While making it clear that Europe would prefer if Jamaica expands gay rights and abolish the death penalty, the European Union's (EU) new representative in Kingston insists that these would not be conditions for the island to continue to receive EU economic aid.
" ... There is no conditionality," Malgorzata Wasilewska, the head of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, said in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner.
"It never has been, and it never will be," said Wasilewska in response to questions if the EU would demand movements from Jamaica in line with the trends in Europe.
"But if in the course of our cooperation any of our values are not respected - for example, if we implement a project and during the project, there is a clear violation of human rights in the implementation - of course, we would raise that and have a conversation about it," added Wasilewska.
Over the past 40 years, the EU has provided Jamaica with official development assistance of approximately 1.2 billion euros, or J$170 billion. Some of this money has been direct budgetary support, which has helped the island meet crucial fiscal targets under its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Only last week, the EU provided a grant of 24 million euros (more than J$3 billion) to support Jamaica's Justice System Reform Programme.
Of this amount, 22 million euros was in the form of budget support, while 1 million euros will be offered to civil-society organisations, through calls for proposals to contribute to improving access to justice, with an emphasis on vulnerable groups. The remaining 1 million euros will go towards providing technical assistance, evaluation and audits, as well as communication and visibility services.
But the issue of gay rights and the death penalty, subtexts to EU-Jamaica relations, are not areas where the long-time friends see eye to eye, and there have been concerns that the 28-member bloc will use its financial might to force the island to fall in line with its position on these issues.
Most of the money the EU has given Jamaica has been grant resources for sectors such as education, human-rights awareness, security, agriculture, and rural development, but there have been concerns expressed recently as more and more Europeans start looking inwards.
Wasilewska last week admitted that the EU does not see eye to eye with Jamaica on issues such as the death penalty and LBGT rights, but said that would not impact the billions of dollars in aid provided to the island each year.
"We will continue having a dialogue on values that are important to us and they will include conversations on the death penalty and LBGT rights, on equality of rights to all citizens. I am convinced that the dialogue will be an honest and frank exchange between equals," Wasilewska told The Sunday Gleaner on the fringes of a meet-and-greet session in Kingston.
In June, all 28 EU member states reached a consensus on LGBT rights and agreed at the Council of the European Union to work against "any discrimination" against LGBT people, and to ramp up pan-European efforts on equality.
The council urges individual national governments "to consider working together with the European Commission with regard to its list of actions to advance LGBTI equality", and "to take action to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity".
Jamaica has shied away from any such commitment, with the recently introduced Charter of Rights failing to recognise same-sex unions or provide any specific protection for members of the LBGT community.
The death penalty has been abolished in all EU states and is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
Locally, parliamentarians voted in 2008 to retain the death penalty, even though no execution has taken place in decades.
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, December 11, 2016
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