Relations with China and Russia, double standards in EU human rights policy and the impact of the economic crisis on human rights were raised by human rights subcommittee MEPs in their discussion with Stavros Lambrinidis about his mandate and working priorities.
Many MEPs, including Leonidas Donskis (ALDE, LT) and Inesa Vaidere (EPP, LV), highlighted the importance of human rights issues in relations with the EU's strategic partner countries. "What is your strategy fpr raising human rights concerns with China and Russia?" asked Donskis.
"There should not be any double standards in EU human rights policy. The fewer double standards there are the more effective we are", stressed Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL, FR).
We must be able to listen and to find ways to expand the discussion, replied Lambrinidis saying that the strategy should not be "only finger pointing but also hand holding." The big issue that needs to be discussed is how all institutions could combine their strengths on human rights issues, he added.
Worsening situation of NGOs
The chair of the subcommittee, Barbara Lochbihler (Greens/EFA, DE), raised the issue of new laws hindering the work of NGOs in a number of countries.
"Our NGO policy need to be more effective ... and we need to work closely with member states in this area", Lambrinidis said. He named the situation of NGOs as one of his key priorities as well as focusing on strategic partners, engaging with human rights players on the ground and strengthening freedom of association. "The EU should also put greater focus on economic and social rights", he stressed.
Mr Lambrinidis took up his appointment in September 2012. During the discussion, he renewed his promise to debate "frequently" with MEPs.