“Don’t short-change human rights”, Amnesty International tells EU’s new diplomats
(Brussels, 1 December 2010) On the day the European Union’s new diplomatic body, the European External Action Service (EEAS), is launched, Amnesty International has expressed deep concern that the EU’s human rights capacity will be drastically diminished under the new system.
“The EEAS is vital to making the EU’s promotion of universal human rights more effective”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “But it looks like the Service won’t have the structure or capacity even to maintain the EU’s current impact in this vital arena. It will be cut to virtually zero. We simply can’t accept Europe’s support for global human rights being short-changed like this.”
In a letter to senior EEAS officials, Amnesty International has shared its belief that the spirit guiding the Lisbon Treaty aimed markedly to improve the EU’s coherence and impact on human rights. But Amnesty International believes this can only be achieved if the EU shifts human rights centre-stage in foreign policy-making, encompassing the entire spectrum of EU interaction with foreign countries. At present, the Service’s plan does not provide for even one human rights unit. By contrast, there are currently three EU human rights facilities (EU Presidency, Council and Commission). Amnesty International has deplored the Service’s seeming lack of commitment to ensuring that, as a bare minimum, there is a human rights focal point in every EU delegation (diplomatic mission), and a senior EEAS post in Brussels carrying a human rights portfolio.
“The key to the EU’s human rights effectiveness is how the EEAS is structured and staffed at its Brussels headquarters and its delegations worldwide”, said Beger. “The planning process has been far from transparent and key stakeholders haven’t been properly consulted. We’re anxious that if the Service develops as it’s currently planned, it won’t be able to do much more than run human rights conferences and book hotels for delegations. But the EU can never hope to make any real impact on local human rights defenders if it doesn’t have dedicated capacity and proper expertise.”
Amnesty International has urged the Service to set up a strong human rights directorate, and considers that anything less will not have the scope to fulfill the EU’s human rights ambitions and obligations. It believes that the directorate should be well resourced, allowing it to assess the external human rights impact of all EU policies and ensure that human rights policy is made an intrinsic part of all foreign policy.
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