By Charles Arthur for AlterPresse (Vienna)
Vienna, 20 June 06 [AlterPresse] --- A delegation from the new Haitian parliament participated on June 19, 2006 in a discussion of European Commission development aid to Haiti at the 11th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Vienna, Austria.
The Haitian delegation, composed of three Senators and two Deputies, joined representatives of 77 other African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) states and members of the European Parliament in the week-long assembly. The series of meetings included a session with European Development Commissioner, Louis Michel.
The Belgian member of the European Parliament (MEP), Johan Van Hecke, who was head of the European Union election observation mission to Haiti earlier in 2006, opened the discussion on Haiti by asking Commissioner Michel what measures the European Commission (EC) planned to take with a view to offering the newly-elected Haitian President and his government the greatest possible degree of development assistance.
Commissioner Michel replied by stating that in order to give the new government the time and the means to pursue reforms, and so as not to interrupt the development programme, the donors’ conference in Brussels last October had decided to extend the CCI (Interim Cooperation Framework) for another year, until the end of 2007.
He remarked that EC is the most important donor, having committed nearly 300m euros. This development cooperation is, he said, concentrated on four themes: infrastructure, education, rural development, and support for democratisation and governance.
Van Hecke replied that as a result of his experience as head of the EC election observation team in Haiti in early 2006, he could confidently state that the EC’s political commitment is very much appreciated in Haiti, but he wondered, â€œWhen we will begin rebuilding this country? What are our priorities? Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure...Yes, but what about supporting democratisation? Is the new Parliament going to be supported? What about the local government elections? Will the EC support the local elections?â€
Commissioner Michel replied, â€œI can reassure you, we will support good governance - it is one of the most important new approaches of our philosophy. Yes, we want to support the new Parliament. As for the local elections, yes, we support them. We will find the finances to help the process.â€
At this point, the chair of the Assembly, Glenys Kinnock MEP, asked for contributions from the delegates, and in particular the Haitian delegation.
Head of the delegation is Evelyne Chéron, the Fanmi Lavalas Senator for the West department, who is also first secretary of the Senate. Ms Chéron said, â€œThank you for your kind words. We need election assistance as soon as possible because without these elections, constitutionality will suffer. We need a Permanent Electoral Council, and only then can we start developing infrastructure, education and rural development. These are three important axis, but as soon as possible we need social peace because, if not, violence will start again.â€
The British MEP, Fiona Hall, followed up with another question about the local government elections, pointing out their importance, not only for local democracy, but also because â€œthis further round of elections must take place so that a number of Parliamentary seats, left unfilled because of problems in the first round, are filled.â€
The delegate for the Dominican Republic stated that â€œDemocracy in Haiti will lead to economic development. The Dominican Republic wants Haiti to develop so that we can have more trade. The EU and ACP must provide rapid support to Haiti.â€
Commissioner Michel replied, â€œWe are in favour of the local government elections. The Haitian authorities do know our position and we will finance the elections. We are open to another observer mission...â€
Addressing the request from the Haitian delegation, he said, â€œWe have spent considerable sums of money to help the Haitian people. I cannot just get on the telephone and tell my people to release money for Haiti. We need projects and requests coming from the Haitian authorities. President Préval knows that he can count on us, but he must play by the rules, and the authorities must get together with the delegation in Port-au-Prince.â€
This latter point was underlined by Glenys Kinnock who said she supported the idea that the (Haitian) Parliament makes contact with the EC delegation in Haiti.
In addition to Evelyne Chéron, the Haitian delegation at the 11th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly includes Senator Evallière Beauplan, representing the PONT party in the North-West department (Beauplan served as a Fanmi Lavalas Senator 2000-2004), Senator Ricard Pierre of the OPL elected in the South-East department, and two Deputies - Sorel Jacinthe representing the Fusion party in the Chambellan district of the Grande-Anse, and Jean Marcel Lumerant representing the Alyans party in the district of Grand-Goave. [ca apr 20/06/2006 23:00]