Human rights must not suffer because of so-called "cultural" exceptions for homosexuality, and development aid should take the form of budgetary support, said ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Co-President Louis Michel on 16 May, at the Assembly's 21st session, held in Budapest and opened by Hungarian President Pál Schmitt.
Over the next three days, MPs from over 70 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific and Members of the European Parliament will debate democratic challenges to undemocratic régimes, especially in Côte d’Ivoire and the Arab countries, and the need to deliver development aid in the form of budgetary support.
"Recently, donors have very often rolled back their aid commitments to the countries of the south" especially at a time of economic crisis, pointed out Louis Michel, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA). At the same time, he advocated budgetary support for developing countries, be it general or sector-specific, as this is "the most suitable instrument if we want to achieve the objective of aid effectiveness."
Tribute to young people in North Africa and Middle East
Referring to the "Arab spring" unrest, Mr Michel said "the aspirations of the young people in these countries do not differ from those of young people in many ACP countries or of young Europeans, including those in Hungary". The other Co-President, Zambia's David Matongo, underlined that "poverty and unemployment not only engender mass discontent, they provide the fertile ground for political extremism".
Crises in Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar
On Côte d'Ivoire, Mr Matongo said that "it is not acceptable for leaders to want to cling to power at all costs, regardless of the impact on their people's lives and especially after they have lost elections". Mr Michel added that he expects the international community to put maximum pressure on those who came to power in Madagascar via a coup d'etat.
Democracy in progress
"For many of our countries, democracy remains a job in progress. Consolidating it requires the ability of citizens to change their leaders when they so choose", said Mr Matongo. Mr Michel added that "we cannot have different definitions of democracy", underlining that respect for human rights, including the rights of homosexuals, must be universal.
Recognizing that for some countries in Africa the issue of homosexuality is very sensitive, Mr Michel declared: "We will not accept that governments or politicians use the 'cultural' argument to justify hunting down and demonizing homosexuality". This message was received with mixed reactions by the plenary Assembly.
President of the Hungarian Republic Pál Schmitt, who formally opened the work of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, expressed satisfaction that water pollution and water management represent a priority for its current work, as this was also a key issue for the Hungarian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers.
Other agenda items include a debate with Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs on governance and democracy, the impact of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy on the ACP countries and effectiveness of development aid.
The assembly will vote on Wednesday, 18 May, on three resolutions dealing with the following subjects:
Challenges for the future of democracy and respecting constitutional order in ACP and EU countries
Report by Olle Schmidt (ALDE, SV) and François Ibovi (Republic of Congo)
Committee on Political Affairs
Debate: Tuesday, 17 May
Budgetary support as a means of delivering Official Development Assistance (ODA) in ACP countries
Report by Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D, ES) and Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Guelaye (Mauritania)
Committee on Economic Development, Finance and Trade
Debate: Monday, 16 May
Report by Bobbo Hamatoukour (Cameroon) and Christa Klass (EPP, DE)
Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment
Debate: Tuesday, 17 May