C Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Marcenaro, rapporteur
1 Following a motion for a resolution
tabled on 25 June 2010 by Mr Meikar and others, I was appointed rapporteur
on 21 June 2011.
2 The motion underlined the role and long-standing experience
of the Council of Europe in promoting the highest standards in the
field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and stressed
that, in recent years, the development and consolidation of such
standards outside the Council of Europe area has become an increasingly
important concern for the Organisation.
3 Council of Europe member States do not always seek to project
these values in their dealings with those countries whose governments
act in blatant disregard of fundamental democratic and human rights
principles. By encouraging investments and business, developing
“strategic partnerships”, allowing the sale of weapons, closing
an eye to foreign asset controls or refraining from criticism, they
often provide indirect support to non-democratic governments, thus
helping them to remain in power.
4 In this report I wish to engage Council of Europe member States
in a reflection as to how to strive to ensure consistency between
the democratic and human rights principles that they have vowed
to respect internally and the conduct of their relations with countries
which violate them.
5 While I acknowledge that there is inevitable tension between
human rights and foreign policy considerations, which is due to
the process of diplomacy, I stress that the right balance has to
be struck between the two.
6 I believe that the Parliamentary Assembly can play a critically
important role in suggesting ways to reduce inconsistency in the
pursuit of a human rights-based foreign policy, to treat democracy
and human rights as a structural matter in foreign policy and to
minimise the danger of resorting to military force.
7 It is also of utmost importance to strike a balance between
human rights, including social rights and the fight against poverty,
in all foreign policy strategies. In some parts of the world, social
and economic rights, such as access to water, food and health care,
are the overriding consideration. Furthermore, migration policies
and the rights of asylum seekers and refugees should be considered
not just as an internal issue but as an important element of foreign
8 I shall therefore try to identify a number of practical measures
aimed at developing a common and co-ordinated approach among Council
of Europe member States, paying special attention to avoiding “double standards”
9 The European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
and the role of the newly established EU European External Action
Service (EEAS) in advancing human rights in foreign policy will
also be discussed. I went to Brussels on 4 and 5 September 2012
to have exchanges of views on foreign policy and human rights with
relevant European Union actors, including the EEAS, members of the
European Parliament and civil society representatives.
I am grateful to the French National Consultative Commission
on Human Rights (CNCDH), which produced a report in 2008 on “Diplomacy
and human rights”.Note
Some of the recommendations made
in that report remain valid and could be extended to all the Council
of Europe member States.
From November 2011 until February 2012, the Human Rights Committee
of the Italian Senate, which I chair, launched an inquiry into the
mechanisms for the protection of human rights at national and international levels.
A number of policy makers and experts were heard by this committee
and their contributions have also inspired this report.NoteNote
am also particularly grateful to Ms Laura Mirachian, Ambassador
and Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations and
other international organisations in Geneva, who participated in
an exchange of views with the committee on 11 September 2012 in
2 Foreign policy and human rights: a
difficult balance between pragmatism and idealism
It has been said that 2012
will mark the end of the “9/11 era”, which started in September
2001 and will symbolically end with the withdrawal of troops from
Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years ago, the financial crisis shifted
the world's attention to global markets. According to some commentators,
governments, driven by fears of the global economic balance, are
refocusing their foreign-policy priorities away from the “global
war on terror” towards new political and economic opportunities.Note
13 This shift represents, in my view, a unique opportunity to
reorient the foreign policy strategy of Council of Europe member
States towards a better balance between realpolitik practice in
international relations and the principles upheld by the United
Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union.
14 Clearly, States are interdependent on each other in the sense
that their diplomatic relations are influenced by foreign policy
strategies. They interact on a wide range of issues, such as economic
transactions, trade agreements, aid programmes and the welfare of
their citizens based in other countries, to mention but a few.
15 These relations may become difficult if one State denounces
the domestic policies of a particular government on human rights
grounds. Governments may therefore decide to disregard the human
rights record of other States for strategic reasons, such as protecting
direct investments abroad or trade agreements. They may rely on
the notion of domestic sovereignty, which prevents any criticism
or intervention in other States that do not uphold human rights,
democracy and the rule of law within their borders.
