Texts adopted
Thursday, 21 January 2016 - Strasbourg
EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement ***
 Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
 Mutual defence clause (Article 42(7) TEU)
 EU priorities for the UNHRC sessions in 2016
 Activities of the Committee on Petitions 2014
 EU citizens under detention in India, notably Estonian and UK seamen
 North Korea

EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement ***
PDF 239kWORD 59k
European Parliament legislative resolution of 21 January 2016 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the Union, of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and Kosovo, of the other part (10725/2/2015 – C8-0328/2015 – 2015/0094(NLE))


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (10725/2/2015),

–  having regard to the draft Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, of the one part, and Kosovo, of the other part (10728/1/2015),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 217 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(i), and Article 218(7) and (8), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0328/2015),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2), and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0372/2015),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of Kosovo.

Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
PDF 192kWORD 85k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine (2015/3032(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Association Agreements / Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AAs/DCFTAs) between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, of the other part,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and to its recent resolution of 9 July 2015 on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy(1),

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit held in Riga on 21 and 22 May 2015,

–  having regard to the progress reports on the implementation by Georgia and Ukraine of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan of 18 December 2015,

–  having regard to the recommendations of the European Economic and Social Committee on integrating civil society into policy-making and reform processes,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have all ratified the Association Agreements (AAs), which encompass Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs), thus choosing the path of closer political and economic integration with the European Union and undergoing ambitious reforms in numerous areas, including democracy, good governance, the rule of law and human rights;

B.  whereas the EU acknowledges the European aspirations of the three countries and emphasises the added value of the AAs in their reform processes;

C.  whereas good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights remain at the core of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and represent a fundamental commitment, in particular on the part of the three countries that have signed AAs with the EU;

D.  whereas Russia remains involved, directly or indirectly, in conflicts and internal divisions touching all three of the association countries – the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region in Georgia, the Transnistria issue in Moldova, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in the conflict in the eastern parts of Ukraine;

E.  whereas visa-free travel between the EU and Moldova was introduced in April 2014, and whereas the latest Commission reports of December 2015 indicate that Georgia and Ukraine now meet the requirements set in the Visa Liberalisation Action Plans;

F.  whereas the EU’s engagement with the Eastern Partnership countries has been met with strong resistance and aggressive reactions from the Russian Federation, such as retaliatory measures against the association countries; whereas the EU and its Member States have adopted a series of sanctions and restrictive measures against the Russian Federation and Russian officials;

1.  Stresses the importance of the Association Agreements (AAs), with their Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) components; welcomes the progress achieved to date, and insists that the implementation of these AAs/DCFTAs and the related Association Agendas must be a top priority for the EU and the three partners; stresses that the Council of the European Union unanimously signed the AAs;

2.  Welcomes the efforts made by Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in ensuring that national legislation approximates EU standards based on AA/DCFTA commitments; points out that success in doing this depends on many factors, including a stable political environment, strategic thinking, concrete plans for reforms, and good use of financial and technical international support;

3.  Supports, in this connection, the committed and multi-faceted financial and technical assistance provided by the EU and other financial institutions to Ukraine and Georgia, but stresses that the EU’s financial support to all its partners is conditioned by concrete reform steps; stresses the crucial role the Commission should play in facilitating the implementation of the AAs/DCFTAs and in monitoring and assisting the relevant authorities, both technically and financially;

4.  Recalls that the funds made available must be spent well, and that by themselves they are not enough to stabilise the economy, and nor can any sustainable success be achieved without the continued commitment of the partners to bringing forward and implementing structural reforms, ensuring a rise in domestic demand, and achieving social cohesion;

5.  Believes that parliamentary scrutiny is a fundamental condition for democratic support for EU policies; calls on the Commission, therefore, to facilitate regular and detailed monitoring of the implementation of the AAs/DCFTAs by the European Parliament in a timely manner; calls for fresh impetus to be given to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and for its activity to be boosted, so that it can face new challenges effectively; calls for the exchange of best practices and the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding modelled on the one signed with the Verkhovna Rada, which could serve as an example for parliamentary cooperation;

6.  Stresses the importance of developing the social dimension of the partnership, in line with the provisions of the Association Agendas and the relevant International Labour Organisation conventions; urges all parties to respect their commitments on core labour and environmental standards;

7.  Underlines its firm support for the territorial integrity of all three countries; calls on the Russian Federation to end its occupation of Crimea, and to put an immediate end to all direct or indirect involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as in the frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova; welcomes the Council’s decision of 21 December 2015 to extend the economic sanctions against the Russian Federation following the non‑fulfilment of the Minsk Agreements;

8.  Underlines the fact that the association countries have freely chosen to establish a deeper relationship with the EU and that their choice must be fully respected and be free from pressure by any third party; condemns, in this connection, the actions taken by Russia to undermine or derail the pro-European course taken by the three association countries, and calls for efforts to be stepped up to counter disinformation and improve the strategic communication of EU policies and activities in the Eastern Neighbourhood, together with the activities undertaken by the EU East StratCom Task Force;

9.  Welcomes strongly the latest and last progress reports, published by the Commission on 18 December 2015, on the implementation by Georgia and Ukraine of their respective Visa Liberalisation Action Plans; expects the Council and the Member States to proceed to grant the two countries a visa-free travel regime without delay; commends Moldova for the good implementation of the visa-free regime in place since April 2014, which represents a good example for the whole region;

10.  Underlines the fact that the main objectives of the DCFTAs are, on a micro-scale, to make tangible and sustainable improvements to the living conditions of ordinary citizens by ensuring stability, creating opportunities for SMEs and generating jobs; highlights the fact that the implementation of the DCFTA, coupled with the dire economic situation, could have an impact on the Ukrainian economy and labour market, with social consequences that must not be neglected; stresses that the setting-up of bilateral DCFTAs with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova is a crucial tool for modern, transparent and predictable trade, regulatory approximation and gradual economic integration of the partners into the EU internal market, as well as for foreign direct investments leading to job creation and long‑term growth, and with the ultimate goal of creating a wider economic area based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and respect for sovereign choices;

11.  Underlines the need to pursue the reform agenda vigorously, especially in the areas of the judiciary, the rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime, as an important prerequisite for the socio-economic development of the three association countries;

12.  Reiterates the importance of integrating civil society into policy-making and reform processes; highlights the role that the relevant Civil Society Platforms provided for in the AAs can play in this process with regard, in particular, to raising public awareness and monitoring the implementation of the agreements; point outs the importance of explaining to the populations of the association countries the benefits of implementation of the AAs/DCFTAs, and of debunking any myths;

13.  Highlights the importance of the AA/DCFTA provisions on energy cooperation for security of supply and the development of competitive, transparent and non‑discriminatory energy markets in line with EU rules and standards, as well as for renewable energy and energy efficiency; supports the EU’s intention to enhance full energy market integration with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia through the Energy Community;

14.  Welcomes the fact that, despite negative economic trends in the region, exports from Georgia and Moldova to the EU grew in the first 12 months of the implementation of the DCFTA, with the EU’s imports from Georgia rising by 15 % and its overall share of Moldovan exports increasing by 62 %, and expects to see the same positive trends in Ukraine; calls on the Commission to report annually, in detail, on the implementation of the DCFTAs with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in particular on the anti-circumvention mechanism for Georgia and the anti-circumvention mechanism and safeguard clause in the case of Moldova;

15.  Stresses that, pursuant to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, any European state may apply to become a member of the EU provided that it adheres to the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law;

16.  Is satisfied with the three countries’ participation in, or association with, EU programmes such as Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), Horizon 2020, Erasmus+, Marie Sklodowska-Curie, and Creative Europe; notes that this cooperation, while being mutually beneficial, provides the partner countries with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with EU working methods and policies;

17.  Welcomes the new focus of the reviewed ENP, and the EU’s intention to step up its cooperation with our partners in the fields of conflict prevention, counter-terrorism, anti‑radicalisation, and security sector reform; considers that this cooperation needs to be substantial and aimed at addressing common security threats and the development of joint efforts for the viable settlement of conflicts, including through enhanced participation in Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and training activities as well as actions to ensure non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the fight against illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SALWs); reiterates its support for the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), the EU Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine), and the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), as well as for the efforts being made with a view to the peaceful resolution of the conflicts affecting the three countries;


18.  Welcomes the progress achieved by Georgia over the last three years in all areas covered by the four blocks of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, and commends the commitment shown in this regard by the Georgian authorities;

19.  Stresses that freedom of the media, freedom of expression and plurality of information are the fundamental values of a democratic society; is concerned about the adverse effects on media plurality of cases such as that of the Rustavi 2 broadcasting company; calls, in this connection, on the Georgian authorities to guarantee media pluralism, editorial independence and transparent media ownership, especially on the eve of the 2016 parliamentary elections; endorses the idea put forward by the Georgian authorities of sending an expert mission of high level advisers, comprising retired judges of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, to oversee the ongoing case regarding Rustavi 2;

20.  Emphasises, in this connection, that judicial proceedings should be transparent, impartial and free from political motivation; calls on Georgia to continue, and fully implement, the reform of the judiciary, including by strengthening its independence and depoliticising the Prosecutor’s Office; remains concerned about the lack of accountability of the Prosecutor’s Office and the blurred criteria according to which prosecutors and investigators are appointed; calls for continued efforts towards full independence, efficiency, impartiality and professionalism in the judiciary, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior and the newly established Security Service, including parliamentary scrutiny of the activities of the latter two; is concerned about the extensive use of pre-trial detention, especially of political figures and activists, which should be an exceptional measure applied only under urgent and clear circumstances;

21.  Recalls the statement of 22 September 2015 by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe on the undue pressure exerted on judges of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, and calls on the Government of Georgia to take appropriate action, including adequate measures to protect the members of the court and their families, to investigate fully all acts of intimidation and to bring the perpetrators to justice;

22.  Underlines the fact that the existence of a political opposition is paramount if there is to be a balanced and mature political system, and stresses that any act of violence against members of any political party should be promptly and thoroughly investigated; calls on all political forces in Georgia to improve the political climate by avoiding confrontation and polarisation and ensuring cross-party dialogue in the interest of strengthening democracy and the rule of law;

23.  Calls for full implementation of the recommendations enshrined in the landmark ‘Georgia in Transition’ report submitted by EU Special Adviser Thomas Hammarberg on constitutional and legal reform and human rights;

24.  Congratulates Georgia on its innovative e-procurement system, which has substantially increased transparency, efficiency and accountability – key factors in the fight against corruption;


25.  Expresses serious concern about the de facto systemic political instability which has effectively continued since the last parliamentary elections of 30 November 2014, and considers that the current political impasse in Moldova has reached a critical point that risks destabilising the country’s institutions and endangering the economy, which has a heavy impact on the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI);

26.  Welcomes the creation of a new government after a long period of stalemate and unsuccessful attempts to form a government on 4 and 13 January 2016; urges the political forces in Moldova to accelerate without further delay the reform process for the benefit of all Moldovans, including in order to comply with the demands of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF); encourages avoidance of the dire geopolitical consequences of a further political crisis and reminds the Moldovan parties of the need to enhance political stability in order to guarantee a sustainable success of the reforms and hopes that the new government will be able to deliver substantial results;

27.  Underlines that further efforts are needed in combating corruption, creating an independent and depoliticised judiciary, undoing state capture and stabilising the economy of Moldova; regrets the fact that, by reason of the political instability of Moldova’s institutions and their inability to deliver, EU budget support payments were suspended in 2015;

28.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to extend all necessary technical know‑how and financial support to the future government of Moldova, following the example of the EU Support Group for Ukraine, including by seconding experts and officials from Brussels and Member State capitals and embedding them in the Moldovan administration so that they can assist in and monitor the implementation of reforms on the spot and on a daily basis;

29.  Urges the authorities to investigate fully and thoroughly the corruption scandal and the theft of EUR 1 billion from the banking system, to bring those responsible to justice, and to ensure the return of stolen funds; considers that the ongoing banking crisis illustrates the serious need for systemic improvements in the legal framework in order to reinforce the control and transparency of banking sector activities; asks the Commission, in this connection, to monitor closely the ongoing judicial investigations and to provide the Moldovan authorities with the expertise and assistance necessary to carry out and complete the inquiry if need be;

30.  Calls for a comprehensive reform of the media sector and for full transparency of media ownership; expresses concern, in this connection, about a lack of genuine competition, and calls for the adoption of a stringent law on conflicts of interest;


