– having regard to the draft Council decision (05432/2015),
– having regard to the draft Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, of the other part (18204/2010),
– having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Articles 207 and 209 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in conjunction with Article 218(6)(a) thereof,
– having regard to its legislative resolution of 17 December 2015 (1) on the draft decision,
– having regard to the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the EU (at the time the European Communities) which were established on 22 October 1990,
– having regard to the EU-Vietnam Framework Cooperation Agreement (FCA) which entered into force on 1 June 1996 (2),
– having regard to the announcement of 4 August 2015 by the Commission that the EU and Vietnam have reached an agreement on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) under negotiation since 26 June 2012,
– having regard to the draft recommendation by the EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly of 26 March 2015, calling on the Commission to carry out, without further delay, a human rights impact assessment in the context of the envisaged FTA with Vietnam,
– having regard to the European Union’s Multiannual Indicative Programme for Vietnam 2014-2020,
– having regard to the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue which was launched in 2003, and the 4th round of the enhanced EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue which was held in Brussels on 19 January 2015,
– having regard to the negotiations on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with Vietnam in relation to the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, which started in November 2010,
– having regard to Council Regulation (EEC) No 1440/80 of 30 May 1980 concerning the conclusion of the Cooperation Agreement between the European Economic Community and Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – member countries of the Association of the South-East Asian Nations (3), and the Protocol on the extension of the cooperation agreement between the European Community and the ASEAN to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam signed on 14 February 1997 (4),
– having regard to the Joint Communication of 18 May 2015 to Parliament and the Council entitled ‘The EU and ASEAN: a partnership with a strategic purpose’,
– having regard to the 10th ASEM Summit held in Milan on 16-17 October 2014 and the next summit to be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in 2016,
– having regard to the visit of Parliament’s delegation for relations with Southeast Asia to Vietnam in October 2013,
– having regard to the interparliamentary EP-Vietnam meeting in Hanoi on 30 October 2013,
– having regard to the visit of the Commission President José Manuel Barroso to Vietnam in August 2014,
– having regard to the visit of Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the European Union in October 2014,
– having regard to the 22nd meeting of the ASEAN-EU Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) which was held in Jakarta on 5 February 2015,
– having regard to its recent resolutions on Vietnam, in particular those of 12 July 2007 on human rights in Vietnam (5), of 22 October 2008 on democracy, human rights and the new EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (6), of 26 November 2009 on the situation in Laos and Vietnam (7), of 18 April 2013 on Vietnam, in particular freedom of expression (8), of 15 January 2014 on the future of EU-ASEAN relations (9), of 17 April 2014 on the state of play of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (10),
– having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on a Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy (11),
– having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2013 on the freedom of press and media in the world (12),
– having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 12 May 2014,
– having regard to its resolution of 8 September 2015 on ‘Human rights and technology: the impact of intrusion and surveillance systems on human rights in third countries’ (13),
– having regard to Vietnam becoming a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 28 July 1995,
– having regard to Vietnam as the founding Member of the Mekong River Commission, which was formed on 5 April 1995 to enhance cooperation for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin,
– having regard to the 26th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia on 26-28 April 2015,
– having regard to the 14th Asia Security Summit (IISS Shangri-La Dialogue) held in Singapore on 29-31 May 2015,
– having regard to the Hanoi Core Statement (HCS), Vietnam’s national strategy for implementing the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness,
– having regard to the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review on Vietnam of 9 October 2009 as well as to the recommendations of the second UPR Report on Vietnam at the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council of 20 June 2014, and Vietnam’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2014-2016,
– having regard to the recent ratification by Vietnam of the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by Vietnam, as well as the long-awaited visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in July 2014,
– having regard to this year’s commemoration of the end of the Vietnam War (40 years ago),
– having regard to Rule 99(1), second subparagraph, of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0342/2015),
A. whereas 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of EU-Vietnam relations; whereas these relations have broadened rapidly from trade and aid to a more comprehensive relationship;
B. whereas the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement aims to establish a modern, broad-based and mutually beneficial partnership, based on shared interests and principles such as equality, mutual respect, the rule of law and human rights;