16 At the United Nations World Summit in 2005, the heads of State
and government unanimously signed up to a new norm called the “responsibility
to protect”. In short, the idea is that a government is “sovereign”
as long as it protects its people. When it is unable to do so, or
worse, it is the perpetrator of violence and serious human rights
violations against its people, the responsibility to protect them
may devolve, under specific conditions, to the international community.
The Charter of the United Nations confers on the United Nations
Security Council (UNSC) primary responsibility for the maintenance
of peace and international security and gives it unique legal authority. However,
the UNSC is a political body and its decisions cannot be separated
from the foreign policies and national interests of its permanent
members. It can only function when the permanent members manage
to identify a common interest and decide to act upon it. The risk
of a political impasse is great when national interests do not converge,
as illustrated by recent Russian and Chinese vetoes of UNSC resolutions
on Syria, which I sharply criticised as rapporteur for the Assembly
on the situation in Syria.Note
The bottom line is that the use of coercion against a sovereign
but authoritarian and repressive State remains controversial, particularly
when the geostrategic interests of powerful States do not align
with human rights considerations.Note
19 A UNSC resolution adopted on 17 March 2011 authorised “all
necessary means” to protect Libyan civilians from Colonel Gaddafi.
A NATO-led war against Libya’s regime ended with the death of the
dictator at the hands of the rebels. However, as the war dragged
on, many believed that the “responsibility to protect” was just
a “warrant for war”, which resulted in a change of regime which
has not brought about peace and stability in the country.
Previously, the war in Iraq that followed America’s invasion
in 2003, portrayed as an “intervention against tyranny”, had already
harmed the responsibility to protect principleNote
and had shown that an armed
intervention, even if its declared aims are benign, can set off
a whole chain of terrible consequences.
The case of Libya is a perfect example of how human rights
had been ignored for a long time and only reappeared in an emergency
situation. If we look at the relations between some of the Council
of Europe member States and Libya, for instance, we find a number
of embarrassing examples, such as British complicity in rendition
to Libya under Gaddafi and France and Italy’s warm welcoming of
the dictator in their capitals.Note
22 Governments often nurture these kinds of relations and indirectly
support non-democratic governments, which are often defined as “strategic
partners”. Heads of State and government frequently host controversial leaders
in their capitals, sell weapons to countries that could be used
against their neighbours or their own population, and make other
types of arrangements with autocratic regimes. Human rights are
too often off the agenda during official visits by non-democratic
leaders. It seems that national interests, human rights and foreign
policies are issues that can be discussed separately and do not
form part of a coherent strategy.
23 Some foreign policy analysts say that it is not desirable,
or possible to achieve in practical terms, for a government to pursue
a foreign policy which openly acknowledges human rights, as foreign
policy is always mainly driven by national interests.
As a matter of fact, the Arab revolutions seem to have forced
European leaders to rethink their “strategic partnerships” with
the Arab world based on the pragmatic idea that stability (which
justified cosy relations with autocratic rulers in the region) and
reforms in the Arab world were opposing principles.Note
Furthermore, the mass
mobilisation of Arab civil society and the fast dissemination of
news and ideas have further highlighted the inadequacy of traditional
foreign policy tools to follow these events in a timely and effective
way. As stressed by Ambassador Mirachian at our meeting in Helsinki,
people communicate with each other worldwide, movements are affecting
each other, different cultures are interacting and intercultural
dialogue has become a factor of everyday life. People in the South
and in the North, in the East and in the West, are discovering common
aspirations. It is therefore impossible for governments, and even
parliaments, to neglect and disregard the will of the people.
25 As stressed above, while I acknowledge that there is inevitable
tension between human rights and foreign policy considerations –
which is due to the process of diplomacy – I maintain that the right
balance has to be struck between the two.
26 As also highlighted by former Italian Minister for Foreign
Affairs, Mr Franco Frattini, speaking at a hearing organised by
the Human Rights Committee of the Italian Senate on 15 February
2012, one key tool which is at a government’s disposal is intelligent
use of the so-called conditionality of agreements, both bilateral
and European. This means that including human rights and democracy
clauses in all agreements should be the basis for initiating and
pursuing political dialogue with any foreign government. Over the
past decade, this idea has permeated the Council of Europe’s relations
with its immediate neighbours.
of Europe standards inside and outside Europe
the universality of human rights
27 It is clear that the aim of
diplomacy and foreign policy is to safeguard the national interest.
