Your Ref: POL 970439
Our Ref: FA 28/7/11.Alg.
Mr. David Andrews T.D.,
Minister for Foreign Affairs,
80 St. Stephens Green,
I refer to the Motion, copy enclosed, adopted by the Joint Committee at its meeting on 17 December 1997 which was sent to your office on 18 December.
The Joint Committee again considered the Algerian situation at its meeting on 14 January because it was greatly disturbed by the on-going atrotities in the Country and the seemingly total lack of any progress in tackling the issues at International level.
Perhaps you could let me know what you as Minister for Foreign Affairs can do on the matter and what the current situation is in relation to the appointment of Special Rapporteurs before the next meeting of the Committee on 28 January 1998.
At the recent meeting suggestions were made that Ireland and E.U. countries should be asked to impose a trade ban on Algeria and that outside intervention, under the umbrella of an International body, would be necessary to deal with the situation. Perhaps you would let me know your views on these suggestions.
Desmond J.O’Malley T.D.,
Chairman of the Joint Committee.
21 January, 1998.
10 February 1998
Mr. Desmond O’Malley TD
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs
Dear Chairman Des
I refer to your letter of 21 January and the Motion about the situation in Algeria which was adopted by the Joint Committee on 17 December.
I understand that following receipt of your letter officials of my Department discussed the situation with the Secretariat of your Committee and advised that a substantive reply would issue following the January Council of Ministers which took place on 26 January.
This meeting of the Council of Ministers adopted Conclusions (copy attached for reference) which reaffirms the strong commitment of the Union to remain engaged on the Algerian issue. The Conclusions regret that the Algerian authorities have felt unable to provide unhindered access to international organisations, NGOs and the media. The Council hoped that the Algerian authorities would feel able to accept a visit by representatives of the United Nations in the near future.
The Council in its conclusions encouraged more frequent contact between Algeria and the European Parliamentarians. I am glad to be able to inform you that a visit by a number of M.E.P.s is currently taking place. I will be in a position to inform you and the other members of your committee on the results of this visit in due course.
With regard to the Resolution passed by the Joint Committee on 17 December relating to the proposed appointment of Special Rapporteurs, this matter was raised by an EU Ministerial Troika led by the UK Minister of State, Mr. Derek Fatchett, which visited Algeria on 19-20 January. In their discussions with the Algerian authorities they were dismayed to learn that the Algerian Government was not ready to issue the invitation to the Special Rapporteurs to visit that country. The Troika expressed strong regret at this. (I am attaching a copy of the press statement issued by Minister Fatchett on that occasion).
The Council of Ministers will again discuss the Algerian situation at the end of this month when the question of Special Rapporteurs will again be revisited. The matter will also be raised during the forthcoming meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights which is scheduled to take place in Geneva next month and which will devote some of its discussion on this very topic. Depending on the progress made in the meantime the matter will also be raised during the visit of the Algerian Foreign Minister when he visits London later during the UK Presidency.
Regarding the issue of a trade ban, mentioned in your letter, this is, of course, a matter which would have to be discussed in Brussels in conjunction with the European Commission on account of the latter’s competence in this matter. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, such a question would raise particular difficulties for some member States on account of the very significant trade in Algerian gas which takes place. For this reason as well as others, I doubt whether pursuing this option would be appropriate.
You also mention the possibility of outside intervention under the umbrella of an international body. Given the views of the Algerian Government on the visits of two Rapporteurs, such intervention would not appear feasible in the current circumstances. However I would hope that meetings, such as the current visits by M.E.Ps would go some way towards addressing the information deficit.
While the spell of appalling killings which took place last month seems to have ended, at least temporarily, it is hard to see Algeria’s future other than bleak. I believe that the best way of making progress in this area is by keeping the lines of communication open with the Algerian authorities and by the process of quiet diplomacy arrive at a situation which is mutually acceptable to both sides. I wish to assure you and the other members of the Committee of my personal commitment to continue my endeavours in this context.
David Andrews TD
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Council considered the report of the Ministerial troika mission that visited Algiers from 19-20 January. It welcomed the visit as an effective expression of the deep concern of the European Union at the situation in Algeria, of the strong sympathy of the peoples of the European Union with their Algerian neighbours, and of the hope that the suffering of the Algerian people should come quickly to an end. The Council strongly reiterated its condemnation of all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate violence.
