As many as 28 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have just signed a joint letter, calling on the European Parliament (EP) to postpone approval of the most ambitious trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam. It is expected that the votes on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) will take place on Feb 11.
In the joint letter published on Feb 4, 28 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), stated that a majority of the members of the International Trade Commission (INTA) voted in favor ratifying the deal on Jan 21 was a “pity” because it was contrary to the views of the European Commission’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and “ignored” with Vietnam’s commitments on the issue of human rights protection.
The rights groups said the upcoming Feb 11 session is an opportunity for European parliamentarians to “correct the mistake.”
The two sides started official negotiations in 2012, EVFTA is considered the “most ambitious” trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam.
If the formalities are completed and officially take effect, the agreement will help increase Vietnam’s GDP by 4.6% and export to the EU by 42.7% by 2025, according to a study of Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment.
At the same time, the EU’s GDP will also benefit an additional $29.5 billion and exports to Vietnam will increase by 29% by 2035.
In the letter, 28 non-governmental organizations stated that Vietnam has not yet implemented human rights recommendations proposed by European parliamentarians, as the Communist Party of Vietnam has become more authoritarian and arrested more Vietnamese activists.
To get through EVFTA, in addition to committing to ensuring a stable business and legal environment and complying with specific regulations on tariffs and open market and others,
Vietnam must also commit to improving human rights and enforcing specific provisions to protect human rights and workers’ rights.
These NGOs called on the EP to continue demanding that Vietnam announce a roadmap for its commitment to reforming the Criminal Code, as the Vietnamese government has used the code’s controversial provisions to “criminalize” dissident views and arrest of dissidents.
The NGOs also requested that MPs demand Hanoi to release political prisoners, including independent journalist Pham Chi Dung and many other “prisoners of conscience;” set a specific timeline for ratifying ILO Convention No. 87 (on the freedom of forming unions, protecting the rights of workers and human rights) in 2021; establish an independent monitoring and grievance mechanism for those affected in the event that the above commitments are violated.
Earlier, on Jan 28, Vietnam sent Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh to Belgium to attend an EP high-level conference on EVFTA/EVIPA to advocate for the two agreements
Here, the representative of Vietnam gave a speech highlighting the benefits of the agreement and Vietnam’s efforts in preparing the implementation of the agreement.
According to the website of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, the “context” of this meeting is “relatively favorable” thanks to INTA’s voting in favor of the agreement on Jan 21.
According to the ministry, the conference on Jan 28 was held at INTA’s initiative “to promote greater consensus on the ratification of the EVFTA and EVIPA Agreements” before the two agreements are voted in the EP’s plenary session next week.
INTA’s members on 20 January voted in favor of the EVFTA agreement with a vote of 29 votes, 6 votes against and 5 abstention, and made recommendations that the EP should also vote in a meeting next month.
HRW on Jan 15 urged the EP’s members “not to miss an opportunity to change Vietnam” as the parliament prepares to vote to ratify the FTA with Hanoi
Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti expresses his condolence to the victims of the Dong Tam incident when meeting Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son on Jan 21, 2020
The European Parliament will decide whether to approve, delay or abolish the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) in the coming weeks.
It has taken the EU and Vietnam seven years to negotiate an agreement that Vietnam is eager to have after the US withdraws from the Trans-Pacific Agreement.
In an article posted on the HRW’s official website, Claudio Francavilla, a member of the organization in the EU, stated that during negotiations between the INTA and the Vietnamese government from 2012 to June 2019, Vietnam has conducted “a brutal crackdown on dissidents and labor rights advocates, especially since 2016.
“There are many human rights activists, journalists, bloggers, religious figures and trade union activists have been brutally persecuted or imprisoned under harsh criminal code just for expressing their ideas peacefully,” said Francavilla.
The EU has repeatedly raised this negative trend, and most recently only a few weeks before the negotiations ended.
Vietnam’s worsening human rights record has raised concerns among EP members. In Sept 2018, 32 MPs sent a joint letter calling for specific progress on human rights in Vietnam before the EP decided on trade agreements with the Southeast Asian nation.
In June 2019, a group of European parliamentarians sent a letter asking again for specific progress on human rights before the European parliament took further steps in the EVFTA and IPA ratification process.