This may involve national defence, political influence, economic
co-operation, cultural outreach and, first and foremost, contributing
to peace and international security.
28 Respect for the principles of democracy and human rights must
also constitute an essential element of foreign policy in order
to achieve the above-mentioned goals. As a matter of fact, all Council
of Europe member States have signed and ratified a number of international
human rights instruments and committed themselves to the protection
of human rights by reforming their legislation. It is our duty as
parliamentarians to call on our governments to respect the obligations
and commitments undertaken at the United Nations, Council of Europe and
European Union levels.
However, it must be said that, even within the Council of
Europe democracies, there is often a gap between proclamation and
effective implementation of human rights and democratic principles.
Europe’s own human rights crisis, with governments trampling on
fundamental rights in response to terrorist attacks, elections marked
by fraud or unequal conditions, the rise of extremist and xenophobic
movements, attacks on migrants, Roma and other minorities, and hostility
towards Muslims, is seriously damaging the credibility of governments’ external
human rights policy.Note
30 There was consensus in our committee about the need to call
on Council of Europe member States first and foremost to better
implement Council of Europe values and standards within their own
territory. The Organisation must ensure a level playing field for
all its members and avoid the criticism of double standards.
Behind this engagement lies the conviction that human rights,
democracy and the rule of law are universal values. A recurrent
threat to the universality of human rights and its international
instruments is indeed the non-efficacy of human rights. In an information
report adopted on 15 November 2011, the Committee on Political Affairs
and Democracy reaffirmed the universal nature of human rights and
stressed that “the Council of Europe remains the main driver in
Europe of the universality of human rights and should further promote
human rights in the context of inter-cultural dialogue within member
States as well as with neighbouring countries”.Note
32 In recent years, we have witnessed
the development and consolidation of Council of Europe standards outside
its borders as well, with the emergence of new forms of partnerships.
The Council of Europe has just recently initiated a policy of dialogue
with the neighbouring regions of the southern Mediterranean, the
Middle East and Central Asia, based on respect for universal human
Already In 2009, in an Assembly report on the “Establishment
of a ‘Partner for democracy’ status with the Parliamentary Assembly”,Note
the rapporteur, Mr Luc van den Brande,
noted that, considering the situation and the position of the Committee
of Ministers, it was not the “right time to pursue a new and ambitious
Council of Europe neighbourhood policy”. The report stressed that
the activities carried out at the intergovernmental level, in the
context of the various existing mechanisms for co-operating with
partners that were not members of the Council of Europe, were already
making a useful contribution to the promotion of the Organisation’s fundamental
values beyond its own borders. It also argued that, at the parliamentary
level, the potential existed for intensifying co-operation with
the parliaments of certain Council of Europe neighbours.
, the Assembly established a new status called “partnership
for democracy”, aimed at developing institutional co-operation with
parliaments of non-member States in neighbouring regions wishing
to be supported in their democratic transition and to participate
in the political debate on common challenges.
Interested parliaments can today become “partners for democracy”
if they commit to the values upheld by the Council of Europe, such
as pluralist democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms.Note
to Resolution 1680 (2009)
, the national parliaments of all the southern Mediterranean
and Middle East countries participating in the Union for the Mediterranean/Barcelona
Process (including the Palestinian Legislative Council), and of
central Asian countries participating in the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), are eligible to request partner for
democracy status with the Assembly.
In June 2011, at their request, the Assembly granted the new
status to the Parliament of MoroccoNote
October 2011, to the Palestinian National Council,Note
both of which met the Assembly’s requirements.
The Assembly singled out a number of benchmarks which were of key
importance and invited the delegations to participate in the Assembly’s
work. The Assembly therefore encouraged the Organisation to mobilise
its expertise with a view to contributing to the full implementation
of democratic reforms in these regions. This is expected to contribute
to intensifying co-operation and promoting accession to Council
of Europe conventions. The Assembly is currently reviewing the state
of progress achieved by the new partners in implementing the political
The Assembly had also previously established working contacts
with the parliaments of Algeria and Tunisia, which were intensified
with Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring.Note
also developed contacts with the political forces in Egypt. On 27
October 2011, the Assembly received an official request for partner
for democracy status from the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic,
and this is currently being examined.
