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European Parliament report calls for paradigm shift in EU backing for democracy

8 juin 2011


A real paradigm shift is needed to make EU backing for would-be democracies credible and consistent, away from security and stability, and towards a priority on human rights and consolidating democracy, says a report overwhelmingly approved on Monday night by MEPs on the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

« What we can and should do is, for one, support the transitions in our neighbourhood wholeheartedly and for another, take a new look at our policies and instruments in the light of both new dynamics and old dilemmas. We often overestimate what we can achieve in the short term but that we equally underestimate what we can achieve in the long run, » said rapporteur MEP Veronique De Keyser.
Transition to democracy should be supported by scaled-up EU assistance, based on the principle of more (aid, integration) for more (democratic reform). This conditionality should translate for example into « more clearly-worded human rights clauses » in agreements with third countries, the report says.
Furthermore, the EU’s commercial policy should be fully coordinated with its overall objectives and must contribute to sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, the report says. To this end, legally-binding clauses on social and environmental aspects and respect for human rights must be included in all free trade agreements.
To enhance the political dimension of relations with EU partner countries, MEPs underline the need to support groups working for democracy, such as human rights advocates, independent media, political parties, and newly-elected parliaments.
To this end, the report tentatively backs the idea of setting up a European Endowment for Democracy (EED), as proposed in the EU’s revised Neighbourhood Policy – “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood” – set out last month. However, MEPs stress that « the future EED should neither substitute nor duplicate the work of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and other democratisation tools and external financial instruments already in force and should have different objectives, financial and managerial modalities. »
In response to the Arab Spring, the EU on 8 March adopted the communication ‘Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity’ and then on 25 May complemented it with its revised European Neighbourhood Policy. This proposal establishes a new relationship between the EU and its neighbours based on mutual accountability and underpinned by the principle of ‘more for more’. Among other things, it pledges to “support the establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy to help political parties, non-registered NGOs and trade unions and other social partners.” (ENPI Info Centre)
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