31.  Welcomes the entry into force as of 1 January 2016 of the EU-Ukraine DCFTA; condemns, however, the fact that the Russian Federation has unilaterally suspended its free trade agreement with Ukraine, has introduced heavy trade restrictions on Ukrainian exports to Russia and is hampering the transit of goods to third countries, violating WTO and other bilateral trade agreements; urges the EU to support Ukraine in current and future disputes with Russia launched in the WTO;

32.  Highlights the Commission’s unprecedented openness and efforts over a year and a half to address all doubts on the Russian side relating to the consequences of the implementation of the DCFTA and to find practical solutions; regrets the incapacity of the Russian side to provide concrete examples of how its own market and trade would be affected by the entry into force of the DCFTA; reiterates the potential gains for Russia resulting from the implementation of the AA/DCFTA, through increased trade and economic activities and a more stable neighbourhood; calls, in this connection, for exploration of further possibilities for high-level dialogue;

33.  Calls on the Member States to keep the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission fully manned and fully operational; notes the calls by the Ukrainian Government for an extended international peacekeeping force along the Ukraine-Russia border and in the Luhansk and Donetsk districts; agrees that, once the situation permits and as part of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement, an EU-led CSDP mission should be offered for deployment to the parties in the conflict, to assist in tasks such as demining, assisting with preparations for local elections and securing free access for humanitarian aid organisations;

34.  Expresses serious concern about the implementation of the Minsk Agreement by the initially agreed deadline of 31 December 2015; recalls that the Russian authorities bear a particular responsibility in this connection; reiterates that ceasefire violations have been increasing since mid-October 2015, that monitors from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) continue to experience restrictions on their freedom of movement, that the restoration of Ukrainian control over the full length of its border with Russia has not materialised, that no agreement was reached on the modalities for the local elections in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, and that not all prisoners and illegally detained persons, such as Nadiya Savchenko and Oleg Sentsov, have been released;

35.  Welcomes the release of the report by the Dutch Safety Board on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), in which 298 innocent civilians were killed; supports the establishment of an international criminal tribunal, and calls on the Russian Federation to cooperate fully with the international community in order to conduct a comprehensive and impartial criminal investigation, and to bring those responsible to justice; deplores the decision of the Russian Federation to block the resolution in the UN Security Council on the creation of an international court to investigate this crime;

36.  Deplores the fact that ongoing Russian aggression has caused a dire humanitarian situation in the Donbas, and that Ukrainian and international humanitarian organisations are refused access to the occupied regions; expresses its deep concern over the challenging humanitarian conditions of the more than 1,5 million internally displaced persons; is deeply concerned at the human rights violations in Russian-occupied Crimea, especially the dire situation of the Crimean Tatars, and stresses the need for further EU financial assistance for Ukraine;

37.  Welcomes the continuous efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to fulfil the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, and congratulates them on the positive final progress report on the implementation of this plan; expresses satisfaction at the adoption of new legislation and policies that have strengthened protection against discrimination; expects the Ukrainian leadership to fulfil its anti-corruption commitments in the first quarter of 2016;

38.  Stresses that the biggest single challenge of the reform effort is endemic corruption; welcomes the decisions taken to date, such as the establishment of anti-corruption legislation, institutions (the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, and a special anti-corruption prosecutor) and mechanisms, and of the National Agency for the Recovery of the Proceeds of Corruption; welcomes, in addition, the recent adoption of the law on state financing of political parties, which will enter into force on 1 July 2016, and of the law on public procurement;

39.  Expresses its understanding that the war situation in the east of Ukraine is a serious impediment to the reform effort; makes it clear, however, that the success and resilience of Ukraine vis-à-vis any external foe depends strictly on the health of its economy and legal framework, thriving democracy and growing prosperity;

40.  Welcomes the ongoing constitutional reform process in the areas of decentralisation and the judiciary; recalls that the Venice Commission has issued positive recommendations on both sets of constitutional amendments; underlines the need to make further progress in those and other areas, especially the economy, where better regulation and de‑monopolisation must continue to be a priority, together with fiscal reforms, enhancing transparency and creating a favourable investment climate; expresses concern about the state of the Ukrainian economy and the country’s overall financial situation; takes note of the mild progress reported in the stabilisation of economic performance; commends the landmark debt-relief deal reached by Ukraine with its creditors in September 2015; recalls that the international community, in particular the EU, European-based international financial institutions, the IMF and individual country donors, have pledged an unprecedented amount of around EUR 20 billion;

41.  Welcomes the EU’s active support and solidarity in the energy sphere, which allowed Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine to resume for the winter of 2015-2016; calls on the Member States to exploit fully the transit potential of Ukraine and to strengthen cooperation in order to secure the energy supply to both the EU and Ukraine, and to avoid the building of new pipelines bypassing Ukraine, in particular the development of the Nord Stream II project for the delivery of Russian gas to Europe, which could prove detrimental to the EU’s strategy for the diversification of energy sources and to EU law; supports the EU’s intention to enhance full energy market integration with Ukraine through the Energy Community and to reduce energy dependency without overburdening private households; calls for the EU and the Ukrainian Government to work out measures in order to cushion against social hardships;

42.  Appreciates the effective and dynamic work of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee in overseeing the political, security and economic situation in Ukraine, as well as its commitment and support vis-à-vis improving the overall EU-oriented reform processes undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities; recalls the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the European Parliament in 2015 establishing a joint framework for parliamentary support and capacity-building between the two parliaments;

43.  Stresses the need to strengthen Ukrainian civil society so that it can advise and support the authorities in delivering the promised reforms and act as an effective watchdog and whistle-blower; welcomes the effective cooperation between the expert community and the Verkhovna Rada in the reform process and the implementation of the AA/DCFTA; commends the fact that the Verkhovna Rada’s priorities are shaped by a comprehensive dialogue with civil society;

44.  Takes note of the upcoming Dutch consultative referendum on the EU-Ukraine AA/DCFTA; trusts that the decision of the Dutch people will be taken on the basis of the merits of the agreement, recognising its tangible effects on the EU and the Netherlands in particular;

o   o

45.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice‑President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Member States, the governments and parliaments of the Eastern Partnership countries and of the Russian Federation, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0272.

Mutual defence clause (Article 42(7) TEU)
PDF 169kWORD 70k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on the mutual defence clause (Article 42(7) TEU) (2015/3034(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Title V of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and in particular Article 42(7) thereof,

–  having regard to Articles 2(4) and 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2012 on the EU’s mutual defence and solidarity clauses: political and operational dimensions(1),

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular to the provisions of Chapter VII and Article 51 thereof,

–  having regard to the statement of the President of the French Republic in the French Congress on 16 November 2015 that France was at war,

–  having regard to the conclusions on defence and security adopted by the European Council on 19-20 December 2013 and 25-26 June 2015,

–  having regard to the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting (of defence ministers) on 17 November 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas on 13 November 2015 multiple terrorist attacks took place in Paris, taking the lives of at least 130 people from more than 26 nations, and whereas the EU Member States have suffered several terrorist attacks since 2004, in which hundreds were killed and several thousand injured;

B.  whereas the French Government officially invoked the mutual defence clause of Article 42(7) TEU following the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015;

C.  whereas solidarity, aid and mutual assistance among the Member States, including through recourse to Union means, form part of the foundations of the EU;

D.  whereas, following the invocation by France of the mutual defence clause, the EU Member States have towards France an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter; emphasising that prevention of conflicts and attacks is preferable to dealing with their consequences;

E.  whereas combating international terrorism is considered to be a priority for the EU, and whereas pursuing the principle of solidarity requires action at home as well as abroad; whereas the internal and external dimensions of EU security are necessarily and closely linked; whereas an EU joint strategy is needed;

F.  whereas the security and defence architecture provided for by the Treaties is not yet fully implemented; whereas the Member States are responsible for achieving progress in the area of the security and defence of the Union;

G.  whereas the EU needs to strengthen its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in order to make the security and defence policies established within the two frameworks increasingly compatible, in particular when a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, which includes terrorist attacks;

H.  whereas the EU institutions need to be more active in security and defence policy, and promote the implementation of all the provisions on security and defence policy enshrined in the Treaties, including those on the particular role of NATO in European and transatlantic security and defence; whereas the EU institutions must support all the Member States in their endeavours to implement those provisions fully;

I.  whereas Article 42(6) TEU on permanent structured cooperation should be activated among those Member States that wish to cooperate closely with each other;

J.  whereas the EU has adopted a counter-terrorism strategy which relies on both Community instruments and intergovernmental assets in the field of common foreign and security policy (CFSP); whereas this strategy proposes that EU actions are organised around four objectives, namely prevention, protection, pursuit and response;

K.  whereas the EU response to terrorism includes the promotion of democracy, dialogue and good governance in order to tackle the root causes of violent extremism;

1.  Condemns in the strongest terms the horrifying terrorist attacks perpetrated by Daesh; expresses its deepest sympathy, solidarity and condolences to all the victims of terror attacks and their families;

2.  Acknowledges and welcomes the unanimous support given to France by all EU Member States; welcomes the readiness of all Member States to provide the full necessary aid and assistance;

3.  Recalls that the mutual defence clause was invoked for the first time; considers that the current case must serve as a catalyst for in-depth political discussions on the multidimensional nature of European security and defence;

4.  Notes with satisfaction the additional contributions of capabilities made available in the fight against terrorism; calls on all Member States to maintain their unconditional and enduring support and to sustain their contributions for as long as necessary; notes France’s role as a catalyst in this common endeavour and encourages the competent EU institutions to provide and sustain their support as necessary;

5.  Considers that invoking the mutual defence and solidarity clauses under the Treaties is first and foremost a political matter; underlines the fact that, when these clauses are invoked, both the European Council and the European Parliament are the place for the political debate;

6.  Expresses concerns that managing aid and assistance under the mutual defence clause on a bilateral basis – as in this case – will not be possible for all Member States; calls therefore on the European Council to give impetus to the further development of the mutual defence clause and build on the role of the relevant EU institutions as facilitators;

7.  Recalls its invitation, in previous resolutions, to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to propose practical arrangements and guidelines for ensuring an effective response in the event that a Member State invokes the mutual defence clause, as well as an analysis of the role of the EU institutions should that clause be invoked; considers it regrettable, however, that no analysis and no guidelines were available when the mutual defence clause was activated for the first time, leading to the current situation requiring ad hoc measures, ad hoc management and ad hoc cooperation;

8.  Considers that the establishment of practical arrangements and guidelines for the future activation of the mutual defence clause remains an urgent priority; stresses that the drawing up of these guidelines should take into account the lessons learned from the first activation of Article 42(7);

9.  Calls on the Council and the Member States to urgently develop and adopt a policy framework which helps to guide the implementation of Article 42(7) TEU and contains a time frame, a review clause and monitoring mechanisms; is deeply convinced that all national, bilateral or multilateral actions following the activation of Article 42(7) should be notified to the Council and be made public at the same time;

10.  Notes that the solidarity clause in Article 222 TFEU would make it possible to put all relevant EU means at the disposal of France and other Member States directly engaged in the fight against terrorism; recalls that Article 222 TFEU is specifically designed to deal with the consequences of the terrorist attacks in Europe and addresses poor levels of cooperation and coordination between national law enforcement agencies in Europe;

11.  Is convinced that, drawing on existing capacities in the Member States and at Union level, the EU needs a permanent civil-military headquarters at strategic and operational levels, and that this structure should be tasked with strategic and operational contingency planning, including for collective defence as provided for by Articles 42(7) and 42(2) TEU and the future application thereof in close cooperation with relevant NATO structures;

12.  Takes the view that the current activation of Article 42(7) TEU should be the catalyst for unleashing the potential of all the security- and defence-related Treaty provisions that should follow suit; recalls in this context the importance of fully and correctly applying the Defence Package, comprising Directives 2009/81/EC on defence procurement and 2009/43/EC on intra-community transfers;

13.  Calls on all European countries to continue to offer every support in the fight against terrorism and to take a rigorous approach at home and abroad;

14.  Expresses deep concern that those central to the Paris attacks appear to have been citizens of EU countries and were born and lived in the EU, and calls therefore for appropriate measures to control the movement of weapons, explosives and terrorist suspects;

15.  Urges the Member States to set up structured information-sharing and operational cooperation between border management, police and other law enforcement agencies, as well as intelligence-sharing by interconnecting national databases and fully exploiting existing frameworks such as Europol’s secure information and intelligence platform (SIENA) and by maximising the use of other Europol platforms and services;

16.  Insists on a comprehensive approach towards de-radicalisation, including efforts at national level directed towards young people, the prevention of violent extremism, and counter-terrorism which focuses on strengthening social cohesion, crime prevention, targeted policing and security activities based on an individual suspicion or concrete threat determined by people, not machines; emphasises, moreover, the need to tighten up rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons, export rules and the fight against the illegal trafficking of weapons;

17.  Calls for an EU common foreign policy on the future of Syria and the broader Middle East in coordination with all relevant actors; considers that this policy should be an integral part of the future EU Global Strategy;

18.  Considers the activation of the mutual assistance clause a unique opportunity to establish the grounds for a strong and sustainable European Defence Union; is of the opinion that only with an autonomous security and defence capability will the EU be equipped and ready to face the overwhelming internal and external security threats and challenges;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the United States and the US Secretary of Defence.

