UN: EU statement on commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade

United Nations, General Assembly, 61st Session, 58th Plenary meeting, Agenda Item 155: Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade: draft resolution (A/61/L.28)

Statement by Mr. Janne Jokinen, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the European Union

New York, 28 November 2006

Madam President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

Madam President,

At the World Conference Against Racism in 2001, the EU was pleased to join international consensus in acknowledging that:

"slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent and indigenous peoples were victims of these acts and continue to be victims of their consequences."

In supporting this resolution today, the European Union strongly reiterates this position. The European Union, as others, wants to consider the complex historical, social and legal issues related to slavery and the slave trade fully and in a transparent manner. We remain convinced, however, that these issues are best addressed within the framework of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. As the EU stated at the time, nothing in the Durban Declaration or Programme of Action can affect the general legal principle which precludes the retrospective application of international law in matters of State responsibility. Likewise, those documents cannot impose obligations, or liability, or a right to compensation on anyone. The same is true of this draft resolution. 

Madam President,

The 200th Anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on 25 March 2007 will hold enormous importance and significance for those countries whose people suffered from the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and will be an opportunity for the European Union to remember the millions of persons who suffered from this tragedy. We welcome the opportunity provided by this resolution to commemorate this turning point in history at the United Nations, and for these reasons, Madam President, the EU warmly welcomes the adoption of this resolution.

Thank you,  Madam President.