Apr 18 2012
Human Rights must be top priority for EU
A brand new EU position of “Human Rights Czar” will be given the approval of the European Parliament as it votes today (Wednesday 18 April) to back a major report seeking to change the future direction of the EU’s human rights policy.
My Labour Colleague Richard Howitt MEP, who has led the campaign for the appointment of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights, in leading Parliament’s negotiations on Baroness Ashton’s current wholesale human rights policy review.
During a period when principles of international law have been paramount from Iraq to Syria to Burma, Europe has lacked the clout to put its case to other countries and in International institutions compared with America. Hopefully today that gap will be filled.
Unfortunately the UK Government, led by David Cameron and William Hague are deliberately trying to block the European Union from being made subject to the same strictures on human rights which already apply to Britain and the other member states.
This is double standards of the worst kind.
The Report also contains a condemnation of: six European Union (EU) countries who have failed to translate their support for the International Criminal Court in to their national law as required; thirteen countries in the European and Central Europe and North Africa who have currently refused to either sign or to ratify the UN’s anti-torture protocol despite being accepted in to the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy; and of the failure of the European Union to fully learn the lessons of its own failures in the run-up to the Arab Spring.
The EU was negotiating improved trade terms with Gaddafi just four weeks before we started dropping bombs on him, and it is time to show the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. That is short sighted!
Highlights of the Report include:
• a proposal for EU export bans to be placed on technologies which restrict internet freedom;
• a call for EU Governments to establish inter-governmental consultations on human rights at the same level as other foreign policy discussions;
• plans for the EU to introduce detailed human rights benchmarks for future cooperation on all policy areas including trade
• a clause requiring all EU staff to have a core human rights knowledge as part of their training and that every EU delegation has a designated human rights ‘focal point’.
The creation of Europe’s External Action Service saw the EU promise to combine its diplomatic, trade and development powers to boost its global influence. This review must now ensure each and all of these powers are genuinely used to put human rights in to the spotlight the EU citizens and our partners in the world deserve nothing less.