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9. 10.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 310/49

Answer given by Mr Pinheiro on behalf of the Commission

(22 April 1998)

The International commission of inquiry to investigate arms trafficking to former Rwandan government forces in
the Great Lakes region, established by the United Nations security Council (UNSC) resolution 1013 (1995),
accomplished its work in late 1996 and submitted a report, which was completed by information the United
Nations (UN) secretariat received from governments during 1997. At a UNSC briefing on 22 December 1997, the
UN secretary general special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mohamed Sahnoun, advocated a resumption of
the work of the commission of inquiry. Various members of the UNSC, which is now considering reactivating
the commission, supported the proposal. The decision to resume the inquiry as well as the determination of its
mandate, including its geographical scope, falls under the competence of the UNSC.

As regards the Commission’s position in the framework of the common foreign and security policy of the
Community, the Commission has repeatedly expressed concern about the violence in Rwanda and Burundi as
well as about the presence of various armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is true
that to a certain extent, the arms trade has fuelled the violent conflicts in the Great Lakes region. However, in the
absence of a regional security agreement or a regional arms embargo imposed by the United Nations, an inquiry
into the trade of weapons in the Great Lakes region would encounter serious difficulties. Many of the arms
deliveries in the Great Lakes go to governments, which are not subject to any international restriction in arms
trade. These governments are likely to object to any investigation with no legal justification in international law.

The only existing international arms embargo is that imposed on the former Rwandan government forces
ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), which are but one of the many armed factions in the region. The embargo
imposed on Burundi by eight countries of the Great Lakes region, following the July 1996 coup d’état in
Bujumbura, has not been followed by a UN embargo. Likewise, the Rwandan government’s obligation to notify
to the UN sanctions committee any procurement of weapons and military material, decided by UNSC Resolution
1011 (1995), has been suspended since September 1996.

The Commission supports any realistic effort to curb arms deliveries to the Great Lakes region. However, such
efforts need a sound legal basis and have to take into account the legitimate right of governments to defend
themselves against armed insurgency. A regional arms embargo would only be a useful measure if it was
properly implemented and combined with a regional security agreement among the states of the Great Lakes
region, including mutual guarantees for border security. Since there are no such agreements, nor any initiatives in
that direction, the resumption of the commission of inquiry or the deployment of UN or Organisation of African
unity (OAU) observers on the main airstrips of the Great Lakes region will have little effect in limiting the arms
trade and reducing the notorious ethnic and political violence in this region.

Finally, it is worth recalling that the genocide in Rwanda was carried out largely with agricultural instruments
like machetes and hoes, and not with military weapons. Even a strictly implemented regional arms embargo
could not prevent such excesses of ethnic violence. This underscores the importance of searching for sustainable
political solutions to the conflicts in the Great Lakes region, and the necessity to promote national reconciliation
at all levels of society.

(98/C 310/61) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0321/98

by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo (PPE) to the Commission

(17 February 1998)

Subject: EU-subsidized Prince Programme

In 1997, the Commission organized a series of meetings to inform the public about the scope and contents of the
Intergovernmental Conference and the Amsterdam Treaty.
C 310/50 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 9. 10. 98

Can the Commission provide me with a list of the Spanish MEPs who attended the meetings held in Spain with
EU funds provided under the Prince Programme?

Answer given by Mr Oreja on behalf of the Commission


(6 April 1998)

The Commission is sending the list of main events organised as part of the Information Programme for European
Citizens (Prince) direct to the Honourable Member and Parliament’s Secretariat.

However, it should point out that in some cases it has not been possible to state which Member(s) took part in
these events as requests for Members to attend had, in some cases, to go through the secretariats of the political
groups, in accordance with the cooperation procedure in force between the Commission Representation and
Parliament’s Office in Spain.

(98/C 310/62) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0325/98


by Per Gahrton (V) to the Commission
(17 February 1998)

Subject: Rules on organic farming

The USA is planning to introduce new rules for organic farming which allow irradiation, genetic engineering,
factory farming methods etc. which are not normally allowed in Europe in organic production.

What does the Commission intend to do to avoid problems in the WTO for those Member States, including
Sweden, which wish to maintain stringent standards for the classification of products as organic?

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission


(2 april 1998)

The Commission will submit, under the arrangements provided under the World trade organisation (WTO)
agreement on technical barriers to trade, comments to the United States on their proposed regulation for organic
farming.

The Community has well developed rules for the production and labelling of organic products. Council
Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on
agricultural products and foodstuffs (1), provides in Article 11 for a regime of equivalence for products imported
from third countries. This regime is managed either by the Commission (Article 11.1) or, as is currently the case
for products from the United States, by the Member States (Article 11.6). The Community requirements provide
that before organic products are imported into the Community from a third country, it should be adequately
demonstrated that the products were produced in accordance with production standards and inspection
arrangements equivalent to those applied to Community production. Similarly, the draft United States
regulations on organic farming include provision for equivalence with regard to imports of organic products
from other countries into the United States.

(1) OJ L 198, 22.7.1991.