Today the European Parliament`s Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted a recommendation to the Council on the appointment and responsibilities of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights just before the Council approves the candidate in June. The main Rapporteurs of the document were the largest EP Conservative Group (EPP), meanwhile the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) was represented by Coordinator in the Subcommittee on Human Rights Leonidas Donskis.
The EU Foreign Ministers have already adopted the decision to establish the position of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights in response to repeated calls from the European Parliament. The EUSR will be the first position with horizontal responsibility on a very important topic of EU policy, namely human rights. The new official for these issues will represent the EU worldwide.
MEPs stressed in their recommendation to the Council that although she or he will be formally appointed by the Council, the EUSR should act and speak on behalf of the Union. Therefore, the European Parliament should play its appropriate role in the appointment procedure and the oversight of the mandate during its entire term. In order to strengthen the transparency and accountability of the mandate of the EUSR, MEPs suggest that a hearing with the EUSR nominated by the High Representative should take place before the European Parliament`s relevant committees. After the appointment of the EUSR he or she should provide the Council, the High Representative, Parliament and the Commission with an annual progress report.
The EUSR, while acting under the authority of the High Representative, should be granted a strong, independent and flexible mandate not defined by narrow and specific thematic responsibilities but rather allowing the EUSR to act swiftly and effectively during his or her mandate for 2.5 years, which would be renewable once. The mandate should be based on the principles guiding the EU’s HR policy and, in particular, strengthening democracy and institutions, international justice, international humanitarian law, ban of the death penalty, human rights defenders, freedom of religion and thought, promotion and protection of the rights of the child, gender, disabled, violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, peace and security issues. The EUSR should work closely together with the United Nations, as well as other international organisations and NGOs.
MEPs have also stressed the importance of the profile, experience, qualification and competencies of the new official. These issues were already addressed by leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Guy Verhofstadt, Vice-president of the European Parliament responsible for democracy and human rights and member of ALDE group Edward McMillan-Scott, and ALDE Coordinator in the Subcommittee on Human Rights Leonidas Donskis when they urged C. Ashton in a letter to apply particularly high standards when choosing a candidate for the position of EUSR, as these criteria will determine the efficiency of the new official`s work and the very legitimacy of the decision to establish this position.
"The EU Special Representative must have an international profile, and possess experience and proven dedication to the cause of human rights. A successful EUSR will not only be a trusted figure within the European Union, but will also need to have clout and a sound knowledge of humanitarian law and international justice in order to work effectively with international counterparts," said the letter of the ALDE representatives.
MEPs will adopt the final decision on the recommendation to the Council in the plenary session in June. The new official should be appointed at the end of June. Currently, the Member States are nominating their candidates to High Representative Catherine Ashton.