(1) OJ C 419, 16.12.2015, p. 138.

EU priorities for the UNHRC sessions in 2016
PDF 393kWORD 111k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on the EU’s priorities for the UNHRC sessions in 2016 (2015/3035(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the UNHRC,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its resolutions on debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the 30th and 20th anniversaries of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively, and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and of the Millennium Development Goals (2000);

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, religion, class, caste, sex, sexual orientation or colour is an obligation on all states, whereas it reiterates its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights (whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural), which are interrelated and interdependent, and whereas the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others; whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level, and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

C.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity; whereas internal and external coherence in the area of human rights is essential for the credibility of the EU’s human rights policy abroad;

D.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and enshrines the obligation to respect human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and the principles of the UN Charter and international law in its action on the international scene;

E.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change, migration and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

F.  whereas UN member states have adopted and committed to Agenda 2030, which envisages a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination;

G.  whereas the regular sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism and the Special Procedure addressing either specific country situations or thematic issues all contribute to the international efforts to promote and respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

H.  whereas some of the members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the most serious human rights offenders and have a dubious record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Choi Kyong-lim as President of the UNHRC for 2016;

2.  Welcomes the UNHRC’s annual report to the UN General Assembly covering its 28th, 29th and 30th sessions;

3.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected from among states which uphold respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges UN member states to promote, among other things, human rights performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about human rights abuses in some newly elected members of the UNHRC; believes that the Member States should not support the election to the UNHRC of countries which do not uphold respect for human rights;

4.  Stresses that it is important to support the independence and integrity of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) so as to ensure that it can continue to exercise its mandate in an effective and impartial manner; calls, in this connection, for the OHCHR to be provided with adequate support and funding; reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of mandate holders such as the Special Rapporteurs with a view to enabling them to fulfil their duties with full impartiality, and calls on all states to cooperate with these procedures; regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states;

5.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review, which focuses especially on the implementation of the recommendations accepted during the first cycle; calls again, however, for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

6.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in all aspects of the UNHCR’s work, and expresses its concern that severe limitations are hampering civil society’s participation in the UPR process; calls on the UN member states, including the EU Member States, to use the UPR as a means of assessing their own human rights situation and to make recommendations in this regard,

7.  Calls for the EU to follow up on the UPR recommendations in EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

8.  Welcomes the Initiative for Change launched by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to protect and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground; calls, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the UNHRC, for an assessment of the Council’s impact, including with regard to its mandate and the implementation of its resolutions and other decisions;

Civil and political rights

9.  Expresses its concern about the constitutional revisions undertaken in some countries, aimed at changing the limit set on presidential terms of office, an issue which has generated election-related violence in some cases; reaffirms that respect for civil and political rights, including individual and collective freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association, are the indicators of a democratic, tolerant and pluralist society;

10.  Reiterates that free, genuine elections held periodically on the basis of universal and equal suffrage are a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21(3)) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 25); reaffirms that the existence of freedom of expression and a vibrant environment conducive to an independent and pluralist civil society are prerequisites for promoting respect for human rights;

11.  Takes the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy, for the exercise of freedom of expression online around the world and for security, as contemporary digital technologies may be used for extremist and terrorist propaganda and as recruitment channels; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

12.  Calls for the UN member states, including the EU Member States, to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to combat the spread of racial, ethnic and xenophobic hatred and incitement over the internet and through social media networks by taking appropriate legislative measures, with full respect for freedom of expression and opinion;

Human rights defenders

13.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

14.  Considers that the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by a number of UNHRC members undermines the credibility of the UNHRC; urges the EU and its Member States to promote an initiative at UN level to outline a coherent and comprehensive response to the major challenges that human rights defenders working on women’s rights, the defence of environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights, on corruption and impunity, religion, journalists and other human rights defenders using media, including online and social media, face worldwide and to systematically denounce their assassination;

15.  Is extremely concerned about the increasing attacks on humanitarian aid workers and medical facilities; recalls that any such attack is prohibited under international humanitarian law (IHL) and calls on the conflicting parties to comply with the provisions of IHL; stresses the importance of improving the security of aid workers in order to react more effectively to the attacks;

Death penalty

16.  Recalls the EU’s position on zero tolerance for the death penalty and reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; underlines the importance of the EU continuing to advance the moratorium on the death penalty and emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity; reiterates its position that support for third countries’ drug enforcement policy, such as financial assistance, technical assistance and capacity-building, should exclude the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences; expresses its support for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights and drug policy;

17.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls on those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing moratorium on it to uphold their commitments and not to reintroduce it;

Freedom of religion

18.  Recalls that freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief is a fundamental human right, as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; equally, recalls its interrelatedness with other human rights and fundamental freedoms encompassing the right to believe or not to believe, the freedom to practise theistic, non-theistic or atheistic belief alike, and the right to adopt, change and abandon or return to a belief of one’s choice; expresses its concern at the fact that some countries still fail to abide by UN standards and use state repression, which may include physical punishment, prison terms, exorbitant fines and even the death penalty, in violation of freedom of religion or belief; is concerned about the increased persecution of minorities because of their religion or beliefs, as well as unlawful damage to their assembly sites; supports the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief on violence committed ‘in the name of religion’; calls for the EU to implement its recommendations on interreligious dialogue initiatives;

19.  Welcomes the EU’s commitment to promoting freedom of religion or belief in international forums, including by supporting the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; fully supports the EU’s practice of taking the lead in the UNHRC and the UNGA on thematic resolutions on this topic; requests concrete action to protect religious minorities, non-believers, apostates and atheists who are victims of blasphemy laws; considers that action should be taken in both international and regional forums by maintaining an open, transparent and regular dialogue with religious associations and communities, as stated in Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

Social and economic rights

20.  Recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing, with the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders in relation to economic, social and cultural rights; highlights, in this connection, the importance of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR establishing complaint and inquiry mechanisms;

21.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardises the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes, in this connection, the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty; considers it important to address rising inequalities in order to fight poverty in general, and to promote social and economic rights, notably by facilitating access to food, water, education, health care and housing;

22.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and lack of accountability are threats to the equal enjoyment of human rights and undermine democratic processes, the rule of law, the fair administration of justice, public services such as education and basic health services; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

23.  Emphasises that minority communities in third countries have specific needs and that their equality should be promoted in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life;

24.  Calls on the UN member states, including the EU Member States, to request that all Special Procedure mandate holders give special attention to issues affecting indigenous women, young people and persons with disabilities and report such issues to the UNHRC; calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS), the Commission and the Member States to support the participation of indigenous peoples in UNHRC sessions; calls on the EEAS and the Member States to actively support the development of the system-wide action plan on indigenous peoples, especially as regards the regular consultation of indigenous peoples;

Business and human rights

25.  Supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; urges all UN member states, including the EU Member States, to develop and implement national action plans; considers that trade and human rights can go hand in hand and that the business community has an important role to play in promoting human rights and democracy; reaffirms the importance of EU and multinational enterprises playing a leading role in promoting international standards on business and human rights;

26.  Calls on the UN and the EU also to raise with multinational and European enterprises the issue of land grabbing and land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder;

27.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project in order to contribute to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges to access remedies at national and international levels, with regard to human rights violations linked to business;

28.  Notes that an open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, established by a UNHRC resolution of 26 June 2014, held its first session in July 2015; calls for the EU to support efforts to align its policies with the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and recommends that the EU and its Member States engage constructively in the debate regarding a legally binding international instrument on business and human rights within the UN system;

Migration and refugees

29.  Is alarmed by the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by the increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of persecution, armed conflict, generalised violence and climate change, and in search of protection and a better life, who are risking their lives by taking dangerous journeys; calls for effective and coordinated international action to address the root causes of migration; calls, furthermore, for more efforts at UN level to address the current and future migratory challenges by ensuring appropriate funding for UNHCR, WFP and other UN bodies involved in providing basic services for refugees inside and outside conflict areas; highlights the importance of the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, including his recommendations;

30.  Calls on all countries to adopt a human rights-based approach to migration, which safeguards the rights of migrants and refugees in migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants and refugees, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

31.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that a global strategy on migration is closely linked with development and humanitarian policies, including setting up humanitarian corridors and delivering humanitarian visas; reiterates its call for all migration cooperation and readmission agreements with non EU-states to comply with international law; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out with full respect for the migrants’ rights, based upon informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention of migrants; expresses its concern about discrimination against and violations of the rights of migrants and refugees; calls, in this connection, on UN member states, including the EU Member States, to respect the right to seek and enjoy asylum;

Climate change and human rights

32.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; calls on all signatory states parties to fulfil their commitments; regrets the absence of any reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in UNFCCC and calls for all UNFCCC policies and actions to be human rights-based;

33.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, displacement of populations, and food and water shortages;

34.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its possible international definition;

Women’s rights

35.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges, including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism; calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

36.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women has taken on a new dimension as sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and has placed a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment in combating these abominable crimes and restoring women’s dignity so that they receive justice, reparation and adequate support measures;

37.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable during times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; stresses the need for continuity of education for girls in refugee camps, in conflict areas affected by extreme poverty and environmental extremes such as drought and floods;

38.  Stresses the importance of not undermining the ‘acquis’ of the Beijing Platform for Action regarding access to education and health as a basic human right; emphasises the fact that universal access to sexual and reproductive health services contributes to reducing infant and maternal mortality; points out that family planning, maternal health, easy access to contraception and access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services are important elements in saving women’s lives and helping them rebuild their lives if they have been victims of rape; highlights the need to place these policies at the core of development cooperation with third countries;

39.  Underlines the importance of measures strengthening leadership and participation of women at all levels of decision-making; calls on states to secure equal representation for women in public institutions and public life, including special attention to the inclusion of minority women;

40.  Invites the Commission, the EEAS and the Vice-President/High Representative (VP/HR) to continue promoting the political and economic empowerment of women and girls by mainstreaming gender equality in all their external policies and programmes, including through structured dialogues with third countries, by publicly raising gender-related issues and by ensuring sufficient resources for this purpose;

Children’s rights

41.  Supports the EU’s efforts to promote children’s rights, in particular by contributing to ensuring children’s access to water, sanitation, healthcare and education, by ensuring the rehabilitation and reintegration of children enlisted in armed groups, by eliminating child labour, torture, child witchcraft, trafficking, child marriage and sexual exploitation, and by assisting children in armed conflicts and ensuring their access to education in conflict zones and refugee camps;

42.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligations;

43.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

44.  Notes with concern that a number of persons have been sentenced to death for crimes committed while under the age of 18 and have been put to death in countries around the world in 2015 despite the prohibition on the use of the death penalty for juveniles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Rights of LGBTI persons

45.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where anti-LGBTI laws have recently been introduced; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

46.  Reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign; encourages the High Commissioner to continue fighting discriminatory laws and practices; is concerned at restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI human rights defenders, and calls for the EU to step up its support for them; notes that the fundamental rights of LGBTI people are more likely to be respected if they have access to all legal institutions;

EU human rights mainstreaming and coherence

47.  Calls on the EU to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in accordance with Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union and the General Provisions on the Union’s External Action;

48.  Reiterates its call for the EU to adopt a rights-based approach and to integrate respect for human rights into trade, investment policies, public services, development cooperation, and its common security and defence policy; stresses also that the EU’s human rights policy should ensure that its internal and external policies are coherent, in line with the EU Treaty obligation;

49.  Reiterates, furthermore, the importance of the EU actively and consistently engaging in UN human rights mechanisms, in particular with the Third Committee, the General Assembly (UNGA) and the UNHRC; acknowledges the efforts of the EEAS, the EU Delegations in New York and Geneva and the Member States to increase EU coherence on human rights issues at UN level by means of timely and substantive consultation and to deliver a ‘one-voice message’; encourages the EU to increase its efforts to make its voice heard, including by intensifying the growing practice of cross-regional initiatives and by co-sponsoring and taking the lead on resolutions; reiterates its call for stronger visibility of EU action in all multilateral forums;