The latest report by Defend the Defenders released on Jan 1 said that Vietnam is holding at least 239 prisoners of conscience in prisons or similar forms of detention. However, Vietnam has always denied holding prisoners of conscience.
An annual report on CIVICUS’s global civil space, released last December, said Vietnam was among the 24 countries in the world with ‘stifling’ civilian space with little progress on human rights and the world needs pressure to force Vietnam to fulfill its commitments.
There was also a recent appeal to the EP in Belgium on Jan 21, the day the legislature’s International Trade Commission was said to be “meeting to decide whether to approve standard terms of EVFTA or not.”
“Simply by voting in favor, without requiring anything from the Vietnamese government, is wasting a unique opportunity for positive change in (Vietnam),” according to HRW.
The EP opened an internal investigation after a member said that she had received a gift of a bottle of champagne from the Vietnamese Embassy just a day before the meeting to give votes for a trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam on Jan 21.
According to the British newspaper, European parliamentarians were ordered to follow strict anti-corruption guidelines. Accordingly, they can not accept gifts from outside worth more than 150 Euro.
On January 20, Congressman Ellie Chowns posted on hes Twitter page a photo of a bottle of champagne Moet & Chandon and a postcard from the Vietnamese Embassy, accompanied by the quote: “Tomorrow, the European Trade Commission votes on the EVFTA agreement. Today, I received this item in my office: a champagne gift from the Vietnamese embassy. Completely inconsistent and blatant. I will return to them, explaining that the release of political prisoners will affect me more … ”.
After Ms. Chowns posted her message on Twitter, many commentators said that giving Tet to a congressman at a time when an important voting session for EVFTA was an act of “bribery.” However, there are also some advocates and this is a normal custom of Vietnamese people every Tet.
It is reported that in addition to Mrs. Chowns, a number of other EP delegates also received similar gifts.
The Vietnamese government can no longer cover the illegal atrocities in Dong Tam when hundreds of articles and photos spread throughout social networks and independent newspapers. The international press has joined together to awaken human conscience and human rights activists around the world to speak out for the victims in Dong Tam.
“How will the EP be able to really ratify the EVFTA in February with a country that terrorizes and suppresses its own people like the Vietnamese state,” Senator Saskia Bricmont wrote on Twitter on Jan 18.
Saskia Bricmont is an INTA’s member. The committee is in charge of external economic relations, including trade agreements.
On her Twitter page, Belgian congresswoman Saskia Bricmont also quoted an English article reporting on the attack on Dong Tam in The Vietnamese and said that the Vietnamese state was a terrorist state suppressing the people.
With the unlawful tyranny, the persons most responsible for that are General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security To Lam, has led to the risk of breaking the EVFTA.
Virginie Battu-Henriksson, a spokesman for the European Union on Foreign Relations and Security Policy, said that on Jan 9, the day of the incident, Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti, Head of the EU Delegation to Hanoi “directly raised the issue with Mr. Mai Tien Dung, head of the Office of the Government, expressing concerns and reservations about how security forces handled the situation.”
Ms. Battu-Henriksson said: “The use of violence against civilians has resulted in a worthy loss of life. We extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”
“This case will also be discussed at the upcoming EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue. “The European Union expects the Vietnamese government to respect the basic rights of its people to meet and express peaceful views without facing any threat or use of force.”
A spokesman for the European Union (EU) said that the organization was “concerned” about the action “resulting in a costly loss of life” in Dong Tam, and revealed it had “asked” to meet a senior official of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security.
The economy, culture, society and people of Vietnam are increasingly integrated with the world, but the leaders of the Communist Party such as General Secretary Trong, PM Phuc and top legislator Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and the top party officials in Hanoi still cannot adapt to the progress and civilization in the world. They continue to use the cruelty and suffering Marxist-Leninist theory to suppress and restrain people in the backwardness.
The dark history of the nation for the past 75 years has been more than enough, nearly 100 million Vietnamese people at home and abroad will work together to crush the dark communism, to regain the life of Freedom and Democracy. , Justice and Prosperity right in the homeland of Vietnam.
Hai Yen from Ha Noi – Thoibao.de (Translated)