The EP has repeatedly called for the appointment of an EU envoy on human rights. On Wednesday 13 June MEPs approved a recommendation calling on the Council to appoint an EU special representative for human rights. The aim is to boost the visibility, effectiveness, coherence and accountability of the EU's human rights policy.
The European Union's special representatives support the work of Catherine Ashton, the Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.
These special representatives tackle specific issues, troubled regions or countries. Currently there are ten of them, covering anything from Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process, the Southern Mediterranean region as well as Sudan and South Sudan. The one for human rights would be the first special representative dedicated to a theme.
Mandate of human rights special representative
The special representative would have a renewable mandate of 2.5 years, which would reflect EU human rights policy and cover areas that include strengthening democracy, international justice, international humanitarian law, abolition of the death penalty, freedom of expression, armed conflict, gender issues and children.
The special representative would also be responsible for engaging with the UN, chairing high-level human rights dialogues and leading consultations on human rights issues with countries outside the EU.
Recommendation to Parliament
Spanish Christian-Democrat José Ignacio Salafranca says in his recommendation that the Parliament must have a role in the appointment procedure and renewal process and calls for a person with extensive experience and a proven track record in the field of human rights, as well as being well known on the international stage.
The Foreign Affairs Council is expected to appoint the representative on 25 June.
In order to ensure the procedure's transparency and the new representative's accountability, the person nominated for the position by Ms Ashton will be questioned in a hearing by a parliamentary committee.