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Procedure : 2001/2276(COS)
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Thursday, 25 April 2002 - Brussels
Promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries

European Parliament resolution on the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries (COM(2001) 252 – C5&nbhy;0653/2001 – 2001/2276(COS))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication (COM(2001) 252 – C5&nbhy;0653/2001),

–  having regard to the Commission report on the implementation of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights in 2000 (SEC(2001) 801),

–  having regard to the Commission working paper on Programming Human Rights and Democracy – Exercise 2001 (SEC(2001) 891),

–  having regard to Articles 3, 6, 11 and 19 of the Treaty on European Union and Articles 177, 300 and 310 of the EC Treaty,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its optional protocols, in particular Article 19, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),

–  having regard to the rules governing the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought awarded annually by the European Parliament,

–  having regard to the proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Council in Nice in December 2000; and, not least, having regard to the 'new' fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter, which obviously require particular attention on the part of the EU itself,

–  having regard to the European Union's Declaration of 10 December 1998 in Vienna on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 25 June 2001 on the role of the European Union in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries,

–  having regard to its resolution of 20 September 1996 on the communication from the Commission on the inclusion of respect for democratic principles and human rights in agreements between the Community and third countries (COM(1995) 216 – C4-0197/1995)(1),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on human rights in the world of 5 July 2001, 16 March 2000, 17 December 1998, 12 December 1996, 26 April 1995, 12 March 1993, 12 September 1991, 18 January 1989, 12 March 1987, 22 October 1985, 22 May 1984 and 17 May 1983(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 1 March 2001 on the Commission communication to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Community's development policy (COM(2000) 212 - C5-0264/2000)(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 September 2000 on a common Community diplomacy(4), and the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament concerning the development of the external service (COM(2000) 456),

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 October 2000 on the implementation of 'human rights/democracy' budget lines relating to campaigns in favour of a moratorium on capital punishment(5),

–  having regard to the conventions drawn up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO),

–  having regard to Special Report No 12/2000 of the Court of Auditors on the management by the Commission of European Union support for the development of democracy and human rights in third countries, together with the Commission's replies(6),

–  having regard to the outcome of the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights,

–  having regard to Rule 47(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and the opinions of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy, the Committee on Development and Cooperation and the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities (A5-0084/2002),

A.  whereas one of the main objectives of the European Union must be to uphold the universality and indivisibility of human rights – including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights – as proclaimed by the 1993 World Conference in Vienna on human rights,

B.  whereas the rights of women and girls form an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights, as laid down in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995,

C.  whereas its leading role in the economic, commercial, political, diplomatic and development aid sectors gives the EU an extraordinary capacity for bringing to bear moral and political influence which should be used without reservation or hesitation to extend and improve democratisation and respect for human rights among its partners,

D.  whereas measures to combat poverty and development cooperation are inextricably linked to the defence of human rights and democratisation, in that they promote the political, social and economic conditions necessary to guarantee peace and stability and ensure that everyone can live in dignity,

E.  whereas, also, in many former colonies of European States, the persisting influences of colonial powers has not really encouraged, and has even hindered, human rights, the principles of good governance and the recognition of the role of civil society,

F.  whereas, however, up to now this fact has not been incorporated in any objective analysis by the Member States of the causes of such aberrations on the part of individual third countries and so, unfortunately, does not form part of a coherent political approach to encouraging democracy and human rights,

G.  whereas the Cotonou Agreement signed in June 2000 with the ACP countries has enhanced the democracy clause included by the European Community as an 'essential element' of all its agreements with third countries and which is now based on respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, as well as on governance and sound management of public affairs,

H.  whereas the European Union must play a key role in actively upholding human rights and democratisation in third countries, encouraging the promotion of these rights through its external action and responding swiftly and effectively in the event of serious and persistent human rights violations,

I.  whereas reducing poverty, the main objective of the Union's new development policy, requires the existence of genuine participatory democracy and responsible, corruption-free governments,