50.  Requests the EU Special Representative for Human Rights to continue to enhance the effectiveness, coherence and visibility of the EU’s human rights policy in the context of the UNHRC and in further developing close cooperation with the OHCHR and the Special Procedures;

51.  Strongly emphasises the need to improve the preparation and coordination of EU positions for the UNHRC sessions and to address the issue of consistency between the EU’s external and internal human rights policy;

52.  Recalls the importance of keeping the institutionalised practice of sending parliamentary delegations to the UNHRC and the UNGA;

53.  Calls for a more principled and non-selective engagement of the EU Member States at the UNHRC;

Drones and autonomous weapons

54.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU once again to ban the production, development, and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism;


55.   Takes positive note of the counter-terrorism guidance document drafted by the EEAS and the Commission with the aim of ensuring respect for human rights in the planning and implementation of counter-terrorism assistance projects with third countries; recalls, in this connection, that respect for fundamental rights and freedoms is the foundation of successful counter-terrorism policies, including the use of digital surveillance technologies; stresses the need to develop effective communication strategies for countering terrorist and extremist propaganda and recruitment methods, notably online;


56.  Recommends that the EU step up its efforts to develop a more comprehensive approach to democratisation processes, of which free and fair elections are only one dimension, in order to contribute positively to the strengthening of democratic institutions; considers that the sharing of transition best practices in the framework of the enlargement and neighbourhood policies should be used to support and consolidate other democratisation processes worldwide;

Development and human rights

57.  Stresses the importance of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on peace and justice of Agenda 2030, which should be one of the priorities for all external and internal action, especially when it comes to development cooperation financing;

Sports and human rights

58.  Is seriously concerned that some major sports events are being hosted by authoritarian states where human rights violations occur; calls for the UN and the EU Member States to raise this issue and engage with national sports federations, corporate actors and civil society organisations on the practicalities of their participation in such events, including with regard to the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar 2022, and the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022;

International Criminal Court

59.  Reiterates its full support for the work of the ICC in its role of ending the impunity of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community and to provide justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; remains vigilant regarding any attempts to undermine its legitimacy or independence; urges the EU and its Member States to cooperate with the Court and provide it with strong diplomatic, political and financial support, including in the UN; calls for the EU, its Member States and its Special Representatives to actively promote the ICC, the enforcement of its decisions and the fight against impunity for Rome Statute crimes, including by strengthening and expanding its relationship with the Security Council and by promoting universal ratification of the Rome Statute and the Kampala amendments;

Countries under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)


60.  Welcomes Georgia’s membership of the UNHRC and the recent UPR on Georgia; notes the legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements with regard to the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s Office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs);

61.  Notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to full independence of the judiciary and to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement agencies, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; stresses the responsibility of the government under international human rights law to protect all children from violence, and calls for scrutiny of all the children’s charitable institutions; calls for provision to be made for the rehabilitation of victims; remains concerned about freedom of expression and the media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia where human rights violations remain widespread; and calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;


62.  Commends Lebanon for the open border and reception policy which it had for years regarding refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria, stresses that this country, in which one person out of four is a refugee, has the highest per capita concentration of refugees worldwide, and calls on the European Union to allocate more resources and to work closely with the Lebanese authorities to help the country uphold the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers; is concerned, in this context, about the reportedly significant number of cases of child and/or forced marriages among Syrian refugees; encourages the Lebanese Government to consider a reform of the law regulating entry into, stay in and exit from Lebanon;

63.  Supports the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in calling for measures to raise awareness among women migrant domestic workers of their human rights under the CEDAW Convention, to which Lebanon is a state party; emphasises, in particular, the need to abolish the ‘Kafala system’ and ensure effective access to justice for women migrant domestic workers, including by guaranteeing their safety and residence during legal and administrative procedures relating to their status;


64.  Stresses that while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in taking legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation contributes to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

65.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;


66.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; takes positive note of the expression of support by Myanmar's voters for the continued democratisation of the country; notes with concern, however, the constitutional framework for these elections, under which 25 % of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

67.  Condemns the severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status, and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015 aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’ include discriminatory aspects as regards gender; repeats its request and expresses its concern that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has not been permitted to establish an office in the country; stresses the need for a full sustainability impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU-Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;


68.  Welcomes the entry into force on 20 September 2015 of Nepal’s new constitution, which should lay the foundations for the country’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future;

69.  Regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty impasse;


70.  Commends Oman for the setting-up of the governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the invitation which allowed the ground-breaking visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly in September 2014; expresses the hope that these constructive steps will lead to a more intensive engagement by Oman with UN human rights representatives and independent human rights organisations;

71.  Encourages Oman to take the necessary steps to alleviate what the UN Special Rapporteur described as a pervasive climate of fear and intimidation in the country; remains concerned about, and calls on the government to reconsider the ban on all political parties; calls on the EU Institutions and the EU Member States to offer technical and legal assistance to help Oman create a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations;


72.  Expresses its concern about the human rights situation in Rwanda, including the restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the shrinking of the democratic space for opposition political parties and independent civil society activities, and the absence of a conducive environment for the independence of the judiciary; calls on the Rwandan Government to open up a democratic space in which all segments of society may operate freely;

73.  Is concerned by the recent constitutional changes allowing the incumbent President to run for a third term; calls on the Government of Rwanda to uphold the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;

South Sudan

74.  Welcomes the Peace Agreement signed by the warring parties on 28 August 2015 to end the civil war, which includes transitional power-sharing, security arrangements and the establishment of a hybrid court to try all crimes committed since the conflict started; recalls that the conflict has claimed thousands of lives and caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and refugees;

75.  Calls on all parties to refrain from committing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including those amounting to international crimes, such as extrajudicial killings, ethnically targeted violence, conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, as well as gender-based violence, recruitment and use of children, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detention;

76.  Welcomes the UNHRC resolution of June 2015 and the deployment of an OHCHR mission to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in South Sudan; calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur onSouth Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, assist the government in implementing the recommendations to be made by the OHCHR mission, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;


77.  Expresses its concerns about the dire human rights situation in the country as a result of the worsened economic, political and social climate in recent years; reiterates that freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and the rule of law are vital components of any democratic society; calls on the Venezuelan authorities to immediately release the opposition leaders and all peaceful protesters arbitrarily detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and fundamental rights;

78.  Welcomes the holding of the elections on 6 December 2015 and the installation of the new National Assembly; condemns any attempts to undermine the full enforcement of the election results expressing the will of the Venezuelan people, such as the suspension of some democratically elected members; recalls that the new government will have to tackle a wide range of human rights issues, such as impunity, accountability for extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, fair trials, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly and association, and media freedom; stresses that Venezuela’s membership of the UNHRC for the three-year term beginning on 1 January 2016 brings with it a special responsibility to respect human rights;


79.   Expresses its concerns about the dramatic security and humanitarian situation in Syria; emphasises the importance of the work carried out by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria; condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, attacks on civilians and protected cultural heritage objects, and the punitive imposition of sieges and blockades; emphasises the need for special attention and support to be given to women victims of violence, women’s organisations and their participation in humanitarian aid and conflict resolution; calls for the EU and the Member States to help make sure that the commission of inquiry is adequately funded to fulfil its mandate, which consists in establishing the facts and circumstances of all serious human rights violations committed, and where possible, identifying those responsible with a view to ensuring that the perpetrators of violations, including violations that may constitute crimes against humanity, are held accountable, including by referral to the International Criminal Court;

80.  Reiterates its conviction that a sustainable solution to the crisis in Syria can be achieved only through an inclusive political settlement leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future; welcomes the final declaration of 30 October 2015 on the results of the Syria Talks in Vienna; welcomes the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) on 18 December 2015;

81.  Is alarmed at the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, who are forced to convert and pay tribute, and are attacked, injured, sold into slavery and harvested for organs solely because of their faith;


82.  Expresses deep concern about the targeted attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and their family members; strongly condemns political violence, summary executions and other human rights violations; urges the Burundian authorities to end these violations and abuses as a matter of critical and urgent priority and to conduct impartial and independent investigations with a view to bringing those responsible to justice and providing victims with redress;

83.  Remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of the crisis on the civilian population in the country and region as a whole; calls for the EU to continue to work towards a consensual outcome between the government and the opposition in order to the re-establish an inclusive and democratic political system;

84.  Welcomes the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on 17 December 2015 on preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, but regrets the delay in holding it; calls for the expeditious deployment of the mission by independent experts, and urges the Burundian authorities to fully cooperate with the mission;

Saudi Arabia

85.  Remains deeply concerned about the systematic violation of human rights in the country; is seriously concerned about the alarming rate at which court rulings ordered and carried out the death penalty in Saudi Arabia in 2015; deplores the mass executions committed in the last weeks; calls on Saudi Arabia to impose a moratorium on the death penalty;

86.  Calls on the Saudi authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, including the 2015 Sakharov Laureate, Raif Badawi; calls for the EU to closely follow his particular case;

87.  Reiterates that UNHRC members should be elected from among states which uphold respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, which is currently not the case in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to cooperate fully with the UNHRC Special Procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;


88.  Welcomes the release of the remaining political prisoners in August 2015, and calls on the Belarusian Government to rehabilitate the released political prisoners and fully restore their civic and political rights; expresses its profound concern at the continued restrictions to freedom of expression and the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly; condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists; urges Belarus to join a global moratorium on the execution of the death penalty as a first step towards its permanent abolition; calls on the government to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and commit to engage in reforms to protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Middle East Peace Process

89.  Takes note of the VP/HR and Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process adopted on 18 January 2016; fully agrees with the Council that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by all, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security and that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the viability of the two-state solution; deeply regrets the resignation of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono;

o   o

90.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative on Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0470.

Activities of the Committee on Petitions 2014
PDF 218kWORD 108k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2014 (2014/2218(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the outcome of the Committee on Petitions’ deliberations,

–  having regard to Articles 10 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to the significance of the right to petition and the importance for Parliament of being immediately aware of the specific concerns of European Union citizens or residents, as provided for in Articles 24 and 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 228 TFEU,

–  having regard to Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union concerning the right to petition the European Parliament,

–  having regard to the provisions of the TFEU relating to the infringement procedure and in particular Articles 258 and 260 thereof,

–  having regard to Rules 52, 215, 216(8), 217 and 218 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A8-0361/2015),

A.  whereas 2 714 petitions were received in 2014, which is almost 6 % down on the figure for 2013 when 2 885 petitions were lodged with Parliament; whereas 790 petitions were considered admissible and followed up; whereas 1 070 petitions were considered inadmissible; whereas 817 petitions were admissible and have been closed; whereas 37 petitions had their recommendation challenged; whereas these figures amount to nearly twice as many petitions as were received in 2009; whereas there has not been an commensurate increase in the number of civil servants tasked with processing these petitions;

B.  whereas the purpose of the annual report on the activities of the Committee on Petitions is to present an analysis of the petitions received in 2014 as well as to discuss possible improvements in procedures and in relations with other institutions;

C.  whereas the number of petitions received is modest when compared to the EU’s total population, which indicates that the vast majority of EU citizens are not yet aware of the right to petition, or of its possible usefulness as a means of drawing the attention of the EU institutions and the Member States to matters which affect them and about which they are concerned; whereas even though some EU citizens are aware of the petition process, there is still widespread confusion about the EU's field of activity, as is shown by the high number of inadmissible petitions received (39,4 %);

D.  whereas a proper treatment of petitions throughout the whole process is crucial to ensuring recognition that the right to petition is respected; whereas petitioners tend to be citizens engaged in the improvement, and the future wellbeing, of our societies; whereas the experience of these citizens with regard to how their petitions are treated could determine their future opinion on the European project;

E.  whereas 1 887 petitions, of which 1 070 petitions were inadmissible, were closed in 2014; whereas only 29,1 % of petitions were declared admissible and followed up, 39,4 % were declared inadmissible, and 30,1 % were declared admissible and closed directly;

F.  whereas the citizens of the EU are represented by the only EU institution directly elected by them, namely the European Parliament; whereas the right to petition gives them the means to draw the attention of their elected representatives;

G.  whereas the citizens of the EU, and the culture of service on their behalf, should always have priority in the work of Parliament, and, in particular, of the Committee on Petitions, before any other considerations or efficiency criteria; whereas the current level of human resources available within the petitions unit puts at risk the accomplishment of these fundamental principles;

H.  whereas, if fully respected in its essence, the right to petition may strengthen Parliament’s responsiveness to EU citizens and residents, if there is an open, democratic, inclusive and transparent mechanism at all stages of the petitions procedure, with the aim of resolving problems relating primarily to the application of EU legislation;

