: do not ratify the EU Free Trade Agreement with Colombia

category national | miscellaneous | press release author Monday May 26, 2014 17:25author by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. Report this post to the editors

Christian Aid Ireland, Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha), Justice for Colombia Ireland, LASC and Trócaire are calling the Irish Parliament not to ratify an EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which could probably be voted in June this year.


Send a strong message to the Irish Parliament: do not ratify the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Christian Aid Ireland, Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha), Justice for Colombia Ireland, LASC and Trócaire are calling the Irish Parliament not to ratify an EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement which could probably be voted in June this year.


Some background on the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

This Free Trade Agreement is being negotiated since 2007; at first, it was called “Association Agreement” and it was being negotiate with the Andean Community (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia). Eventually, these negotiations led the Andean Community to split up and the EU pushed then bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Peru and Colombia. From the start, these agreements were criticised because they pushed an aggressive neoliberal agenda on services and trade; concerns have been raised on intellectual property and also, on their drive for agribusiness and mega-extractives, which coupled with open market politics, could be ruinous for Colombian small-farmers, which receive no forms of subsidies. Indeed, this FTA was modelled upon the US-Colombia FTA implemented in 2012, which drove millions of Colombians to protest in 2013 because heavily-subsidised US imports are destroying the local agricultural production. In December 2012 the European Parliament ratified the FTA with Colombia and Peru, but now national parliaments of all member states need to ratify it.

Adding fuel to the Colombian conflict

The situation is particularly delicate in relation to Colombia, a country where it is hoped that negotiations currently held between the government and FARC rebels can put an end to an over 60 years conflict. At the heart of this conflict has always been the land question and massive land-grab has pushed small-farmers into political violence which has permeated all spheres of society. The humanitarian dimension of this conflict cannot be understated. According to Karol Balfe, from Christian Aid Ireland, “Colombia has more internally displaced people than anywhere else on earth with an estimated 4.9 to 5.5 million people displaced from their homes and living within the country. More than 70,000 civilians have been killed or have disappeared in Colombia in the past 20 years. The widespread and systematic human rights violations are directly linked to the extremely unequal distribution of land, power and wealth. Despite being a middle-income country, one in three Colombians lives in poverty. A recent UN study indicated that just 1% of the population owns 52% of the country’s land, which has contributed to making Colombia one of the most unequal nations on earth.”

The peace process in Colombia is at a crucial stage, as acknowledged by Hilary Daly from Trócaire: “any trade agreement which undermines the rights of small farmers will have a negative effect on peace and will undermine the process”. There is a growing consensus in the peace negotiations that the small-farmers’ economy needs to be strengthened, although “critical issues such as agrarian reform have not yet been agreed between the negotiators”. Yet, the spirit of this agreement runs contrary to this.

Trade Unionists under fire

It is also important to bear in mind that business in Colombia takes place in precarious conditions for workers and they are likely to deteriorate with this FTA, as it already happened with the US-Colombia FTA, in spite of a toothless Labour Action Plan which remains tokenistic at best, and failed spectacularly to improve the conditions of workers and the precarious human rights situation of Colombian trade unionists. Last year, 60% of all trade unionists murdered in the world were killed in Colombia (nearly 3,000 trade unionists have been killed since 1986), and the situation is not getting any better. “During my recent 2 week visit to Colombia representing Justice for Colombia Ireland in an Irish-Asturias delegation” recounts Mick Dowling, a retired SIPTU trade unionist, “we visited the lovely tourist town of Cartagena, where we had the honour to meet the general secretary of CUT in the region, Luis Alberto Plazas Vélez. In recent days we get the awful news of an attempt on the life of our good friend and colleague. It is lucky he had a bodyguard to protect him, without him he would now more than likely be dead. This practice of assassination in Colombia is the rule rather than the exception for active trade unionists who are just trying to represent their members in the struggle for a better life”.

Send a strong message: we do not want this agreement

13 countries of the EU have already ratified the agreement (Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, UK), yet there are 14 more countries which could do a difference. We need to send a clear message that it should not be acceptable to proceed with such an agreement in spite of the negative consequences it may have for millions. We need a Europe with a clear commitment to human rights which supports unequivocally the Colombian peace process through concrete actions; Ireland should show leadership in this process because of its own history. We need trade which works for the majority of people in Colombia and Europe, which is sustainable and respectful of the environment and the coming generations. For this two powerful reasons, help us send a strong message to Irish parliamentarians: do not ratify the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement!

José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
26th May, 2014

Sign up the petition at:

Related Link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/tds-and-senators-...ombia
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