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Cascais, Portugal
04-05 February 2013

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Council

SI Council meeting in Portugal

04-05 February 2013

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The Socialist International held its Council meeting in Cascais, Portugal, on Monday 4 – Tuesday 5 February, the first since the XXIV Congress that took place in Cape Town, South Africa, last September. The event was hosted by the SI member party in that country, the Portuguese Socialist Party.

Under the main heading “The World Economy: Our Vision for Growth, Jobs and Sustainable Development” the Council brought together close to 300 participants from 100 delegations, including leaders and representatives from SI member parties worldwide, as well as specially invited guests. (List of participants).

SI President George Papandreou made an introductory speech thanking the host party for their warm welcome and hospitality. Speaking on the main theme of the Council he emphasised that solidarity and dialogue was necessary, particularly in light of current global crises. He noted that a conservative Europe, one that is becoming introverted, fearful, nationalistic, will be a Europe doomed to failure; a progressive Europe is needed to eradicate the negative effects of conservatism and to overcome austerity. On worldwide issues he highlighted the relevance of the SI in today’s global challenges, adding that new policies are required ‘in a world with an entirely new global balance of power’.

In an opening statement António José Seguro, the host party’s leader and an SI Vice-President, welcomed participants, expressing his pleasure in hosting the event and bringing the SI family to Portugal. He said that the economic debate at the Council was crucial as it is so interrelated with the people. Socialism instills hope, ideals, ideas for peace, dignity and solidarity and a more developed world. The meeting of the Council, he continued, was designed to advance common ground on this debate, seeking to reinforce the priorities of the majority of our citizens. Recalling an African proverb, he described ‘When you want to go fast – go alone, when you want to go far – go in company.' It is only this way, he concluded, that we can move forward, in solidarity, and by building a social fraternity that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

On the different aspects of the main theme: “The Eurozone Crisis: From here, which way forward?” and “Emerging and Developing Economies and Multilateral Institutions in an ‘Out of Crisis’ Strategy”, the Council heard different perspectives and views from representatives of SI member parties and guests from continents and regions worldwide: from European parties both within and outside the Eurozone; from each country of the BRICS, including specially invited key-note speakers from the Indian National Congress Party and from China; from emerging economies and developing countries; and from the United States, Harvard Professor Richard Parker, Political Director of the Democratic National Committee (speech). (List of Speakers)

A Declaration on the Global Economy was adopted that underscored the evaluations of the Council and which was based on five fundamental principles of the Socialist International. The first, solidarity, calling for a new international accord to ensure global trade is fair for all. The second, equality, requiring governments’ global coordination for equality between, and among nations, across class, race, and gender, and to fairly distribute private wealth and reduce wage inequality in all countries. The third, a new internationalism, proposing the creation of a new global set of agreements, the restructuring of the WTO to recycle trading profits from severe wage differentials toward authentic global income security, and a new IMF and global currency regime built on the multilateral synthetic “bancor” system conceived by Keynes himself. The fourth, transparency, to ensure corruption is reduced, with new multilateral treaties on transfer pricing, uniform taxation and uniform laws on tax evasion, to reform private firms and establish new laws on international standards. The fifth, human and ecological balance, a concept interrelated with the economy, is called on to ensure equilibrium is achieved between what people need from the economy and the fundamental carrying capacity of the planet – crucial so that a new era, potentially of global prosperity and security, does not end in an Armageddon of global warming, resource wars, and obscene inequalities.

In light of recent events, two emergency items were added to the Council’s agenda: “Mali: Supporting peace, security and democracy in the Sahel” and “Latest developments concerning the efforts of the people in the Arab World to advance the democratic agenda”.