J.  whereas the European Union can make a crucial contribution through its human rights and democratisation policy to eliminating the exclusive aspects of the globalisation process now under way and giving it a focus based on inclusion of the least favoured social groups and the poorest countries, so that both can benefit from all those effects of globalisation which help to promote human development,

K.  whereas respect for social rights and labour standards promotes lasting and equitable social development,

L.  whereas the long-term dialogue on democratisation and human rights is also a key element in the European Union's conflict-prevention strategy,

M.  whereas the proposed code of conduct for the Union's external relations as regards human rights is not aimed at coercion, but rather the adoption of positive measures that can no longer be delayed, such as global support for democracy and human rights, the signing, ratification and application of international human rights instruments and thus the prevention of future and repeated crises,

1.  Welcomes the abovementioned Commission communication, which puts forward important proposals and suggestions concerning the European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries which are partners of the Union;

2.  Supports in particular the Commission's proposals to systematically incorporate human rights into a transparent political dialogue with third countries, give genuine substance to the democracy clauses contained in the Union's association agreements and trade agreements and include the promotion of human rights and democracy in external aid programmes,

3.  Regrets the absence of specific proposals to encourage greater consistency in the work of the various Community institutions and end the almost total dependence in this sphere on the political will of the Council, reflected in the frequent requirement for unanimous decision-making, and calls on the Convention on the future of Europe to put forward firm proposals to this end;

4.  Requests that the demands regarding democratisation and respect for and protection of human rights placed on third countries which are partners of the Union should in all circumstances take precedence over any legitimate economic, commercial or any other interests of the Union and its individual Member States;

5.  Calls for active and widespread use of the 'social incentive', 'environmental incentive' and 'anti-drugs' clauses contained in the new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for the period 2002-2004, which provide for additional preferences to be extended to countries complying with the standards laid down by the ILO and with international legislation on the environment and on combating the production and trafficking of drugs;

6.  Regrets the frequent inability of the Member States to maintain a common position at the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, thereby tarnishing the Union's image and undermining the development of its foreign policy;

7.  Requests that any third country wishing to maintain political, economic, commercial or any other type of relations with the European Union should sign, ratify and apply unequivocally and without reservation the existing basic texts on human rights, including in particular the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court;

8.  Proposes to the Commission and the Council that an interinstitutional code of conduct be drawn up in order to ensure a more coherent and equitable approach in the Union's external action on democratisation and human rights; considers that this code should govern the relations between the Union and the more that 120 States to which the democracy clause is currently applicable as an essential element of the various agreements in force between these countries and the Union;

Principles for an interinstitutional code of conduct for the Union's external relations in the field of human rights

9.  Calls therefore on the Commission to draw up an initial proposal for a code on which a decision should be taken immediately by the Council and Parliament and which takes into account the following elements at least:

