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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