I.  whereas the right of petition is a crucial element of participatory democracy;

J.  whereas the right to petition aims, along with the European Ombudsman, at dealing with maladministration on the part of EU institutions, or national institutions, when implementing EU law;

K.  whereas petitions provide valuable feedback to legislators and executive bodies both at EU and national level, particularly on possible loopholes in the implementation of EU legislation; whereas petitions can be an early warning for Member States lagging in implementing EU law;

L.  whereas petitions which have been addressed to the Committee on Petitions have often provided other Parliament committees with useful and direct input for their legislative work in their respective fields;

M.  whereas ensuring due respect for the fundamental right to petition is not solely the responsibility of the Committee on Petitions, but should rather be a shared endeavour of all Parliament committees, as well as of the other EU institutions; whereas no petition should be closed while awaiting feedback from other parliamentary committees;

N.  whereas the Committee on Petitions should endeavour to make a greater use of its prerogatives, and its general and specific committee tools, such as oral questions and short resolutions, so as to give visibility, on the basis of the petitions received, to the different issues of concern to EU citizens and residents, bringing them forward to the plenary of this Parliament;

O.  whereas each petition must carefully, efficiently, promptly, transparently and individually be assessed and dealt with in a manner that preserves the participatory rights of the Members of the Committee on Petitions; whereas each petitioner must receive a reply, within a short period of time, indicating either the grounds for closing the petition or the follow up, execution and monitoring measures undertaken; whereas better institutional coordination with institutions at EU, national and regional level is essential if the issues raised by petitions are to be addressed in a prompt manner;

P.  whereas efficient and prompt processing of petitions must be guaranteed, including during the transition between legislative terms and the subsequent changes in personnel;

Q.  whereas it is primarily in the interest of admissible and well‑founded petitions that the work of the Committee on Petitions is not burdened with unduly lengthy dealings with inadmissible or unfounded petitions;

R.  whereas a petitioner must be duly informed about the grounds for declaring a petition inadmissible;

S.  whereas petitions are discussed in meetings of the Committee on Petitions, and whereas petitioners may take part in these discussion, and have the right to present their petitions along with more detailed information, and may thus actively contribute to the work of the Committee, providing its members, the Commission and any representatives of the Member States who may be present with additional information; whereas in 2014, 127 petitioners attended, and were involved in, the Committee’s deliberations; whereas this ratio of direct involvement remains relatively low and should be increased, including through the use of remote communication means, and through scheduling, to enable petitioners to organise their coming before the committee better;

T.  whereas, on many occasions following public debate in committee meetings, the petitions are left open, further follow-up is foreseen and feedback is expected, namely additional inquiries from the Commission or from parliamentary committees, or concrete exchange with the national or regional authorities concerned;

U.  whereas in order to allow a broad range of topics to be discussed, and to ensure the quality of each debate, more meeting time is needed; whereas meetings of political group coordinators are crucial for ensuring smooth planning and running of the Committee’s work, and enough time should therefore be given to allow for democratic decision making;

V.  whereas the Committee on Petitions bases its activities on written information provided by petitioners, and by their oral and audiovisual input during meetings, supplemented by expertise from the Commission, the Member States, the Ombudsman and other political representative bodies;

W.  whereas petitioners’ concerns should duly be addressed in a thorough manner throughout the petition process; whereas this process may require different stages, including several rounds of feedback from the petitioner and from the European institutions and national authorities concerned;

X.  whereas the criteria established for the admissibility of petitions, pursuant to the Treaty and Parliament’s own Rules of Procedure, state that petitions shall satisfy the formal conditions governing admissibility (Rule 215 of the Rules of Procedure), namely that a petition must concern a matter which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and directly affect the petitioner, who must be a citizen of the European Union or reside there; whereas as a result of this a proportion of petitions received are declared inadmissible because they do not comply with these official criteria; whereas the decision on admissibility corresponds rather to such legal and technical criteria, and should not be determined by political decisions; whereas the petitions web portal should be an effective tool in providing the necessary information and guidance to petitioners with regard to the admissibility criteria;

Y.  whereas a specific way of handling petitions relating to children has now been adopted, in recognition of the fact that any delay in these cases constitutes a particularly serious injury to those involved;

Z.  whereas through y use of petitions the EU’s citizens can monitor the drawing up and application of EU law; whereas this allows EU citizens to act as a useful source of information on requests with regard to, and breaches of, EU law, the latter of particular relevance to matters concerning the environment, the internal market, the recognition of vocational qualifications, consumer protection and the financial services sector;

AA.  whereas a petition is often filed at the same time as a complaint to the Commission, which may lead to infringement proceedings being initiated or to an action for failure to act; whereas statistics show (see the 23rd Report from the Commission on monitoring the application of EU law (COM(2006)0416)) that one quarter – or even one third – of the petitions and complaints processed were linked to infringement procedures or gave rise to such procedures; whereas the involvement of Parliament in these petition procedures grants an extra scrutiny of the investigative work of the competent EU institutions; whereas no petitions should be closed while it is being investigated by the Commission;

AB.  whereas the key issues of concern raised in petitions pertain to a wide range of issues, such as environmental legislation (in particular with regard to water and waste management, hydrocarbon prospection and extraction, and major infrastructure and development projects), fundamental rights (in particular the rights of the child and of persons with disabilities, of particular relevance given that up to one quarter of the EU electorate claims some degree of impairment or disability), the free movement of persons, discrimination, immigration, employment, negotiation on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), animal welfare, the application of justice, and the social inclusion of persons with disabilities;

AC.  whereas the web portal of the Committee on Petitions was launched on 19 November 2014, with a year’s delay, to replace the electronic platform for filing petitions previously available on the Europarl portal, and was conceived in order to promote the right to petition and enhance citizens’ active participation in the life of the EU; whereas this portal, not yet fully operational, has been designed to provide an integrated solution covering the specific needs of the petition process, giving EU citizens wishing to file a petition an internet tool better suited to their needs, with a real time follow-up of the various stages of their petitions; whereas several shortcoming have been identified, especially with regard to the search function, that undermine the role of the portal as a public register of petitions, and whereas the second phase, aimed at resolving all the existing loopholes, should have already been concluded; whereas the portal can help improve the service and its visibility for citizens and Committee members, and will act as an electronic register (planned in Rule 216(4) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure) allowing citizens to file and keep track of petitions, and to affix their electronic signature to their own petitions; whereas the new portal is intended to make the petition procedure more transparent and interactive, and administrative aspects more efficient, in the interest of petitioners, Members and the general public; whereas the web portal should be the tool by which means transparency in the petition process can be increased, petitioners' access to information enhanced and citizens sensitized to the capacity and possibilities of the Committee on Petitions to help them to redress their situation; emphasises that the use of new information and communication technology should be increased and further stimulated in order to bring the Committee’s work closer to the citizens;

AD.  whereas the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is an important tool for enabling citizens to participate in the EU political decision-making process, and its potential must be exploited fully; whereas, in order to achieve the best results in terms of citizen's participation, this instrument should be improved further, its levels of representation – and the practical aspects thereof – enhanced, and it should be fully respected and implemented by the European institutions (the Commission in particular);

AE.  whereas the Committee on Petitions continues to maintain an active interest in the implementation of the Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative, and is mindful of the need for a new regulation in order to eliminate its many deficiencies, obstacles and weaknesses, and the cumbersome nature of the existing legal framework and the required mechanisms to launch and follow-up on an ECI, particularly in terms of the actual collection of signatures;

AF.  whereas the Committee on Petitions is of the opinion that, three years after the entry into force on 1 April 2012 of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011, its implementation should be assessed in order to identify weaknesses and propose viable solutions for its swift revision, so that its implementation can be improved;

AG.  whereas the public hearings organised for successful initiatives have been a success, and whereas the involvement and participation of the Committee on Petitions, as the committee associated in ECI hearings, has been greatly appreciated by the Members and by civil society; whereas the Committee on Petitions supports this process and places its long experience of working with citizens at the service of this objective; whereas a concrete follow-up would be expected from the Commission for any successful ECIs;

AH.  whereas it should be noted that, owing to the workload of the Committee on Petition and the need to increase human resources at the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions, no fact-finding visits took place for petitions for which an inquiry was ongoing during 2014; whereas fact-finding visits in conjunction with appropriate petitions will be carried out in the future;

AI.  whereas the normal amount of fact-finding visits should be resumed in 2016, given that they are specific prerogative of the Committee and a fundamental part of its work, which entails interacting with citizens and authorities in the Member States concerned; whereas members of such delegations take part in all related activities, including reporting, on an equal footing;

AJ.  whereas the Committee on Petitions has responsibilities with regard to the Office of the European Ombudsman, which is responsible for investigating complaints from EU citizens about possible maladministration within the EU institutions and bodies, and about which the Committee also produces an Annual Report, based on the European Ombudsman’s own Annual Report; whereas in 2014 the Committee played an active and direct role in the organisation of the election of the European Ombudsman under Rule 204 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure; whereas Ms Emily O’Reilly was returned to the office of Ombudsman for a five-year term in an election in December 2014 that was conducted an efficient and transparent manner;

AK.  whereas the Committee on Petitions is a member of the European Network of Ombudsmen, to which, where they exist, petitions committees from the national parliaments also belong, and whereas it is important that the parliaments of the Member States appoint petitions committees, and strengthen them where they already exist, and that cooperation between them be improved;

1.  Stresses the work to be undertaken by the Committee on Petitions, allowing EU citizens and residents some involvement in defending and promoting their rights and in monitoring correct application of Union regulations, as their petitions ensure that citizens' concerns are known so that their legitimate grievances can be resolved within a reasonable timeframe; points out that admissible petitions should be discussed in the Committee within nine months of the petition being filed; reiterates that better institutional coordination with institutions at EU, national and regional level, as well as with other bodies, is essential if the issues raised by petitions are to be addressed promptly;

2.  Stresses that the Committee on Petitions (as the contact point for citizens), the European Ombudsman and the ECI together constitute a set of basic tools for greater political involvement for citizens, for whom transparent, appropriate access to, and smooth running of, must be ensured; underlines the responsibility that these have in promoting European citizenship and strengthening the visibility and credibility of the EU institutions; calls for the EU institutions to take greater account of the work carried out by the European Ombudsman; calls for additional mechanisms to ensure the direct involvement of citizens in the decision-making processes of the European institutions;

3.  Stresses that increased cooperation with national, regional and local authorities on matters linked to the application of EU law is essential to the aim of working towards reconnecting with EU citizens and reinforcing the democratic legitimacy of, and accountability in, Parliament’s decision-making process; notes that cooperation is enhanced by proactive exchange of information, at all institutional levels, and that this is key to addressing issues raised by petitioners; regrets that, in certain cases, national, regional and local authorities do not respond to the Committee on Petitions' requests;

4.  Warns about the persisting backlog in the treatment of petitions, which is due to the constraint in the human resources available within the Committee's Secretariat, which in turn has a clear impact on the time available to process petitions and, in particularly, to determine their admissibility; considers that such delays are not acceptable if the aim is to ensure service excellence, and that they not only undermine the effective right to petition, but also harm the credibility of the European institutions in the eyes of concerned citizens; exhorts the responsible political and administrative instances of Parliament, in cooperation with the Committee on Budgets, to find an appropriate solution to ensure that the work of the Committee on Petitions can live up to the spirit of the Treaties;

5.  Emphasises the requirement that the inadmissibility or closure of a petition on account of it being unfounded must be carefully justified vis‑à‑vis the petitioner;

6.  Calls on the Committee on Petitions and, if necessary, the Parliament committees responsible for amending the Rules of Procedure, to structure more clearly the distinction between the criteria for determining whether a petition is well-founded and the rules for determining its admissibility, and between keeping a petition open or closing it, and also to make this structure apparent to potential petitioners;

7.  Stresses the Commission’s significant role in assisting with cases raised by petitioners, and calls on it to monitor, in a proactive and timely fashion, certain projects reported by petitioners in which EU law has been, or will in the future be, breached through the implementation of official planning; calls on the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, to remedy such instances of incorrect transposition of EU law, or of failure to transpose EU law, as have been reported in a large number of petitions filed with Parliament; calls as well on the Commission to be less hesitant in making use of the initiation of infringement proceedings in this regard; emphasises that the impression that greater account is taken of larger Member States when infringement proceedings are initiated must be counteracted; calls on the Commission to keep the Committee on Petitions informed, on a regular basis, of developments in, and of the concrete outcome of, infringement proceedings directly linked to any given petition;

