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Stepping up EU human rights activities worldwide

The Foreign Affairs Council, meeting in Luxembourg on 25 June, adopted an EU strategic framework on human rights and democracy. The framework is accompanied by the action plan which comprises 97 actions to be implemented by the Member States and the EU institutions by the end of 2014.

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"Human rights are one of my top priorities and a silver thread that runs through everything that we do in external relations. With this comprehensive package we want to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy," said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton.

The strategic framework

The framework will guide the Union’s actions in promoting human rights in its bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries. It systematises the work that the EU has hitherto carried out in its bilateral relations, human rights and political dialogues, crisis management missions as well as through its work in multinational institutions.

The document lists the main strategic goals – to continue mainstreaming human rights throughout the EU's external policies, including trade, investment, energy, technology and telecommunications, environment, development cooperation, counter-terrorism and the Common Security and Defence Policy.

The priorities include promoting freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of association and assembly (both on-line and offline), fighting against discrimination in all its forms and continuing the campaign against the death penalty and torture and inhuman treatment.

Action Plan

The strategic framework will be implemented through the action plan, covering two and a half years. The 97 specific actions are grouped under 36 categories and range from incorporating a human rights aspect into all impact assessments of EU laws and promoting ratification and implementation of the most important international human rights treaties worldwide to developing EU guidelines on freedom of religion and belief.

The plan lays down the expected outcomes, the actions themselves, timing and ownership. The actions will be carried out by the European Commission, the member states and the European External Action Service. They determine the plan’s implementation and monitoring mechanisms.

Special representative for human rights

The Council has also prepared the nomination of an EU special representative on human rights.

For the first time the EU will have a special representative whose mandate is not defined by geographical area – e.g. EU special representative in Afghanistan or in Kosovo – but by theme.

The candidate for the post will be selected and proposed by the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and then approved by the Council. The duration of the mandate will be two years.

The Council also adopted short conclusions underlining the EU's determination to promote human rights and democracy throughout the world and a report on EU action in 2011 to support human rights.

More information:
Press release (pdf)
Press conference (video)
Council Conclusions on Human Rights and Democracy (pdf)
EU strategic framework on human rights and democracy. A Factsheet. (pdf)

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