   (a) Any political, economic or commercial relations maintained by the European Union with third States recognised by the United Nations as States which support or sponsor terrorism shall be immediately suspended for breach of the democracy clause. The only exception should be humanitarian measures or political measures designed solely to encourage a change of policy on the part of the State concerned;
   (b) Abolition of the death penalty and a requirement that a universal moratorium be introduced on capital punishment is an essential element of the relations between the European Union and third States, so that the existence of the death penalty in a third State will automatically trigger a demand that it be abolished or that a universal moratorium be introduced as a clear indication of the EU's position;
   (c) No third State may accede to the European Union without having signed and ratified by the date of its accession all basic treaties and agreements on human rights which have been signed and ratified by all Member States at that date;
   (d) Any third State wishing to conclude any kind of association agreement with the European Union must also have signed, ratified or acceded to, by the date on which the agreement is concluded, the basic treaties and agreements on human rights; furthermore, the State in question must guarantee satisfactory practical application of provisions governing human rights and not be considered liable for failure to respect or serious and persistent breaches of human rights, based on the following indicators: the relevant United Nations reports (including resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights, reports of special rapporteurs and decisions of the monitoring bodies for the main conventions); the annual report to be drawn up by the European Union Human Rights Agency proposed in this resolution; decisions of the competent judicial bodies, such as the European, inter-American or African Courts of Human Rights; and the reports drawn up by the main NGOs in this field;
   (e) Any third State wishing to conclude with the European Union any type of cooperation agreement or any type of agreement other than those described above must demonstrate its willingness to sign, ratify or accede to, by the date on which the agreement is concluded, the basic treaties and agreements on human rights, and should not be considered responsible for failure to respect or serious and persistent breaches of human rights and should be able to secure gradual and appreciable improvements in the application and effective guarantee of such rights, to be monitored on the basis of the indicators described above;
   (f) In the case of occasional human rights violations, which can be verified on the basis of the indicators mentioned above, the measures which may be adopted by the Union shall include suspension of agreements signed by the EU and its Member States with the third State in question, suspension of high-level contacts and changes to cooperation programmes, involving postponement of projects or use of different channels for the provision of aid;
   (g) Any third State having or wishing to conclude any type of agreement with the European Union must also respect all basic treaties and agreements on international humanitarian law which have been signed and ratified by all Member States;
   (h) The application of the democracy clause may under no circumstances affect the provision of humanitarian aid to third States, irrespective of the type of relations they have with the European Union. This aid should preferably be distributed by United Nations agencies, NGOs and other civil society organisations in the country concerned, rather than through government channels;
   (i) Where necessary, the procedure for suspending agreements should be the same mutatis mutandis as that laid down in Article 7 of the EU Treaty for punishing serious and persistent breaches of human rights by Member States, as supplemented by the Treaty of Nice, and which provides in particular for the State in question to submit its observations. As part of this procedure, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Nice, the European Parliament may also decide, by a simple majority of its Members, to propose that the Council suspend an agreement in application of the democracy clause;
   (j) The code of conduct should also apply to any amendment of all agreements signed by the European Union with third States;

10.  Maintains that the objective of the Union in assessing the progress made by the various partner countries in the field of democratisation and human rights must be not only to ensure a consistent approach to different countries and regions, but also and above all to prevent unfair or unequal treatment and double standards in its dealings with all of them;

11.  Stresses that this code should not focus on the punitive and suspensive nature of human rights clauses but should instead essentially be based on mutual respect between all contracting parties in the relations between the EU and third countries; in this perspective it should fully incorporate all possible positive incentives, including generous cooperation programmes, such as to improve the respect of human rights at all levels;

12.  Endorses the approach geared to 'humanitarian aid based on human rights', because of the importance it can have in terms of conflict prevention in cases where a humanitarian crisis has been caused by a violent conflict;

13.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the respect of women's rights as a part of human rights is included as a key element in all Community programmes and as a criterion for external relations with third countries, including trade agreements and cooperation agreements;

14.  Calls on the Commission, in all external relations with third countries in which financial aid is given, as well as in commercial agreements, cooperation agreements and development aid, to make it a specific condition that the country in question is required to eradicate and penalise the worst kinds of violence against women, as well as genital mutilation, stoning, public punishment, torture, and rape in times of war; calls on the Commission to check systematically whether these conditions have been met and to draw up reports on the subject;

15.  Urges the Commission to work alongside other international agencies, such as UNIFEM and the World Bank, to ensure that gender issues become part of mainstream development decisions;

16.  Recalls its support for the setting of fair social standards in economic activity and its commitment to take part in efforts to combat the exploitation of labour throughout the world; stresses the vital role which the WTO and ILO must play in this area and the need for them to effectively implement a joint work programme;

17.  Underlines the importance of programmes such as MEDA and TACIS in promoting human rights and democratisation in particularly sensitive areas of the world;

18.  Calls on the Commission to intensify its efforts with a view to adopting a concise Green Paper on CSR as soon as possible;

19.  Calls on the Commission to say what methods should be used to ensure genuine respect for the codes of conduct for enterprises drawn up by international organisations such as the United Nations, the ILO and the OECD;