on co-operation between the Council of Europe and the
emerging democracies in the Arab world, adopted on 4 October 2011,
the Assembly issued an urgent call to share with the Arab countries
the Council of Europe’s experience in the field of democracy. It
wished to prompt discussions with all parties concerned on the desirability
of convening a summit of heads of State and government of the democracies
of Europe and the southern Mediterranean to discuss co-operation
between the Council of Europe and the emerging democracies in the
Arab countries in Europe’s neighbourhood.
of Europe policy towards its immediate neighbourhood
39 As far as Council of Europe
policy towards its immediate neighbourhood is concerned, at its
121st session in Istanbul on 11 May 2011, the Committee of Ministers
endorsed the proposal made by the Secretary General to open up towards
countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and
engage them in co-operation and assistance programmes aimed at their
gradual integration into the European legal space, through accession
to relevant Council of Europe conventions and partial agreements.
On 16 May 2012, the Secretary General published a report on
the concrete and substantial progress which had been made on the
implementation of the Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring
41 The objectives of this policy are to facilitate democratic
political transition, to help to promote good governance on the
basis of the relevant Council of Europe standards and mechanisms,
and to reinforce and enlarge the Council of Europe regional action
in combating trans-border and global threats. The Arab Spring and
the international community’s efforts to support democratic transition
have further underlined the importance of this initiative.
42 Instruments of co-operation include advice, election observation,
parliamentary co-operation, participation in relevant Council of
Europe structures and activities, and accession to relevant Council
of Europe conventions in the area of good governance and the rule
of law; such co-operation will be demand driven. A framework for
co-operation has been developed, including “Neighbourhood Co-operation
Dialogues” (with the authorities of Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel,
the Palestinian National Authority, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan)
and “Neighbourhood Co-operation Priorities” (which have been agreed
so far with Morocco and Tunisia and will be soon finalised with
Jordan and Kazakhstan).
The European Union has provided substantial funding for this
initiative, as well as political and logistical support through
its delegations. On 17 January 2012, Secretary General Thorbjørn
Jagland and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European
Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, signed a three-year €4.8 million
joint programme to strengthen democratic reform in the southern
Mediterranean countries. The joint programme will be rolled out
initially in Morocco and TunisiaNote
and will be extended to other
44 Relevant Council of Europe principles and standards will be
closely scrutinised. The Secretary General also acknowledged the
importance of the Assembly’s specific benchmarks and monitoring
procedures through the partnership for democracy.
The ultimate objectives of this policy would be the possible
creation of a formal status for Council of Europe neighbours which,
following proposal by the Secretary General, would be called “Co-operating Member”
or “Co-operating Partner”, and would be based on the partner for
democracy status set up by the Assembly at parliamentary level.Note
46 However, as also stressed by Ambassador Laurent Dominati,
Permanent Representative of France to the Council of Europe and
Chairperson of the Rapporteur Group on External Relations, during
an exchange of views organised by the committee on 28 June 2012,
the criteria for granting the proposed status had not yet been fully
clarified by the Ministers’ Deputies.
47 According to an Amnesty International representative whom
I met in Brussels, the increased attention of the Council of Europe
towards its neighbouring countries should not undermine its efforts
in ensuring greater respect for human rights in its member States,
also in view of the zero growth policy that affects the Organisation
and the current reform process.
48 Council of Europe member States do not have a common foreign
policy as such. However, all 47 have agreed that their policy towards
its immediate neighbourhood, in particular in response to the recent
revolutions in the Arab world, shall be inspired by relevant Council
of Europe standards and mechanisms.
49 While it is understandable, and even inevitable, that geopolitical
and economic interests strongly affect the conduct of foreign relations,
I deem it essential that the promotion of democracy and human rights
occupies an important place in their multilateral and bilateral
relations so as to ensure greater coherence with governmental action
inside and outside the Council of Europe area.
European Union human rights and foreign policy strategy
50 Since 2004, European Union
member States have developed a European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This
policy provides them with a coherent approach ensuring that the
whole of the European Union is committed to stronger relations with
its 16 closest neighbours, building upon a mutual commitment to
the common values of democracy and human rights, rule of law, good
governance, market economy principles and sustainable development.