C. whereas the EU is Vietnam’s biggest export market; whereas the EU together with its Member States is the largest ODA provider to Vietnam and there will be an EU budget increase for this purpose of 30 % to EUR 400 million in 2014-2020;
D. whereas the Vietnamese authorities announced the lifting of bans on foreign direct investment in 45 sectors and adopted measures to ease the business regulations in the country to sustain foreign investments;
E. whereas Vietnam over the past decades has consistently adopted a markedly pro-European approach and has been actively engaged with the EU as the ASEAN country coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations from 2012-2015 and as host of the 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU) in Hanoi from 28 March to 1 April 2015; whereas its coordinatorship was marked by a significant increase in the number and level of meetings between the EU and ASEAN; whereas Vietnam has become a member of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB);
F. whereas EU-ASEAN relations are comprehensive and cover a wide range of sectors including trade and investment, development, economics and political affairs; whereas the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action from 2012 was adopted to give a more strategic focus to the regional cooperation between EU and ASEAN in these sectors;
G. whereas the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries, including Vietnam, was finalised on 5 October 2015, creating a new trade block that encompasses 36 % of global GDP and which could have far-reaching effects on world trade;
H. whereas Vietnam has made a great achievement in attaining the MDGs, poverty reduction, economic development, social security, employment, education, and healthcare in the last two decades;
I. whereas the impact of the ‘doi moi’(renovation) policy and steps towards establishing a market economy have also led to an increase in the poverty gap; whereas protests over land and property seized by the government have increased; whereas, however, the global recession hurt Vietnamese exports, with GDP in 2014 growing at one of the slowest rates since the end of the Asian economic crisis; whereas Vietnam faces the challenge of a labour force that is growing by more than one million every year;
J. whereas Article 1(1) of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement confirms the commitment to the general principles of international law and lays down ‘respect for democratic principles and human rights’ as an essential element of the agreement, underpinning the internal and international policies of both Parties; whereas cases of human rights activists being arrested in circumstances that are far from transparent still occur, and whereas the next Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, scheduled for January 2016, will be the true testing ground for measuring real respect for democratic principles in Vietnam;
K. whereas restrictions in Vietnam on freedom of expression both online and offline, freedom of the press and media, access to information, freedom of assembly and association as well as freedom of religion, as reported by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, remain a serious concern;
L. whereas Vietnam is a valued partner for the EU in the climate change negotiations and has pledged to reduce emissions by 8 to 10 per cent compared to 2010 and to reduce energy consumption per GDP by 1 to 1,5 per cent per year in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015;
M. whereas a number of European citizens are of Vietnamese descent owing to historical ties and whereas the Czech Republic has recognised its citizens of Vietnamese descent as an ethnic minority;
N. whereas a recent escalation in tension has arisen between China and neighbouring countries in the South China Sea, including Vietnam, as a result of unilateral actions taken in contested areas in the South China Sea, which are not in line with international law; whereas the escalation of territorial disputes in the region has implications for global affairs and represents a serious threat to peace, security, stability and international trade; whereas resolving these tensions constitutes a major strategic interest for the EU, in view of maintaining global security as well as securing stability in major maritime routes in the South China Sea that are vital to EU trade; whereas Vietnam officially supports the legal submission by the Philippines to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague of 16 March 2015 on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS);
O. whereas Vietnam has simultaneously enhanced strategic, security and energy cooperation with its Asian neighbours and is reinforcing its bilateral ties with key international players such as the US and Russia given the resurgent tensions in the South China Sea;
P. whereas Vietnam remains heavily contaminated by the explosive remnants of the Vietnam War, and people and the environment are still suffering from the effects of some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange (dioxin) that was sprayed;
1. Welcomes the conclusion of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Vietnam underlining the major strategic importance held by Vietnam as a crucial partner of the EU in South East Asia and ASEAN; stresses that the Agreement defines the future relations in a broad spectrum, to further enhance the cooperation on global and regional challenges, such as good governance and the fight against corruption, economic and social progress taking into account the principle of sustainable development, disarmament and weapons of mass destruction, and the fight against terrorism; calls on the governments and parliaments of the Member States to speed up the ratification process in order to ensure that the agreement can enter into force;
