EU’s Human Rights & Democracy Policy Revision
The EU is a prime actor in international human rights policy and the promotion of democracy. In fact, the respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law lie at the very heart of the European project and inform many of its policies and actions. Human rights issues encompass the fight against torture and the death penalty, gender-based violence, the promotion of freedom of religion and belief, and LGBTT rights among others. Democracy promotion policy goes beyond basic individual rights and aims at creating sustainable democratic, pluralistic, and open societies.
The EU has until recently not had an explicit human rights and democracy promotion policy. This change in June 2012, when the council adopted the “EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy”. Special Representative on Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis, in office since September 2012, is set to oversee the implementation of the framework. A coherent approach in this area was sorely needed: A lack of strategic guidance has diminished the EU’s effectiveness to translate their ambitious human rights policies into actions on the ground. The process also often suffered from a lack of transparency and coherence with other EU initiatives. While the proposed strategy does address a number of shortcomings, its financial foundation to meet the requirements of the CSO community during the 2014 -2020 Multiannual Financial Framework needs to be ensured.
Apart from the strategic framework, Human Rights and Democracy Support are increasingly recognized as central components in other EU policy areas. Countries involved in the accession process are required to achieve a set of preconditions, including stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the respect for and protection of minorities. The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) provides concrete financial and technical assistance to support reforms in accession countries. The importance of democratic governance in the access process became apparent (in German) during the recent protests in Turkey, whose government was widely condemned by European leaders for the brutal suppression of largely peaceful protests.
Democracy and Human Rights are also a prominent factor in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). With the beginning of the Arab Spring in early 2011, the EU revised its neighborhood policy by emphasizing the importance of building deep and sustainable democracies and achieving sustainable economic growth in its neighborhood. A core element of this policy is the "more for more" principle, aimed at encouraging democratic reform by developing stronger partnerships with those countries that work to improve democratic governance. The ENP also stresses the role of civil society in rebuilding the public space, encouraging open and free dialogue, and building healthy and sustainable institutions.