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press release – 20th of September 2018: “Defence MEPs support Ukraine’s struggle to protect the country and its people”

A delegation of the Security and Defence Subcommittee of the European Parliament, led by its chair Anna Fotyga (ECR, PL), visited Kyiv and Eastern Ukraine 16-20 September 2018.

During the meetings with local, national and international interlocutors as well as military personnel and leaders of the Crimean Tatar community, Members assessed the security situation in Eastern Ukraine and the prospects ahead, in particular as regards the various aspects of the implementation of the Minsk agreement.

Mrs Fotyga stressed: “We have reiterated our firm condemnation of the Russian aggression and our strong support to the independence, sovereignty and unity of Ukraine and the policy of non-recognition of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula. I like to underline that a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine requires the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and thus the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We have and we will pay particular attention to the emerging security situation in the Azov Sea, where Russia started to obstruct traffic and trade with multiplied inspections of commercial vessels, including ships of EU Member States”

The delegation members underlined: “We have visited the region to gather valuable information about the security situation in Eastern Ukraine and, foremost, as a sign of our solidarity and of our constant attention and concern for the conflict-affected people. Four years after the start of hostilities in Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea, Russian aggression is ongoing and casualties occur every day. So far over 10,000 people have been killed, 24.600 injured and there are more than 1.5 million IDPs and 1 million refugees. The dire humanitarian situation has even worsened over the past months and today some 3.4 million people on both sides of the contact line remain in need of humanitarian assistance. We greatly appreciate the tireless efforts by the EU, other international actors and non-governmental organisations, to alleviate the situation.”

During the visit to Ukraine the delegation met with the leaders of the country, including leading members of the government, with MPs of the Rada, representatives of international organisations (EU Advisory Mission, OSCE monitors, UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM etc.) and civil society. Defence MEPs also undertook field visits to the areas close to the contact line in the Donbas region (Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Mayorsk, Talakivka, Avdiyivka), addressing the dire humanitarian and environmental situation.

Meetings with leaders of the country were held jointly with the MEPs of the EP Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee (PAC), which joined the 8th EU-Ukraine PAC meeting in Kiev in the same week.

The four-Member delegation, led by Anna Fotyga, the Chair of the Subcommittee, was composed of Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), Jaromir Štětina (EPP, CZ) and Arne Lietz (S&D, DE).


press release – 2nd of July 2018: “EU needs to promote climate action globally, say S&Ds

Today, the plenary of the European Parliament will debate on the Union’s climate diplomacy and tomorrow it will vote on a report by two S&D MEPs, Arne Lietz and Jo Leinen.

Socialists and Democrats are leading the fight against global warming and a just transition to a low-carbon economy, as the only way to make sure that this century the global temperature rise will be well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels is by continuing to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C, as agreed in the 2015 UN Climate Summit in Paris.

However, the EU needs the right strategy and the means to bring more countries into this global fight.

MEP Arne Lietz, who is the Parliament’s rapporteur in the foreign affairs committee, said:

“In order to implement the goals of the Paris Agreement globally, we have to strengthen the climate diplomacy capacities of the European External Action Service with regards to personal as well as financial means. This also includes empowering the EU delegations in partner countries to integrate the issue more strongly into their agenda.

“This should be reflected in the new Multiannual Financial Framework through an enforced budget line for climate diplomacy and climate action. Against this backdrop I call on the European Commission to take up the Parliament’s proposal, and to strengthen EU climate diplomacy substantially and sustainably – including in future legislative proposals.”

MEP Jo Leinen, who is the Parliament’s rapporteur in the environment committee, said:

“The EU should become a climate champion in all policy areas. The European Commission should make ratification and implementation of the Paris Agreement a condition for future trade agreements.

“Climate change can have severe negative impacts on regional stability. Rapid climate action will contribute not only to a healthier planet, but also to increased security. The EU should monitor climate change related risks in different regions of the world and improve conflict prevention strategies.

“The Climate Conference in Katowice next December will be an important moment for the EU to prove climate leadership by presenting an ambitious 2050-strategy and increased 2030-targets. A strong EU climate policy is a promising way to get other partners on board in Poland and to build a global alliance for strong climate action.”


press release – 27th of June 2018: “Freedom of religion is a fundamental right”

S&D members launch the Alevi Friendship Group of the European Parliament 

At the initiative of the S&D Group, yesterday the European Parliament held the founding meeting of the “Alevi Friendship Group”: a platform to promote cooperation between the members of the European Parliament and the Alevi, and to give this 1.5 million community more voice and visibility at the European level.

