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Answer given by Mr. Patten on behalf of the Commission (May 15, 2003)

To questions posed by: Bob van den Bos, Max van den Berg, Maria Martens, Joost Lagendijk
Concerning: Situation of religious minorities in Gujarat, India
Date: April 8, 2003

The Commission is aware of the communal tensions in Gujarat and understands the Honourable Members' concern. The Commission fully agrees that the perpetrators of the crimes in Gujarat should be brought to justice, the victims rehabilitated, and the rights of religious minorities protected.

The Union respects and promotes the principles laid down in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Co-operation Agreement between the Community and the Republic of India sets out inter alia that respect for human rights and democratic principles is an essential element of this agreement.

It is, therefore, according to these principles that the Community-India development co-operation is implemented, and the Community development programme in Gujarat is no exception.

Most of the Community bilateral development aid to Gujarat is channelled through non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Of the € 93 million that the Commission pledged to Gujarat as a response to the 2001 earthquake, only € 40 million has been channelled through the Government of Gujarat. This sum is explicitly dedicated to rebuilding hospitals damaged by the earthquake, and the Commission monitors the implementation of this programme very closely.

The Union has acted to the serious situation in Gujarat in a number of ways, including the provision of a relief package for the victims through its humanitarian aid office (ECHO).

Furthermore, the Union has agreed to deal with all matters concerning democracy and human rights in India through its regular, on-going constructive dialogue with the Indian Government.

Regarding the third question, it is not within the competence of the Commission to give explicit recommendations to private companies on how they should operate in third countries. However, the Commission is committed to encouraging companies to act according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility. These guidelines make reference to the need to respect and protect the human rights of employees, and to avoid discrimination against minority groups.

India Committee of the Netherlands/Landelijke India Werkgroep - 10 april 2003