Jun 15 2012
Progress on Human Rights
Cathy Ashton, announced in the European Parliament this week, that the European Union (EU) is set to appoint a ‘special representative for human rights’ to advocate EU principles and guidelines around the world, and to lead dialogues with the United Nations and third countries
I believe such a role would help the EU become more visible and assist in the promotion of human rights across the whole range of the EU’s external policies. I am especially excited about this in my specialist area of International Trade, which I believe should be linked to the recognition of human rights.
Cathy said she was looking for: ‘…somebody with an established track record and international experience in human rights, as well as strong understanding of EU policy’.
The special representative would serve a two-year term, renewable once. It is important that the mandate for that person should be long enough to deliver on issues that are inherently long-term. At the moment a number of separate officials deal with human rights in specific regions or relating to certain issues – such as South Sudan, the Middle East and the Arab spring.
The new special representative would brief the European Parliament regularly as an acknowledgement that MEPs have been championing the idea for some time. This week the Parliament adopted a set of recommendations on the proposed role of the human rights envoy. It said the special representative should ‘…be granted a strong, independent and flexible mandate not define by narrow and specific thematic responsibilities’.
My colleagues believe the position should be concerned with issues such as minority rights, freedom of expression and association, tackling all kinds of discrimination, the fight against torture, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and international justice. They said the should be allocated sufficient funding and staff to do the job.
Appointing a special representative for human rights should increase the effectiveness and the coherence of the EU’s human rights policy. The special representative would chair high-level human rights meetings and would be a partner for its counterparts in third countries and at international organisations such as the UN, the Council of Europe or the UN high commissioner for refugees.
Human rights are and should be one of Cathy Ashton’s top priorities and I believe that human rights should be linked to all EU policies. The Council of the EU is expected to appoint the representative when foreign ministers meet on June 25, as part of a wider review of human rights policy. I believe that the nominee should face questions in European Parliament before they are selected.
The EU’s latest annual report on human rights and democracy shows that the bloc could really make a difference where it matters most. Since January, the EU has conducted 14 in-depth human rights discussions with countries around the globe, with another 22 still to come this year. From Jordan to Vietnam, from Ukraine to the United States, from Argentina to Pakistan, the EU sits down in the spirit of partnership to see how together, we can improve the situation of human rights. Human Rights are always a priority when I am involved with International Trade discussions this new appointment will give me greater clout when negotiating – it is definitely a progressive move.