Parliamentary question by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Commission
(13 May 2002)

Subject: Vietnam

In recent months the Vietnamese authorities have arrested or placed under "administrative" detention (under directive No 31/CP) Mr Le Chi Quang, a lawyer accused of criticising the conduct of the Vietnamese Communist Party as regards the signing by Vietnam of the Treaty on borders with the People's Republic of China on 30 December 1999 and 25 December 2000; Mr Tran Khue, a research worker, who sent a letter to Jiang Zemin when he visited Hanoi, giving his views on the aforementioned treaty; Dr Pham Hong Son, who was arrested for translating pro-democracy texts published on the website of the United States Embassy in Hanoi; Mr Nguyen Van Minh, who defended Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly; Mr Bui Minh Quoc, a journalist and poet condemned for visiting the border regions handed over by Hanoi to the People's Republic of China. The detention of these people - as well as that of many other Vietnamese democrats - confirms the deterioration of the situation in Vietnam, where, despite more favourable economic conditions, the exercise of fundamental rights is still forbidden and repressed by the authorities in Hanoi. What practical steps has the Commission taken to obtain the release of the abovementioned people? Could the Commission draw up a detailed list of the programmes it finances or co-finances whose precise aim is to establish democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental freedoms in Vietnam, and state the proportion - in financial terms - of the total value of cooperation programmes funded or co-funded by the Commission that they represent? Finally, the European Parliament has repeatedly called for the Commission to take resolute action to bring about the release of the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang and the Venerable Thich Quang Do, respectively Patriarch and Secretary-General of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. What steps has the Commission taken so far, and what results have they achieved?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(5 June 2002)

The Delegation of the Commission in Hanoi, together with the diplomatic missions of the Member States, monitors closely human rights developments in Vietnam and participates in all actions to convey the Union's concerns to the Vietnamese authorities. Human rights issues are also discussed at meetings of the EU-Vietnam Joint Commission.

The Commission is aware of the cases of Messrs. Le Chi Quang, Tran Khue, Bui Minh and Dr. Pham Hong Son. It has not yet been possible to obtain confirmation of the situation of Mr Nguyen Van Minh, but enquiries are continuing. The situations of Thich Huyen Quang, who remains under administrative detention in Nghia Hanh Pagoda, Quang Ngai Province, and Thich Quang Do, confined to Thanh Minh monastery in Ho Chi Minh City also remain of concern.

The Delegation of the Commission will continue to raise particular issues and individual cases of concern through the appropriate diplomatic channels.

The Community-Vietnam Country Strategy Paper 2002-2006 and National Indicative Programme 2002-2004, prepared in consultation with the Member States and the Government of Vietnam, was approved by the Commission on 15 May 2002. The strategy directs the Community-Vietnam co-operation programme at two focal areas: the enhancement of human development, particularly through support for integrated rural development, targeting some of the poorest provinces, and support in the field of education; and integrating Vietnam into the international economy, by assisting continued reform towards a market-oriented economy and supporting Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), together with some actions designed to alleviate the social consequences of economic reforms. Cross-cutting themes in the implementation of the Strategy will include environmental protection, culture and education, gender equality, the promotion of human rights, and good governance as an integral part of the co-operation programme.

Information on projects financed under the previous Community-Vietnam Country Strategy - which was also focused particularly on development in the poorer rural areas, health and education, as well as support for economic reform - is also provided in the new Country Strategy Paper, which is published on the External Relations web site(1). In addition to these actions under the Community-Vietnam bilateral co-operation programme, the Commission has also supported one project in Vietnam under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights.