Max van den Berg

Mr. Pascal LAMY
European Commission
Rue de la Loi 200 (Char 07/133)
1049 Brussels

Brussels, 8 November 2001

Dear Mr. Lamy,

We would like to ask your attention for the issue of caste-based discrimination at the upcoming EU-India summit.

We already expressed our concerns on this issue to Commissioner Patten and the Belgian secretary of state Mr Eddy Boutmans before the World Conference Against Racism that took place in Durban, South Africa earlier this year.
With the World Conference Against Racism in Durban behind us, we however are sorry to conclude that the European Union has failed to use this opportunity to give support to the struggle of approximately 250 million people in South Asia who suffer severe discrimination because of their low-caste status. While the European Commission, as stated in the reply of Commissioner Patten to our letter dated 18 May 2001, rightly considered the problem of caste discrimination to be within the remit of the World Conference Against Racism, this did not lead to even a general reference to the issue in the Declaration and or Program-me of Action of the WCAR, or to clearly expressed support by the European Union for such a reference. The European Parliament, in its resolution on the WCAR adopted during its plenary session in September, therefore expressed its regret that the final declaration failed to mention the discrimination against Dalits.

During the Second EU-India Summit to be held in New Delhi on 23 November 2001, the European Union has a new opportunity to start a dialogue with the Indian government on caste discrimination. In so doing, it can act upon the Declaration made at the First Summit between India and the European Union on 28 June 2000 in Lisbon. This Declaration mentioned 'the importance of co-ordinating efforts to promote and protect human rights' and vowed that 'we will work towards the universal ratification and implementation of all major international human rights instruments'.

May we also use the occasion to remind you of the EU and member states commitment, outlined in the Commission's policy on Promoting Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries (May 2001), to promote human rights in the political dialogue, trade and external assistance, including matching programmes and projects in the field to the commitment. Besides, in its Human Rights Report 2001, the European Parliament called upon the European Union to 'investigate to what extent its policies contribute to the abolition of caste-discrimination and the practice of untouchability in India' and 'to formulate strategies to counter this widespread practice'.

The EU-India Summit is the right time to begin to involve both the Indian government and Indian civil society in a dialogue on how the European Union can best promote and strengthen the progressive implementation of the Indian constitutional provisions, laws and programmes that are meant to eradicate discrimination based on caste in all spheres of Indian life and society. Such a dialogue should be comprehensive in nature but could start with an assessment of the impact of bilateral and/or multilateral development co-operation between the EU and India on the most vulnerable sections of Indian society, i.e. Dalits and Tribals.

Thank you for your consideration and looking forward to your reply,

Yours sincerely,

Max van den Berg

Was signed by: Bob van den Bos, Kathalijne Buitenweg, Lone Dybkjaer, Michael Gahler, Glenys Kinnock, Jean Lambert, Caroline Lucas, Johanna Maij-Weggen, Maria Martens, Claude Moraes, Francisca Sauquillo Perez del Arco, Helle Thorning-Schmidt

cc. Commissioner Chris Patten

European Parliament
Rue Wiertz, B-1047 Brussels
Tel.: +02 2847669, Fax: +02 2849669
e-mail: mvandenberg@europarl.eu.int
Internet http://www.maxvandenberg.nl

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - November 9, 2001