Colombia’s embassy in Brussels has unveiled a document spelling out the government’s commitment to labor rights and its vow to protect union members, two things the European Union had deemed insufficient, local media reported Wednesday.
The document — while addressed “to the public” — is likely aimed at members of the European Parliament who will decide on December 11 whether or not to ratify the FTA between the EU and Colombia. The poor conditions for unions had previously disqualified Colombia from entering into a free trade agreement with the EU.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in May called on Colombia and Peru to develop a “roadmap” regarding its commitments to human, labor and environmental rights as a prerequisite to any free trade agreements. The EU committee noted that Colombia — “despite recent improvements” — remains the country with the highest murder rates of trade unionists and that 90% of these crimes go unpunished.
The embassy’s letter asserts that the Colombian government has taken “concrete steps” to protect trade unionists, admittedly, one of the “most vulnerable” sectors of Colombian society.
These steps include the 1997 launch of a program to “protect people facing imminent risks in the performance of their public or humanitarian activities.” The Colombian government reportedly pumped over $86 million into this program from 2002 to 2009. Proof of improving conditions, claimed the letter, is the fact that in 2012 alone, 354 new unions were registered. Colombia’s government has also ratified 60 conventions of the International Labor Organization [ILO] “demonstrating [its] unyielding commitment” to the principles of organized labor.
Growth rates notwithstanding, the proposed FTA has garnered its share of criticism. A recent report from the Center for Research on Multinational Corporations of Amsterdam said the trade agreement would “increase the risk of illegal money flows and capital flight.”