8.  Calls on the Commission to engage fully in the process of petitions, in particular by conducting thorough inquiries of the admissible cases submitted to it, and, ultimately, to provide accurate and updated answers to the petitioners in writing in a timely manner; expects these replies to be developed further in the oral debates on these issues in the public meetings of the Committee on Petitions; considers that, for the purpose of institutional credibility, the Commission should be represented in such debates by an official with appropriate rank; considers that, as guardian of the Treaties, the Commission should enter more fully into the substance of cases, taking into account the ultimate spirit of the relevant EU legislation;

9.  Requests that, for the sake of transparency and in the spirit of faithful cooperation between the different EU institutions, the Commission facilitate access to documents with all relevant information related to EU Pilot procedures, particularly with regard to petitions received, including exchanges of questions and answers between the Commission and the Member States concerned, at least when the procedures are concluded;

10.  Stresses the importance of proactive monitoring, and timely preventive action, by the Commission where there is well-founded evidence that certain planned and published projects may breach EU legislation; is worried by the current trend within the Commission to inhibit inquiries into the substance of many petitions on the basis of purely procedural grounds; disagrees with the repeated suggestions to close many files pertaining to specific petitions without waiting for the outcomes of the examinations of the issues they raise, and believes that this is not in line with the spirit of the Commission's ultimate role as guardian of the Treaties; calls for even more scrupulous attention, and for consequent action, in particular in cases presented by petitioners involving possible breaches of EU legislation by the Commission itself, for instance in the field of public access to documents, as guaranteed by the Aarhus Convention;

11.  Points out the importance of ensuring that the Commission responds to all petitions in a detailed and proactive manner, and as promptly as possible;

12.  Requests that, in light of the special nature of this Committee and the significant workload associated with its contact with the thousands of citizens and residents who file petitions every year, the human resources available to its Secretariat be increased;

13.  Stresses the need to improve correspondence with citizens with the aim of processing their demands;

14.  Considers it essential that cooperation with the national parliaments, and their relevant committees, and with the governments of the Member States be strengthened, and that Member State authorities be encouraged to be fully transparent in transposing and applying EU law; stresses the importance of collaboration with the Commission and the Member States with the aim of defending the rights of citizens in a more effective and more transparent manner, and encourages the presence of representatives of Member States at meetings; highlights the need for Council and Commission representatives of the highest possible rank to be present at Committee meetings and hearings where the content of the issues discussed require the implication of the aforementioned institutions; reiterates the call of its resolution of 11 March 2014 on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2013(1) for launching an enhanced structured dialogue with Member States, namely by holding regular meetings with members from national committees on petitions or other competent authorities;

15.  Calls on the Member States to standardise in law the obligation to create well-functioning petition committees in national parliaments, which would increase the effectiveness of the cooperation between the Committee on Petitions and the national parliaments;

16.  Considers it essential that the Committee strengthens its cooperation with other committees of Parliament by means of asking their opinion on petitions, inviting their members to attend debates in their respective areas of responsibility, and participating more in their work as committee for the opinion on certain reports, in particular reports on the proper transposition and implementation of EU law in the Member States; requests that the competent committees give the petitions forwarded to them due consideration and that they provide feedback needed for the correct treatment of petitions;

17.  Underlines the growing importance of the Committee on Petitions as a scrutiny committee that should be a point of reference for the transposition and implementation of the European legislation at the administrative level in the Member states; reiterates the call for more political debates during the plenary sessions, and for a more vivid communication on the petitions of European citizens, expressed in its above-mentioned resolution on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2013;

18.  Regrets that more petitioners cannot directly present their cases to the Committee on Petitions, partly because of the lack of meeting time and of human resources at the Committee Secretariat; calls for the time periods within which petitioners are informed of the handling of their petitions, and of their passage before the committee, to be improved; supports the increased use of videoconferencing, or of any other means enabling petitioners to become actively involved in the work of the Committee on Petitions, even when they cannot be physically present;

19.  Calls for the prompt establishment an informal petitions network within Parliament, with the participation of Members representing every committee of Parliament in order to ensure smooth and effective coordination of work in relation to petitions, which will improve the exercise of the right to petition;

20.  Points out the important role that other committees of Parliament have to play, including their handling in meetings of matters set forth in petitions pertaining to their respective areas of responsibility, and, when relevant, their use of petitions received as a source of information for legislative processes;

21.  Deplores the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights has not been adopted in all Member States, and that many people have found its implementation to be unclear and, to some extent, disappointing; deplores as well the fact that the European Convention on Human Rights has not yet been adopted by the EU as such within the meaning of Article 6(2) TEU, and that European citizens do not have access to sufficient information concerning the procedures in place in this regard; deplores the strict way in which the Commission has interpreted Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its stipulation that the provisions of the Charter be addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law; recalls that the Commission has often said it is unable to act in the area of fundamental rights, when the Committee has so requested, citing Article 51 of the Charter; stresses the fact that the expectations of citizens often go beyond what the Charter’s strictly legal provisions allow for; calls on the Commission to do more to meet citizens’ expectations and to find a new approach to the interpretation of Article 51;

22.  Points to the important work carried out by the Committee on Petitions in the context of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; takes due note, in this regard, of the concluding observations by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the initial report of the European Union(2); highlights that the European Union Framework should be adequately resourced, in line with the requirements of the Convention; calls, in this respect, for the capacity of the Committee on Petitions and its Secretariat to be enhanced, enabling the Committee properly to fulfil its protection role; calls for the establishment of a designated officer responsible for the processing of disabilities-related issues; emphasises the Committee's willingness to work closely with other legislative committees involved in Parliament’s network on disabilities; notes the need for further efforts and action on behalf of the Committee in the protection of people with disabilities, such as actions directed to promote the swift ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty;

23.  Stresses citizens’ concern regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations in which the Commission is participating, as highlighted in numerous petitions received in 2014; points to the importance of the Commission urgently implementing the recommendations made by the European Ombudsman in this regard;

24.  Points to the opinion issued by the Committee regarding the recommendations of the Commission on the negotiations for the TTIP, in which, as highlighted in numerous petitions received, it rejects the arbitration instrument known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and regrets that the ECI against the TTIP was rejected;

25.  Regrets that some Member States have not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and calls on them to sign and ratify it as soon as possible;

26.  Calls for the EU and the Member States to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

27.  Calls on the Member States to sign and ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities without further delay;

28.  Notes the particular attention paid to certain petitions concerning the plan to explore for, and exploit, possible oil reserves in the Canary Islands; acknowledges that petitioners who opposed the plan on environmental grounds have contributed significantly to clarifying the debate; recognises that environmental issues remain a priority for petitioners, thus highlighting where Member States fall short in this area; notes that a number of these petitions deal with waste management, the safety of water supply, nuclear energy, fracking and the protection of animal species;

29.  Stresses the high number of petitions received that reject the use of hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of gas and oil from the subsoil, and that highlight the environmental, economic and social consequences linked to the use of this technique;

30.  Denounces in particular the practice of ‘slicing up’ files, used repeatedly with regard to major infrastructure or drilling projects that form the basis of numerous petitions on environmental issues;

31.  Notes the concerns of petitioners regarding alleged instances of injustice that have occurred in the course of administrative and judicial procedures for the separation or divorce of parents in which issues concerning the custody of young children and forced adoptions are raised; notes, in this context, that in some Member States, in the case of bi-national couples, discrimination on grounds of nationality may occur in favour of the parent from the Member State in which the proceedings take place and against the non-national of that state, with severe and often very dramatic repercussions on the rights of the child; stresses that it has been notified of cases involving several Member States (Germany (notably with reference to the work of the Child and Youth Welfare Office), France, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark) and Norway, and welcomes, in this regard, the upcoming revision in 2016 of Regulation Brussels IIa; stresses that in 2015 a new working group, charged with providing a quick and coherent response to these concerns, was created within the Committee on Petitions, and it has undertaken a fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom in order to investigate complaints of this nature in situ;

32.  Points out the large number of petitions received that fiercely criticise, and warn of the consequences of, the EU's migration, trade and external policies in terms of their compliance with provisions to ensure the human rights of migrants; points out the obligation of all EU agencies, bodies and institutions, including Frontex, to ensure, at all times, respect for human rights, and compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in their respective fields of activity;

33.  Welcomes the social dialogue ‘European Forum on the Rights of the Child’, organised annually at the Commission’s initiative since 2007, the aim of which is to support children’s rights as part of EU internal and external measures; notes that the participants in this dialogue are representatives of the Member States, children’s rights representatives, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Council of Europe, UNICEF and a number of NGOs;

34.  Stresses the wide range of the subjects raised in the petitions filed by citizens, such as fundamental rights, human rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the internal market, environmental law, labour relations, migration policies, trade agreements, public health issues, child welfare, transport, animal rights and discrimination; calls on the Committee on Petitions to specialise its work further on the major policies to which petitioners refer; requests that, in order for the Committee to be able to deal with all this intensive and extensive range of petitions, more resources be allocated to its Secretariat;

35.  Believes that the organisation of public hearings is an important way of examining problems raised by petitioners; wishes to draw attention to the public hearings organised with the Committee on the Environment in response to the ECI on ‘Water is a Human Right’, and with the Committee on Legal Affairs for the ECI entitled ‘One of Us’; believes that the ECI is an instrument that promotes transnational, participatory and representative democracy that, once a new regulation is approved, may enable citizens to be more directly involved in the framing, raising and prioritising of EU policies and legislation issues that need to be addressed; reaffirms its commitment to being involved, proactively, in organising public hearings for successful initiatives; undertakes to give priority, at institutional level, to the effectiveness of this participative process and to ensuring due legislative follow-up where appropriate; welcomes the use in hearings of accessibility features for persons with disabilities, such as the text-to-speech screen;

36.  Deplores the Commission’s reply to the few successful ECIs and regrets, that there has been little follow up to the only instrument of transnational democracy in the EU;

37.  Draws attention to several resolutions adopted in 2014, such as its resolution of 12 March 2014 on the EU Citizenship Report 2013, ‘EU Citizens: your rights, your future’(3), which has led to debates on the harmonisation of pension rights and on citizens’ right to vote and stand for election; draws attention to the Committee’s annual report on the Committee’s activities 2013 (A7-0131/2014) and to its resolution of 15 January 2015 on the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman 2013(4), particularly as regards the TTIP agreement;

38.  Welcomes the Commission’s decision to continue activities initiated in 2013 under the banner of the ‘European Year of Citizens’ in 2014 by focusing more on the European elections (held between 22 and 25 May 2014); welcomes the Commission’s readiness to inform citizens about the tools placed at their disposal so that they can participate in the EU’s decision-making process, as well as its readiness, at that point in time, to provide EU citizens with information and advice on their rights and on the democratic instruments available for defending them; stresses that further efforts should be made in order to raise awareness about the European elections, given the turn-out to the 2014 elections fell short of 50 % in many Member States;

39.  Stresses the importance of ensuring that the Committee on Petitions has a fully operational internet portal through which petitioners may effectively register, submit their petition, upload supporting documents, support admissible petitions and receive information about, as well as automatic e-mail alerts about changes to the status of, their petitions, and through which they can contact EU officials directly in order to obtain clear, straightforward information concerning progress on the issues raised in their petitions; regrets that the expected implementation timeframe has not been accomplished, and that many of the expected features remain incomplete; urges the responsible administrative bodies to speed-up the necessary steps to conclude the implementation of the remaining phases of the project and correct any existing shortcoming; stresses that further steps should be taken to enhance the transparency of the petition process;

40.  Calls for a common approach by Parliament, national parliaments and authorities at lower levels in the Member States, with appropriate appeal bodies, in order to make it transparently clear to citizens which level, and which instance, can by addressed by their petitions;

41.  Calls for an effective assessment of the Petitions Secretariat staff, focused on ensuring adequacy in a qualitative and quantitative terms, in recognition of the large accumulation of petitions and the ongoing delays in their processing; believes that adequate treatment and consideration of approved petitions, along with the delivery of fair feedback to petitioners, is key to strengthening the bonds between European civil society and the European institutions;

42.  Stresses the need to ensure more constructive information for citizens via the Committee on Petitions web portal through the organisation of training seminars in the Member States;

43.  Emphasises the important role of the SOLVIT network, which regularly uncovers and resolves problems associated with the implementation of internal market legislation; urges the Commission to upgrade this tool, to allow members of the Committee on Petitions to have access to all information available through SOLVIT, and to keep them informed in cases pertaining to filed petitions;

44.  Highlights the need for the Committee on Petitions to step up its collaboration with other EU institutions and bodies, and with the national authorities in the Member States; considers enhanced dialogues and systematic cooperation with Member States, especially with the petitions committees of the national parliaments, to be essential; recommends that all Member States parliaments that have not yet done so form petitions committees; considers the visit to the Committee on 2 December 2014 by a delegation of the petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament to be an example of such collaboration, and that partnerships of this kind will make it possible to share best practices, pool experiences gained and bring to fruition an efficacious and systematic procedure for forwarding petitions to the bodies responsible;

