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MEPs appeal to the EU to ensure that human rights and democracy are observed in all aspects of its relations with its partners in a resolution on human rights in the world in 2012, adopted on Wednesday. They also call on the Foreign Affairs Council to hold a public annual debate on human rights

"Even at a time of economic crisis, human rights and rule of law cannot take a back seat in the EU's external policy," said the rapporteur, Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK). "We need to stand behind a more visible, coherent and efficient EU human rights policy. Moreover, the countries in a transition or post-conflict situation deserve our special attention. The EU's external action has to support democratization processes and transitional justice. There is no reconciliation without justice and there is no justice without democracy," he added.

What the EU should do

MEPs want the EU to apply sanctions to all regimes using repressive methods against civilians and to continue to support human rights defenders and extend its protection to whistle-blowers and investigative journalists.

The EU should ensure that the human rights dialogues and consultations are ambitious and accompanied by clear public benchmarks for measuring their success objectively. When these dialogues are not constructive, the EU should draw clear political conclusions, says Parliament.

It regrets the lack of transparency regarding the contents of the country strategies and calls for public disclosure of at least their key priorities. The EU should produce a public assessment of the lessons learnt during the first cycle of EU human rights country strategies and identify best practices for the next cycle.

Challenges of transition - justice, social unrest, respect of rights and freedoms

The resolution points to the deterioration of human rights and fundamental freedoms in most of the EU neighbourhood countries and looks at cases where reforms and the transition to democracy have been stopped by the ruling regime.

Business and human rights

MEPs added a new section to the resolution this year emphasising the importance of promoting corporate social responsibility, including in business operations outside the EU, and ensuring it throughout the supply chain. "European companies should ensure that their activities respect human rights standards also when operating outside the EU," says the resolution..