Speech delivered by Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
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Ms President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
In March 2020, the EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement entered into force, providing us with a framework for advancing cooperation on human rights, the rule of law, and with civil society.
Last November, the EU and Kazakhstan held a human rights dialogue and a subcommittee on justice and home affairs. Although the pandemic is challenging for governments, the EU recalled that any restrictive measure must be legitimate and proportionate, limited in time, non-discriminatory, transparent, and should not hamper the effective exercise and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, or compromise them in the long-term.
The importance of an independent judiciary, media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly, zero-tolerance to torture and independent monitoring of detention facilities, were also discussed.
The EU welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation, the abolition of the death penalty, and continued efforts to tackle torture and improve detention conditions in prisons.
We remain concerned about reports that activists, bloggers and journalists are increasingly charged of knowingly disseminating so-called “false” information, which can lead to sentences of imprisonment of up to seven years. We are also concerned that the offences of “insult” and “insulting a government representative” remain subject to criminal penalty.
Last week, the EU welcomedthe decision of the Kazakh authorities to drop all charges against some prominent human rights NGOs that had received fines and a suspension of their activity, based on unclear legal grounds.
The EU encourages the Kazakh Government to create an enabling environment for civil society to flourish, which is in the best interest of the country on its path to reform.
Following the Parliamentary elections in January, the EU expressed regrets in relation to the limitations on fundamental freedoms, including the detention of peaceful demonstrators, and concerted measures which prevented some domestic election observers from effective observation.
It is important that Kazakhstan continues to take steps to foster an enabling environment for civil society, human rights defenders, lawyers, trade unionists and journalists.
Lastly, the High Representative [/Vice-President, Josep Borrell] welcomes Kazakhstan’s follow-up to individual cases raised by the EU.
In the framework of our Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the EU will continue to support Kazakhstan in its reform and modernisation efforts.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-201895