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Catherine Ashton

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission

Speech on de Keyser report on democracy

European Parliament

Strasbourg, 6 July 2011

Thank you Madame President!

Can I begin by thanking very much to Véronique De Keyser for her work.

In your report you say "human rights must be central to all EU policies". I agree so much with that and if I might say to honourable members could I just put on record my thanks to Heidi Hautala who has now gone off to a new job but she did such a fantastic job as Chair of the DROI Subcommittee.

This report is extremely important. I think the report is a great commentary on what we are able to do in terms of foreign policy and democracy but it also enables us to consider the responsibilities that we have to ensure that people form all countries benefit from the same rights as us.

We can't take those rights for granted.

While of course the Middle East and North Africa are in the spotlight we know that in Belarus President Lukashenka continues to suppress any form of opposition and that’s why we led a cross-regional initiative to record our condemnation of Belarus at the June meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. A resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority.

I have raised that example to show that this policy of engagement, a policy where we work with the people on the ground but are clear in our stance against regimes is so important.

At the UN we were very active last year not least because of the review of the UN Human Rights Council.

I think we had some real successes in Geneva with the renewal of mandates for various UN Rapporteurs: Burma, DPRK, Sudan, Somalia, Cambodia and Haiti and Resolutions on the DRC, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan and Freedom of Religion, a very important issue that is raised often in this chamber.

We have also reached all our objectives at the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly in New York. The resolution for moratorium on the death penalty was passed with great support and the resolution against religion intolerance adopted by consensus. We celebrated too in 2010 the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325 on women peace and security and we adopted a set of indicators to monitor our progress on it.

Madame President,

All these are examples of what can be achieved when the EU speaks together as one and the fact that we speak at the UN as one now enables us to do that increasingly.

It is right that we review our policy to "ensure that values, consistency and a genuine culture of results" (again to quote Veronique De Keyser) are at its heart.

The de Keyser report goes on to stress the need to develop further the political dimension of our work, to match what we do on development.

This is easier said than done.

But we already have a good basis of the Council’s ‘Conclusions on Democracy Support’ of November 2009 bringing these strands together in a single policy of democracy support.

At the end of 2010, the Council then designated 12 countries for pilot implementation of the EU 'Agenda for Action'.

The same concern lies behind the proposal put forward earlier this year for a 'European Endowment for Democracy'. If, for instance, it can help young people talk to each other using new technologies, we will be advancing democratic dialogue through democratic channels.

Sometimes we have to be bold and I think that's essential for how we now approach the report and how we take the work forward.

I believe we need to choose stability and democracy and we need to be creative in response to these rapidly evolving challenges. No simple task to deliver, but that is why I welcome the contribution of Véronique De Keyser to enriching our debate.

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