Human Rights and Democracy

Human rights are among the main priorities of the European Parliament. Parliament is a key actor in the fight for democracy, freedom of speech, fair elections and the rights of the oppressed.


Election Observation

Election observation strengthens democracy, the rule of law and human rights worldwide

Election observation missions

The European Parliament is committed to supporting free and fair elections in countries outside the EU as they are essential for creating democracy, bringing legitimacy and raising public confidence in institutions. The European Parliament has been engaged in election observation for over 30 years and has deployed more than 170 short-term election observation delegations in different countries around the world.

The main task of MEPs taking part in observation missions is to play an active role ahead of the ballot and on election day to attend polling stations, check voting registers and observe the opening, voting, closing and counting of the ballots.

The EP delegations are integrated into the framework of long term election observation missions such as OSCE/ODIHR International Election Observation Missions (IEOMs) and EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOMs).


Democracy support

Through the Comprehensive Democracy Support Approach the European Parliament supports democracy around the world and is engaged in conflict prevention and mediation.

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Support for parliamentary democracy

The European Parliament provides assistance to parliaments beyond the borders of the European Union with a view to strengthening their institutional capacity. It seeks to establish a continuing dialogue with these parliaments and to support their participation as fully fledged members in the democratic community.

The support programmes cover primarily national parliaments in the EU’s neighbourhood but also certain priority countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as trans-border and regional parliaments. They are focused on strengthening the principal function of parliaments (law-making, oversight, and representation); setting up parliamentary organisations; implementing administrative and institutional reform; initiating inter-parliamentary legislative cooperation and the sharing of best practices.

Pre-accession actions

The European Parliament support programme for the Parliaments of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) and Turkey aims to support democracy in these countries by strengthening parliamentary capacity and fostering parliamentary dialogue. It also facilitates the EU enlargement process by helping these countries to comply with the EU accession criteria through increased parliamentary participation and oversight.

The support programme mainly consists of the following activities:

  • parliamentary conferences, seminars and workshops
  • study and exchange visits
  • country-specific activities
  • pre-accession fellowship programme

Mediation, facilitation and dialogue activities

In the context of the European Union's efforts to improve responsiveness to act early to prevent conflict, to intervene when necessary to stop crises escalating and to support post conflict restoration of peace and democracy, an ever-growing emphasis has been placed on strengthening the EU's conflict prevention and mediation capacities.

Possible roles of Members of the European Parliament engaged mediation, facilitation and dialogue include:

  • parliamentary diplomacy: acting as EP envoys for mediation and conflict prevention
  • participation in joint EU task forces
  • strengthening the role of parliaments in regional and multilateral peace processes
  • developing parliamentary capacities for conflict prevention
  • organising high-level international events on mediation
  • monitoring mediation peace processes

Democracy support and Election Coordination Group

The European Parliament’s activities are coordinated by the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG), headed by the chairpersons of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Development. This group consists of 15 Members, including the Chair of the Conference of Delegation Chairs, the Vice-President responsible for human rights and democracy and the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

The DEG provides political guidance and supervision on:

  • monitoring and continued follow-up of elections
  • support to parliamentary democracy
  • activities in connection with the Sakharov Prize Network (SPN) and human rights related actions
  • activities aiming to support the parliaments of the Western Balkans and Turkey
  • mediation, facilitation and dialogue initiatives

Sakharov Prize

Each year the European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals or organisations who fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar

Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Lamiya Aji Bashar are survivors of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and have become spokespersons for women afflicted by IS's campaign of sexual violence.

They are public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants.


Defending human rights

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Subcommittee on Human Rights defend human rights outside the European Union and fight against the death penalty with the support of other key players in the Parliament

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Human Rights debates

The European Parliament uses the Thursday afternoon of each Strasbourg plenary session to highlight flagrant violations of human rights across the world.

The debates and resolutions adopted by MEPs help to raise awareness about human rights abuses. They have led some governments to reconsider their actions, including the imposition of the death penalty, and have resulted in national parliaments halting work on some laws.


Fundamental rights

All EU citizens enjoy a range of personal, civil, political, economic and social rights, which are brought together in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Charter of Fundamental Rights recognises a range of personal, civil, political, economic and social rights of EU citizens and residents, enshrining them into EU law. It is a complementary text to the European Convention on Human Rights, which was an initiative of the Council of Europe. The Charter is annexed to the Treaty of Lisbon in the form of a declaration

Convention on Human Rights

The Treaty of Lisbon provides for the EU to accede, as a Union, to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This accession will enable the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to verify the compliance of EU acts with the ECHR, which will also serve to enhance the protection of fundamental rights within the European Union.