The EU and human rights

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The EU and human rights © EUThe EU and human rights © EU

The European Union sees human rights as universal and indivisible. It actively promotes and defends them both within its borders and when engaging in relations with non-EU countries.

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the European Union. Embedded in its founding treaty, they were reinforced when the EU adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, and strengthened still further when the Charter became legally binding with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

Countries seeking to join the EU must respect human rights. And all trade and cooperation agreements with third countries contain a clause stipulating that human rights are an essential element in relations between the parties.

The Union’s human rights policy encompasses civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also seeks to promote the rights of women, of children, of those persons belonging to minorities, and of displaced persons.

With a budget of €1.1 billion between 2007 and 2013, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights supports non-governmental organisations. In particular it supports those promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law; abolishing the death penalty; combating torture; and fighting racism and other forms of discrimination.

In June 2012, the EU adopted the EU Strategic Framework and the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy . Also in June, it adopted the 2012 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy. The report encompasses two parts: the first one is thematic, reflects the structure of the Action Plan and provides an assessment of the actions taken to address the Action Plan's priorities.  The second part is geographical and covers EU actions in third countries.

2012 Annual Report (thematic part)


2012 Annual Report (country reports) 

              pdf - 2 MB [2 MB]

EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights: Mr Stavros Lambrinidis

Mr Stavros LambrinidisBorn in Athens, Mr Lambrinidis is an attorney, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece and a former Vice-President of the European Parliament. Between 2004 and 2009 he served as Vice-President of the Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. Earlier in his career he was Chairman of the Committee for Human Rights in the Bar Association of Washington, D.C.

He took office as EUSR on 1 September 2012, with an initial mandate running until 30 June, 2014. His role is to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy.

Twitter account: @SJLambrinidis