The EU should do more to protect independent journalists and bloggers and human rights defenders, say MEPs in their report on the state of human rights in the world in 2015, approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday. Members point out that the "universality of human rights is seriously being challenged in many parts of the world" and say the EU "should ensure coherence between its internal and external policies with regard to respect for human rights".
MEPs, gravely concerned at ever-increasing attempts to shrink the space of civil society and human rights defenders, impose tougher limits on freedom of assembly and of expression, condemn abuses and violations made possible by repressive laws adopted throughout the world and specifically in countries such as Russia, Turkey and China, inter alia on the pretext of combating terrorism.
The EU should protect independent journalists and bloggers, reduce the digital divide and facilitate uncensored access to the internet, say MEPs. They ask EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers to regularly put EU efforts to secure the release of human rights defenders, journalists, political activists and others on EU Foreign Affairs Council agendas. MEPs also urge the EU to increase “coherence between its internal and external policies with regard to respect for human rights and democratic values".
The report, by Josef Weidenholzer (S&D, AT), takes stock of the human rights of women and children, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTI persons and indigenous people, and assesses how they are affected by counter-terrorism, trade or development measures. Approved in committee by 42 votes to 5, with 8 abstentions.
Migration: urgent need for long-term solutions
Given the "growing number of human rights abuses against refugees, irregular migrants and asylum seekers on their route to Europe", MEPs urge EU member states to improve the “coherence of the migration policies". A "holistic approach to find sustainable, long-term and coherent solutions based on human rights" and a "comprehensive and well-coordinated Common European Asylum System" are needed, they say.
Business and human rights
"Human rights clauses should systematically be introduced in all international agreements" say MEPs, who urge the EU Commission and member states to "guarantee policy coherence on business and human rights", observing that these go hand in hand and that the business community has an important role to play in promoting human rights and democracy.
The committee text will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the December plenary session in Strasbourg, where the 2016 edition of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought will be awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, survivors of sexual enslavement by Islamic State (IS) and public advocates for women afflicted by the terrorist group’s campaign of sexual violence.
Note to editors
Parliament’s report is a response to the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in 2015, approved by the European Council on 20 June 2016.
In the chair: Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK)