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European Union Annual Report on Human Rights - 2002

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This Report sets out to review the policies and actions of the European Union within the field of human rights in relation to third countries and within the Union itself.
To contribute to the discussion on how to make the EU's human rights policy more transparent, effective and coherent and to ensure that human rights are mainstreamed in the EU's actions.

ACT

European Union: Annual Report on Human Rights 2002. Foreign Affairs Council of 21 October 2002 [Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This report, the fourth of its kind, covers the period from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002.

The European Union is seeking to integrate respect for human rights and the promotion of human rights into development cooperation, trade policies and the promotion of peace and security. With regard to third countries, the EU uses an approach based on dialogue and expert assistance or by engaging in a partnership to protect and promote human rights. It considers that its duty is to speak out against violations of human rights, wherever they take place, although the primary responsibility for applying the rights lies with governments.

Human rights in the European Union

Mainstreaming human rights: the report indicates that, in the reference period, progress has been made in mainstreaming human rights within other EU policies, particularly through the following:

  • political dialogue with third countries (the Council adopted the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues on 13 December 2001);
  • the inclusion of a "human rights" clause in all trade and cooperation agreements with third countries (for example, in the Cotonou Agreement);
  • the establishment of respect for human rights as an accession criterion for the applicant countries;
  • the development of a European Code of Conduct on arms exports;
  • the withdrawal of preferences from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in cases of unacceptable labour practices;
  • mainstreaming women's and children's rights within the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR);
  • the development of Country Strategy Papers which analyse the economic, political and social situation of the country and provide a framework for European Community assistance;
  • human rights training for staff in Commission delegations in third countries (organised within the process of deconcentrating the management of assistance programmes).

Charter of Fundamental Rights: the report stresses that, as the legal scope of the Charter has not yet been decided, the debate on the future of Europe and the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference should therefore consider its status.

Racism and xenophobia: the Community Action Programme to Combat Discrimination (with a budget in 2001 of EUR 14.15 million) has funded a wide range of activities, such as reports on measures existing in the Member States to combat discrimination, the evaluation of activities carried out by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, the establishment of transnational exchange actions, the creation of networks of non-governmental organisations (NGO), the organisation of a European Conference on Discrimination and the launch of a prize for diversity in companies.

In November 2001, a proposal for a framework decision was presented. Its aims are to ensure that racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties and to improve judicial cooperation in this area.

The report indicates that the Community Initiative EQUAL (2000-2006) and the DAPHNE Programme (2000-2003) are also contributing to the fight against discrimination.

Asylum and migration: intense activity occurred during the reference period in this area. With a view to establishing a Common European Asylum System, several measures have been adopted, particularly with regard to rules on:

  • the reception of asylum seekers;
  • granting protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons;
  • creating a system for comparing fingerprints;
  • setting up a European Refugee Fund;
  • unaccompanied minors;
  • child persecution;
  • gender-based persecution.

The first annual report on the common asylum policy has also been published.

A proposal on the entry and residence of third country nationals for the purpose of paid employment or self-employed activities has been adopted, together with another proposal on family reunification.

With regard to the management of migration flows, a communication and an overall action plan on the policy on illegal immigration and on the traffic in human beings have been adopted. A proposal for a directive on short-term residence permits for victims of illegal immigration or trafficking in human beings has also been published.

Trafficking in human beings: the fight against trafficking in human beings is one of the main political priorities of the EU. Active operational cooperation between the Member States and the candidate countries has been established to help victims and organise prevention campaigns. A proposed framework decision containing a common definition of trafficking in human beings is being prepared.

In addition, the STOP II Programme to fight against trafficking in human beings was adopted in June 2001.

At international level, the first ratifications of the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its accompanying Protocol on Trafficking in Persons must be highlighted.

European Parliament Report: Parliament's report on the situation as regards fundamental rights in the EU in 2001 has been published. It focuses on measures to combat terrorism.

Business: the EU continues to pay particular attention to respect for human rights in the context of economic and commercial activities. Within the GSP scheme, revised in December 2001, countries which violate the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (of the International Labour Organisation) will lose their preferences. Those which comply with the Declaration will enjoy additional preferences.

The Commission has also published a communication on promoting core labour standards and improving social governance in the context of globalisation. In July 2001, it published a green paper on promoting a European framework for corporate social responsibility.

