Ashton puts human rights on top of her agenda

Yesterday the Council of the European Union adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy. The Strategic framework can be seen as a response to the obligation of the EU introduced by the Treaty on the European Union, which expresses the following: „The Union’s action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, (…) democracy, the rule of law and the universality and indivisibility of human rights.” (Article 21, Treaty of the European Union)

The introduced package of measures consists of an Action Plan for putting the strategy into practice and the creation of a post of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights (EUSR). The nomination of the EUSR, who will have a two year mandate, is expected for July 2012. The EU Special Representative for human rights shall contribute to the implementation of the Action Plan. Responsibility for carrying out the actions proposed in the action plan resides with the High Representative assisted by the EEAS, and with the Commission, the Council, the Member States, within their respective areas of competences as established by the Treaty of the European Union.

The Council reaffirmed that the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy “shall guide the EU’s engagement in the years to come.” As a leading donor to civil society, the EU will continue strengthening human rights activists under its already existing financial instruments such as the EIDHR and others. Additionally, the Council adopted the statutes of the European Endowment for Democracy. The EED is not a European instrument but a private law foundation to be established in the following months under Belgian law with the aim of providing fast and flexible support to pro-democracy activists.

This is the first time that the European Union sets out a unified Strategic Framework in the areas of human rights and democracy policy. “With this comprehensive package we want to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy,” stated the High Representative. FNF is following closely the discussion on the draft legislation regarding human rights and democracy in the external action of the Union. FNF welcomes the proposed Strategic Framework on Democracy and Human Rights and draws the attention to the fact that implementation will now be important. Thus, it remains to be seen whether and how the good intentions contained in the Strategic Framework can be put into practice. Certainly, a partnership with civil society as suggested under Point 2 of the Action Plan is going to be crucial not only at the Brussels level but also at the local one, i.e. in the partner countries.

You can download the EU Strategic Framework and the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy under this link.

Alba Çako