20.  Encourages the Commission to open national contact points for the monitoring of the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises from June 2000 in its delegations in third countries, similar to the national contact points in all Member States;

21.  Recalls that Article 13 of the EC treaty requires the European Union to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, and that this obligation must, not only in theory but also in reality, form an integral part of the policy of the European Union in relation to both existing and future trade partners, as well as in the negotiations with the candidate countries on the fulfilment of the Copenhagen criteria;

Institutional proposals

22.  Considers it vital to communitise the CFSP as soon as possible, as the only way of ensuring true consistency in the Union's actions in this field and tackling the current situation where the different institutions, particularly the Council, have to deal with these matters, as regards both geography and subject matter, in some cases within the Community framework and in others at intergovernmental level (CFSP);

23.  Calls on the Convention on the future of Europe to examine the institutional reforms necessary, along the lines set out in this resolution, to strengthen the Union's role in promoting human rights and democratic principles through the CFSP;

24.  Proposes that the Parliament produced by the 2004 elections should establish a Committee on Human Rights responsible for problems relating to human rights, democratisation in third countries and relations with international organisations active in the sphere of human rights;

25.  Supports the establishment of a European Union Agency for Human Rights and Democracy, as proposed in the conclusions of the Cologne European Council;

26.  Considers that this agency should be responsible for providing information and advice, as proposed by the Committee of Wise Men, and, in particular, should draw up a global overview of the human rights situation by country, to which the European Union should pay special attention when formulating and carrying out the various Union policies;

27.  Considers that the European Union Agency for Human Rights and Democracy should likewise be called upon to submit an annual assessment, based on the provisions of the above code of conduct, of all cooperation and association agreements between the Union and third countries;

28.  Considers that, with a view to incorporating human rights and democracy into EC aid programmes, the activities of the European Union Agency for Human Rights and Democracy could include assessment of the impact of non-structural measures, in view of their great importance to reconciliation processes in the wake of armed conflicts;

29.  Considers that before the signing of any accession, association or cooperation agreement between the EU and a third country, the Commission should draw up a report on the situation as regards democratic principles and human rights in that country, with a recommendation as to whether or not the negotiations in progress should be completed; the Council and the European Parliament shall be required to give an opinion on this recommendation, with the approval of both institutions being required for the agreement to be signed;

30.  Requests that, as part of the political dialogue and debate on country strategy documents, emphasis be placed on the need to ensure the right to education and considers that universal access to education should be considered a thematic priority, since it is an essential fundamental right;

31.  Calls on the Commission to forward promptly to the European Parliament the reports on this matter drawn up by the Commission's external delegations;

32.  Understands that conflict situations produce serious human rights violations and, in this connection, considers that education for peace, as an integral part of peacemaking and peacekeeping measures, should be one of the priorities of the EIDHR within the framework of conflict prevention;

33.  Considers that civil society has a vital contribution to make in formulating and monitoring Union policy in these areas and supports the continuation of the periodic debate forums on human rights held in cooperation with the Presidency and with the participation of the Union institutions and representatives from academic bodies and NGOs;

o   o

34.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ C 320, 28.10.1996, p. 261.
(2) OJ C 65 E, 14.3.2002, p. 336, OJ C 377, 29.12. 2000, p. 336; OJ C 98, 9.4.1999, pp. 267 and 270, OJ C 20, 20.1.1997, p. 161; OJ C 126, 22.5.1995, p. 15; OJ C 115, 26.4.1993, p. 214; OJ C 267, 14.10.1991, p. 165; OJ C 47, 27.2.1989, p. 61; OJ C 99, 13.4.1987, p. 157; OJ C 343, 31.12.1985, p. 29; OJ C 172, 2.7.1984. p. 36; OJ C 161, 20.6.1983, p. 58.
(3) OJ C 277, 1.10.2001, p. 130.
(4) OJ C 135, 7.5.2001, p. 69.
(5) OJ C 197, 12.7.2001, p. 395.
(6) OJ C 230, 10.8.2000, p. 1.

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