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Interview

"It is a tremendous honour for all the 500 million citizens of Europe"

After Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU,  Dr. Alexander Spachis, Ambassador, Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to Nepal spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT. Excerpts:

What do you think is the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize award in the present context?

It is a tremendous honour for all the 500 million citizens of Europe, Member States and European Union (EU) institutions to be awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. This prize shows that even in difficult times the EU remains an inspiration for countries and people all over the world and that the international community needs a strong European Union. Overall, this is a very important message to Europe and abroad.  The European Union is something very precious, that we should cherish; this prize is a justified recognition of a unique project that works both for the benefit of its citizens and also for the good of the whole international community.

Are there some 'lessons learned' that the European Union could share with Nepal as the country is entering a new phase of political transformation?

There are very deep political motives behind the EU: it is a unique effort by more and more European states to overcome regional conflict and divisions, and to jointly forge a continent of peace and prosperity. I believe that some of the lessons learned from the EU experience could certainly apply to Nepal with its rich and diverse cultures - and indeed the South Asian region as a whole.  Our key underlying principle is that there is 'strength in diversity'.  The EU has been working closely with the Government of Nepal and other stakeholders for many years now and will continue to assist Nepal in this process of political transformation. There is also a very important role to play for key regional institutions such as SAARC, and we are working to strengthen the existing cooperation between the EU and SAARC.

Despite the economic crisis, the European Union is one of the biggest donors of the world  and one of the major development partners of Nepal. What can Nepal expect from the EU in the future?

In Europe we managed to find a way to keep peace and build mutual respect – it's called the EU project. With our development policy we want to share the benefits of our peaceful progress. EU development aid is dedicated to giving every citizen a fair chance and hope for a better future. We are active in the regions where our work is needed the most.  It is important to emphasize that the economic crisis at home should not be used as an excuse to cut aid abroad. At the moment, the EU as a whole - including the EU Delegation and the EU Member States - is the most generous donor of development assistance and humanitarian aid to Nepal. Over the last four decades of EU-Nepal cooperation there has in fact been a significant increase in the volume of aid, which will continue in the future as more of our resources are shifted towards the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Nepal has made a major progress in the democratization process in the last few years but it is yet to achieve political stability. Given EU's global recognition for its approach of reconciliation to bring long last lasting peace, don't you think Nepal too needs reconciliation to consolidate the progress achieved?

In post-conflict situations, truth and reconciliation are powerful elements of any successful peace process. Justice is an important element in reconciliation. It is vital that any Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established in Nepal does not grant amnesty to perpetrators of serious human rights abuses, because experience across the world has shown the corrosive effect that such impunity has on the rule of law, civic trust, and the likelihood of further violence. Impunity also ignores the rights of victims. We therefore urge the government and all political parties to ensure that the TRC meets the standards required by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2006 and by international law.

To what extent are the core values of the European Union (including human rights) applicable to Nepal?

The EU, together with other donors, encourages a stable system in Nepal that is based around values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The EU is highly committed to these values and works to ensure they are respected universally. Human rights in particular have been made a central aspect of our external relations: in the political dialogues the EU holds with third countries, including Nepal; through its development policy and assistance; or through its action in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. EU-Nepal political and economic relations are no different as they are guided by the fundamental principles of peace, stability, democracy, human rights and prosperity. As such, our support for a vibrant civil society is and will remain one of the key pillars of our assistance to Nepal, particularly through our thematic programme 'the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).'

Courtesy: New Spotlight

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