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EU in the world - Aid, human rights and democracy

External relations 13-11-2013 - 15:41 / Updated: 26-03-2014 - 17:30

The EU is the world's biggest market and the greatest competitor for the US and China, but that's not all though. It also defends human rights and promotes democracy and good governance beyond its borders. With aid programmes and humanitarian action, Europe also reaches those who need its help the most. (Read more: EU: Engaging beyond its borders)

The EU is expanding its ability to influence the situation in the world, according to Jerzy Buzek. "Several years ago we had to ask the US for help in solving the problems in the Balkans,” the Polish member of the EPP group said. “Today, thanks to our soft power alone, we brought peace to the region. The same thing is happening in our eastern neighbourhood.” The former EP president was speaking at the opening of the ReAct Warsaw event on 14 November, dedicated to the EU’s role abroad. (Read more: Jerzy Buzek: “The European Union is the solution to the crisis, not its cause”)

The tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa on 3 October when hundreds of refugees drowned sparked calls for a more humane approach to migration in Europe to prevent the Mediterranean becoming the "graveyard of Europe". To achieve this, the rules for search and rescue missions conducted by Frontex, the EU's agency for external border security, are being updated. We discussed the details with Carlos Coelho, a Portuguese member of the EPP group who wrote a report about this. (Read more: Protecting the EU's borders: "Saving lives should be mandatory")

Europe's economy could be boosted by €275 billion if the EU successfully concludes all current free trade talks. It is now negotiating agreements with major economic players such as the US, Japan and India, which would open up these markets for European businesses. The EU's gross domestic product would then grow by 2.2%, the equivalent of adding a country the size of Austria to the economy. Find out all the facts in our infographic. (Read more: The €275 billion challenge: the stakes of the EU's free trade negotiations)

It's not just good fences that make for good neighbours. Good relations are based on mutual interests and shared values, which is why the EU offers its neighbours a privileged relationship in exchange for economic and political reforms, including a commitment to values such as democracy and human rights. Find out more about the 16 countries that are part of the European Neighbourhood Policy by clicking on our map. (Read more: EU and its closest neighbours)

The EU's collaboration with its eastern counterpart the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has traditionally focussed on promoting trade between the two regions. However, Reinhard Bütikofer believes there are many benefits to be had by working together on other issues as well, such as human rights and the environment. MEPs will vote on his report on Wednesday 15 January. We talked to the German Green MEP about why the relationship needs to be broadened. (Read more: ASEAN: “Focussing exclusively on trade does not reflect the opportunities for cooperation”)

It’s not just in Europe that the EU faces many challenges. On a global scale it will have to find ways to successfully work together with its international partners such as the US, Russia and China. The results will affect anything from the economy to fighting terrorism. Read on to find out what the Parliament’s experts on foreign relations believe the challenges and opportunities to be in 2014. (Read more: The challenges facing the EU in its relations with great powers this year)

The EU should not give up on Ukrainians protesting against their government’s decision to postpone closer links with the Union, according to the majority of MEPs during a debate on the country’s situation. However, some MEPs called Ukraine’s decision to not sign an association agreement a failure of the EU’s foreign policy and a win for Russia. (Read more: Debate: MEPs call on EU to support Ukrainians demonstrating for a European future)

The Vilnius summit of the Eastern Partnership on 28-29 November could prove to be a milestone for EU-Ukraine relations, as both sides expect to sign the association agreement that would bring the country closer to the EU. Today EP envoys Pat Cox and Aleksander Kwasniewski present their report on the Tymoshenko case during the Conference of Presidents. We talked about it with Paweł Kowal, a Polish member of the ECR group who is the chair of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. (Read more: Kowal: "In 10-15 years it will be natural to talk about Ukraine’s accession")

The agreement reached over the weekend on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief is a "great success" that paves the way for future cooperation, Tarja Cronberg (Greens/EFA, Finland), EP delegation chair said. We asked her for her opinion on the deal reached by Iran representatives and a negotiating team of the US, China, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK, led by EU high representative Catherine Ashton. (Read more: Nuclear deal with Iran: necessary step for cooperation, EP delegation chair says )

Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats have all taken to the streets in Bosnia and Herzegovina to demonstrate against the government, which they blame for the country’s deteriorating situation. Together with Ukraine, this represents another source of unrest at the borders of the EU. We asked Doris Pack, a German member of the EPP group who wrote a report on Bosnia's progress towards EU membership, about possible scenarios for the country's future. (Read more: Doris Pack on Bosnia: “We cannot fix the situation from outside”)

Close to 3.5 million Syrians will have to seek refuge in another country by the end of the year, according to the UN adding one more sombre note to this year's World Refugee Day on 20 June. After two years of violence, the conflict still shown no signs of being resolved any time soon. The EU has allocated more than €300 million in funding to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in Syria and recently MEPs gave their backing to adding €19.5 million for food, shelter and medical supplies. (Read more: World Refugees Day: the human cost of the Syrian conflict)

REF. : 20131111TST24341
Support for Ukraine in midst of turmoil

MEPs voice support for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters demanding closer links to the EU than Russia.

Ukraine on the brink of milestone agreement with the EU

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What is the EU doing to support the victims of the Syrian conflict?
Take a stand for humanity with the EP
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