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Delivered by Commissioner Johannes Hahn on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini
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Thank you, Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament.
I very much agree with colleagues that human rights are under attack worldwide and on the need to continue to do all we can to prevent gross human rights violations. A major challenge for us all is to focus even more on the day to day implementation of our extensive toolbox and convince partners to deliver on existing commitments and obligations.
Our current EU human rights toolbox is already quite comprehensive, encompassing a strong multilateral and bilateral dimension. The European Union will continue to denounce human rights violations and abuses wherever they are committed, to call on states and non-state actors to prevent them, as well as to seek justice and accountability. There is no doubt about that.
It is true that the global landscape is rapidly evolving and we need to ensure that the EU is adequately equipped to remain a leader in the field of human rights.
In this context, a targeted assessment is ongoing [on] how a European Union horizontal human rights sanctions regime might bring added value in our collective efforts to further realise human rights and prevent gross violations or abuses of human rights.
Here the issue of the scope of a possible future regime will be particularly important and the need to define which type of violations would fall under such a regime. Should such a regime for example focus on gross and systematic human rights violations? Should it cover violations of international humanitarian law? Should it address corruption cases?
Another important question is the interplay between such a potential regime and other existing EU sanctions regimes, but also regimes established at the UN and national level.
Human rights violations are already addressed in quite a number of geographical sanctions regimes for example DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], Iran and Myanmar. Here we should consider whether the potential of integrating human rights into geographical regimes has been fully exploited.
Obviously, there are some existing gaps since geographical sanctions regimes by definition are limited in focus. Could a horizontal human rights sanctions regime usefully fill such a gap and offer a more flexible approach?
Last but not least, sanctions listings must be underpinned by robust, open source evidence in order to be upheld in court. Listings are reviewed regularly and listed persons have the right to have their de-listing requests considered. Respecting due process is an overarching principle underpinning all sanctions regimes but even more so in the context of a potential human rights regime.
Given these multiple important issues, I am therefore pleased that expert discussions are taking place in the Council to precisely look at all these elements. Once the experts have finalised their discussions, a more political discussion can take place. The creation of any new regime is a matter for the 28 Member States to agree by unanimity.
Mr President, Honourable Members, thank you for your attention, for your interest and I look forward to our discussion.
Link to the opening remarks: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I168858
Thank you, Mr President, dear Members of the European Parliament, allow me to say first of all thank you for this extremely valuable, useful and timely exchange of views.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for all your interventions, comments and suggestions.
Today's debate illustrates again that a possible EU Global Human Rights sanctions regime is an interesting, necessary but also complex issue meriting careful further study. As mentioned, the current discussions are focusing on the various open questions that should be considered to allow for an informed political decision on the feasibility of such a proposal.
Discussions will continue in the Council. We stand ready to contribute to the debate constructively. A final decision will have to be taken by unanimity.
Allow me therefore to express my appreciation for your attention to this highly important topic.
Thank you very much.
Link to the closing remarks: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I168860