Supporting peace, security and democracy in the Sahel

In the discussions on Mali and the Sahel region, the Council heard a presentation by the leader of the RPM, Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who had been a presidential candidate in the May 2012 elections that were suspended after the coup d’état in March. The goals now, Keita explained, were for national cohesion in Mali, to ensure free and fair elections, to build a state that can assume decisions, to assemble a national army, and for international cooperation in order to build security across the entire Sahel region. Ibrahima Ndiaye, First Vice-President of ADEMA-PASJ, the party of Malian interim President Dioncounda Traoré, also addressed the Council on the fragile situation in his country and his hopes for a strong democracy and for respect of the principles of the United Nations. Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum, PNDS, Niger, spoke on the Sahel region, also underlining the need for a new perspective in Mali to ensure the Malian people can make a free and fair choice and that stability is provided. He conveyed an invitation from HE President Issoufou to host a meeting of the SI Africa Committee in the coming weeks to discuss further the Sahel region. SI Vice-Presidents Ahmed Ould Daddah, President of the RFD, Mauritania, and Ousmane Tanor Dieng, First Secretary of PS, Senegal, also addressed the meeting on the situation in the Sahel region. Recognition was expressed for President Hollande of France, for the swift and concise action he took in Mali’s time of crisis. A Declaration on the Sahel Region was subsequently unanimously adopted.


Latest developments concerning the Arab world

The Secretary General reported on his visit to Iraq following the SI Congress for talks with SI Vice-President Jalal Talabani on SI activities in the region and Talabani’s offer to host meetings of both the SI Committee on the Arab World and the Committee on the Kurdish Question. These initiatives, however, were temporarily postponed due his illness. The Council expressed its solidarity with Jalal Talabani and extended to him the best wishes of the entire global political family for a speedy recovery.

On the second emergency item, the Arab world, the Council was addressed by leaders and representatives of SI member parties from that region, Mustapha Ben Jaafar, leader of Ettakatol, Tunisia and Nabil Shaath, from Fatah, Palestine. Among the invited guests was Hesham Youssef from the Arab League, Radhi Mohsen Al Mosawi, from Wa’ad Party of Bahrain, and Abdaziz Othman, from the Kurdish National Council of Syria.

Speakers highlighted that a new era had begun across the Arab World and that it was the role of socialists to work together to ensure the new constitutions resulting from the revolutions would be as democratic as possible. A Declaration on Developments Concerning the Arab World was adopted. In regard to Egypt, it called for greater transparency and political inclusion, and an end to brutality by security forces. On Syria, the declaration reiterated the SI’s support for an end to the fighting and for the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future. It called for international solidarity to achieve this and welcomed the funds that have been donated at the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference in Kuwait, January 30, 2013. On Bahrain, the SI reiterated its deep disappointment that the government had failed to implement the vast majority of reforms proposed by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, despite assurances to the contrary. The SI reiterated its call for these reforms, and for the release of Ibrahim Sharif, secretary general of the Wa’ad party and hundreds of prisoners of conscience. On Palestine, the declaration recognised the achievement of being admitted to the UN with Observer Status, and stated the SI’s historic position supporting the Palestinian people’s right to freedom, independence, unity and statehood, including their right to non-violent struggle for freedom and independence. On Western Sahara, the SI reiterated its full support for the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people as well as calling for the urgent resumption of direct negotiations between Morocco and Polisario Front under the auspices of the UN. Regarding Tunisia, the declaration recorded that the SI is closely following the process of the establishment of democratic institutions and the progress made towards the drafting of the constitution.

In a Resolution on Iran the SI strongly called for the Iranian government to respect the rights of political activists, noting the alarming numbers who have been executed, and also for the many Kurdish political prisoners that have been sentenced to death without proper legal representation. Grave concern was expressed over Iran’s continued application of Article 188/1992 of the country’s criminal code, which considers the members, supporters and followers of any Kurdish, Arab and Balouch political parties as “Mufsed fee Al Arz” (corrupted on earth), “Mohareb” (enemy of God), who must be punished by hanging and execution.

In a Statement on Puerto Rico the SI Council expressed its satisfaction and solidarity with the results of a status referendum on 6 November 2012. A clear majority of Puerto Ricans voted for a change to the country’s territorial status. The SI reiterated its support for the rights of the people of Puerto Rico to free determination and to choose non-colonial alternatives recognised by international law. A further call was made for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, in particular, Oscar López Rivera who has been imprisoned in the US for 31 years.

The Council also adopted a Declaration on Zimbabwe. It congratulated parties to the Inclusive Government on agreeing a new constitution, urging them to implement the remaining reforms with particular emphasis on those relating to the media and security sector. The declaration also called for peaceful, credible and legitimate elections which guarantee the security of the person and the vote.