S&D vice-president Josef Weidenholzer and S&D MEP Arne Lietz, the initiators of the Alevi Friendship Group, said: “The Alevi Community stands for a peaceful, free and democratic Europe where all peoples are treated as equals. Under the banner of the rule of law, 1.5 million Alevi all over Europe come together as a vital part of our society. Today we celebrate their deep belief in European core values by founding the Alevi Friendship Group of the European Parliament.”

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Note to editors: The Alevi Community has experienced aggression from multiple actors in the past. In their country of origin – Turkey – they are actively oppressed and not accepted as an official community of faith. The multi-million strong community denounces authoritarian tendencies and embraces European democratic values such as freedom of speech and social equality for all.

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press release – 24th of April 2018: “S&Ds call on the European Commission to demand better working conditions in Bangladesh”

Five years ago, the world watched with great shock at the images of the collapsed clothing factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. The European Commission gave the government of Bangladesh a deadline to improve the working conditions and the government ignored this ‘red line’. The European Commission must now demand the government of Bangladesh to take its responsibility and ensure decent working conditions in all fast-fashion chains. The S&D Group urges the European Commission to initiate an investigation into Bangladesh’s eligibility for EU trade benefits.

Linda McAvan, chair of the development committee, stated:

“Five years on from the Rana Plaza disaster that took the lives of 1,138 people and we are slowly starting to see progress being made in higher work and safety standards for garment workers. There is still a way to go – trade unionists trying to organise collective action are often at risk, in many instances children who should be in school are still working and in an industry where 90% of employees are women, the gender pay gap remains. To address this we need to continue engaging with the garment industry and the governments to ensure that those who make our clothes have access to the basic working conditions we all take for granted.”

Agnes Jongerius, vice-chair of the employment and social affairs committee, commented:

“Decent working conditions are laid down in International Conventions. The freedom of association and collective bargaining are even human rights. The government of Bangladesh and fast-fashion chains have to take their responsibility. The profits of this industry should be equally divided. Only when the government and fast-fashion chains meet the requirements of international working conditions, living wages and respect human rights, can the withdrawal of trade benefits to the European Union be prevented.

Arne Lietz, member of foreign affairs and development committees, added:

“One year has passed since the European Parliament had adopted the initiative report on the flagship initiative in the garment sector, and the Commission hasn’t delivered yet. We expect at least little steps, like the establishment of a European Multi-Stakeholder Platform to start this year. This could be the first step to our main goal – a profound and binding European legislation on the garment supply chain.”


press release – 08th of February 2018: “S&Ds welcome the strong support of European Parliament for UNRWA”

The S&D Group strongly welcomes the resolution supporting the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as adopted by the European Parliament with an overwhelming majority today.

S&D Group Vice-President Elena Valenciano said:

“We continue to applaud and support UNRWA in its extraordinary efforts to provide vital services to millions of Palestinians who have been living as refugees for decades across the Middle East. We condemn the decision of the Trump administration to politicise humanitarian aid through the freezing of a part of its funding to the agency. We reiterate our solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugee families waiting for a just and lasting solution to the conflict. At stake is the emergency food assistance to 1,7 million and primary health care to 3 million Palestinians as well as access to education of more than 500,000 children in 702 UNRWA schools, including almost 50,000 of them in Syria. Their future cannot be destroyed for political reasons.”

S&D Group negotiator Arne Lietz said:

“We welcome the decision of the European Union and of several Member States to fast-track their pledged funding to UNRWA, and we urge other donors to follow this example. We also call for additional funding for the Agency in order to meet its short-term financial needs, and we urge the United States to honour its promises to UNRWA. However, any long-term solution to the recurrent financial shortages of the agency can only be achieved through a sustainable funding scheme in a global multilateral framework. We encourage the EU to play a leading role in the international community to establish such a mechanism in the spirit of the recommendations made by the UN Secretary-General. UNRWA is playing a crucial role in the Middle East. Undermining the agency means undermining regional stability and playing at the hands of extremists.”

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press release – 18th of July 2017: “S&Ds: The EU must deliver on the SDGs NOW!”

