Human Rights

Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values for the European Union.

The EU seeks to ensure that all human rights – be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural – are respected everywhere, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed by the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights. It also promotes the rights of women, children, persons belonging to minorities, as well as displaced persons.

The Lisbon Treaty, which sets out the legal and institutional basis for the EU, makes clear that the Union shall be guided by the following principles: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. These principles are reinforced by the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which draws all of these rights together in one text.

Although the EU has, on the whole, a good human rights record, it is not complacent. It is fighting racism, xenophobia and other types of discrimination based on religion, gender, age, disability and sexual orientation. The EU is particularly concerned about human rights in relation to asylum and migration.

The Union has made human rights and democracy support a central aspect of its external relations policy . A wide range of programmes and activities are ongoing, including:

Human rights and democracy support are now always considered during the policy-making process, and when policies are implemented. For example, all trade and cooperation agreements contain a clause stipulating that human rights are an essential element in relations between the parties.

Some €1.1 billion in EU funding is also available through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights ( EIDHR ) for 2007-2013 to help local and international NGOs promote human rights around the world.