51 The ENP is further enriched by regional and multilateral co-operation
initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership (launched in 2009),
the Union for the Mediterranean (formerly known as the Barcelona
Process, re-launched in Paris in July 2008) and the Black Sea Synergy
(launched in 2008).
52 With regard to a common foreign and security policy for the
27 member States of the European Union, the Treaty of Lisbon, which
entered into force in December 2009, brought an end to the “pillar
system”, in which the CFSP was based on a pure intergovernmental
method, requiring unanimity among European Union members in the
Council of Ministers and limiting the influence of the other institutions.
53 In an effort to ensure greater co-ordination and consistency
in the European Union area, the Treaty of Lisbon created a High
Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,
merging the posts of High Representative for the Common Foreign
and Security Policy and European Commissioner for External Relations
and European Neighbourhood Policy. Baroness Catherine Ashton was
the first person to be appointed High Representative in December
54 The High Representative is in charge of the EEAS, which was
also created by the Treaty of Lisbon. This service functions as
a common Foreign Office or Diplomatic Corps for the European Union,
which maintains diplomatic relations with nearly all the countries
in the world via a network of 136 European Union delegations, which
have a similar function to those of an embassy.
55 The European Union has also put human rights at the core of
its enlargement policy, which is governed by the Copenhagen criteria,
including, in particular, stability of institutions guaranteeing
democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection
A range of tools to promote human rights and democratisation
include human rights guidelines, “démarches
and declarations, Council decisions and structured human rights
dialogue, and consultations with more than 30 non-European Union
countries. Specific guidelines have been issued to enable swift
common action to be taken on, inter alia
the fight against the death penalty, the fight against torture and
other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, support
of children in armed conflicts, human rights defenders and the rights
of the child, combating violence and all forms of discrimination
against women and girls and promoting compliance with international
57 A “human rights clause” has been systematically included in
nearly all European Union agreements with third countries since
the mid-1990s. In the event that human rights and democratic principles
are breached, the European Union may take certain measures such
as imposing targeted restrictive measures, which range from a refusal
to give visas to senior members of the regime (as it did recently
against Belarus), to freezing assets held in European Union countries
and suspending the agreement. However, preference is given to the
use of positive action, through dialogue and persuasion in advancing
human rights, rather than penalties.
These policies are complemented by activities funded under
the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR),
which strongly focuses on the promotion of democracy and the support
of human rights defenders, and by other programmes based on the
Development Co-operation Instrument, covering all the European Union
external assistance in development, economic, financial, technical
and humanitarian co-operation worldwide.Note
59 Promoting human rights is also one of the explicit goals of
the European Union trade policy. However, many developing countries
and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) call into doubt the effectiveness
and credibility of the European Union’s approach to human rights
in its trade policy. The main criticism revolves around the almost
exclusive orientation of the European Union's own trade policy toward
European economic interests.
Human rights are also systematically addressed in the political
dialogue of the European Union with third countries and detailed
consultations take place with the following countries and regions:
- EU-Russia relations (consultations
on human rights are held on a regular biannual basis);
- countries in the European Neighbourhood Policy area (the
European Union established human rights and democracy sub-committees
with a number of countries and includes a chapter on human rights
and fundamental freedoms in each ENP country report);
- EU-China human rights dialogue (since 1995, it takes place
once every six months and is complemented by human rights legal
- EU-Africa Strategy (launched in 2007 to strengthen the
political partnership and enhance co-operation, including the promotion
of democratic governance and human rights);
- EU-African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (in the
context of the Cotonou Agreement);
- EU-Iran dialogue (set up in 2002, following the beginning
of the negotiation of a trade and co-operation agreement and interrupted
in 2006 with Iran’s withdrawal following the European Union’s co-sponsoring of
the Iran country resolution in the United Nations General Assembly);
- EU-United States of America, Canada, Japan and others
(on the basis of broadly converging views and in the form of six-monthly
meetings of experts in the run-up to key human rights meetings at
the United Nations).
61 However, during my recent visit to Brussels, I was told by
several interlocutors in the European Parliament and among civil
society representatives that these human rights dialogues are not
effective and do not produce any tangible results. Regrettably,
the European Parliament is not involved in these dialogues. It is important
to recall that as many as 20 countries that are not members of the
European Union took on human rights commitments with the Council
of Europe through the convention system, which is legally binding.