2. Hopes that the EU and Vietnam will both benefit economically from the ratification of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; highlights the potential impact of a future agreement on trade and investment on job creation and poverty reduction; welcomes the economic and financial reforms undertaken by the Vietnamese authorities to boost Vietnam’s further integration into the world economy and calls for Vietnam to continue such reforms; calls upon the Vietnamese Government and the EU to continue economic, trade and new technology cooperation in multilateral fora; welcomes the near doubling of Vietnamese GDP per capita since 2010;
3. Stresses the importance of Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreements in EU-ASEAN relations; believes that EU-ASEAN cooperation could be strengthened in various areas such as financial sector development, transparency and the coordination of macro-economic policies;
4. Calls on the Member States, in an effort to achieve policy coherence, to align the individual goals of their respective cooperation on development as much as possible with the goals set out in the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement;
5. Welcomes the early implementation of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, while the ratification process is ongoing, in the fields of trade, human rights, migration, regional security, energy, science and technology;
6. Stresses the importance of establishing clear benchmarks and binding deadlines for the implementation of Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement;
7. Welcomes the articles in the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which refer to joint commitment and cooperation on human rights; expresses its hope that the mutually agreed respect for democratic principles and human rights will further foster the longstanding dialogue with the Vietnamese Government on promoting in particular, freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion as enshrined in Article 69 of Vietnam’s Constitution and in Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
8. Stresses the enabling, creating and catalysing potential of the open internet and ICTs for community building, civil society, and global economic, social, scientific, cultural and political development; emphasises therefore the importance of unrestricted access to the free and open internet, both from an economic, social and human rights perspective;
9. Welcomes the decision of the Vietnamese authorities to lift the visa regime for citizens of five European countries and believes that this decision will stimulate stronger cooperation in the tourism sector;
10. Welcomes the announcement by the Prime Minister of Vietnam of a ‘master plan’ for implementing the recommendations of the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), as well as the judicial reform strategy that should be concluded by 2020;
11. Welcomes the EU ODA budget increase for Vietnam to EUR 400 million in 2014-2020; urges the Commission to invest in increasing the visibility of EU activities in and support to Vietnam to maximise the strategic potential of these resources;
12. Encourages the EU to continue support for Vietnam’s capacity development in promoting respect for good governance and the rule of law and welcomes the focus of EU cooperation on, inter alia, reforms of public administration, including on taxation, which is key for ensuring the maximisation of internal revenue generation capabilities and combating tax evasion and corruption, science and technology, transport, and urban and regional planning and development;
13. Calls on Parliament and the Commission to evaluate in close consultation any human rights abuses in order to ensure the proper democratic oversight of the implementation of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; calls on the Commission to ensure the simultaneous, timely and appropriate transmission of relevant documents to Parliament;
14. Welcomes the conclusion of the negotiations on the FTA, strongly believes that the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the FTA between the EU and Vietnam need to contribute to the strengthening of human rights in Vietnam;
15. Commends the inclusion in the future FTA of a chapter on trade and sustainable development, commitments to the core labour standards and Conventions of the ILO, respect for fundamental workers’ rights by both parties, commitments which will support the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources with particular attention to corporate social responsibility and fair and ethical trading schemes;
16. Calls on the Vice President/High Representative to live up to the expectations raised by the new agreement and to ensure that the policies the EU and its Member States pursue in the context of the implementation of the PCA and the future FTA with Vietnam help advance the respect for human rights, the rule of law and good governance; calls for capacity building to enhance the settlement of complaints by affected individuals and communities in the context of Article 35 of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; calls on the Vietnamese Government to strengthen the involvement of civil society through the participation of associations and NGOs in the country’s political, economic and social development;
17. Calls on the Vietnamese Government to make concrete progress on the implementation of the UNHRC UPR recommendations, starting with the creation of an independent national human rights institution; urges the Commission to provide Vietnam with the necessary capacity building support; welcomes EU funding via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and urges that these initiatives be continued in order to support the government’s efforts;
18. Calls on the 12th Vietnamese Communist Party Congress in view of the 2016 elections, to allow for the enhanced participation of citizens in the democratic functioning of the state, notably by allowing the creation of opposition parties, civil society movements and NGOs;
