Speech by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on de Keyser report on democracy

Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, Stras­bourg, 6 July 2011

Thank you Madame Pres­i­dent!
Can I begin by thank­ing very much to Véronique De Keyser for her work.
In your report you say “human rights must be cen­tral to all EU poli­cies”. I agree so much with that and if I might say to hon­ourable mem­bers could I just put on record my thanks to Hei­di Hau­ta­la who has now gone off to a new job but she did such a fan­tas­tic job as Chair of the DROI Sub­com­mit­tee.

This report is extreme­ly impor­tant. I think the report is a great com­men­tary on what we are able to do in terms of for­eign pol­i­cy and democ­ra­cy but it also enables us to con­sid­er the respon­si­bil­i­ties that we have to ensure that peo­ple form all coun­tries ben­e­fit from the same rights as us. We can’t take those rights for granted.

While of course the Mid­dle East and North Africa are in the spot­light we know that in Belarus Pres­i­dent Lukashen­ka con­tin­ues to sup­press any form of oppo­si­tion and that’s why we led a cross­re­gion­al ini­tia­tive to record our con­dem­na­tion of Belarus at the June meet­ing of the UN Human Rights Coun­cil. A res­o­lu­tion adopt­ed by an over­whelm­ing majority.

I have raised that exam­ple to show that this pol­i­cy of engage­ment, a pol­i­cy where we work with the peo­ple on the ground but are clear in our stance against regimes is so important.

At the UN we were very active last year not least because of the review of the UN Human Rights Council. 

I think we had some real suc­cess­es in Gene­va with the renew­al of man­dates for var­i­ous UN Rap­por­teurs: Bur­ma, DPRK, Sudan, Soma­lia, Cam­bo­dia and Haiti and Res­o­lu­tions on the DRC, Guinea, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Free­dom of Reli­gion, a very impor­tant issue that is raised often in this chamber.

We have also reached all our objec­tives at the 3rd Com­mit­tee of the Gen­er­al Assem­bly in New York. The res­o­lu­tion for mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty was passed with great sup­port and the res­o­lu­tion against reli­gion intol­er­ance adopt­ed by con­sen­sus. We cel­e­brat­ed too in 2010 the 10th anniver­sary of Res­o­lu­tion 1325 on women peace and secu­ri­ty and we adopt­ed a set of indi­ca­tors to mon­i­tor our progress on it.

Madame Pres­i­dent,
All these are exam­ples of what can be achieved when the EU speaks togeth­er as one and the fact that we speak at the UN as one now enables us to do that increasingly.

It is right that we review our pol­i­cy to “ensure that val­ues, con­sis­ten­cy and a gen­uine cul­ture of results” (again to quote Veronique De Keyser) are at its heart.

The de Keyser report goes on to stress the need to devel­op fur­ther the polit­i­cal dimen­sion of our work, to match what we do on development.

This is eas­i­er said than done.

But we already have a good basis of the Council’s ‘Con­clu­sions on Democ­ra­cy Sup­port’ of Novem­ber 2009 bring­ing these strands togeth­er in a sin­gle pol­i­cy of democ­ra­cy support.

At the end of 2010, the Coun­cil then des­ig­nat­ed 12 coun­tries for pilot imple­men­ta­tion of the EU ‘Agen­da for Action’.

The same con­cern lies behind the pro­pos­al put for­ward ear­li­er this year for a ‘Euro­pean Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy’. If, for instance, it can help young peo­ple talk to each oth­er using new tech­nolo­gies, we will be advanc­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic dia­logue through demo­c­ra­t­ic channels.

Some­times we have to be bold and I think that’s essen­tial for how we now approach the report and how we take the work forward.

I believe we need to choose sta­bil­i­ty and democ­ra­cy and we need to be cre­ative in response to these rapid­ly evolv­ing chal­lenges. No sim­ple task to deliv­er, but that is why I wel­come the con­tri­bu­tion of Véronique De Keyser to enrich­ing our debate. 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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