EU aid to Iran following the earthquake
Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Group of the Party of European Socialists, I wish to express our deep sympathy and solidarity with the Iranian people.
This dreadful tragedy has not only destroyed a region and a city; it has also impacted on an entire country and its people. I am very gratified – and would like to state this very clearly to Commissioner Nielson – that the Commission, but also Europe as a whole, has displayed this solidarity and responded so swiftly and effectively to the tragedy.
I also think, however, that in light of this dreadful disaster, it is especially important for Iran to show that it is united and working towards the future. My group and I myself are very concerned that in advance of the polls, pre-election disqualifications have occurred which prevent voters from making their own choice. The whole point about democracy – and Iran is very proud of its democracy – is that the voters themselves choose who they want to represent them in parliament. I very much hope that there is still an opportunity for Iran to reverse this decision and confirm to the public which candidates will be standing for election. The choice must then be the Iranian people´s. This is neither the time nor the place to get involved in a discussion about reformist versus conservative movements; I just want to make it very clear, on behalf of my group, that the public must decide. I do not think that anyone in Iran should be alarmed about letting the people choose. The Iranian people are intelligent enough to make the decision for themselves.
Secondly, I would like to pay tribute to the fact that Iran – not least in response to the initiative by a number of European foreign ministers – has signed the Additional Protocol at the International Atomic Energy Agency. I do understand the fears in some quarters in Iran and the desire to possess the latest nuclear technology. After all, some countries in the vicinity already have nuclear weapons and have established nuclear technology research programmes. I am thinking particularly of India, Pakistan and Israel. However, the region will not become more secure if even more countries have nuclear weapons. After all, we are in favour of disarmament across the board in all these countries, and I think that Iran is doing the right thing by abandoning its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and is instead developing a different, more rational and, one could argue, a European concept of security.
We will certainly be very willing to give our support to Iran in this context. I know that Iran is making very positive and constructive contributions to regional development; I know this is true of Lebanon and it also seems to be the case in Iraq. Naturally, I wish the same could be said of its stance on Israel and Palestine. As someone who is always criticising the Israeli Government, I still take the view that all countries in this region and beyond should make their contribution to peace in the Middle East.
With this in mind, I would like to conclude by reiterating my group´s solidarity with the Iranian people, but would also request and urge the Council to do more to encourage the development of democracy and human rights to their full capacity in Iran, in that country´s own interests.