19. Deplores the fact that more than 500 prisoners are estimated to be on death row; calls on the Vietnamese Government to establish an immediate moratorium on executions and to pass appropriate legislation abolishing capital punishment, and while welcoming openings in the system, still regrets the detention of human rights activists; welcomes in this respect the government’s readiness to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death and calls on the government to be transparent about whether executions still take place and if so, on the basis of what charges;
20. Recalls the importance of EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue as a key instrument to be used in an efficient and pragmatic manner to accompany and encourage Vietnam in the implementation of the necessary reforms;
21. Urges the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court;
22. Takes note that the garment and textile industry, which employs more than two million workers, is Vietnam’s largest export sector, and is concerned about the lack of mechanisms available for workers to defend their rights; highlights the positive signal that would be sent were the Vietnamese authorities to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organise and Convention No 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining;
23. Calls on the authorities to refrain from suppression of peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association; urges, in this context, the revision of the Criminal Code, particularly Articles 79, 87, 88 and 258 thereof; notes the amnesty granted recently to more than 18 000 prisoners and regrets that political prisoners were not included; remains concerned about some 60 prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, as well as land rights activists, workers and environmental activists held in Vietnamese prisons sentenced in summary trials of various kinds for offences concerning, above all, freedom of speech and crimes against the state, and calls for their release; encourages the reforms of the criminal justice system in particular the criminal procedure code including the clauses that criminalise peaceful activities on the grounds of national security; calls on the authorities to establish an independent criminal justice system;
24. Calls for the respect of freedom of religion and an end to discrimination and repression of ethnic and religious minorities, including harassments, surveillance, intimidation, detention, house arrest, physical assaults and travel bans against Christians, Buddhists, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai, in particular the persecution of religious communities such as the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, as well as Montagnard Christians and Khmer Krom Buddhists; urges the implementation of reforms to improve the socio-economic conditions of ethnic and religious minorities; calls for a review of the legislation which regulates registration of religious groups; recalls the tragic fate of Venerable Thich Quang Do, a 87 year-old Buddhist dissident, who has been under house arrest at his monastery for over 30 years without charge and reiterates the call for his release;
25. Calls for an urgent reform of the justice system to ensure international fair trial standards, as provided for in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
26. Expresses concern about Vietnam being one of the major source countries for victims of human trafficking, and about reports of large numbers of children, especially boys who are not protected by the law against sexual abuse, falling victim to child prostitution, trafficking or maltreatment; urges Vietnam to develop strong and effective child protection laws that protect all children regardless of their gender; calls on the Commission to support Vietnam in strengthening its capacities in the field of migration policies and the fight against human trafficking and organised crime, including in the context of its labour and migration policies; is equally concerned about reports on the exploitation of Vietnamese victims of human trafficking, including minors, in the Member States; calls on the Commission to urgently ensure that key protection provisions set out in the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings are fully implemented; encourages the Government of Vietnam and the Commission to consider the establishment of a subcommittee or specialised working group on human trafficking under the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement;
27. Stresses the socio-economic challenges that Vietnam is facing with its young population and increasing internal migration to cities;
28. Welcomes the adoption of the 2013 amended land law but remains seriously concerned by abuses of property rights, forced evictions and state confiscation of land for development projects, which lead to the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of farmers; appeals to the government to stop land grabbing and to set up adequate complaints mechanisms;
29. Welcomes the extensive legal commitments by the Vietnamese authorities in promoting gender equity and combating discrimination, but expresses concern that domestic violence, trafficking of women and children, the growing problem of HIV/AIDS among women, violations of sexual and reproductive rights remain serious problems; urges the Vietnamese Government to continue to reform its civil registry and end the discriminatory practices that are sometimes due to the peculiarities of the ‘Hộ khẩu’ (family register), which blocks many families, and particularly children, from being registered and thus having access to education and social services;
30. Commends Vietnam for its leading role in Asia on the development of LGBTI rights, notably the recently adopted law on marriage and family which allows same-sex wedding ceremonies;
