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18.4.2001

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Official Journal of the European Communities

C 113 E/123

newspaper on charges of ‘treason’ linked to the fact that the three journalists had long been criticising the Turkish occupying forces. Their arrest has been unanimously condemned by political circles in the Republic of Cyprus and by the Writers’ Union in Cyprus.

What are the Commission’s views on the above events, and does it consider that the fundamental freedom of expression has been violated?

Will it seek explanations from Turkey and the Denktash regime with regard to the arrest of the three Turkish Cypriot journalists?

Answer given by Mr Verheugen on behalf of the Commission

(19 September 2000)

The Honourable Member is referred to the Commission’s answers to Written Questions P-1802/00 from Mrs Giannakou-Koutsikou ( 1 ) and P-2670/00 from Mr Alavanos ( 2 ).

( 1 ) ( 2 )

OJ C 72 E, 6.3.2001, p. 121. OJ C 103 E, 3.4.2001, p. 208.

(2001/C 113 E/126)

WRITTEN QUESTION P-2576/00

by Elly Plooij-van Gorsel (ELDR) to the Commission

(25 July 2000)

Subject: AIDS prevention and treatment in South Africa

South Africa has the highest incidence of AIDS in the world. According to the UN, it has the largest absolute number of people infected with HIV. Moreover, the taboo on AIDS makes it difficult to prevent new infections occurring and to tackle the consequences of AIDS. It is reported that instead of seeking ways of combating the epidemic, the South African Government is looking for explanations. For this purpose President Mbeki has set up an AIDS panel which includes a small dissident group of scientists who do not believe that there is any link between HIV and AIDS. This week the panel decided to carry out further research, inter alia with the aim of checking the reliability of the HIV test. American and European scientists regard this as a major disaster.

1. Is the Commission aware of the declaration issued by a group of 5000 scientists just before the AIDS

conference in Durban stating that the HIV virus unquestionably causes AIDS and that policies should be

based on this fact?

2. Does the Commission agree that AIDS prevention and treatment ought to be assigned high priority

in South Africa, since if policy remains unchanged, it is likely that half of those now aged 15 will not

reach the age of 25, which will be not only a human tragedy but an economic catastrophe as well?

3. Does the Commission agree that the economic development of South Africa will stand or fall by an

effective approach to the AIDS problem and that such an approach is therefore a precondition for the successful provision of European development aid?

4. If so, then, bearing in mind that South Africa is the largest recipient of EU development aid, will the

Commission bring pressure to bear on the South African Government to fulfil this precondition?

5. Will the Commission use the agreement on scientific cooperation between the Community and

South Africa to ensure that EU funding of South African research is put to good use?

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Official Journal of the European Communities

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18.4.2001

Answer given by Mr Nielson on behalf of the Commission

(18 September 2000)

The Commission was actively involved in the preparation of the thirteenth international acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) Conference in Durban. A total of 94 participants from developing countries were sponsored by the Commission in order to attend and present their scientific papers. The Durban declaration, drafted by a coalition of over 250 scientists and signed by over 5000, was indeed issued one week before the conference took place and reaffirmed the evidence that AIDS is caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 or HIV-2. The Commission supports this position.

The Commission agrees that AIDS/HIV prevention and treatment ought to be given a high priority in South Africa. AIDS treatment regimes are very complex and require an effective health system backup. The Commission takes the position that limited resources should remain focused on the further strengthening of in-country health systems, and on HIV/AIDS prevention for the many, rather than provision of non- curative treatment for the few. To this effect, support to strengthening the health sector in South Africa has been foreseen for 2000-2002, in addition to the ongoing Community health sector support programmes in the country.

Apart from HIV/AIDS, the country faces many other development constraints. In the area of social development, the lack of basic infrastructure, high unemployment, the high level of crime, and poor education levels all need to be tackled. South Africa’s economic constraints can be summarised as slow growth, declining employment and low enterprise investment. In addition there is a range of good governance constraints. The development of South Africa will stand or fall by an effective approach not only to AIDS but to all other factors devastating growth and prosperity.

The Commission is currently developing an initiative to support accelerated action against the three communicable diseases that have the greatest impact on poverty (tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS). A communication will be presented to Council and Parliament in September 2000. The broad areas for proposed action will be to maximise access to existing proven and effective interventions; to address accessibility and affordability issues related to key pharmaceutical products; and to increase investment in research and development of new generations of drugs and vaccines against the three diseases. An effective response will require innovation, new partnerships and a co-ordinated response from the international community.

Community funds should not only be allocated to the fight against HIV/AIDS but also to the fight against tuberculosis and malaria for instance. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are increasingly inter-related tubercu- losis rates in South Africa and elsewhere can be expected to rise further in the absence of effective action against HIV/AIDS. All major communicable diseases contribute disproportionately to maintaining popula- tions in poverty, all affect young adults in their productive years and have enormous social costs and existing preventive or curative interventions remain under-used. With around € 125 million of grant aid annually, the development cooperation programme with South Africa is indeed one of the largest aid programmes run by the Community. For its implementation, the Commission is engaged in a comprehen- sive policy dialogue with the South African government, focussing on the main sectors of Community assistance. In each of these sectors, the Commission’s main objective is to respect and support South Africa’s own policy choices rather than imposing preconditions. At the same time, the Commission endeavours to ensure that the policies it supports are sustainable, subjected to democratic control, and will contribute to a reduction of poverty.

Since its entry into force, the Community-South Africa agreement on science and technology is used to support joint research in priority areas. Between 1996 and 1999, South African research teams have submitted 235 projects to the international cooperation programme available under the agreement, of which 49 have already received funding under the fourth framework programme. For the fifth framework programme now under way, the interest of South African researchers seems to be even stronger. At the last meeting of the joint committee on science and technology in Pretoria in July 2000, the two sides agreed on new priority areas for future collaborative research, including the prevention and treatment of poverty-related diseases.