The Council reaffirmed the strong commitment of the Union to remaining engaged on this issue. The visit of the troika should be regarded as a key step towards an extensive dialogue with the Algerian Government, begun with the visit of Foreign Minister Attaf to Luxembourg in November. This dialogue has taken on a new quality and urgency. Taking forward talks on the EU-Algeria Association Agreement would be instrumental in pursuing the dialogue.
Through this intensified expression of international concern and support the Council hoped that the Algerian Government would be in a better position to engage in finding the solution to the terrorist problem.
The Council regretted that offers of humanitarian assistance have not been taken up, but agreed they remain on the table should the Algerian authorities see scope for a meaningful role for neighbourly assistance.
The Council called for greater transparency on the part of the government of Algeria about the situation, in which terrorist groups continue to perpetrate and brutal attacks on innocent civilians. The Council regretted that the Algerian authorities have felt unable to provide unhindered access for international organisations, NGOs and the media. The Council hoped that the Algerian authorities would feel able to accept a visit by Representatives of the United Nations in the near future. The Council continues to urge the Algerian authorities to reconsider these points in the light not only of the EU’s approach but also of the su which this approach has received internationally.
The strengthening of inclusive democratic institutions and of the role of the judiciary will help to isolate and undermine those who seek political change through violence. In this context the Council encouraged more frequent contact between Algerian and European parliamentarians. The forthcoming visit of the representatives of the European Parliament will be an important step in this regard.
The Council looked forward to a further meeting between the Algerian Foreign Minister and the Presidency to continue a broad dialogue. Within the scope of this dialogue, the Council reaffirmed the willingness of the Union and its Member States to discuss any concerns and proposals that the Algerian authorities might seek to bring to its attention, including the struggle against terrorism.
PRESS RELEASE: 20 JANUARY 1998
EU TROIKA MISSION TO ALGERIA: PRESS STATEMENT BY DEREK FATCHETT
The Presidency issued the following press statement made to the press by Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett at the end of the EU Troika visit to Algiers.
It is good to see the media gathered here for this Press Conference. The dramatic events in Algeria and the suffering of the Algerian people have aroused strong feelings not only here but among the people of Europe and the rest of the world. The world’s media have an essential role in covering these events, in which governments of the international community and the public at large have a keen interest. I hope that in future all journalists who wish to come here will be able to do so. Such transparency is very much in the Algerian Government’s interests.
I have come here today with my colleagues from the EU Troika and Commissioner Marin in a spirit of partnership with the people of Algeria. People across Europe have been united in their horror and their grief at the massacres in Algeria over the last few weeks.
The aim of our mission has been to continue the political dialogue between Algeria and the EU, picking up from where we left off when Foreign Minister Attaf met Luxembourg Foreign Minister Poos in November. Robin Cook agreed with Mr Attaf that our mission should discuss all matters relevant to ending the suffering of the Algerian people. That is exactly what we have done. We have listened to all the points that the Algerian Government wanted to put to us, including their concerns about terrorism.
We have also had meetings with representatives of all four opposition parties in the Parliament, the Algerian Observatory on Human Rights, the Algerian Red Crescent, and editors of the four leading newspapers in Algeria. It has been a full programme, and we are grateful to all those we have seen for the time they have taken giving us their assessment of the complex problems their country faces.
Sadly, during this short visit, we have not been able to express our sympathy for the Algerian people symbolically as well as orally, for instance by laying a wreath or visiting victims or their families. We hope that future visitors may have the chance to do so. We have repeated that the EU’s offer to help in a humanitarian way will remain on the table if the Algerian Government want our help.
My colleagues and I came to Algiers with four key objectives :
(1) to continue the current political dialogue with the Algerian Government, and to speak to the official opposition, to identify if and how Europe might help relieve the Algerian people’s suffering;
(2) to provide a public demonstration of the goodwill and fellow feeling of the people of Europe for their Algerian neighbours, and European solidarity at the terror and pain which the Algerian people are having to endure;
(3) to condemn terrorism in all its forms, wherever it is perpetrated, and to assure the Algerian Government of Europe’s determination to prevent terrorist attacks and bring terrorists to justice;
(4) to improve our understanding of the problems faced by the Algerian Government and its people so that the General Affairs Council of Foreign Ministers may have a better informed discussion on how the European Union could react to the recent violence and what it might do to help.