A number of human rights monitoring mechanisms are already in place
and have produced concrete and tangible results. They already provide
a valuable input to the human rights dialogues through the Council
of Europe–European Union regular consultations. Further efforts
are needed to ensure the full implementation of these commitments
in all Council of Europe member States. The legal infrastructure
of the Council of Europe, coupled with the resources and political
influence of the European Union, can create a common space for human
rights protection across the continent.
62 In its action to promote human rights, the European Union
takes account of the key international instruments and encourages
other countries to sign, ratify and implement major United Nations
treaties or to respect commitments vis-à-vis the Council of Europe
and the OSCE. The European Union also plays an active role in multilateral
fora, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and in the
Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, where it
introduces resolutions and makes statements.
63 Since 1983, the European Parliament has produced an annual
report on “Human Rights in the World and the European Union’s policy
on the matter” and the European Commission provides detailed written responses
to members of the European Parliament. Moreover, the European Parliament
recently criticised the European Union and its member States for
at times sidelining human rights and called for a more systematic approach
using indices and benchmarks.
In a joint communication to the European Parliament and the
European Union Council on “Human rights and democracy at the heart
of European Union external action – towards a more effective approach”,
the High Representative stated that “[t]he protection and promotion
of human rights is a silver thread running through all EU action
both at home and abroad”.Note
Speaking before the European
Parliament on 12 June 2012, she spoke of her determination to place
human rights at the core of European Union foreign policy.
On 25 June 2012, the European Union Foreign Affairs Council
adopted a European Union Strategic Framework and Action Plan on
Human Rights and Democracy, covering the period until 31 December
2014. In a column published on the website of the European Council
on Foreign Relations on 9 July 2012, Catherine Ashton took the view
that “we cannot succeed if we talk only about rights to those who
want to hear it and otherwise keep silent; and we cannot forget
human rights just because we are talking to governments about commercial
relations or energy links. Ethics are indivisible”.Note
The plan also includes the appointment of a European Union
Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights whose job will be
to translate this commitment to human rights into foreign policy
practice and to “help the European Union to be more visible and
to promote human rights across the whole range of European Union’s
So far, 116 European
Union delegations have appointed a human rights focal point as part
of a wider network.
67 On 28 June 2012, the Assembly, reacting to this announcement,
decided to hold a current affairs debate on European institutions
and human rights in Europe, upon the initiative of Ms Anne Brasseur.
During the debate, Ms Brasseur regretted that the European Union
press release announcing the decision to appoint an EUSR for human
rights made reference to working with the European Parliament, the
European Commission and international partners on human rights issues,
but made no specific mention of the Council of Europe.
68 She underlined that this action was contrary to the spirit
of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union
and the Council of Europe, which had made the division of responsibilities
very clear. This agreement had built on the foundations of the 2006
report, Council of Europe – European Union: “A sole ambition for
the European continent”, written by Jean-Claude Juncker.
69 Ms Brasseur stressed the danger of overlap and duplication
and believed that having an additional voice on human rights for
the 27 European Union member States but not the other 20 members
of the Council of Europe risked creating double standards and confusion.
At a time of budgetary constraint, she asked whether it was necessary
to create new posts. A number of fellow parliamentarians who took
part in this debate shared this concern.
70 Although the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human
Rights and Democracy states that the EU “will continue its engagement
with the invaluable human rights work of the Council of Europe and
the OSCE”, it makes no reference to the Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights, for instance, who already works for the 47 Council
of Europe member States, including all European Union member States.
71 On 25 July 2012, the Council of the European Union appointed
Stavros Lambrinidis as EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human
Rights. Mr Lambrinidis took office on 1 September, with an initial
mandate running until 30 June 2014. As I also stressed publicly
during the June debate, the Secretary General of the Council of
Europe should take immediate steps to discuss this matter with the
EU High Representative, with a view to establishing co-operation
with the EUSR for Human Rights. These contacts should become a regular feature
of the inter-institutional dialogue between the European Union and
the Council of Europe. Many years of reform have been undertaken
to enable the Council of Europe to concentrate on its core business.
If satisfactory agreement with the European Union is not reached,
this work would be in vain.
