On 26 June 2013, Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament, and the Human Rights and Democracy Network organised a high level hearing to mark the one year anniversary of the EU Human Rights Package. In order to answer the question of the event ‘EU Human Rights Strategy: Success or Business as usual?’, the panel comprised of Judy Dempsey, Journalist, Barbara Lochbihler, Chair of the Human Rights Subcommittee at the European Parliament, MEP Ana Gomes, Bert Theuermann, Chair of the Human Rights Working Group in the Council of the EU, Markus Loning, German Commissioner for Human Rights, Jacqueline Hale, Analyst at Open Society Foundation-Brussels, Lotte Leicht, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Brussels Office and Maryam Al Khawaja, Bahraini Human Rights defender.
All participants agreed that the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and its Action Plan adopted by the Council in June 2012 is very ambitious. This comprehensive package aims to strengthen the effectiveness of the EU policy in the field of protection of fundamental human rights. Following the adoption of the strategy, an EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, was appointed.
The promotion of human rights should be put at the heart of the EU foreign policy. Indeed, the EU, when negotiating a bilateral partnership has to balance its economic, commercial and security interests with the protection of human rights. Otherwise the establishment of stability will be impossible. A ‘good ally’ for the EU is necessarily an ally which respects fundamental rights. Additionally, the panel insisted on the importance of respecting human rights both on the outside and the inside of Europe.
The significance of implementation was also underlined by all the participants; ‘words need to be translated in actions’ (J. Hale), ‘we do have enough papers’ (M. Loning), ‘resolutions have to be implemented’ (M. Al Khawaja). The EU has to be courageous in order to take concrete measures for the promotion of human rights, while several stakeholders highlighted the existence of frustration as the EU is still very weak. Some of them pointed that the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the High Representative Catherine Ashton are lacking leadership. Finally, all agreed that the EUSR for Human Rights should be able to speak out by doing official statements on his work. This raises the question of the combination between public and private diplomacy.
During the conference, the panel tried to adopt a frank view point. It appears that the EU Human Rights Strategy is a business on the way to becoming a success – if additional efforts are pursued.
You can find more details on the event here