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NGOs call for the inclusion of Human Rights in the new EU Global Strategy

07 March 2016
Bert Koenders and Federica Mogherini, Photo by EU 2016NL/Flickr

With regard to the forthcoming Dutch Foreign Affairs Council, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee has co-signed an appeal to the Foreign Affairs Committee calling for the inclusion of Human Rights as key principle of the new “EU Global Strategy”. NHC believes that the European Union was founded on a strong engagement to promote and protect human rights which should be a leading principle in its foreign policy.

The letter, co-signed by the most prominent NGOs in the Netherlands in the field of Human Rights concludes that “we must not fall into the trap of a false contradiction between interests and values, but choose what is ultimately in everyone’s interest. Human rights are not only “concepts” or simply “values”, but legally codified obligations that states must abide by”.

During the general consultation to be held on 14 March one of the topics in the agenda is the report of the informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers, also known as ‘Gymnich’ that took place in Amsterdam on 5 and 6 February. Prominent part of the Gymnich hosted by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders was the revision of the EU’s foreign and security policy that will lead to a new and up to date “EU Global Strategy” for foreign affairs by June 2016. The decision was mandated by the European Council on June 2015 to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

At the general consultation on February 4 and in preparation for the Gymnich meeting, some spokesmen expressed their worries about the place that the European values would have in this strategy. The values, including a rules-based global order which respects human rights and international humanitarian law constitute a core element and should also become a key preoccupation of the draft plan as Bert Koenders the Netherlands’ Minister of Foreign Affairs has supported in different occasions.

In the report of Gymnich though it is unclear whether this issue was brought into the attention of the consultation. On the contrary the key factors formulated by mrs. Mogherini were not questioned so it remains unclear whether the human rights dimension became part of the discussion.

Due to rising concerns that human rights would not get a prominent place in the new “EU Global Strategy”, 11 NGOs call the Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee to consider that “a new and ambitious European foreign policy must be based on defending the universality of human rights and international law and the preservation of human dignity.”