Hautala Presses EU High Representative Ashton on Human Rights

European Parliament held on 15th of December the annual debate the EU human rights policy review with the EU High Representative, Ms Catherine Ashton.[:]

The High Representative underlined the importance of the forthcoming review of the EU human rights policy and expressed gratitude for the important input of the European Parliament, and Ms Hautala, Chair of European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights, in particular. She said that in the months ahead her team and the EEAS will consider the key recommendations received.

As to the key aims of the review, she noted that EU needs to speak up on the global stage, a different accent in comparison to the quiet diplomacy she emphasised during the early stages of her term. Strengthening of EU action in UN is particularly important. She also emphasised that the EU must work innovatively with third countries and tailor our approach to suit each individual situation. This is best done by way of local strategies and adjusting our priorities to any given situation. To add, she noted that as a result of the review human rights should be placed visibly at the core of the EEAS, integrated into all policy fields and established both at headquarter and local levels.

She also emphasised that that our own record must withstand scrutiny at the global human rights arena. In general, her approach was of dual nature, while human rights will be put to the core of EU action, she also sees value in streamlining too. To summarise her views, she emphasised that the EU policy must be effective, innovative and targeted.

In her speech Heidi Hautala underlined the momentous importance of the EU human rights strategy review and stressed that inclusive and transparent continuance of the process are of utmost importance. She hoped, in particular, that the High Representative would finalise the process at an official Communication to the Parliament. Ms Hautala furthermore hoped that the High Representative would make clear commitment to strong human rights structure at the new EEAS and put in place permanent human rights body of the EU Member States. She reminded the High Representative that strong common human rights policy is possible; despite heavy pressure by China to stay away, all EU Member States decided to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo on 10.12.2010.

Despite wide and numerous encouraging words, the highly anticipated speech by High Representative lacked the information that was mostly awaited – what are the concrete decisions taken and to be taken with regards the EU human rights policy and EU institutions responsible for human rights policy. The EEAS gearing up to be functional in under one month, lack of information on how its human rights elements will look like, was received with tangible disappointment by many Members of the Parliament.