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Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to visit Afghanistan

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to visit Afghanistan 4-5 September

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will visit Afghanistan on 4-5 September 2005 to signal the Commission´s support to the country’s ongoing political transition and to the reconstruction process. In Kabul, the Commissioner will meet with President Karzai and other senior representatives of the Afghan government to discuss how Afghanistan and the international community can work together to deepen and consolidate the gains achieved since the fall of the Taliban. The visit takes place ahead of historic parliamentary and provincial elections set for 18 September. The democratisation process will be an important focus of the Commissioner’s visit and she will also travel to North-East Afghanistan to actively look at election preparations and witness the activities of the EU Election Observation Mission.

“It is crucial that the international community stays engaged in Afghanistan. The country has made substantial progress towards peace and economic recovery but we must not stop here” said Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner. “The main responsibility for completing this work lies with the Afghan people and their new democratic government but they will also need continued international support. Therefore I believe we need a new ‘post-Bonn’ compact between Afghanistan and the international community, to ensure that both sides maintain their commitment for the years to come.”

Support to the electoral process

Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in over 30 years will mark the formal end of the political transition as laid out in the “Bonn Agreement” of December 2001. The international community and Afghanistan are now starting to reflect on what should follow: this could include a new agreement between Afghanistan and the international Community underlining continuing commitments from donor nations to be matched by an agreed set of objectives for the new Afghan government.

To support the election process, the EU deployed last July an Election Observation Mission, headed by the European Member of Parliament Emma Bonino[1].Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will travel with Ms Bonino to Kunduz in North-Eastern Afghanistan to look at election preparations in the provinces.

The European Union is also providing substantial financial support for the electoral process, as it did for last year’s Presidential election. The Commission is contributing €8.5 million, towards the cost of organising these elections, and EU Member States have thus far committed a further €34 million.

Reconstruction efforts

In Kabul, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will also review EU-Afghanistan relations and co-operation efforts in a range of areas including the fight against illicit drugs, which remains a major challenge to stability.

The Commission is rolling out €1 billion for reconstruction over 5 years (2002-2006), focusing mainly on institution-building, rural development, health and infrastructure, as well as providing support for de-mining, human rights and civil society.

Despite considerable progress, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world and is still facing a difficult post-conflict situation. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner wants to see for herself the impact of Commission’s assistance on the lives of the Afghan people. She therefore plans to visit Commission supported projects, including a day-centre for street children in Kabul and a training centre for midwives in Kunduz.

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