Spanish Presidency Priorities: Where are Human Rights?

As the Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar prepares to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg tomorrow (Wednesday 16 January), Amnesty International asks: why are human rights absent in the list of Spanish Presidency priorities

In a document entitled: “The Human Rights Agenda for the European Union in 2002: Memorandum to the Spanish Presidency” Amnesty International says the Spanish EU Presidency’s priorities reveal a total lack of vision on the EU human rights front.

The comprehensive Memorandum recalls that the events of 11 September have given the debate on the future of Europe a strong focus on the fundamental values of human rights and democracy on which the Union is founded. At the same time, however, human rights appear to have moved backstage altogether as security dominates the agenda.

“Four months on, it is time for the EU to stand back and take stock”, said Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International’s EU Office in Brussels. “More than ever, there is a need for a comprehensive vision of the way the EU’s values should guide both its internal policies and its role as a key player in the world. The Laeken Declaration reflects such an aspiration, but it is yet to be translated into the programs and priorities of the Presidency”.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government is pressing ahead with a sweeping security agenda internally and externally. “Is political expediency winning over human rights

” asks Dick Oosting. “At a time when it is increasingly obvious that there is every reason to press a rights-based approach to come to grips with some of the world’s most entrenched problems of conflict, inequality and injustice, the absence of such a perspective from the EU Presidency agenda is a serious mistake”.

Amnesty International calls on the new President of the European Parliament to take a lead on EU human rights policy by calling the Spanish Presidency to account on its lack of vision on human rights.

Among the recommendations contained in Amnesty International’s memorandum addressed to the Spanish Presidency are:

  • The Spanish Presidency should infuse its program with a clear and unambiguous human rights perspective;
  • It should see to it that the EU and its member states ensure that any measures adopted to guarantee security are in full compliance with international human rights law and standards, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • It should give meaningful content to the human rights clause, and develop systematic human rights monitoring and evaluation for third countries as well as for member states, present and new;
  • In the development of a common European asylum system, full compliance with international human rights and refugee law must be ensured.

The full text of the Memorandum to the Spanish Presidency can be viewed at the link below.

For further comment/background and interviews:

Amnesty International EU Office (Brussels):

Tel: 32-2-5021499

Fax: 32-2-5025686

Email: amnesty-eu@aieu.be

Click here to link to the Amnesty International Spanish Section web site for the Spanish text.

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