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Statement: Europe and Afghanistan: Need for a Long-Term Partnership
Released by the Office of the Spokesman to the President


Europe and Afghanistan:
Need for a Long-Term Partnership

European Parliament, Strasbourg
10 May 2005


Your Excellency President Josep Borrell,
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted and honored to address this distinguished gathering, particularly as this is my first visit to the European Parliament. It gives me great confidence for the future of Afghanistan and our region to see the countries of Europe come together here in a spirit of unity and cooperation. It wasn’t long ago that the Iron Curtain divided Europe into West and East. Yet today, that curtain has been removed to reveal a mosaic, where each piece retains a distinct identity but together, form a greater entity.

Two days ago, Europe celebrated the 60th anniversary of Victory-in-Europe day, the anniversary of Europe’s new beginning. While in the past, European conflicts had global implications, today European cooperation is improving lives and is a source of admiration across the world.

As you rebuilt after the Second World War, you had security guarantees, the Marshall Plan, and an international long-term commitment. We, the people of Afghanistan, are also grateful for the international security and economic support we have received over the last three years. The European Union, in particular, has been one of the largest supporters of Afghanistan. We are grateful for your generous contributions, the commitment of troops from your nations, and the technical assistance you have provided and continue to provide. Most importantly, you show us what our region’s future could be - a future of peace, a future of unity, and a future of cooperation.

Honourable Members,

Afghanistan was one of the least developed countries, even before its invasion by the Soviet Union. Ten years of fighting the Soviet invasion, followed by more than a decade of foreign interference and factional conflict, further impoverished our country. Our infrastructure was almost totally destroyed, our communities devastated, and our state institutions crippled.
The long and dark years of suffering, however, did not dampen our aspirations to build a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. Given that opportunity in 2001, the people of Afghanistan enthusiastically began the process of rebuilding our country. Today, we have an enlightened and progressive constitution, which safeguards human rights, guarantees the equality of women and men, provides for a free-market economy, and creates a framework for responsible government.

The first Presidential Election in our history was held last October in which more than 8 million people voted. The success of the election spelled, in a graphic manner, the defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan. In particular, the massive participation by the women of Afghanistan, 42% of the turnout, demonstrated emphatically that the new era of social and political rights for women had arrived.
The presence of the International Security Assistance Force, led by Europe from the beginning, has provided us with a secure environment to exercise our political rights. With help from Europe and others in the international community, we have trained a new police force of some 50,000, along with a special force to conduct counter-narcotics operations. The new Afghan National Army, currently 20,000 strong, is increasingly taking the responsibility for supporting security across the country. We are accelerating the disarmament process, disarming both regular armed forces and illegal armed groups. More than 50,000 former combatants have been disarmed, and over 95% of the heavy weaponry has been cantoned.

Extensive reforms are also underway in other sectors, including the judiciary and administration. Our judicial system is gradually recovering in effectiveness and credibility from the damages of war. Institutions of government and the civil society are gaining increasingly in strength, giving the citizens more confidence, more services and more rights to enjoy. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission continues the important work of promoting human rights through out the country. Thanks to the open political atmosphere in Afghanistan, free press has enjoyed great development and success as demonstrated by the publication of more than 300 independent papers, more than 30 radio and 4 indepdent TV stations.

We realize that political and security developments can only be sustained with corresponding improvement in the economic area. Over the last three years, we have introduced a new currency, stabilized inflation, and enacted numerous legal and administrative reforms to simplify our customs and investment processes. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in international investment have flowed into Afghanistan. Certain industries such as the hospitality sector, banks and mobile communications have particularly benefited. Wages have increased, as has trade and commerce with countries of the region, notably Pakistan, Iran, Tajkistan, China and beyond.

Honourable Members,

Much has been done so far, but daunting challenges remain ahead. Afghanistan’s social development indicators are still dismal - we have one of the highest infant mortality and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world; and we have unacceptable levels of illiteracy, particularly among women. Sadly, these social indicators place our country at close to the bottom of the human development index, in fact, fifth from the bottom.

Terrorism has been defeated as a force, but its residues disturb our peace and tranquility. While critical steps to establish an effective government have been taken, the ability of the new institutions to provide security and help lift the population out of extreme poverty is far from adequate. Poppy cultivation and the drug economy are still afflicting our communities, and remain obstacles to Afghanistan’s stability.

Honourable Members,

The Parliamentary Elections in September will mark the culmination of the Bonn Process in Afghanistan. Yet, while we will have met all the benchmarks set out in the Bonn Agreement by the end of September, we will only be at the beginning of a long road towards achieving the vision for Afghanistan enshrined in that document. The end of the Bonn Process, therefore, must not be the end of your commitment and support to Afghanistan, but the beginning of a long-term, and more comprehensive partnership.

From Europe we need support and the assurance that Afghanistan will continue to receive assistance in a sustainable manner. In particular, as you deliberate here about the European Union’s future international commitments, I hope you will see the need for multi-year pledges of aid to Afghanistan to support our efforts at rebuilding our country.

We also need the United Nations, the United States, and others who have assisted us so far to reaffirm their commitment to partnership with Afghanistan - a partnership that is essential if Afghanistan is to achieve lasting stability, democratization and development.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you once again, on behalf of the Afghan people, for the generous support that the European Union, as one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, has provided over the last three years. The people of Afghanistan are especially grateful to your sons and daughters in uniform who are serving courageously in our country. To those who have given their lives to provide us security, we offer once again our gratitude, our prayers, and our pledge that we will never forget.


Today in Afghanistan, in a country totally isolated from the world not long ago, something very unprecedented is taking place. In true spirit of co-operation, people from all corners of the world, people of different faiths, cultures and backgrounds, are together to help secure the lives of the Afghan people, and to help rebuild our country. It is clear that, without this co-operation, Afghans would never have accomplished what we have over the past three years. Afghanistan, ladies and gentlemen, is as much in need of help today as Europe was 60 years ago. Then, a long-term commitment from your friends around the world gave you the support you needed to rebuild your lives. Today, we are asking for that same opportunity!

Thank you.

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