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EU resolution passed against sugar abuses

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on the bloc’s executive body to urgently act on an EU preferential trade scheme found to have carried high risks of human rights violations in Cambodia through land evictions for industrial sugar development.

In a January 16 resolution, EU parliamentarians called on the European Commission “to act, as a matter of urgency, on the findings of the recent human rights impact assessment of the functioning of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative in Cambodia”.

It also asks the commission to consider obligating exporters seeking to take advantage of EBA privileges “to testify that they have not evicted people from their land and homes without adequate compensation”.

The resolution is the latest missive from the EU parliament on the long-standing issue, following a similar resolution in October 2012 that called on the commission to investigate human rights abuses by EU-exporting sugar companies and withdraw trade preferences if abuses were found. In May last year, top EU officials said the situation was under “close review” but did not agree to an investigation or to withdraw preferences until certain legal conditions were met.

In response, Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International (IDI), two NGOs that have long lobbied the EU on the issue, produced their own human rights impact assessment of the scheme, which found that the EBA carried “risks of devastating human rights impacts”.

David Pred, managing associate at IDI, said yesterday that the resolution was a “clear call to action” by the only democratically elected EU body.

“We are hopeful that it will not be dismissed once again by the bureaucrats in Brussels,” he said.

EU Ambassador Jean-François Cautain said yesterday that the parliamentary resolution was “yet another strong signal that the topic is high in EU institutions”, adding that the EU had taken note of the human rights impact assessment and was considering possible responses.

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