New Commissioner for Justice – a fresh breeze to Business and Human Rights in the EU?

There is an increasing recognition that business, while playing an important role in the social and economic development of modern societies, can equally harm society, damage the environment and violate human rights. In Brussels, the Business and Human Rights is the talk of the town and more and more voices are joining the conversation, but so far the EU’s engagement has not been taken up up the lead role assigned to it on this.

This all may hopefully change soon. The Commissioner-designate for Justice Didier Reynders gave surprisingly clear and resolute answers in his hearing before the Members of the European Parliament today.

Commissioner-designate clearly stated that voluntary commitments on the corporate side are not enough. When he was asked on what concrete steps he will take to ensure the responsibility of European companies for human rights and access to remedies for victims of human rights violations, the Commissioner-designate, Mr. Reynders pledged to work to develop the best possible legislative basis for ensuring respect for human rights commitments.

Manon Aubry, GUE, asked point blank when asked if Mr. Reynders is ready to commit to A proposal for a duty of vigilance legislation, the commissioner-designate reiterated how the voluntary approach, obviously, is not enough and how the EU needs to go further. He promised to take a good note of the proposal that more than 80 NGOs and unions have issued.

While it is not yet written in stone that Mr Reynders will provide a legislative proposal, his answers are not just promising but also encouraging. The Greens/EFA group endorsed Mr. Reynders as the Commissioner for Justice and I look forward to start working with him.