A European Parliament delegation from the Committee for Development Policy to the United Nations Economic and Social Council attend the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development that takes place in New York from 17 to 19 July 2017. The 2017 Summit aims to discuss progress made towards meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and review the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level. S&D MEPs Linda McAvan (UK) and Arne Lietz (DE), who participated in the Forum, called on the European Commission to develop a clear roadmap for achieving the SDGs as soon as possible.

S&D MEP Linda McAvan, EP chair of the committee on development, said:

“2015 was a milestone year for co-operation and development as 150 world leaders adopted 17 SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in the hope of ending extreme poverty, combating climate change and fighting inequality and injustice. Delivering on the SDGs is primarily a political choice. It is not only a question of money, nor is it only a question of ‘who does what’. What we need is the political will to work together to develop the right policies in order to achieve them. The EU has a key role to play in this regard. It must ‘lead by example’ in promoting development co-operation by reaffirming its commitment to fighting hunger and eradicating poverty worldwide.”

S&D MEP Arne Lietz, member of the delegation, added:

“Two years have passed since the SDGs were agreed at the UN Summit in September 2015 but we are yet to meet the expectations and deliver on our commitments. It is now high time that the Commission speeds up its efforts and presents a convincing and comprehensive concept on how it wants to achieve the SDGs in the framework of EU policies. We need to start filling the gaps! More needs to be done in most policy areas; for instance in relation to the global value chains in garment and textiles. This was clearly underlined in a session that was dedicated to this topic during the HLPF at the UN headquarters this week. The EU must get serious about the Global Goals. There’s no more time to lose! The Socialists and Democrats will keep putting pressure on the Commission to ensure that the EU delivers on ist commitments.“

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press release – 30th of march 2017: “S&D MEPs visit Bangladesh: growth and development in the garment sector”

Bangladesh has achieved a remarkable track record of economic growth with a corresponding rise in human rights development in the past decades. The garment sector, which was the focus of our visit, has played an important role in that growth and we can see that there have been improvements in both buildings and work place safety since the Rana Plaza tragedy four years ago.

The European Union is currently examining the whole issue of fairness in the garment supply chains worldwide. The ACCORD and ALLIANCE are encouraging examples of what can be achieved when companies, governments and workers pool efforts to improve standards.

The EU is a strong partner of Bangladesh, as reflected in our robust trade relations underpinned by the Everything But Arms (EBA) market access regime. The EBA has among its core values the respect for human rights and labour rights. In this context, we note that Bangladesh was mentioned under a special paragraph in the International Labour Conference (ILO) in Geneva in June 2016.   The ILO called on Bangladesh to address four issues: full alignment of respectively, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) draft law, the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA), with the UN core Labour Convention modalities for establishing trade unions and the right of trade unions to operate freely. It is important that these issues are addressed before the 18th May review of the Sustainability Compact and the June annual International Labour Conference.

Since our arrival in Dhaka, we raised this matter with the speaker of the Parliament, the Minister of Commerce, the State Minister of Labour and Employment, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the brands and labour representatives as well as the ILO. We also had the honour to be received by Her Excellency, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. We felt a  readiness and good will from all parties to engage on this issue and are hopeful that this will translate into concrete progress before the May review of the Sustainability Compact in Dhaka and the Geneva ILO conference in mid-June.

As members of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, our engagement with Bangladesh, as with other countries, is guided by our core values, where respect for human rights and labour rights – in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining – rank high. That is why the full implementation of the Sustainability Compact is so important in our view.

The S&D MEPs who took part in the visit to Bangladesh were:

  • MEP Arne Lietz, member of the committee on development (DEVE), the committee on foreign affairs (AFET) and the S&D’s co-rapporteur on the garment report
  • MEP Linda McAvan, the EP’s chair on the committee on development (DEVE)
  • MEP Norbert Neuser, the S&D’s co-ordinator on the committee on development (DEVE)
  • MEP Agnes Jongerius, member of the committee on employment and social affairs (EMPL), and the committee on international trade (INTA)

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06.01.2017 – press release: “Israel and Palestine both ready for new peace talks”

During a visit to Israel and Palestine by the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, both sides confirmed their willingness to start fresh peace talks without preconditions. The Socialists and Democrats Group MEPs participating in the Delegation, Arne Lietz (Germany) and Gilles Pargneaux (France), welcomed these statements. However, they also warned that both sides are blaming the other for not being ready to start the talks. The delegation also visited Jordan.