45.  Stresses that close cooperation with the Member States is essential for the work of the Committee on Petitions; encourages the Member States to play a proactive role in responding to petitions pertaining to the implementation and enforcement of EU law, and considers the presence and the active cooperation of Member State representatives at meetings of the Committee on Petitions to be of great importance; points to the presence of representatives of the Greek Government at the meeting of 10 February 2014, at which the report on the fact-finding visit to Greece concerning waste management (18-20 September 2013) was presented;

46.  Recalls that fact-finding visits are one of the most important investigation tools that the Committee on Petitions has, as foreseen in the rules, even though there were none in 2014; considers it essential that the follow up of petitions under investigation during the fact-finding visits does not come to a standstill, including between European elections and the reconstitution of Parliament, and calls on the committees of Parliament to make appropriate arrangements; stresses the need for fact-finding visits to result in clear recommendations focused on the resolution of petitioners’ problems; expects the regular activity of the Committee on Petitions, in terms of fact-finding visits, to be resumed as of 2016;

47.  Calls on Greece to take note of the recommendations made in the report on the fact-finding visit on waste collection and the siting of landfills in Greece, which was adopted by the Committee in February 2014; calls on the Commission to monitor carefully the use made of funds allocated to waste collection; calls on the Member States to comply with the EU directives on recycling waste;

48.  Attaches great importance to the presence and active cooperation of representatives of the Member States during meetings of the Committee on Petitions; welcomes and encourages the presence of representatives from the public authorities of the Member State concerned, their participation and their active cooperation; encourages all Member States to participate actively in the petition process;

49.  Stresses the importance of cooperation with the European Ombudsman, as well as of the involvement of Parliament in the European Network of Ombudsmen; applauds the excellent relations in the institutional framework between the Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions; appreciates especially the Ombudsman’s regular contributions to the work of the Committee on Petitions throughout the year;

50.  Looks forward to enhancing the cooperation with the petitions committees of national and regional parliaments of the different Members States, where these exist; is committed to providing guidance in setting up such committees in those remaining Member States that are willing to do so;

51.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, and the report of the Committee on Petitions, to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, their committees on petitions and their national ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0204.
(2) Adopted by the UN Committee at its fourteenth session (17 August-4 September 2015); see:
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0233.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0009.

EU citizens under detention in India, notably Estonian and UK seamen
PDF 160kWORD 62k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on Estonian and UK seamen under detention in India (2016/2522(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and in particular Articles 9, 10 and 14 thereof,

–  having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),

–  having regard to Rule 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas on 12 October 2013 the 35-strong crew (including 14 Estonians and 6 Britons, as well as Indians and Ukrainians) of the US-based, Sierra Leone-flagged and privately owned ship the MV Seaman Guard Ohio were arrested in Tamil Nadu state (India) and charged with illegally possessing weapons in Indian waters;

B.  whereas the crew were apparently on an anti-piracy mission, carried out no aggressive acts against Indian citizens, and have consistently denied any wrongdoing;

C.  whereas the charges were quashed soon after, but the Indian authorities appealed and the Supreme Court ordered the trial to proceed; whereas the men have been unable to leave India or work during this period;

D.  whereas extensive and regular engagement at the highest levels has taken place between the Indian authorities and their British and Estonian counterparts, including at ministerial and prime ministerial level; whereas this has included requesting the early return of the 14 Estonians and six Britons among the crew, drawing attention to their families’ financial hardship and mental anguish;

E.  whereas on 12 January 2016 each of the 35 sailors and guards was handed a maximum sentence of five years’ ‘rigorous imprisonment’ and fined INR 3 000 (EUR 40); whereas the men are now in Palayamkottai prison in Tamil Nadu; whereas they are considering an appeal against the sentences within the prescribed 90 days;

F.  whereas this turn of events has evoked surprise and consternation in many quarters;

1.  Respects India’s sovereignty over its territory and jurisdiction and recognises the integrity of the Indian legal system;

2.  Shares India’s well-founded concern and sensitivity, based on recent experience, in relation to terrorism;

3.  Is aware that the personnel involved were reportedly engaged in anti-piracy duties and that on-board protection teams have proved to be the single most effective anti-piracy measure and deserve the support of the international community, including India;

4.  Calls on the Indian authorities to ensure that the case of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio crew is dealt with on a basis of full respect for the human and legal rights of the defendants, in line with the obligations enshrined in the various human rights charters, treaties and conventions that India has signed up to;

5.  Urges the Indian authorities to act sympathetically in this case, to resolve the legal proceedings as swiftly as possible, and to release all personnel concerned pending conclusion of the judicial processes, in order to minimise the adverse effects on those involved and their families;

6.  Recommends that India consider signing the Montreux Document of 18 September 2008, which, inter alia, defines how international law applies to the activities of private military and security companies (PMSCs);

7.  Underlines the long-standing excellent relations existing between the EU and its Member States and India; urges India and the European countries concerned to ensure that this incident does not have a negative effect on wider relations; emphasises the importance of a close economic, political and strategic relationship between India and the EU Member States as well as the EU;

8.  Calls on the EU and India to increase cooperation in matters of maritime security and counter-piracy, including through the development of international doctrine and standard operating procedures, in order to fully exploit the potential offered by India’s role in the region; strongly believes, moreover, that this will contribute to preventing similar contentious cases from occurring in the future;

9.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Government and Parliament of India.

PDF 181kWORD 75k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on the situation in Ethiopia (2016/2520(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Ethiopia and to the most recent plenary debate on the matter, of 20 May 2015,

–  having regard to the statement of 23 December 2015 by the European External Action Service (EEAS) spokesperson on recent clashes in Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the joint statement of 20 October 2015 by Federica Mogherini, Vice‑President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), and Tedros Adhanom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the press release on the meeting of 13 January 2016 between the VP/HR, Federica Mogherini, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom,

–  having regard to the statement of 27 May 2015 by the EEAS spokesperson on the elections in Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the declaration of 10 July 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, on the release of Ethiopian journalists,

–  having regard to the latest Universal Periodic Review on Ethiopia before the UN Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia adopted on 8 December 1994, and in particular the provisions of Chapter III on fundamental rights and freedoms, human rights and democratic rights,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by Ethiopia in 1994,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the most recent general elections were held on 24 May 2015, in which the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) remained the ruling party and won all the seats in the national parliament, owing in part to the lack of space for critical or dissenting voices in the election process; whereas May’s federal elections took place in a general atmosphere of intimidation and concerns over the lack of independence of the National Electoral Board; whereas the EPRDF has been in power for 24 years, since the overthrow of the military government in 1991;

B.  whereas over the past two months Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia, home of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has been hit by a wave of mass protests over the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, which has put farmers at risk of being evicted from their land;

C.  whereas, according to international human rights organisations, security forces have responded to the generally peaceful protests by killing at least 140 protesters and injuring many more, in what may be the biggest crisis to hit Ethiopia since the 2005 election violence; whereas, on the contrary, the government has only admitted the deaths of dozens of people as well as 12 members of the security forces;

D.  whereas on 14 January 2016 the government decided to cancel the disputed large-scale urban development plan; whereas, if implemented, the plan would expand the city’s boundary 20-fold; whereas the enlargement of Addis Ababa has already displaced millions of Oromo farmers and trapped them in poverty;

E.  whereas Ethiopia is a highly diverse country in terms of religious beliefs and cultures; whereas some of the largest ethnic communities, particularly the Oromo and the Somali (Ogaden), have been marginalised in favour of the Amhara and the Tigray, with little participation in political representation;

F.  whereas the Ethiopian authorities arbitrarily arrested a number of peaceful protesters, journalists and opposition party leaders in a brutal crackdown on protests in the Oromia Region; whereas those arrested are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment;

G.  whereas the government has labelled largely peaceful protesters as ‘terrorists’, applying the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (Law No 652/2009) and deploying military forces against them;

H.  whereas on 23 December 2015 the authorities arrested Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromia’s largest legally registered political party; whereas Mr Gerba was taken to prison and reportedly hospitalised shortly afterwards; whereas his whereabouts are now unknown;

I.  whereas other senior OFC leaders have been arbitrarily arrested in recent weeks or are said to be under virtual house arrest;

J.  whereas this is not the first time that Ethiopian security forces have been implicated in serious human rights violations in response to peaceful protests, and whereas it is known that the Ethiopian Government is systematically repressing freedom of expression and association and banning individuals from expressing dissent or opposition to government policies, thereby limiting the civil and political space, including by carrying out politically motivated prosecutions under the draconian anti-terrorism law, decimating independent media, dismantling substantial civil society activism and cracking down on opposition political parties;

K.  whereas in December 2015 leading activists such as Getachew Shiferaw (Editor-in-Chief of Negere Ethiopia), Yonathan Teressa (an online activist) and Fikadu Mirkana (Oromia Radio and TV) were arbitrarily arrested, although they have yet to be charged by the Ethiopian authorities;

L.  whereas the Ethiopian Government imposes pervasive restrictions on independent civil society and media; whereas, according to the 2014 prison census conducted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ethiopia was the fourth-worst jailer of journalists in the world, with at least 17 journalists behind bars, 57 media professionals having fled Ethiopia in the previous five years and a number of independent publications having shut down as a result of official pressure; whereas Ethiopia also ranked fourth on the CPJ’s 2015 list of the 10 most-censored countries;

M.  whereas numerous prisoners of conscience imprisoned in previous years solely on the basis of the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion, including journalists and opposition political party members, remain in detention; whereas some of them have been convicted in unfair trials, some face ongoing trials and some continue to be detained without charge, including Eskinder Nega, Temesghen Desalegn, Solomon Kebede, Yesuf Getachew, Woubshet Taye, Saleh Edris and Tesfalidet Kidane;

N.  whereas Andargachew Tsege, a British-Ethiopian citizen and leader of an opposition party living in exile, was arrested in June 2014; whereas Mr Tsege had been condemned to death several years earlier in his absence, and has been on death row practically incommunicado since his arrest;

O.  whereas Ethiopia’s Charities and Societies Proclamation law requires organisations engaged in advocacy to generate 90 % of the funding for their activities from local sources, which has led to a decrease in action by civil society organisation (CSOs) and to the disappearance of many CSOs; whereas Ethiopia rejected recommendations to amend the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, made by several countries during the examination of its rights record under the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of May 2014;

P.  whereas the Ethiopian Government has de facto imposed a widespread blockade of the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, which is rich in oil and gas reserves; whereas attempts to work and report from the region by international media and humanitarian groups are seen as criminal acts punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; whereas there are reports of war crimes and severe human rights violations perpetrated by the army and government paramilitary forces against the Ogaden population;

Q.  whereas Ethiopia, the second-most-populated country in Africa, is reportedly one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, with an average growth rate of 10 % in the past decade; whereas it nevertheless remains one of the poorest, with a per capita GNI of USD 632; whereas it ranked 173rd out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index for 2014;

R.  whereas Ethiopia plays a key role in the region and enjoys political support from Western donors and most of its regional neighbours, mostly owing to its role as host of the African Union (AU) and its contribution to UN peacekeeping, security and aid partnerships with Western countries;

S.  whereas, as economic growth continues apace (along with significant foreign investments, including in the agriculture, construction and manufacturing sectors, large-scale development projects, such as hydroelectric dam building and plantations, and widespread land-leasing, often to foreign companies), many people, including farmers as well as pastoralists, have been driven from their homes;

T.  whereas Article 40(5) of Ethiopia’s constitution guarantees Ethiopian pastoralists the right to free land for grazing and cultivation and the right not to be displaced from their own lands;

U.  whereas Ethiopia is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, Article 96 of which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP‑EU cooperation;

V.  whereas Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in decades, leading to increasing food insecurity, severe emaciation and unusual livestock deaths; whereas nearly 560 000 people are internally displaced owing to floods, violent clashes over scarce resources and drought; whereas the Ethiopian Government estimates that 10,1 million people, half of them children, are in need of emergency food aid owing to the drought;

W.  whereas Ethiopia is faced with permanent influxes of migrants and is a host country for approximately 700 000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia; whereas on 11 November 2015 a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM) was signed by the EU and Ethiopia to reinforce cooperation and dialogue between the two parties in the area of migration;

1.  Strongly condemns the recent use of excessive force by the security forces in Oromia and in all Ethiopian regions, and the increased number of cases of human rights violations; expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and urges the immediate release of all those jailed for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression;

