Time for EU's "softly, softly" approach to the Middle East to end

ALDE MEPs expressed anger and frustration today at the weak EU response to the crisis across Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. ALDE are calling for decisive and immediate action including sanctions and a ban on arms exports.

Guy Verhfostadt said “I have heard appalling stories directly from three witnesses on Bahrain, Yemen and Syria including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.which make me very angry when I hear that the European Union and its Member States have no coherent or substantive strategy to support the democracy movements in their hour of need We need to stop sending weak and empty messages to these regimes and start showing some decisive action. In particular the EU should take the following steps immediately:

• Call for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and for the UN to send a mission to the three countries in order to hold the regimes accountable for human rights violations
• Implement an immediate ban on arms exports from all EU Member States to those three countries
• Introduce targeted sanctions such as freezing assets and a travel ban ”

Edward McMillan-Scott (LibDem, UK) Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for democracy and human rights added, “In Bahrain it appears that at least 23 have been killed by the regime; in Syria at least 132 and in Yemen at least 63. The European Parliament has closely followed events there and in North Africa, with many of us visiting the region. Our resolutions on Egypt, Libya and Tunisia were full of serious proposals. The response from Commission and Council reflected hardly any of them. This is a parody of democracy, not a partnership for democracy.”

Anneli Jaatteenmaki, (Keskusta, Finland ) ALDE Shadow rapporteur for the Gulf States continued, “The EU and its Member States will have to seriously review their policies on Bahrain, Syria and Yemen and stand ready to help if these countries decide to pursue democratic reform agendas. Sanctions cannot be excluded as a future scenario if the human rights violations continue.”

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, ALDE deputy leader and Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee concluded : “People have taken to the streets because there were no other channels available to them. They are rightfully demanding more rights and the European Union must support these efforts wholeheartedly. Comprehensive reforms must now become an absolute imperative for the governments of Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. It is also of the utmost importance that stability in the region is restored as soon as possible. This is especially true for Yemen, which would otherwise be at severe risk of becoming a failed state. Just across the Gulf of Aden, Somalia proves that this is a risk the EU must not run.”

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