Check against delivery!
Mr President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
We have repeatedly expressed to Vietnam our concerns over limitations to freedom of expression, both online and offline, as reflected in increasing cases of intimidation, arrest, detention and sentencing of journalists and human rights defenders who express their opinions.
The space for dissenting voices is shrinking, and the sentencing of Mr Pham Chi Dung, Mr Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Mr Le Huu Minh Tua show a deterioration of the civil and political rights situation. The EU has called on the authorities to respect fundamental rights enshrined in their constitution and in international conventions to which they are a party, most recently in a statement issued by the Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 6 January.
At the same time, we aim to constructively engage the authorities to ensure alignment with international standards by offering assistance in implementing the recommendations which Vietnam accepted under its latest Universal Periodic Review.
Political and civil rights and the rule of law are regularly raised at the [EU’s] Human Rights Dialogue with Vietnam. During the last session, in February 2020, the EU reiterated its request for all Vietnamese citizens detained for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression to be released. The EU also referred to a number of individual cases and stressed that the negative trend of limiting freedom of expression must be reversed, expecially when Vietnam and the European Union are engaged in a closer partnership. Additionally, the European Union has supported projects by and with civil society organisations, enhancing citizens’ engagement in policy advocacy and promoting human rights.
Reform and modernisation allowed Vietnam to make continuous progress in economic and social rights, steadily opening up to international standards. The European Union has supported Vietnam in moving from limited regional economic integration to broader international integration, including international standards. This includes ongoing reforms in the area of labour rights.
Against this background, we will continue to reiterate at every occasion that citizens’ opinions expressed peacefully are a critical part of prosperous societies and are essential for sustainable development.
We will continue to work together with Vietnam to achieve a more inclusive society and be very clear about our expectations.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-201064