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2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 110 E/23

As a result the Commission has used this study as a basis to identify comparative approaches by other
VAT/goods and services tax (GST) systems and in particular it has explored with partners in the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forum whether an international
approach to the treatment of cross border financial activity could be found.

No specific discussions have taken place in the VAT Committee or within the Council on this matter. The
Commission has identified this area as one which needs to be addressed under the New VAT Strategy (2)
which was launched in June 2000. It has not, however, been identified as a priority issue and no proposals
are anticipated in the immediate future.

The Union VAT Committee is composed of representatives from all Member States. Their role is to discuss
questions of interpretation of current VAT law. The next meeting will be in late November 2002 and the
Commission will send the Honourable Member a copy of the Agenda when it is finalised.

(2) COM(2000) 348 final.

(2003/C 110 E/022) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1764/02

by Olivier Dupuis (NI) to the Commission

(19 June 2002)

Subject: Syria

On 29 May Mr Riad Turk, a Syrian dissident who has spent seventeen years in jail for his beliefs, appeared
before the State Security Court in Damascus (a special court that was set up in the early 1960s under the
state of emergency act, and whose authority is disputed) to answer charges of ‘trying to change the
constitution by unlawful means’, of ‘undermining the morale and image of the nation’ and of other crimes
of opinion. Like Mr Turk, any other dissidents, intellectuals and businessmen have been arrested and
accused of criticising the Syrian dictatorship. On coming to power, Mr Bashar Al-Assad announced the
start of a process of democratisation (an announcement which met with the enthusiastic support of the
international community), but the ‘new’ regime soon showed that it had no real intention of introducing
genuine economic or political reforms. Fundamental freedoms continue to be brutally suppressed and any
initiatives that do not originate in the corridors of power are still trampled underfoot. The latest wave of
repression carried out by this hereditary dictatorship resulted in the arrest of Mr Turk and of nine other
people who had criticised the government.

What initiatives has the Commission taken or does it intend to take to secure the immediate release of
Mr Turk and the other political opponents who have been arrested? Does the Commission not believe that
the ‘honeymoon period’ that the international community has accorded Bashar Al-Assad is no longer
justified and that the European Union should take note that the promises made by Mr Al-Assad were
nothing more than a web of lies. Lastly, does the Commission not believe that the circumstances merit its
sending a clear signal to the authorities in Damascus by putting the EU-Syria association agreement
negotiations on hold indefinitely?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(12 July 2002)

The Commission participates fully in the Union’s endeavours to support human rights in Syria. Our aim is
to establish a constructive dialogue with the Syrian authorities on human rights issues on the basis of
principles expressed in the Barcelona Declaration. In this regard, Union Troika demarches were made after
the arrests of opposition personalities, including Mr Al-Turk, in August/September 2001, and after the
convictions of the two Members of Parliament, Mr. Al-Homsi and Mr Riad Seif in March/April 2002.
C 110 E/24 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.2003

Through the Commission’s Delegation in Damascus, the Commission also participates in the Union
observation of trials. We regret that recently Union observers have on some occasions been excluded from
the trial against Mr Al-Turk. While the Commission welcomes the opportunity to observe trials in Syria, it
also realises that the mere presence of observers at trials must not become a substitute for the fairness of
court procedures. The Commission, therefore, through its Delegation in Syria, will continue together with
Member States Embassies, to follow as closely as possible the trial against Mr Al-Turk.

The Commission will also continue to raise its concerns, regarding both the general human rights situation
and individual cases, with the Syrian authorities and will call upon Syria to respect freedom of expression
and of association in line with the Barcelona Declaration (of 27 and 28 November 1995).

Regarding the negotiations of an Association Agreement, the Commission continues to believe that a
dialogue on human rights will be more effective in the framework of a contractual relationship such as
foreseen in the Association Agreements within the Barcelona Process. The Agreement, which includes
provisions on free trade, cooperation and political dialogue along with the vital clause on human rights
and democratisation, will constitute an important instrument for opening and democratisation of Syrian

(2003/C 110 E/023) WRITTEN QUESTION E-1796/02

by Eurig Wyn (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(24 June 2002)

Subject: The safety of Moluccan Christians

The recent massacre of Christians in the village of Soya, Ambon, Indonesia has distressed and appalled
many members of my constituency.

On 26 April 2002, Jafar Umar Thalib, leader of the Laskar Jihad publicly rejected the Malino peace
agreement (which was meant to end the fighting between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas) and
said that the Muslims would destroy all Christians in Ambon. The evidence indicates that the Laskar Jihad
carried out the massacre.

What is the Commission’s stance regarding this issue?

Does the Commission believe that the Laskar Jihad and any other non-local fighters should be expelled
from the Moluccas, Sulawesi and West Papua?

Does the Commission believe that Jafar Umar Thalib should be prosecuted?

Does the Commission agree that the 3000 or more Moluccan Christians forced to convert to Islam in
Halmehera, Bacan, Buru and the Seram islands by Muslim militants should be evacuated to a place of

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

(15 July 2002)

The Commission’s Delegation in Jakarta, together with the diplomatic missions of the Member States,
closely follows human rights developments throughout Indonesia and participates in all Union démarches
to draw attention to concerns regarding human rights issues in Indonesia. The Commission shares the
stated position of the Union, firmly supporting Indonesia’s territorial integrity, while encouraging the
Government to make urgent efforts to address and resolve peacefully Indonesia’s internal conflicts, whether
separatist or sectarian in character. Like the majority of the international community, the Commission
considers that these internal conflicts are primarily the responsibility of Indonesia, and should be addressed
first and foremost by the Indonesian Government, and by civil society organisations, the religious
communities and other institutions in peaceful dialogue, within the rule of law, and respecting human
rights without favour to any particular group.