31. Shares the Vietnamese Government’s concerns that corruption represents one of Vietnam’s main challenges; calls for a closer examination of situations where citizens who denounce corruption are targeted by the authorities; urges the Vietnamese authorities to thoroughly investigate the abuses made against journalists, bloggers and whistle-blowers; regrets too the improper use by the Vietnamese Government of Article 258 of the Penal Code concerning ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ – which can result in up to seven years imprisonment; notes that only very few cases have been prosecuted successfully despite the Anti-Corruption Law and appeals to the government to enhance its implementation;
32. Calls on the Vietnamese authorities to put in place greater anti-corruption efforts with a view to sending a positive signal to foreign investors; notes that the weak legal infrastructure and the corruption system lead to financial unpredictability and pose a serious obstacle for investment and business operations;
33. Expresses serious concern over environmental damage in Vietnam, in particular, pollution, deforestation and unsustainable mining activities that destroy whole regions, waterways and disrupt the way of life of local communities as well as activities of Vietnamese companies abroad which contribute to environmental degradation and land grabbing;
34. Urges the Vietnamese Government to introduce measures to guarantee the effective enforcement of legislation to protect the environment and biodiversity particularly from the negative effects of deforestation and the extraction of raw materials with clear, time-bound and result-based targets in each of the above areas; calls on the Commission to provide the necessary capacity-building support for this purpose;
35. Stresses the need for the Mekong River Commission to carry out thorough prior consultations and to make comprehensive environmental, fisheries, livelihoods and cross-border impact assessments of hydropower development plans in the mainstream of the Mekong River;
36. Takes note that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has adopted a climate change adaptation strategy; points out that the country is engaged in developing biomass and solar energy and welcomes the strong focus of the EU aid package (2014-2020) on sustainable energy development;
37. Calls on the Commission and the Member States, in view of the health and environmental legacy of the Vietnam War, to consider setting up a fund to support victims and war veterans, and also to step up action through the dispatch of specialist missions to decontaminate harmful substances and demine areas which even now, 40 years after the conflict has ended, continue to claim victims;
38. Calls on the government to reconsider its decision to build and operate Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant located in Ninh;
39. Welcomes the fact that Vietnam has taken specific measures to develop knowledge and research on science and technology, to address the weaknesses in higher education, to attract overseas Vietnamese and to cooperate with European and US academic institutions to help in this process;
40. Calls on China and the neighbouring countries concerned including Vietnam to intensify efforts to defuse tension in the contested area in the South China Sea; considers that the situation risks jeopardising major EU interests in the region, including in terms of global security and the freedom of navigation of major maritime routes that are vital for EU trade; stresses the need to address the disputes peacefully, through confidence building, bilateral and regional discussions and on the basis of the international law including the law of the sea and mediation by impartial international bodies such as UNCLOS; recalls the importance of building cooperative solutions that include all parties; urges the Commission and Vice-President/High Representative to actively monitor the situation and support a solution to the dispute in accordance with international law; welcomes the joint statement of the Chinese and Vietnamese leaders in April 2015 pledging a peaceful resolution to the island disputes;
41. Welcomes the role played by ASEAN to peacefully managing the disputes in particular by seeking to set up a regional code of conduct;
42. Calls for an enhancement of parliamentary cooperation and the role of Parliament and the inter-parliamentary meetings as means to monitor the implementation of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement;
43. Considers the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Vietnam as an opportunity for the EU to reinforce its positioning in Asia and play a greater role in the region; stresses that this agreement is also a chance for the EU to foster its objectives of peace, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, maritime safety and resource sharing;
44. Stresses that, according to Article 218(10) TFEU, Parliament must be immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure concerning the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement; insists that this should include providing Parliament with extensive written information on the objectives pursued by EU actions and positions, in particular on the evolution in the situation of human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law in the country; stresses, furthermore, the fundamental role played by EU Delegation Focal Points in the monitoring of human rights in the country;
45. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and the National Assembly of Vietnam.
(1) Texts adopted of that date, P8_TA(2015)0467.
(2) OJ L 136, 7.6.1996, p. 28.
(3) OJ L 144, 10.6.1980, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 117, 5.5.1999, p. 31.
(5) OJ C 175 E, 10.7.2008, p. 615.
(6) OJ C 15 E, 21.1.2010, p. 58.
(7) OJ C 285 E, 21.10.2010, p. 76.
(8) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0189.
(9) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0022.
(10) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0458.
(11) Textes adoptés de cette date, P7_TA(2012)0470.
(12) Textes adoptés de cette date, P7_TA(2013)0274.
(13) Textes adoptés de cette date, P8_TA(2015)0288.
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