In December 2001, the EU adopted Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues with Third Countries, which include criteria for the initiation, implementation and assessment of human rights dialogues with third countries. The EU currently holds human rights dialogues and consultations in various formats with more than thirty countries. There are structured dialogues, taking place twice a year at EU troika level, with the African Union, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Belarus. Human rights consultations are taking place with Canada, EU candidate countries, Japan, New Zealand, the USA and Russia. Moreover, there are human rights dialogues within the framework of agreements with third countries, and local human rights dialogues conducted by the EU Delegations, such as with Cambodia, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Israel, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Palestinian Autonomous Authority, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tunisia and Vietnam. In 2013 the EU also started negotiations on the modalities of a new human rights dialog between Myanmar and the European Union. Partner countries are usually sending higher-level government officials from line ministries (e.g. Justice Ministry, Ministry of the Interior, police and prison administration, Ombudsman Office, Parliamant) to participate in the human rights dialogues.
The issues to be discussed during the human rights dialogue are decided jointly with the partner country. Certain topics that are of particular importance to the EU, such as the abolition of the death penalty, combatting torture, women’s and children’s rights, freedom of expression or respect for civil society, as well as the ratification of international human rights agreements, are raised at all human rights dialogues.
It is the policy of the EU to not only meet with government representatives during human rights dialogues, but to also interact with civil society organisations and human rights defenders of the partner country.