On all these fronts we have made progress today. The Algerian Government have understood that we had no hidden agenda here. They have taken our visit in the spirit in which it was intended: a spirit of partnership with the Algerians in which we can speak to each other frankly.
There has been a lot for us to mull over today. Our task now will be to think hard about what we have learnt and to report to our Foreign Ministers. As Presidency, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook will chair the General Affairs Council on 26 January which will consider that report.
A number of points have emerged from our discussions today. I would like to mention five:
(1) To maintain the impetus of the EU’s political dialogue with Algeria I have invited Foreign Minister Attaf to visit Britain later in our Presidency. I am delighted that he has accepted in principle.
(2) We stressed that the dialogue was an open one in which all subjects could be discussed. We registered the EU’s sympathy with the people of Algeria. The Algerian Government underlined its interest in co-operation on the economic and social fronts, and further discussion on what might be done in the area of terrorism.
(3) We also discussed human rights. We reiterated the European Union’s view that it is in Algeria’s interests to be open about the situation here. We had hoped that the Algerian Government would agree to issue an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteurs from Geneva to visit, but they were not ready to do so. We regret this.
(4) The EU intends to engage more closely with Algeria. During today’s discussions, the European Commission have made encouraging progress on plans to re-open its delegation in Algiers. Austria also has plans to re-open its mission here before assuming the Presidency of the EU in July.
(5) As part of the EU’s continuing engagement with the people of Algeria and our encouragement of a democratisation process conducted by President Zeroual, we have agreed with the Algerian Government to increase the number of exchanges between Algerian parliamentarians and their European counterparts. This will be a two-way flow. For instance, there are already plans for a delegation of woman MPs from Algeria’s National Assembly to visit Britain in February. European parliamentarians will also visit Algiers the same month.
These discussions are an important step. As Presidency, Britain looks forward to taking the political dialogue with Algeria further. I am convinced that an open partnership, with commitment from both sides, represents the best chance of success.”
Mr. Des O’Malley TD
Chairman of the Joint Committee on
28 February 1998
Our Ref: POL980035
I refer to your recent letter regarding the current situation in Algeria.
May I at the outset say how much I share with you your feelings about the tragic suffering being endured by the people of Algeria. Not only have they gone through six years of a cruel and vicious civil war but now many innocent civilians, including many thousand women and children, are being indiscriminately killed by merciless “death squads”.
Since taking office as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have given the issue of Algeria a high degree of priority and have taken a direct personal and active interest in the matter. I visited Algiers from 8 to 10 December to view the situation at first hand. While there I met with the President Zeroual and Foreign Minister Attaf as well as with several Parliamentary leaders. I expressed my solidarity with the people of Algeria at this time and offered to explore ways in which Ireland, either bilaterally or through the EU, could assist the early cessation of the violence. I also urged the Algerian Government to permit the visit of UN Human Rights experts. On my return, I reported on my visit to the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Foreign Affairs on 17 December.
In addition to taking action on a bilateral basis, I have very strongly advocated that the European Union should do all in its power to alleviate the situation in that country and have raised the issue in bilateral contacts with my colleagues, most recently in Lisbon and Copenhagen. On 12 September last, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union issued a declaration which expressed deep shock at the atrocities and voiced the hope that the local elections, which were to take place on 23 October, could show the way towards a more democratic and violence-free society.
As subsequent Ministerial meetings, further consideration has been devoted to what effective steps it might be possible to take. Following my return from my visit to Algeria I briefed the Foreign Ministers attending the European Council meeting in Luxembourg on 12 and 13 December.
Since then, a European Union Troika of Ministers under the UK Presidency visited Algeria on 19-20 January and met Government leaders, opposition members of the Algerian National Assembly, Red Crescent representatives and media leaders. As well as addressing the overall political situation, the Troika offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Algeria. The Presidency also invited the Algerian Foreign Minister to visit London for further talks in the near future. Most recently, a group of Members of the European Parliament spent several days in Algeria.
