Vienna, 2 December 2005 - "The question of human rights is a cornerstone of Austrian foreign policy and will also play an essential role during our Presidency of the Council," said State Secretary Hans Winkler in his speech at an Amnesty International conference on the human rights responsibility of the EU. "Human rights are not a separate element but an integral component of all actions by the EU," stressed the State Secretary.
In his speech, Winkler discussed the human rights priorities during Austria’s Presidency of the Council. "In spite of the many positive developments, we still face great challenges. Specific improvements and reforms in legislation and action must bring a tangible amelioration for people." Particular focuses according to Winkler will be the continued support of the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, the prohibition of torture and abuse, and greater cooperation between the EU and the United Nations in protecting and supporting children and women during and after the termination of armed conflicts. In this context, the State Secretary mentioned the increasing commitment and responsibility of the EU in worldwide peace missions.
As part of its Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has held numerous discussions and consultations with non-member states, which are reflected in various agreements and treaties. "This is one way in which the EU asserts its right to stand up for human rights in the international arena," continued Winkler.
The State Secretary also mentioned the establishment of the European Human Rights Agency in Vienna. "This Agency will help considerably in creating synergies in the field of human rights," said Winkler, at the same time refuting the concern that it would compete with the Council of Europe or other existing institutions.
Winkler also pointed to the importance of implementing the results of the UN summit by setting up a human rights council to replace the existing Commission on Human Rights. "We need a powerful and credible UN body to protect human rights throughout the world," said the State Security, expressing the hope that the negotiations currently underway concerning a resolution on the establishment of a human rights council would be completed by the end of the year.
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