Address by Minister Roche to the EP on Annual Report on Human Rights in the world and EU policy on the matter - Part I
Minister Roche at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament 21 April 2004, Strasbourg Annual Report on human rights in the world in 2003 and the EU’s policy on the matter
Mr. President, Members of Parliament,
I welcome the opportunity to address you in the context of this debate on human rights.
Enhancing the dialogue between Parliament and the Council on human rights issues is an important focus of the Irish Presidency. Today’s debate on the Ms. De Keysers’ valuable Report on human rights in the world in 2003 and the EU’s policy on the matter is a part of that discourse.
The protection and promotion of human rights is a core feature of Irish and EU foreign policy, and a constant yardstick for our international actions. We adhere to the basic principle that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inter-related.
I need not emphasise the close relationship between peace, security and stability on the one hand, and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law on the other.
UN Commission on Human Rights The present debate in Parliament is timely, including for the reason that it coincides with the current sixtieth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights which is currently ongoing in Geneva.
The Annual Report of Parliament rightly makes reference to the large degree of congruence between the European Parliament’s priorities as expressed in its resolutions and the EU action taken at sessions of the Commission. This is a concrete example of the implementation of the Council and European Parliament working more closely to achieve openness and transparency in the EU’s Human Rights Policy. Indeed this was one of the recommendations of the General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of 10 December 2002 on Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries.
The EU has played a positive role at this year’s Commission in Geneva. To date, on individual country situations, the Union has successfully tabled resolutions on the human rights situations in Belarus, Turkmenistan and North Korea. A resolution on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Arab Territories was also adopted by the Commission.
The thematic resolutions tabled by the EU have also been successfully steered to adoption. The Union’s resolution on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance has been adopted by consensus. The resolution on the rights of the child was adopted by near unanimity, following a call for a vote by the US. I expect that the Commission will also adopt the EU’s resolution on the death penalty later this week.
However, a number of important EU initiatives have fallen. This was in significant part due to the composition of the Commission. It also reflects the unwillingness of some regional groups to accept any condemnation of their members. An initiative from the EU on Chechnya was defeated and our resolution on Zimbabwe fell to a “No Action” motion. It is noteworthy that the number of votes that were cast against the draft resolution on Chechnya was this year significantly higher than the corresponding number last year. We will have to analyse this outcome. We will also need to address the number of critical, country-specific resolutions that we table at the Commission. Not least, we need to decide on whether our priority is to make Union declarations so that the world knows where we stand, or to see our texts in fact adopted by a majority of members of the Commission.
Three Priorities areas in Report In her report, Ms De Keyser focuses on three main themes: first, trends in the international war on terrorism; second, the impact of the international situation on reproductive health; and third, the rights of disabled people, particularly in conflict situations or in extremely poor or developing countries.
In regard to disability, I was struck when reading the report by the reference to the fact that three-quarters of disabled people live in developing countries. The incidence and intensity of disability in the developing world is aggravated by poverty and conflict.
In recognition of the rights of persons with a disability, during the Irish Presidency we will further progress work within the Union and at the UN which will lead to an elaboration of a UN convention on the human rights of persons with disabilities.
In the context of reproductive health, the Annual Report highlights the worrying increase in the prevalence of HIV / AIDs in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The Irish Presidency has recognised the importance of addressing this issue and that it is beyond the capacity of any one Government to solve. In February the Presidency hosted a major conference in Dublin on the problem of the HIV / AIDs epidemic in the region - “Breaking the barriers: the fight against HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia”.
On reproductive health in general I want to state that the European Union will unstintingly work to ensure that the rights to reproductive health care and services, accepted in all the basic documents of the major UN conferences, are implemented.
The EU, and its member states, is committed to the specific reproductive health goal that was agreed at the Cairo International Conference on Population Development. That is to make accessible, through the primary health care system, reproductive health care to all individuals of appropriate age as soon as possible and no later than 2015. This commitment was demonstrated by the Regulation adopted by the EU Council in July 2003 on aid for policies and actions on reproductive health and sexual health and rights in developing countries.