AuthorEuropean Union Publications Office
Pages7 - 8

Page 7

In accordance with the Treaty on the European Union, the EU is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. Subsequently, the EU shall respect human rights in all its activities, including external relations. The EU regards human rights and democracy as fundamental pillars of enhancing peace and security as well as promoting development objectives.

The period covered by this eighth EU Annual Report on Human Rights is from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the work of the European Union, through its institutions, in promoting human rights and democracy. An effort is made to cover, to the extent possible, the EU's human rights related activities with regard to third countries, action at multilateral level as well as important thematic issues in order to give a balanced picture of the tools the EU has to promote human rights and democracy. Nevertheless, from the point of view of keeping the text relatively concise and readable, the picture cannot be complete in all areas. More specific information is offered in separate boxes and in the relevant websites mentioned in the annex.

The structure of the present report follows to a great extent the structure adopted last year. Also this year, the report includes a section on the European Parliament's activities to promote human rights and democracy. The EP actively raises human rights related issues, and thereby secures adequate attention to these issues, including by the other EU institutions.

Also, as in previous years, while the report concentrates on external relations, various human rights issues related to developments within the EU's borders are also highlighted. It is of course important from the point of view of credibility, that while the EU actively promotes human rights with regard to third countries, it also applies human rights standards in a coherent and consistent manner in its own policies. Lastly, an eff ort is made to see the report as a useful tool to evaluate the effciency and eff ectiveness of the EU's human rights policies, and also as a means to promote transparency and interaction with the civil society.

From the point of view of highlighting specific emphases in the EU's human rights policy during the period covered, the promotion of coherence has been a priority. The EU is an important global player in many ways – in economic terms, with regard to development cooperation etc. It has a number of tools and instruments that can be used to promote human rights and democracy. The challenge is, taken into account also the Unions institutional structures, how the EU can best use all these relevant instruments in a coherent and consistent manner, thereby conveying a unifi ed and credible message to third countries.

To this effect, mainstreaming of human rights has in particular been emphasized during the period covered by this report. This has in practise included an increased interaction between human rights experts and country specific teams, and highlighting human rights aspects of important thematic issues such as EU crisis management activities. The EU has developed ways to address issues like women and security or children aff ected by armed confl ict.

In combating terrorism and extremism, the promotion of human rights remains highly relevant. Also initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue, based on universal standards and involving civil society, have been very topical during the year.

Political dialogue is certainly a key instrument in human rights promotion, and through the mainstreaming eff ort the objective has been to secure the coherent presentation of human rights elements by the EU in the contacts that have taken place with third countries at various levels. This is also relevant with regard to countries with whom the EU has a specifi c human rights dialogue.

By adopting specifi c Guidelines on certain issues, the EU has identifi ed priority areas for its human rights policy. On death penalty, to which the EU is opposed in all cases, the EU has continued to take up individual cases where minimum standards of international law are not fulfilled, and has during the year also specifically looked at countries “on the cusp” ie whose policies related to capital punishment are about to change. On torture, the EU has during the year approached countries encouraging them to accede to the relevant international instrument, and to cooperate with the relevant mechanisms, with a view to strengthening international mechanisms aimed at the eradication of torture.

On children and armed confl ict the EU has identifi ed certain priority countries, where it aims to make a diff erence on the ground from the point of view of alleviating the suff ering of children affected by armed conflict, boys as well as girls in different ways. It has also been important to raise the issue at multilateral fora, and to enhance the EU's own capability to deal with this issue in the context of ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) operations. On Human Rights Defenders, the fifth Guidelines adopted by the EU, the EU has, during the year covered by the report, launched global campaigns on the freedom of expression and women human rights defenders. As those promoting human rights are too often themselves targeted, the rights of human rights defenders remains a clear priority for the EU.

In the UN context, the negotiations to establish a new Human Rights Council, and subsequently the fi rst session of the new Council have provided an important framework for the EU's multilateral human rights eff orts. The EU aimed all along for a Council that would give human rights the central role foreseen byPage 8the UN Charter. Although not all elements the EU had lobbied for were included in the final text adopted in March 2006, for the EU, the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council is an essential element in further strengthening the UN human rights machinery and represents an important step in the UN reform process. In laying the foundation for future work, the fi rst session of the Council held in June 2006 did achieve positive but also some less welcome results. The new Council is expected to focus on implementation, thus creating a challenge also for the EU to develop innovative working methods and promote coherence between its bilateral activities and action at multilateral fora.

Human rights defenders and victims of human rights violations in different parts of the world expect a lot from the EU. Rightly so: the EU as a value-based community can be expected to further the cause of human rights and democracy with great ambition. This report provides elements to consider how the EU has risen to the challenge.

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