S&D MEP Arne Lietz described their findings:

“Israeli settlements in Palestine jeopardise the possibility of a two-state solution and peace-building process. During the visit, the UN Security Council vote last December on the illegal Israeli settlements was discussed numerous times. We welcome the result of the vote and invite Israel to follow up on the resolution. The European Parliament should also adopt a resolution on this matter soon.

“During our visit to Bethlehem the city mayor showed us the expansion of the settlements and how they are having an increasingly negative impact on the daily living conditions of Palestinians.”

S&D MEP Gilles Pargneaux added:

“We reminded our interlocutors about the Arab Peace Initiative. Prince Faisal of Jordan is considering bringing it back to the table during Jordan’s upcoming presidency of the Arab League. This could be the next step after the Paris Peace Conference taking place on 15 January.

“During the meetings in Jordan we expressed our appreciation to the country for accepting 1.2 million refugees from Syria, making it one of the biggest refugee communities in the world. We understand the burden which it places on the country and welcome that the European Union is stepping up efforts in helping the Jordanian authorities with the integration of Syrian refugees into the local job market and into their education system.”

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13.09.2016 – press release: “S&Ds: EU Trust Fund for Africa must put the people first”

European Socialists and Democrats condemn any use of the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) for financing border management and controls, underlining the need for using the total amount of development funds solely for development projects such as education, health care and infrastructure.

Following today’s adoption by the European Parliament of a resolution on the EU Trust Fund for Africa, S&D MEP and shadow rapporteur, Arne Lietz said: “Border controls only aggravate the problem; if a person in need has to flee, we must not prevent him/her from applying for asylum in Europe. Tackling the root causes of migration means putting together programmes which would fight against youth unemployment, build up a health care system and improve education, as well as strengthening civil society.”

S&D MEP and development co-ordinator, Norbert Neuser said: “The fact that trust funds are not under the scrutiny of the European Parliament is a huge problem.  Development policy can only be properly implemented if a budget is available for this purpose. The new trend for more flexibility of projects must not jeopardize long-term programmes that eventually lead to sustainable development.

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28.09.2015 – press release: „The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development creates real perspectives in the fight against poverty“

After 3 years of negotiations the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development this weekend in New York by the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, represents a historical moment in the fight against poverty, inequality and achieving sustainable development.

S&D MEPs Linda McAvan, Elly Schlein and Arne Lietz attended the UN Summit last weekend in the framework of the official European Parliament’s delegation of the development committee. They took part in various interactive dialogues, side events and bilateral meetings with high-level UN officials, civil society representatives, youth organizations, the private sector and the academia. All meetings focused on the importance of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the follow-up and the review process and financing of development. The ongoing refugee crisis and the root causes of migration were also among the issues discussed.

The Chair of the European Parliament development committee, S&D MEP Linda McAvan said: „We welcome the adoption of the Agenda 2030. Our role now is to make sure that those ambitious 17 goals are translated into concrete actions. She reiterated her call to member states to fulfil their commitment to 0.7% of GDP to Official Development Aid. „Europe needs to better coordinate its internal and external policies as well as to raise public awareness on the sustainable goals and to communicate more effectively the Agenda.“

Shadow rapporteur on European Parliament Resolution on post-2015 development agenda, S&D MEP Elly Schlein said: „We are very happy that the member states were able to adopt this ambitious agenda with all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the most innovative ones on fighting inequalities, on gender equality and on peaceful societies. Furthermore, it is important that the EU managed to speak with one single voice during the negotiations. Now we will all be ambassadors of these new goals: parliaments, NGOs, civil society organizations and citizens, we will have to monitor closely their implementation, and hold governments accountable to what they agreed to, to make sure we will reach the goals by 2030.“

S&D MEP Arne Lietz pointed out: „It is a great success that one of the central sustainable development goals focuses on good governance which is also an important corner stone for the achievement of other goals and to keep them sustainable. The SDGs will require all countries, both developed and developing, to make a major shift in their national policies including taking social and cultural rights seriously and signing the still open UN protocols on those topics.“

The next step is the implementation of the Agenda which will require a strong commitment of all actors including governments, parliaments, civil society and the private sector both inside the EU and globally. Better policy coherency is needed in order to integrate in a holistic manner the three dimensions of sustainable development social, economic and environmental. Parliaments including the European Parliament will play a critical role in the follow-up and monitoring process of the implementation of the SDGs.