72 The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs held
a hearing on 3 September 2012 with the newly appointed EUSR Lambrinidis,
who underlined in his opening remarks that his main objective was
to enhance the effectiveness and implementation of the European
Union human rights policy. He mentioned a number of thematic areas
he intended to focus on, such as anti-terrorism policies, combating
impunity, ensuring free trials, enhancing democracy and protecting
human rights defenders and the rights of the child. Questioned about
co-operation with the Council of Europe, he stressed that there
was no scope for inter-institutional distrust between the Council
of Europe and the European Union and stated that he had spoken with
Commissioner Muižnieks to arrange a visit to Strasbourg to meet
with Council of Europe partners. I also hope that I will be able
to meet with Mr Lambrinidis in the coming weeks to discuss the main
elements of my report.
73 As a follow-up to the current affairs debate, the Bureau of
the Assembly decided to refer a motion for a resolution on European
institutions and human rights in Europe to the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights for report. A motion on “The Memorandum
of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European
Union – evaluation 5 years after” was also referred to the Committee
on Political Affairs and Democracy for report.
74 I will not therefore go into further details regarding the
relations between the Council of Europe and the European Union.
I will just limit myself to noting that, following the entry into
force of the Lisbon Treaty, the reinforced partnership between the
Council of Europe and the European Union is meant to lead to a common space
for human rights protection across the continent, through the European
Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights but
also to other key Council of Europe conventions and monitoring mechanisms.
As a future party to the Convention, the European Union will also
be in position to play a greater role in calling on Council of Europe
member States to implement the Court's rulings and other Council
of Europe bodies' recommendations. I refer here to the excellent
work done by my colleague Ms Kerstin Lundgren, who thoroughly analysed
this issue in her report on the impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the
Council of Europe.
In particular, I wish to reiterate the Assembly’s call to
the European Union to make better use of the Council of Europe’s
benchmarking and advisory role, and expertise in the context of
its enlargement and neighbourhood policies.Note
should also apply, in my view, to the European Union’s foreign policy
76 The recent creation of the EEAS represents a unique opportunity
to improve the quality of foreign policy and to strengthen partnerships
between the Council of Europe and the EEAS through the EU delegation network.
It could also significantly improve the effectiveness of international
efforts to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
77 On 23 March 2012, the EEAS organised a training course entitled
“Human Rights, Democracy, Rule of Law. Council of Europe: a key
partner” as part of specialised courses on human rights offered
to the EEAS staff working in the field of external relations, both
in Brussels and in the delegations. This was followed by further meetings
which represent good practice and need to be complemented by regular
exchanges at the highest political level and also between the relevant
services of both organisations so as to benefit from the Council
of Europe’s expertise on human rights on the one hand and the EU
delegations’ outreach on the other.
78 Finally, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the foreign
affairs ministries of all European Union member States set up units
of co-ordination and dialogue with the EEAS, so as to define a common
approach both at national and EU levels and to develop human rights
operational standards for their embassies and for all EU delegations.
for a human rights strategy in the foreign policy of the Council
of Europe member States
79 A slow but steady introduction
of rules and institutions of global governance is under way. Caution
is necessary to ensure a peaceful redefinition of the relations
between States, considering the significant erosion of national
sovereignty on a number of key policy areas.
80 Saying that the only model that works for foreign policy is
blunt pragmatism contradicts the fact that human rights are part
and parcel of international law and are legally binding commitments
that governments have made under the United Nations system, as well
as in the framework of the Council of Europe and the European Union.
81 However, even the most committed heads of State and foreign
affairs ministers have often felt discouraged when their human rights
agendas have had to face harsh realities.
82 The most effective approach is prevention. Too often, governments
deal with human rights when it is too late and wars and bombings
appear to be the only solution. I was personally in favour of military
intervention in Libya because I deemed it necessary at that time.
However, I take the view that when politics neglect human rights
for too long and focus solely on economic interests in foreign relations,
human rights crises unfold and “humanitarian interventions” become
a moral necessity, fraught with complexity, but better than nothing. Europe
cannot afford another Srebrenica.
83 It is therefore of utmost importance to stop resorting to
war in order to protect human rights, and to create, instead, a
positive link between respect for human rights, democracy and the
rule of law, on the one hand, and peace, on the other.
