Today, in Luxembourg, the Council of European Foreign Affairs ministers adopted an important new package on Human Rights and Democracy which sets out, for the first time, a unified EU Strategic Framework for the next ten years.
Together with the Strategic Framework, an Action Plan and the impeding appointment of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights will help implement and enhance the visibility and effectiveness of the principles, objectives and priorities enshrined in this key document.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security policy / Vice-President of the European Commission said upon adoption of the package: "Human rights are one of my top priorities and a silver thread that runs through everything that we do in external relations (…)”.
The key messages of the Strategic Framework are Human rights throughout EU policy;
Promoting universality of human rights;
Pursuing coherent objectives;
Human rights in all EU external policies;
Implementing EU priorities on human rights;
Working with bilateral partners;
Working through multilateral institutions;
The EU working together.
The Action Plan itself brings together 97 actions under 36 headings and covers the period until 31 December 2014. Building upon the existing body of EU policy on human rights and democracy such as guidelines, toolkits, agreed positions and various financial instruments, it aims to provide sufficient flexibility on putting the Strategic Framework into practice also in response to new challenges as they arise.
People and policies are at the heart of the actions listed, such as civil society, economic, social and cultural rights, development cooperation, trade, conflict prevention and crisis management, counter-terrorism activities, the external dimension of ‘freedom, security and justice’, employment and social policy, death penalty, torture, Human Rights Defenders, children and women rights, gender-based violence, international humanitarian law, LGBT rights, religion or belief, expression online and offline, minorities, indigenous people, persons with disabilities.
The responsibility for carrying out the actions resides with the High Representative assisted by the EEAS, and with the European Commission, the European Council and Member States within their respective fields of competence.
Through the Action Plan, the EU commits to presenting its performance in meeting its objectives in its annual report on human rights and democracy in the world. In doing so, all stakeholders in EU policy – including civil society – should be given an opportunity to assess the impact of EU action and contribute to defining future priorities.
The Council also discussed and agreed a series of policy positions today on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Central Asia, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the European Neighbourhood policy, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Syria.
Human Rights and Democracy
Foreign Affairs Council meeting