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Last Updated:11/19/04
Testimony of Juan J. Quintana, Counselor, Embassy of Colombia to the United States, Hearing of the House International Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, November 18, 2004

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

Hearing on "Aid to Colombia – The European Role in the Fight Against Narco-terrorism"

Washington, D.C., November 18, 2004

Statement by Mr. Juan J. Quintana, Counselor, Colombian Embassy

EUROPEAN ASSISTANCE TO COLOMBIA

I want to thank you Mr. Chairman for giving me this opportunity to address the Subcommittee with regard to European assistance to Colombia.

Let me begin by saying that Colombia has a very constructive relationship with the European Union and its member States. In the political plane, the European governments have consistently expressed support for the Colombian state in its fight against terrorism and drugs trafficking, and on several occasions they have underlined the need for the international community to contribute to Colombian efforts aimed at defeating those who are waging a war against our democratic institutions. In this context, it is noteworthy that all Colombian illegal armed groups that are listed as terrorist organizations by the State Department, that is, FARC, ELN and AUC, are currently included in the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.

Just a few weeks ago Colombians were outraged when learning that, in defiance of European legislation concerning aiding and abetting terrorist organizations, an NGO from Denmark was openly collecting donations for the FARC. We are pleased to report now that the Danish government has been very understanding and has assured us that all the required measures will be taken in order to determine the legal consequences of such an action. It is also very encouraging that there has been an impressive reaction against this type of attitude on the part of important EU member governments who have first hand knowledge of the deadly effects of terrorist acts, such as Italy, Spain and Germany. We just hope that these unacceptable actions will not go unpunished and that international public opinion does not endorse those providing any form of assistance to illegal armed groups who finance themselves by committing heinous crimes like attacks on civil population, random acts of terrorism and large-scale kidnapping and extortion, not to mention their involvement in all stages of the drugs trafficking business.

With regard to the latter, our European friends have fully accepted that the principle of shared responsibility implies that all countries are united in the fight against this and other crimes of transnational nature, and that no nation can keep fighting these scourges by itself. In this regard, let me point out that since Spain happens to be a main port of entrance to the European narcotics market, the Colombian National Police have a close day-to-day working relationship with the Spanish Police and its Guardia Civil, and that we also have developed an effective partnership with British authorities, particularly in the field of intelligence sharing.

However, the bulk of the assistance that the European countries provide to Colombia consists of Development Aid, under a set of guidelines adopted by the European Commission as part of its Strategy for Cooperation for the years 2001-2006. According to this policy paper, the main goal of EU cooperation policy is to help Colombia in its search for peace, as a necessary requirement for our nation’s long-term sustainable development. The Commission’s response to this challenge entails support for ongoing Colombian actions in the search for peace; focus in the roots and causes of the conflict; and humanitarian assistance for the victims of the conflict.

For its part, the main areas on which European cooperation projects focus are:

Economic and social development and poverty alleviation;
Alternative development;
Support for justice system reform; and
Promotion of human rights.

At the turn of the new century, Colombia and the countries of Europe agreed to further their cooperation in the fight against poverty and social inequities. These efforts now have a suitable framework with the birth of what is already known in international circles as "the Group of 24" , comprised of those countries and international organizations that attended a meeting on international assistance to Colombia convened by the United Kingdom and held in London in July of last year. At the closing of that meeting, participant governments and organizations stressed "their strong political support to the Government of Colombia and its efforts to confront the threats to democracy, growing terrorism, drugs trafficking, human rights and international humanitarian law violations, as well as the serious humanitarian crisis in the country".

As a follow up of that conference, a second Steering and Cooperation Meeting will be held in February 2005 in Cartagena, and we expect that it will be attended by representatives of all members of G-24 who, moreover, will have the opportunity to make in situ visits to several projects currently being implemented. It is expected that this meeting will bring about new commitments which will permit the design and implementation of additional projects that will benefit the population of Colombia, and the much needed economic and social development of diverse communities throughout the nation.

Mr. Chairman,

The major problems that Colombia faces are transnational in nature and require concerted responses by concerned international actors. The EU and its member states are among such actors, and Colombia values very highly the fluid political relation that it has been able to build with them, and is grateful for the assistance and cooperation it has received –and is receiving, from them.

Thank you very much.

As of November 19, 2004, this document was also available online at http://wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/108/qui111804.htm

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