2.  Reminds the Ethiopian Government of its obligations to guarantee fundamental rights, including access to justice and the right to a fair trial, as provided for in the African Charter and other international and regional human rights instruments, including the Cotonou Agreement and specifically Articles 8 and 96 thereof;

3.  Calls for a credible, transparent and independent investigation into the killings of protesters and into other alleged human rights violations in connection with the protest movement, and calls on the government to fairly prosecute those responsible before the competent jurisdictions;

4.  Calls on the Government of Ethiopia to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter, including the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and association; urges the government to immediately invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and other UN human rights experts to visit Ethiopia to report on the situation;

5.  Welcomes the government’s decision to completely halt the special zone master plan for Addis Ababa and Oromia; calls for an immediate, inclusive and transparent political dialogue which includes the government, opposition parties, civil society representatives and the local population, to prevent any further violence or radicalisation of the population;

6.  Stresses that free and independent media are essential in order to guarantee an informed, active and engaged population, and calls on the Ethiopian authorities to stop suppressing the free flow of information, including by jamming media broadcasts and harassing media, to guarantee the rights of local civil society and media and to facilitate access throughout Ethiopia for independent journalists and human rights monitors; acknowledges the recent release of ‘Zone 9’ bloggers and of six journalists;

7.  Requests that the Ethiopian authorities stop using anti-terrorism legislation (Anti‑Terrorism Proclamation No 652/2009) to repress political opponents, dissidents, human rights defenders, other civil society actors and independent journalists; calls also on the Ethiopian Government to review its anti-terrorism law in order to bring it into line with international human rights law and principles;

8.  Condemns the excessive restrictions placed on human rights work by the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which denies human rights organisations access to essential funding, endows the Charities and Societies Agency with excessive powers of interference in human rights organisations and further endangers victims of human rights violations by contravening principles of confidentiality;

9.  Calls on the Ethiopian authorities to prevent any ethnic or religious discrimination and to encourage and take action in favour of a peaceful and constructive dialogue between all communities;

10.  Welcomes Ethiopia’s 2013 human rights action plan and calls for its swift and complete implementation;

11.  Urges the authorities to implement, in particular, the recommendation of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and to release British national and political activist Andargachew Tsege immediately;

12.  States that respect for human rights and the rule of law are crucial to the EU’s policies to promote development in Ethiopia and throughout the Horn of Africa; calls the AU’s attention to the political, economic and social situation of its host country, Ethiopia;

13.  Calls for the EU, as the single largest donor, to monitor programmes and policies effectively to ensure that EU development assistance is not contributing to human rights violations in Ethiopia, particularly through programmes linked to the displacement of farmers and pastoralists, and to develop strategies to minimise any negative impact of displacement within EU-funded development projects; stresses that the EU should measure its financial support according to the country’s human rights record and the degree to which the Ethiopian Government promotes reforms towards democratisation;

14.  Calls on the government to include local communities in a dialogue on the implementation of any large-scale development projects; expresses its concerns about the government’s forced resettlement programme;

15.  Expresses deep concern about the current devastating climatic conditions in Ethiopia, which have worsened the humanitarian situation in the country; calls for the EU, together with its international partners, to scale up its support to the Ethiopian Government and people; welcomes the contribution recently announced by the EU and calls on the Commission to ensure that this additional funding is provided as a matter of urgency;

16.  Recalls that Ethiopia is an important country of destination, transit and origin for migrants and asylum seekers, and that it hosts the largest refugee population in Africa; takes note, therefore, of the adoption of a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility between the EU and Ethiopia which addresses the issues of refugees, border control and the fight against human trafficking; calls also on the Commission to monitor closely all projects recently initiated within the framework of the EU Trust Fund for Africa;

17.  Is extremely concerned about the economic and social situation of the country’s population – in particular women and minorities, and refugees and displaced persons, whose numbers continue to increase – in view of the crisis and the instability of the region; reiterates its support for all humanitarian organisations operating on the ground and in neighbouring host countries; supports calls by the international community and humanitarian organisations to step up assistance to refugees and displaced persons;

18.  Stresses that major public investment plans are required, particularly in the education and health fields, if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be attained; invites the Ethiopian authorities to make an effective commitment to attaining these goals;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Government and Parliament of Ethiopia, the Commission, the Council, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, the institutions of the African Union, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the Pan-African Parliament.

North Korea
PDF 175kWORD 72k
European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on North Korea (2016/2521(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on North Korea,

–  having regard to the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, of 6 January 2016 on the alleged nuclear test in DPRK,

–  having regard to the UN Secretary-General’s statement of 6 January 2016 on the Nuclear Test announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolutions 1718(2006), 1874(2009), 2087(2013) and 2094(2013) which explicitly ban nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

–  having regard to the UN General Assembly resolution of 17 December 2015 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

–  having regard to the UN report entitled ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2015: Needs and Priorities’ of April 2015,

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 27 March 2015 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,

–  having regard to the report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of 7 February 2014,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to all of which the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a party,

–  having regard to the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Council of the European Union and the UN Security Council condemned what the DPRK claimed to have been a ‘successful hydrogen bomb test’ conducted on 6 January 2016, which clearly violates its international obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions;

B.  whereas the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery represents a threat to international peace and security; whereas the DPRK withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003, has been conducting nuclear tests since 2006 and officially declared in 2009 that it had developed a nuclear weapon, which means that the threat of the advancement of its nuclear capabilities has clearly amplified; whereas the pursuit of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes constitutes a challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and risks aggravating regional tensions;

C.  whereas the country, with its military-focused economy, is far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation and has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery;

D.  whereas the EU strongly supports the idea of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, and considers the resumption of the Six-Party Talks to be essential for peace, security and stability in the region;

E.  whereas the DPRK’s focus on military investments can be considered criminal negligence of the basic needs of its citizens in view of the fact that some 70 percent of the country’s 24,6 million population are food insecure and that almost 30 percent of children aged under five are acutely malnourished;

F.  whereas the DPRK has had an extremely problematic human rights situation for many years; whereas the DPRK regime has hardly cooperated with the UN and has rejected all UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions regarding human rights in North Korea; whereas it has failed to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country, and has rejected all assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights under the special procedures;

G.  whereas a meeting took place following the Human Rights Council resolution of 27 March 2015 between North Korean diplomats and Marzuki Darusman, the HRC Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea;

H.  whereas the European Union is a defender and promoter of human rights and democracy in the world; whereas the EU-DPRK human rights dialogue has been suspended by the DPRK since 2013; whereas the EU and DPRK held a political dialogue round in June 2015;

I.  whereas the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) investigated ‘the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights’ in North Korea and released a report on 7 February 2014; whereas the CoI concluded in its report that Pyongyang’s human rights abuses are ‘without any parallel in the contemporary world’ and found ‘an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information, and association’; whereas the CoI found in many instances that the violations of human rights constitute crimes against humanity; whereas the situation of human rights in the DPRK has worsened since 2014;

J.  whereas the DPRK Government does not allow any political opposition, free and fair elections, free media, religious freedom, freedom of association, collective bargaining or freedom of movement;

K.  whereas the DPRK has an extensive and well-structured security system which closely monitors the life of nearly every citizen and does not allow any kind of basic freedom in the country;

L.  whereas the DPRK state authorities systematically perpetrate extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and disappearances, including in the form of abductions of foreign nationals, interning more than 100 000 people in prison and ‘re-education’ camps;

M.  whereas the people of the DPRK have been exposed to decades of under-development, with poor health care and high levels of maternal and child malnutrition, in a context of political and economic isolation, recurrent natural disasters and international increases in food and fuel prices; whereas the DPRK is violating the right to food of its people;

1.  Strongly condemns the fourth nuclear test of 6 January 2016 as an unnecessary and dangerous provocation as well as a violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and a serious threat to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the North East Asian region; supports meaningful and effective sanctions following the recent nuclear test to be decided upon by the international community;

2.  Urges the DPRK to refrain from further provocative actions by abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, to cease all related activities and to comply immediately with all its international obligations, including the UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions as well as other international disarmament and non-proliferation norms; calls on the DPRK to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay and to abide by its commitments under the Six-Party Talks Joint Statement of 19 September 2005;

3.  Affirms its desire for a diplomatic and political solution to the DPRK nuclear issue; reiterates its support for the Six-Party Talks and calls for their resumption; urges all the participants in the Six-Party Talks to intensify their efforts; calls on the DPRK to re-engage constructively with the international community, and in particular the members of the Six-Party Talks, in order to work towards lasting peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and as the best means to secure a more prosperous and stable future for the DPRK;

4.  Is convinced that the time has come for the international community to take concrete action to end the perpetrators’ impunity; demands that those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in the DPRK be held accountable, be brought before the International Criminal Court and be subjected to targeted sanctions;

5.  Underlines the fact that the violations described in the CoI report, many of which constitute crimes against humanity, have been taking place for far too long under the observing eyes of the international community;

6.  Urges the DPRK Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry without delay;

7.  Calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to exert its increased influence and political and economic leverage over the DPRK to ensure that the situation does not escalate further; calls on the People’s Republic of China to take all the necessary steps, in cooperation with the international community, in order to restore peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula; notes the support of the People’s Republic of China for UN Security Council resolution 2094(2013); notes the consensus among the members of the UN Security Council reacting to the recent nuclear test by the DPRK;

8.  Urges the Government of the People’s Republic of China, in accordance with its obligations as a state party to the UN Refugee Convention, not to deny North Korean refugees who cross the border into China their right to seek asylum or to forcibly return them to North Korea, but to protect their fundamental human rights; calls on the EU to exert diplomatic pressure to that effect; reiterates its call on all countries who are recipients of refugees from the DPRK to respect the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 protocol by not sending any North Korean refugees back to the DPRK;

9.  Welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution of 17 December 2015 on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was supported by all the EU Member States; calls on the EU and its Member States to continue to address the grave human rights situation in the DPRK;

10.  Calls on VP/HR Federica Mogherini to use the expert capacity of the Republic of Korea in formulating the EU’s strategy towards the DPRK; calls on the VP/HR to monitor further developments in the DPRK and to report back to Parliament so that the issue of human rights in the DPRK stays high on the EU’s political agenda; believes that the EU has a constructive role to play through its critical engagement with the DPRK Government;

11.  Expresses its deep concern about the persisting deterioration of the human rights situation in the DPRK; calls on the Government of the DPRK to fulfil its obligations under the human rights instruments to which it is a party, and to ensure that humanitarian organisations, independent human rights monitors and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK have access to the country and are provided with the necessary cooperation;

12.  Calls on the Government of the DPRK to end immediately its use of the systematic suppression of human rights as a political tool to control and monitor its own population;

13.  Strongly condemns the systematic and large-scale use of the death penalty in the DPRK; calls on the Government of the DPRK to declare a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the near future; calls on the DPRK to put an end to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to release political prisoners and to allow its citizens to travel freely, both within and outside the country; calls on the DPRK to allow free expression and press freedom for national and international media, and to allow its citizens uncensored access to the internet;

14.  Urges the DPRK Government to stop its State-sponsored forced labour programme under which foreign countries have hired tens of thousands of North Korean labourers under illegal conditions, mainly in mining, logging, textile and construction projects, which has generated hard currency to help maintain the regime; points out that in this case the responsibility to protect labour rights extends to hosting states which should ensure the protection of labour and human rights standards;

15.  Condemns the severe restrictions on the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion or belief, opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, as well as discrimination based on the songbun system which classifies people on the basis of State-assigned social class and birth, and also includes consideration of political opinions and religion;

16.  Expresses its particular concern about the severity of the food situation the country is facing and its impact on the economic, social and cultural rights of the population; calls on the Commission to maintain existing humanitarian aid programmes and channels of communication with the DPRK, and to secure their safe delivery to the targeted parts of the population; calls on the DPRK authorities to ensure access for all citizens to food and humanitarian assistance on the basis of need, in accordance with humanitarian principles;

17.  Urges the authorities of the DPRK to resolve urgently the issue of the systematic abduction of persons, to hand over all information on third-country nationals, including those of Japan and the Republic of Korea, suspected to have been abducted by North Korean state agents over the past decades, and to return abductees still being held to their home countries immediately;

18.  Calls on the DPRK to continue to engage constructively with international interlocutors with a view to promoting concrete improvements in the human rights situation on the ground, including through dialogues, official visits to the country and more people-to-people contact;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the Government and Parliament of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Korea, the Government and Parliament of the People’s Republic of China, the Government and Parliament of the United States, the Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation, the Government and Parliament of Japan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, and the UN Secretary-General.

Legal notice - Privacy policy