Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(01) 252

Commission Communication on the European Union's role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries.

Legal base:
Document originated: 8 May 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 11 May 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 21 June and EM of 25 June 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
Adopted by Council: 25 June 2001 General Affairs Council
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

The Commission Communication

49.1  The Communication sets a new framework for Community activities in support of human rights and democratisation. In the context of wider reform of EU development policy and the management of external assistance, the Communication focusses on ensuring that human rights and democratisation are reflected in all Community policies, programmes and projects. It selects three priority areas where it can act effectively:

  • promoting coherent and consistent policies in support of human rights and democratisation, in particular between Community action and the Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as in development policy;

  • placing a higher priority on human rights and democratisation in the EU's relations with third countries, making full use of opportunities offered by political dialogue, trade and external assistance; and

  • adopting a more strategic approach to the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights.

49.2  Approximately 100 million euros is available annually from the Community budget for what has been known since 1994 as the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).[77]

The Government's view

49.3  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 25 June, the Minister for Europe (Peter Hain) says:

    "The Government welcomes this long-awaited Communication as a valuable contribution towards a more strategic and consistent EU policy on human rights and democratisation. The Government endorses the Commission's objective of increasing coherence between Community actions and wider EU policy, notably the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This will serve to increase the focus and impact of EU interventions."

49.4  In a letter of 21 June, the Minister comments at greater length on the Communication:

    "Respect for human rights and a commitment to democracy are among the European Union's fundamental objectives. These principles inform all decisions taken within the European Union. Equally, they are an essential part of the EU's external relations. As Member States, we support human rights and democracy for other people because these are the values we demand for ourselves.

    "The EU has the political and moral weight to make a real difference in promoting human rights and democracy. The Treaty of Amsterdam made respect for these principles a precondition for any state seeking to apply for EU membership. Since 1992, the EU has included in all agreements with third countries a clause defining respect for human rights and democracy as 'essential elements' in the EU's relationship. This was developed by the Cotonou Agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in June 2000 which is based on respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance.

    "Commission plans to enhance the delivery and impact of its actions in these areas are therefore welcome. In particular, we support the reforms in the Commission's management of external assistance, including human rights and democratisation, introduced by Chris Patten. I am pleased that officials from this Department and the Department for International Development have been sharing UK experience with Patten's team. With an annual budget of approximately 100 million euro for human rights and democratisation work, the EU has the potential to make a significant and lasting impact.

    "The Commission's commitment to greater openness in its policy formation on human rights is also encouraging. That policy can only be enriched by, for example, the expertise of the European Parliament and non-governmental organisations. The Commission also plays an important part in preparing the EU Annual Human Rights Report and the regular EU NGO Fora — both UK initiatives.

    "We expect the Council Conclusions welcoming the Communication to be adopted by the General Affairs Council on 25 June."

The Council Conclusions

49.5  According to the Press Release, the Council adopted, without a debate, Conclusions on Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries, together with a number of annexed papers.[78]


49.6  We welcome the efforts of Commissioner Patten to reform the Commission's management of external assistance and the Government's contribution in terms of sharing of experience. There is much to do world-wide on observance of the principles of human rights and democratisation. The EU's efforts are to be welcomed, particularly when addressing these issues in constructive ways, such as promotion of good governance and the capacity of civil society to demand change.

49.7  We now clear the document.

77  Council Regulations (EC) Nos. 975 and 976/99 of 29 April, OJ No. L 120 of 8 May 1999. Back

78  General Affairs Council, 25 June 2001, page 10 of website version. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 30 July 2001