The systematic and structural promotion of human rights should
be fully integrated into any foreign policy strategy, be it at the
national, European or international level. It is pragmatic to affirm
that countries where political conflicts are settled with full respect
for human rights and the rule of law will be less likely to settle
their differences through violence. As former French Foreign Affairs
Minister, Bernard Kouchner, put it, “A better world, where human
rights are observed and protected, is a safer world. And what is
the bedrock of foreign policy if not the search for security?”Note
Also the United Kingdom Foreign
Minister, William Hague, added more recently that “strong institutions
and the rule of law are the only lasting guarantee of freedoms,
and we all know that these things take a long time to build and
must be constantly nurtured”.Note
85 As also highlighted by Ambassador Mirachian, in order to avoid
the risk of new conflicts, there is a strong need to strengthen
multilateralism so as to ensure a more inclusive approach. This
means dismantling the traditional separation among regional groups,
which is historically obsolete, and adopting a cross-regional approach
embracing different continents and cultures in the name of the universality
of human rights, as well as searching for common platforms with
a view to taking decisions involving as many countries as possible.
86 This also means giving proper consideration in every foreign
policy strategy to economic, social and cultural rights and not
merely focusing on political and civil rights. Conflicts originate
from a lack of fundamental freedoms and adequate political representation
but also from insufficient access to material resources and from lack
of cultural, religious and spiritual freedom.
87 Furthermore, migration policies are a topical example of the
gap between national policies and compliance with international
standards. Millions of people around the world are on the move looking
for a better life. This is a major concern for European governments,
especially in the present times of economic crisis, and must be
duly taken into account in every foreign policy strategy.
In a functioning democratic system, governments’ action in
implementing their human rights commitments when formulating and
executing foreign policy can be scrutinised by parliament, for instance
via questions, motions or parliamentary inquiries.Note
89 The external viewpoint of the media, NGOs and human rights
defenders is less measurable but remains of crucial importance.
We must give voice to and support those movements around the world
which protect freedoms and promote democracy. Democracy cannot be
exported and must be nurtured from the inside, through human rights
and opposition movements and civil society forces, which diplomacy
can support but cannot take the place of.
The role of parliamentary diplomacy should also not be underestimated.
As stressed by my fellow parliamentarian, Mr João Bosca Mota Amaral,
in his report on “Promoting parliamentary diplomacy”,Note
constant contacts with parliaments
abroad not only help members of parliament to share experiences,
but also foster understanding between political elites in the countries
concerned, and help promote political pluralism, the rule of law
and democratic parliamentary standards.
91 Governments themselves rarely assess in a structural and systematic
way the extent to which their foreign policy strategy and the way
they handle external relations can be effective in preventing or
remedying human rights abuses.
92 Foreign affairs ministries can play a key role in launching
specific initiatives aimed at developing common human rights standards
and ensuring a joint approach in the Council of Europe area. For
instance, they could request that their embassies produce periodic
reviews and create a specific section of their website on the human
rights situation of the country in which they operate. This should
apply to embassies in all countries throughout the world, not just
those that are at risk of human rights violations. Furthermore,
foreign affairs ministries could organise specific sessions devoted
to human rights for the ambassadors gathering annually in their
It has to be said that Council of Europe member States have
a special duty to ensure that not only themselves but also other
Council of Europe member States implement the Organisation’s standards, recommendations
and in particular Court judgments. Sadly, some Council of Europe
member States still continue to refuse to implement the Court’s
judgments and to address the systemic human rights violations identified
by the Court. In Resolution
, based on a report by Mr Christos Pourgourides, the Assembly
identified major structural problems in nine member States: Bulgaria,
Greece, Italy, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian
Federation, Turkey and Ukraine. Therefore, it is of capital importance that
Council of Europe member States also address this issue through
their foreign policy and in their bilateral and multilateral relations.
94 The recommendations contained in the draft resolution intend
to provide some food for thought for Council of Europe member States
when implementing their human rights objectives and formulating
foreign policy strategies, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
Those actions involve the active participation of heads of State,
ministers, ambassadors, staff at ministries’ headquarters and the
95 As a follow-up to the resolution, which will hopefully be
adopted during the October 2012 part-session, I would like to convene
a meeting of the chairpersons of the foreign affairs and of the
human rights committees of the 47 national parliaments, and of the
European Parliament, as well as representatives of the European External
Action Service, to discuss ways to implement the foregoing recommendations,
in line with the spirit of the Assembly reform.