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03.09.2015 – press release: „EU must step up its efforts to ensure education in humanitarian emergencies until the target of 4% by 2019 of EU humanitarian aid funding is met“

Today the Committee on Development has voted in favour of a crucial amendment tabled by S&D Group to be included in the EU budget 2016. The aim of the amendment is providing an additional €26 million to projects ensuring access to education for children in humanitarian crises.

Education in humanitarian emergencies currently receives only 1 per cent of EU humanitarian aid funding, despite the fact that it is the only way to save the future of the affected communities and children and, in many cases, also to shield them from radicalization. Our efforts, coordinated with and supported by Commissioner Christos Stylianides, aims to ensure that the 3 per cent threshold is achieved in 2016 and the target of 4 per cent by 2019.

S&D Group president, Gianni Pittella said:

„The EU´s Children of Peace initiative, born from the EU’s Nobel Prize for Peace, is an excellent example of how we can contribute to improving access to education in fragile conditions. Now the time has come for the EU to become the first international donor setting the target to spend 4 per cent of its humanitarian aid to education projects. Through this amendment our Group calls on the Commission and particularly on Commissioner Stylianides to intensify the efforts in  this direction.“

S&D DEVE rapporteur for the EU budget 2016, Arne Lietz said:

„Education is an investment in the future. It has always been considered a top priority in development cooperation. This should not be different in the field of humanitarian aid. Education must be a principal part of any humanitarian response, especially in refugee camps. Here, we must prevent a lost generation. We have taken a first step in favour of more funding for education in humanitarian crises. Now it is the time for the budget committee, and later on for the plenary, to support this initiative and ensure that education is a principal part of any humanitarian response“

S&D EP standing rapporteur for humanitarian aid, Enrique Guerrero Salom said:

„This amendment should set the basis to achieve a global commitment by international donors to allocate 4 per cent of global humanitarian aid spending to education. The final statement of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in May 2016 in Istanbul, should include a clear commitment in this regard. We continue to work in this spirit.“

The budget committee will now vote in the following weeks on this crucial issue.

read press release on www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu


24.07.2015 – joint press release with Richard Howitt, MEP: „Ukraine: More importance must be placed on human rights protection and fight against corruption“

Participating in an ad-hoc delegation of the Human Rights Committee (DROI), S&D members Richard Howitt and Arne Lietz visited the Ukrainian capital Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk in East Ukraine between 20-24 July. The delegation met with Internally Displaced People (IDP), civil society organisations, and local and central authorities, including President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk.

S&D MEP Richard Howitt, chair of the DROI delegation and S&D spokesperson for foreign affairs, stated:

„The country faces twin challenges from both conflict in the east and the crisis of managing now more than a million displaced people. Interviewing them and the local and international organisations who assist them, it is clear that the generosity which has seen the government and the people provide short-term humanitarian help to those displaced, should now be matched by international support to help enable state authorities to find durable solutions to provide homes and livelihood for those in need. There are very real concerns that the current system in place is leading to IDPs being de-registered and denied access to social benefits, prevented from the right to vote in the October local elections and subject to restrictions of their freedom of movement which see them fall prey to corruption and personal danger.  We understand the scale of the challenge is overwhelming to state authorities, and insist the European Union must be their partner in seeking solutions which are right for the country and which respect human rights for all.

„We deliberately went to the oblast region neighbouring the fighting, receiving evidence that many of those remaining in the non-government controlled areas are innocent victims who simply don’t have the means to escape and who have suffered chronic shortages of food, electricity, drinking water and medicines. We underline the need for unhindered access of humanitarian aid to these areas and call for full respect of human rights by the de facto authorities too.

„Our commitment this week has been to refuse to allow the conflict to block joint efforts for necessary progress in democratic development for Ukraine, towards full respect for human rights and European values. We will never forget the wounds of the country’s traumatised society and repeated our clear call for progress in the investigation of the tragic events that took place in Maidan square and Odessa, stressing that both processes are crucial for reconciliation. We encouraged ratification of the statute for the International Criminal Court, the setting up of an independent police complaints and investigation mechanism and asked for continuous scrutiny of all new legislation for conformity with human rights principles and law.“

S&D MEP Arne Lietz, member of the DROI and AFET Committees, added:

„Another major challenge that the country faces is widespread corruption. The government needs to take resolute action to tackle the problem. We welcome the adoption of new legislation and the establishment of related institution, but we stress the urgent need to have tangible results with the development of a track record of investigations and convictions. It is just unacceptable that impoverished IDPs who flee from the conflict areas are obliged to pay bribes at the check-points.“

read press release on www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu