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Pan European Networks: Government

18

www.paneuropeannetworks.com

12

SPECIAL FEATURE: HUMAN RIGHTS

prioritising calls for an internal EU fundamental

rights strategy to tackle these challenges. This

includes growing concerns about the treatment

of refugees and minorities.

When it comes to the European

institutions, do you feel there is

strong enough attention paid to

human rights in Brussels?

There are many supporters of human rights

within EU institutions, but they are not

necessarily those in charge of setting policy

direction and priorities. We work with allies,

including in the European Parliament, to try to

ensure that human rights violations are

condemned. We also work to ensure human

rights are mainstreamed within the EU’s External

Action Service (EEAS), where it is important to

ensure that geographical directorates pay due

attention to human rights in their bilateral

relations with third countries and strategic

partners. The new commission structure, which

groups different directorates together in clusters

under a vice-president, offers possibilities to

ensure there is greater policy coherence for

human rights. For example, in the external

relations cluster, this would mean that policies

being formulated by directorate-generals (DGs)

working on trade, agriculture, migration, climate

and energy would need to ensure that there

would be no negative impact on human rights

in partner countries of EU policy interventions in

other areas.

The EU already has a commitment to policy

coherence in the context of development

co-operation (Article 208) so there is a legal base

for this approach. Unfortunately, on both the

internal and external sides, this potential has not

yet been realised.This commission on the whole

does not seem to prioritise the rights-based

agenda, which is somewhat short sighted given

the threats to the rights agenda and the fact that

it is quite fundamental to the EU’s normative

project and its own

treaties.At

the same time the

N

umerous voices continue to give warnings that human

rights across Europe are being challenged today. Amongst

those are NGOs operating at the European level, where

the Human Rights & Democracy Network (HRDN) campaigns to put

human rights at the centre of the EU’s policy agenda. Made up of

50 NGOs working in the areas of human rights, democracy and

peace, the informal grouping aims to influence EU and member

state human rights policies and the programming of their funding

instruments that promote democracy, human rights and peace.

Answering PEN’s questions, the troika leading the HRDN – Claire

Ivers, senior EU advocate at Human RightsWatch, Jacqueline Hale,

head of advocacy at the Save the Children EU Office, and Tinatin

Tsertsvadze, international advocacy manager at the International

Partnership For Human Rights – reflects on the state of human

rights in Europe today.

What are the major priorities for the Human Rights &

Democracy Network?

Civil society space is shrinking globally as governments introduce laws

and practise forms of intimidation to put civil society organisations and

human rights defenders under pressure. HRDN continued to prioritise

an enabling environment and helped organise the EU-NGO forum in

December 2015. Related to this, we are running a campaign calling on

the EU to publicly raise cases of human rights defenders across the

world who have been imprisoned or harassed for their professional

activities, for speaking out against abusive governments and

corporations, and for exposing corruption and malpractice. Our

campaign #Stand4HRDs puts the spotlight on different defenders and

calls on the EU to raise these cases.

As threats to human rights and the rule of law increase within the EU

amid austerity, populism and xenophobia, HRDN is increasingly

Standing up for human rights

PEN speaks to the troika leading the Human Rights & Democracy Network on

the state of human rights in Europe today

The HRDN is calling for

stronger protection of

human rights in

Europe today