I believe that the best way to make progress in this area is to keep the lines of communication open with the Algerian authorities and, by a process of active diplomacy, to arrive at a solution which is mutually acceptable to both sides. I wish to assure you of my personal commitment to continue my endeavours in this context.
David Andrews T.D.
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Brian Hickey
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs
18 May 1998
Our Ref: POL980268
Dear Mr. Hickey,
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Andrews T.D., has asked me to acknowledge your recent letter and to thank you for notifying him of the resolution on Algeria passed by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The adoption of the resolution highlights the grave human rights situation in Algeria. Ireland has played a leading role in discussions of the Algerian tragedy at the recent session of the Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. At that meeting, Ireland advocated that a strong statement on Algeria was essential. Although the Commission on Human Rights devoted a substantial amount of time to the issues in Algeria, the outcome of its deliberations could have been more satisfactory.
As the Joint Committee is aware, the Algerian authorities have refused to cooperate with the efforts of the international community to address human rights issues and help bring an end to the appalling violence in that country. The European Union adopted a common approach towards Algeria and has been keen to promote UN involvement in making the situation more transparent. It is a matter of great regret that no progress was made in getting Algeria to accept the proposed visits by UN Special Rapporteurs.
The Union expressed its concerns about Algeria by means of a statement, of which I am enclosing a copy. Although the statement was not quite as direct as we would have wished, it sent a clear message to Algeria about the European Union’s firm commitment to human rights in Algeria. It also highlighted that the Union intends to return to this issue, both at the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly in Autumn and at the next session of the Commission.
Ireland will continue to play an active role on this issue, both within the European Union and relevant multilateral fora, and wherever possible, on a bilateral basis.
The European Union wishes to raise one particular issue under Item 3, “Organisation of the Work of the Session”. It is an issue which is of very serious concern to the Union, and one which has called into question the procedures of this Commission and therefore the effective organisation of the Commission’s work.
It is incumbent upon all Member States of the United Nations to co-operate fully and without conditions with the procedures and mechanisms of United Nations bodies. Failure to do so calls our work here into question, and makes more difficult the implementation of our primary task: the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. The EU itself takes this obligation very seriously, and acts accordingly in its relations with other Member States.
We cannot therefore remain silent when a United Nations Member State, despite best efforts offered in a spirit of friendship and co-operation, repeatedly refuses to co-operate with the special procedures of this Commission. The European Union has been in close contact throughout this session with the delegation of that Member State in order to encourage them to accept a consensual arrangement under which they would accept visits - as they have promised and as they are required to do - from the Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and on Torture. We approached these discussions in a positive spirit of full openness and transparency. But it has been impossible to reach a satisfactory outcome. We had hoped that a commitment to such a visit could have been registered in a statement by you, Mr Chairman, or that the delegation concerned would make a firm commitment of its own free will to admit the rapporteurs and to agree firm dates. Such a commitment would have gone a long way to ensuring that allegations of human rights violations would have been effectively addressed, as well as providing proof of co-operation with this Commission.
The EU accordingly regrets very much that the Government of Algeria has so far stopped short of engagement with the mechanisms of the Commission. We hope and expect that this situation will be addressed by Algeria in the very near future. The Government of Algeria needs to make substantive progress on this very soon if the concerns of the international community are to be allayed and the very serious allegations of grave human rights violations are to be dealt with. Those concerns have of course been dealt with in detail in our intervention under Item 10 of this. Commission’s agenda, and need not be repeated in a procedural Statement such as this one.
When a Member State does not co-operate with the mechanisms of the Commission, the typical procedure is for a resolution to be tabled insisting that it does so. Once the position of the Algerian Government had become clear, the European Union considered very seriously the step of tabling such a resolution. We did not in the end do so because, even now, and on the basis of our political dialogue with that country, to which we remain committed, we wish to place credence in the words of the Government of Algeria. But the EU does not regard this matter as closed. We wish to remind the Government of Algeria that it has an obligation to cooperate with the Commission’s procedures. We will therefore be watching very closely to ensure that there is movement, and we will be considering our position very carefully at the General Assembly and next year’s Commission if there has been no progress.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.