EU Human Rights Policy
The promotion of human rights in the European Union, both with regard to the respect for and protection of human rights within the Union and in the EU’s external relations, is a permanent concern.
Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union calls on Member States to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms of the Council of Europe and anchored in the constitutional traditions of the Member States. The EU thus recognises the main human rights treaties under international law, which have been ratified by all EU partners. A further source is formed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will become legally binding when the EU Reform Treaty enters into force.
The measures to promote human rights protection in the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) are devised and continuously updated by human rights directors and representatives of the Member States responsible for the various geographical regions. It was decided, for example, to address human rights themes systematically in all bilateral contacts and at all levels. In addition, by intervening with governments of other states the EU endeavours in over 200 cases per year to protect individuals who have been imprisoned, tortured or sentenced to death for their political activities. The EU has also drafted Guidelines on a number of human rights priorities (death penalty, human rights defenders, children in armed conflicts) so that the Member States can adopt a structured and coherent position worldwide. A further important instrument of the EU human rights policy is the Human Rights Dialogue with third countries in which intensive and regular communication on human rights issues takes place with individual states. The EU seeks to bring about an improvement in the human rights situations in the country concerned by means of concrete demands and queries, and the discussion of individual cases. Attention is also paid to the integration of human rights aspects in all EU policy areas, in particular its peace missions. In addition, EU embassies draft and regularly update detailed status reports on the human rights situation in the country concerned. These are used by the EU and its Member States to assess the situation and devise strategies to promote the protection of human rights. Finally the EU offers financial support within the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) for projects aimed at the worldwide promotion of human rights protection.
The EU Presidency plays an important role in committing the EU to worldwide human rights protection. During its Presidency in the first half of 2006, Austria included human rights in its programme as a permanent item for the first time. Within this programme, Austria calls for better integration of human rights in all EU policy areas; it carried out an evaluation of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and a campaign to protect women as human rights defenders; it committed itself to the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on the role of women in post-conflict situations; and in more than 100 actions and statements stood up for the human rights of individuals throughout the world. An important priority of the Austrian EU Presidency was also the rapid conclusion of negotiations on the establishment of a strong EU fundamental rights agency.