A report on the situation in Venezuela was presented to the Council by SI Vice-President Henry Ramos on behalf of the opposition Mesa de Unidad Democrática conveying concern over the institutional crisis in the country and calling for the constitution to be observed. An appeal was also made for the immediate release of political prisoners and for those in political exile to be allowed to return.


Establishment of the working organs of the International for the inter-congress period and campaigns to be launched

As this was the first Council meeting after the Congress, and in accordance with the statutes, its agenda included the establishment of the different organs of work of the Socialist International for the current period. These included special Commissions to examine and elaborate common policy recommendations and proposals on global issues on the international agenda, regional and thematic Committees, and Campaigns and Working Groups that focus on highlighting particular areas of global policy requiring new approaches and advancement on a common platform.

Secretary General Luis Ayala conducted the proceedings on this agenda item based on information received from member parties in advance of the meeting and the agreements reached by the Presidium on the eve of the Council.

Following the proposal of the Presidium, the Council agreed on the establishment of a high-level Commission on Equality, a central and relevant issue today, which is in need of new thinking in light of the current political, economic and global transformations taking place in a world where we are witnessing a widening gap between people.

The Council agreed on the establishment of regional Committees for Africa, the Arab World, Asia and the Pacific, the CIS the Caucasus and the Black Sea, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and for South Eastern Europe. A Committee on the Kurdish Question and a Working Group on Syria, which were proposed at the Congress in Cape Town, were established by the Council. (List of regional commitees and working groups with chairs and vice-chairs as applicable)

The following thematic Committees and Working Groups were also established: Working Group on Accountability and Transparency internationally, Committee on Democracy, Committee on Local Government, Committee on Poverty, Committee on Migrations, Working Group on Political Education, and a Working Group on Social Media. A new idea approved was that of adding a new category for individual membership of the Socialist International, as proposed in the report on SI reform, and a special working group on this subject was also agreed. Current membership is open to political parties and organisations and the working group will now look into how an additional relationship between individuals and the organisation can be defined. (List of thematic committees and working groups with chairs and vice-chairs as applicable)

In addition to these, the Council agreed to re-launch the campaign ‘Stop Violence Against Women’, on which the SI will work in close collaboration with its fraternal organisation, Socialist International Women.

The Secretary General reported on the candidates for membership of the two statutory committees, Ethics, and Finance and Administration. In keeping with the agreed reforms to ensure geographical representation, each Committee would have 3 members from Africa, 4 from the Americas, 4 from the European Union, 2 from non-EU Europe, and 2 from the Middle East, Asia, Pacific.  From the regions where the number of candidates presented corresponded to the numbers to be elected, those were confirmed by the Council. In the case where there were more candidates than seats to be filled, it was agreed that the Secretary General would undertake consultations with a view to achieving an agreement. He reminded the Council that the chairs of those committees will be elected by the committee members at its first meeting.

Three further members of the Presidium were due to be elected following the last Congress, two of which should be women and one of which should represent a non-EU European country, as reported by Tero Shemeikka who headed the electoral commission at the Congress, ensuring that all regions were fairly represented and that the Statutes were complied with. For one of the women’s posts, the Council elected Colette Avital from Meretz, Israel. The post for the second woman Vice-President will be addressed at the next Council. For the position representing a non-EU European, the Council elected Edi Rama, leader of the SPA, Albania. In addition, three Honorary Presidents were elected to join the Presidium; these were Mustapha Ben Jaafar (Tunisia), Tarja Halonen (Finland) and Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger).

In regard to the membership applications deferred by the XXIV Congress, the following decisions were taken: Tanzania, CCM, was admitted as a full member and the following parties as consultative members: Algeria, FLN; Georgia, SDD; Sao Tomé and Principe, MLSTP-PSD; Swaziland, PUDEMO; Venezuela, UNT; Zambia, PF.

Before the conclusion of the meeting, the Council received the sad news of the passing of Reinaldo Gargano, President of the Socialist Party of Uruguay. The SI, the PSU and the Frente Amplio had lost a comrade dedicated to the cause of socialism in his country and in Latin America as a whole. The Council conveyed condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

In closing, President Papandreou thanked the host party, reiterating to the people of Portugal the solidarity of the Socialist International and its willingness to stand alongside them, as with others, in this period of financial difficulties and economic hardship.