Traditionally the most important European Parliament‘s plenary session when human rights issues are debated is considered to be the last EP plenary session in December. However, MEPs already discussed many significant human rights policy issues with High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton during the plenary session in Strasbourg this week. Among the other items on the agenda were the EU budget, fiscal discipline, the Schengen area.
Start for the annual report on human rights given
On Tuesday, after High Representative of the Union Catherine Ashton‘s presentation of the annual report on human rights for 2011, which was prepared by the European External Action Service, the start was given to the preparation of the main EP human rights document, namely the annual report on human rights in the world and the EU`s policy on the matter. This year the important task to assess the human rights situation in the world, the EU`s action on this matter in 2011, as well as to present recommendations on how the EU must achieve effective results in this priority EU policy area, was given to the Coordinator in the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Leonidas Donskis. For the past two years in a row the Lithuanian MEP represented the ALDE Group as the Shadow Rapporteur in preparing similar EP human rights documents; so he is well aware of the specifics of the preparation of this document and participation in negotiations with different EP political groups
"Every year the annual human rights report presents the unique opportunity to the EU, its politicians and human rights defenders to express their world vision. Liberal democracies are ready to fight battles of ideas for that vision. That vision brings us closer to reality. It bases the people`s cooperation and partnership not only on economic powers, natural wealth, security interests and wise compromises between historical and modern differences, but also and first of all, on the universal recognition that the value of the human life, dignity and rights are the essential and fundamental criteria of civilized and reliable country, that human rights are not and cannot be a target of negotiations or a hostage of the economy," said appointed Rapporteur Leonidas Donskis in the Strasbourg plenary session on Tuesday.
MEPs‘recommendations to the Council on the EU Special Representative for Human Rights
On Tuesday MEPs discussed with High Representative C. Ashton and voted on Wednesday on the EP recommendations to the Council on the appointment of the first representative with the horizontal responsibility, who will represent the EU worldwide on human rights issues. The candidate for the two years term will be appointed by the Council at the end of the month.
"Much like the European consensus on development, which defines the framework of common principles within which the EU and its Member States implement their development policies, we need to strive towards a European consensus on human rights which will set out our common vision on the promotion of human rights in the world, with concrete steps of how to achieve our goals. Only as equal partners in the field of human rights will be ever be truly effective as a Union. I look forward to working with the different institutions on this in the future," said L. Donskis.
On Wednesday MEPs voted and adopted the recommendations prepared by the European Parliament on the EUSR for HR, where Leonidas Donskis was Shadow Rapporteur representing the ALDE group. These recommendations stress that this envoy must have a strong, independent and flexible mandate, which should not be too narrow, but rather encompass the power that would allow him/her to act a quickly and effectively. It is also emphasized that the EUSR for HR will be expected to cooperate with civil society representatives, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), experts, as well as with regional and international organisations operating in the field of human rights and democracy protection.
More attention to the situation in Tibet
On Thursday the MEPs adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Tibet. ALDE representative MEP Leonidas Donskis was one of the initiators of this resolution. While making his speech in the plenary session L. Donskis expressed his will for the Tibet issue to be among the priorities.
The joint resolution, drafted by six political groups (except for the Social Democrats), expresses repeated EP concerns on the restrictions of freedom of expression, religion, manifestations and thoughts in Tibet. The MEPs also react to the intensified tragic cases in Tibet, which seeks cultural autonomy in the People‘s Republic of China, when Tibetans dare to commit self-immolation while protesting against restricting Chinese policy. It is reported that 38 Tibetans, mostly monks and nuns, have already set themselves on fire since 2009. However, since 2010 the Chinese government does not wish to continue negotiations with the representatives from Tibet and to solve problems concerning the future of Tibet.
Accepting the fact that the dialogue between the EU and China on human rights issues did not bring any greater improvement for Tibetans‘situation MEPs urge High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU Catherine Ashton to appoint a special coordinator with a mandate to report regularly on Tibet in order to advance respect for the human rights of the Tibetan people.