Five ideas, five years, for a fair, free Europe

How our new MEPs can help build equal societies in the next five years


By Alison Abrahams, Amnesty International

The European elections are over and now the real work begins for our new MEPs! The new cohort take their seats at a time of great turbulence both in Europe and globally. Leaders are spreading hate and fear,politicians are cracking down on peaceful activists, and powerful people are pushing for policies that are making us poorer and destroying our environment. As they take their seats for the next five years, new Members of the European Parliament (EP) have work to do to ensure that the human rights of everyone within the EU, and around the world, are respected.  

Before the election, young people told us that they want a free and fair Europe which protects people and the environment. Here are 5 things our new MEPs can do to make this a reality 

Alison Abrahams, Amnesty International

In the build-up to this election, young people have been speaking up and telling us that they want a free and fair Europe which protects people and the environment. Here are 5 things our new MEPs can do to make this a reality: 

1.Recognize the climate emergency and act on it 

We have reached a critical point when it comes to tackling climate change: act now, or it’s too late. We want a European Parliament that acknowledges the urgency of the climate crisis, not just in its words but in its actions. The EP needs to review the 2030 climate targets and adopt a strategy to achieve a zero-carbon EU by 2040. MEPs should champion and support initiatives that to contribute to a rapid phase-out of all fossil fuels and avoid harmful alternatives. If it’s done right, the transition should mean quality jobs for all and protect the rights of all workers. 

2. Recognise the rights of refugees and migrants

Europe has always welcomed people from other countries and this has contributed to the richness of our continent’s culture, architecture, economy and food. People fleeing war or persecution and seeking safety in Europe need and deserve dignity and compassion, but now many EU leaders are building fortress Europe to keep them out. Too many governments are pursuing policies which not only put refugees and asylum-seekers at risk but which fail in their EU treaties obligation to show solidarity with other countries.

For instance, the EU-Turkey deal has left thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in appalling conditions on the Greek islands. The EU is also financing migration control arrangements with Libya, such as training the Libyan coastguard to intercept refugees and migrants at sea and return them to Libya,where they face horrifying abuses.

Around the world people are speaking up and defending their human rights. We want a European Parliament that publicly shows support for, empowers, and protects them 

Alison Abrahams, Amnesty International

The European Parliament must scrutinise such deals with a keen eye, and ensure that all EU laws and policies uphold the human rights of migrants,asylum-seekers and refugees. 

3. Speak out where human rights are at risk within the EU 

Respect for human rights is a founding principle of the European Union, yet across Europe human rights are under threat. In Poland the independence of the judiciary is being undermined. In Hungary NGOs are being demonized and scapegoated, and across the continent people who help others seeking safety are being criminalized.  

We want Europe to remain a place where all people,regardless of their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, can live a life free from discrimination and violence but some politicians want to turn back the clock. The European Parliament has a strong history of advancing gender equality and addressing violence against women and LGBTI people and that must continue.

Newly elected MEPs must speak up when our freedoms are taken away and human rights violations happen within the EU, and, together with the Commission and Council, upholds European values of equality, tolerance, and respect.

4. Protect human rights and its defenders beyond our borders 

We are seeing a global push back against human rights gains with the USA pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council while others withdraw from international courts.

Filling this vacuum, countries like China and Russia are openly challenging the universality of human rights and seeking to silence its defenders. This retreat from human rights has left an open field for appalling violations to go unchecked in places like Myanmar, Yemen, Syria and Xinjiang in North-western China.

The European Parliament must hold the EU to its promise to push for human rights everywhere through its foreign policy.  

Around the world people are speaking up and defending their human rights. We want a European Parliament that publicly shows support for, empowers, and protects them. 

5. Make sure all businesses respect human rights

Businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights. But many still cause or contribute to violations through their operations around the world. The European Parliament should work with other EU institutions to hold these businesses to account.

The European Parliament should also lead in developing the rules that oblige companies to operate responsibly. MEPs have it within their powers to create the political support needed to achieve this.

We want to see European binding standards that force them to respect human rights.

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