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Your Excellency Madam State Secretary,
Mr Prosecutor General,
Mr Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour and pleasure to be here with you today on the eve of your 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence. Congratulations!
Let me start by saying that on 10 December, the European Union and its Member States traditionally celebrate the Human Rights Day. As inequality and violations of human rights pose increasing challenges across the world, it is all the more important that we redouble our efforts to defend the rights of all people. This is why this year the EU joins the United Nations in calling upon people to 'stand up for someone's rights'.
We can draw inspiration from human rights defenders, who bravely face increasing pressure and threats in many countries. The European Union resolves to protect them, and to promote civil society space. EU officials at all levels do this by meeting with human rights defenders, monitoring their trials, visiting them in detention and raising their cases with governments. In 2016, the EU has also provided financial support through the EIDHR Emergency Fund to more than 250 human rights defenders worldwide and their families who are at risk because of their daily work.
The EU remains a vocal advocate for human rights in multilateral fora and lends its full support to the UN human rights system, which is fundamental to protecting universal human rights and monitoring compliance. The EU will continue to play a leading role in promoting a rules-based global order, with respect for human rights at its core.
In July 2016, the EU has released the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy pointing out that the management of global challenges, such as terrorism or climate change, requires an ability to adjust and to work together in a more complex world. It is EU's strong conviction that only resilient states and resilient societies are able to efficiently tackle extremist threats and bring sustainable solutions to crisis situations. And in order to enhance resilience and ensure sustainable development, we need to continuously work on strengthening the respect of democratic principles, the rule of law and the fundamental rights and freedoms.
On 21 December 2015, the EU and Kazakhstan have signed the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which deepens our relationship, including in the area of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The EU supports Kazakhstan's efforts to advance the fundamental rights, democracy and rule of law agenda for the benefit of all Kazakhstani people. We encourage Kazakhstan to further follow up on the recommendations of the second periodic review and of the UN Human Rights Committee as well as to take full advantage of the expertise offered by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission to which Kazakhstan is a member.
The EU understands that there are many challenges on this path that still need to be overcome, but the five institutional reforms and the 100 steps program initiated by President Nazarbayev are the right steps. It is now crucial that the implementation of the reform packages is carried out with the spirit of enhancing the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. I would also like to stress that the successful implementation of the reforms requires a well-functioning vibrant civil society.
Let me finish by expressing my gratitude and appreciation for the friendly relations between the European Union and Kazakhstan based on common values and shared international commitments.
Our gratitude goes also to our partners from the United States, International Organisations and civil society representatives for our open and fruitful cooperation. Let our open dialogue take us closer to our common endeavour – ensuring respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law in our societies.