An ongoing dialogue on arms exports is taking place with the candidate countries. The Commission is preparing a proposal on trade in equipment which could be used for the purpose of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

At international level, the EU has played a very pro-active role in revising the guidelines for multinational enterprises of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Action on human rights in international affairs

EU instruments and initiatives in relations with third countries:

  • Common strategies, joint actions and common positions: within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), the EU has continued to implement common strategies for Russia, the Ukraine and the Mediterranean region. This report reviews the joint actions and common positions relating to human rights which have been adopted or revised;
  • Representations and declarations: representations and press statements are important instruments for raising problems relating to human rights in third countries. During the period covered by the report, representations and declarations were made by the Union in over 40 countries;
  • Political dialogue: during the period under review, the issue of human rights, democracy and the rule of law was tackled during political dialogue with associated countries, the United States, Canada and China;
  • Conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 25 June 2001: these conclusions concern the European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries;
  • European Parliament Report: in April 2002, Parliament adopted its annual report on human rights throughout the world. It focuses in particular on the forms of modern slavery and the fight against terrorism;
  • Human Rights Forums: the third EU forum on human rights took place in November 2001. It specifically covered the role of States and non-state actors, the instruments available to the EU, the types of dialogue and the evaluation of annual reports and forums.

Activities funded under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). This initiative supports actions carried out in partnership with NGOs and international organisations.

In 2002, the budget of EUR 104 million of the EIDHR was focused on the following priorities: the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; support for international criminal courts and the establishment of the International Criminal Court. During the period from 2002 to 2004, emphasis will also be given to the fight against racism and xenophobia and to promoting the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.

EU action in international fora:

  • United Nations (UN): during the period covered by the report, the EU took an active part in various activities within the United Nations, in particular at the 56th session of the UN General Assembly, the 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia, the General Assembly's Special Session on children; the Second World Assembly on Ageing and the International Consultative Conference on School Education in relation to Freedom of Religion or Belief. In its activities within the UN, the EU attached particular importance to the protection of the rights of the child and the abolition of the death penalty;
  • International Criminal Court (ICC): it is partly thanks to the EU's activities that, in April 2002, the number of ratifications required for the entry into force of the ICC was reached and that this entered into force on 1 July 2002. In April 2002, the EU launched a call for proposals to finance NGO projects dealing with the fight against impunity and the promotion of international justice;
  • Council of Europe: the EU welcomes the opening for signature in May 2002, within this organisation, of the protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty. It also welcomes the role played by the Council of Europe in South Eastern Europe and in Chechnya;
  • Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE): the EU contributes to the actions on the ground and to the institutions of this organisation. The EU welcomes the steps undertaken by the OSCE to combat trafficking in human beings;
  • Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe: in 2002, steps aimed at increasing the cooperation between the Stability Pact and the Stabilisation and Association Process were taken. Since June 2001, the priority areas of Working Table I of the Pact (on human rights) have been: trade and investment, infrastructure, refugee matters, cross-border cooperation, small arms and light weapons and the fight against organised crime.

Thematic issues of particular importance to the EU:

  • Human rights and terrorism: the fight against terrorism is one of the political priorities of the EU. During the Extraordinary European Council on terrorism held on 21 September 2001, the EU declared that it would ensure, in stepping up its actions against terrorism, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Within the Euro-Mediterranean Conference, an action plan on terrorism and a regional cooperation programme in the field of justice have been adopted;
  • Civil and political rights: within the UN, the Union has supported several resolutions on civil and political rights and on other actions in this area. Efforts have been made by the EU on the abolition of the death penalty, particularly in the United States and within international and regional organisations. The fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment have also been the subject of particular attention. The same applies to election observation and assistance;
  • Economic, social and cultural rights: the EU welcomes the proposal for a protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, providing for a mechanism allowing for individual complaints. It supports the efforts to integrate these rights within the UN system;
  • Right to development: the EU is taking an active part in establishing a consensus with regard to this right and its content;
  • Rights of the child: in 2002, two protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force. One concerned the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the other was on the involvement of children in armed conflict;
  • Human rights and women: within various international organisations, several resolutions on the human rights of women were adopted during the reference period;
  • Racism, xenophobia, non-discrimination and respect for diversity: the EU is trying to mainstream the fight against racism within all its policies, particularly the CFSP, development aid, enlargement and police and judicial cooperation. This issue has become one of the priorities of the EIDHR for the 2002 to 2004 period;
  • Persons belonging to minorities: combating discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples has also become a priority of the EIDHR. In addition, some of the aid granted by the Phare programme is earmarked for improving the situation of the Roma population;
  • Refugees and internally displaced persons: the EU is currently the largest donor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In December 2001, a process to prepare an international protection programme was launched in order to form a framework and modus operandi for the States, the UNHCR and the NGOs. In 2002, an inter-agency unit on internal displacement was established;
  • Human rights defenders: the Member States state that they are ready to apply a resolution, adopted within the UN, aimed at ensuring that all necessary measures are taken to ensure the protection of human rights defenders. Within the OSCE, the EU has shown itself to be in favour of developing a regional approach on matters involving human rights defenders.

Situation of human rights in the world: finally, this report reviews the situation of human rights across the world, with particular attention being paid to certain countries.

Last updated: 05.06.2007
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