Category Archives: Human Rights

#SOTEU: EU migration Pact slow motion

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “… Look at what happened at our borders with Belarus. The regime in Minsk has instrumentalised human beings. They have put people on planes and literally pushed them towards Europe’s borders” the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said, while addressing the European Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg.

“This can never be tolerated. And the quick European reaction shows that. And rest assured, we will continue to stand together with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

“And, let’s call it what it is: this is a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe”.

“These are not isolated events. We saw similar incidents at other borders. And we can expect to see it again. This is why, as part of our work on Schengen, we will set out new ways to respond to such aggression and ensure unity in protecting our external borders. But as long as we do not find common ground on how to manage migration, our opponents will continue to target that.

“Meanwhile, human traffickers continue to exploit people through deadly routes across the Mediterranean.

“These events show us that every country has a stake in building a European migration system. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum gives us everything we need to manage the different types of situations we face.
All the elements are there. This is a balanced and humane system that works for all Member States – in all circumstances. We know that we can find common ground.

“But in the year since the Commission presented the Pact, progress has been painfully slow.
I think, this is the moment now for a European migration management policy. So I urge you, in this House and in Member States, to speed up the process.

“This ultimately comes down to a question of trust. Trust between Member States. Trust for Europeans that migration can be managed. Trust that Europe will always live up to its enduring duty to the most vulnerable and most in need.

“There are many strongly held views on migration in Europe but I believe the common ground is not so far away. Because if you ask most Europeans, they would agree that we should act to curb irregular migration but also act to provide a refuge for those forced to flee.”

“They would agree that we should return those who have no right to stay. But that we should welcome those who come here legally and make such a vital contribution to our society and economy”.

“And we should all agree that the topic of migration should never be used to divide. I am convinced that there is a way that Europe can build trust amongst us when it comes to migration”.

SOTEU: Afghan Support Package in view

Strasbourg 15.09.2021 “…Recent events in Afghanistan are not the cause of this change – but they are a symptom of it” the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said, while delivering the State of Union speech at European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg.
“And first and foremost, I want to be clear. We stand by the Afghan people. The women and children, prosecutors, journalists and human rights defenders”.

“I think in particular of women judges who are now in hiding from the men they jailed. They have been put at risk for their contribution to justice and the rule of law. We must support them and we will coordinate all efforts with Member States to bring them to safety.

“And we must continue supporting all Afghans in the country and in neighbouring countries. We must do everything to avert the real risk of a major famine and humanitarian disaster. And we will do our part. We will increase again humanitarian aid for Afghanistan by 100 million euro.

“This will be part of a new, wider Afghan Support Package that we will present in the next weeks to combine all of our efforts” the president of the Commission concluded.

BELARUS: EU demands political prisoners release

Brussels 07.08.2021 This week in Minsk political prisoners Marya Kaliesnikava and Maksim Znak were sentenced to 11 and 10 years in prison respectively. In August 2020, Marya Kaliesnikava, together with Ms Tsikhanouskaya and Ms Tsepkalo, became a symbol of the movement for democratic Belarus.

“In a trial behind closed doors, together with a prominent lawyer, Mr Znak, she was tried on unfounded charges of “conspiring to seize state power in an unconstitutional way”, “calling for actions aimed at damaging the national security of Belarus through the use of media and the Internet” and “establishing and leading and an extremist group” reads the statement of the statement by the European External Action Service spokesperson on sentencing Marya Kaliesnikava and Maksim Znak in Belarus.

“The EU deplores the continuous blatant disrespect by the Minsk regime of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Belarus”.

“The EU also reiterates its demands for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Belarus (now numbering more than 650), including Ms Kaliesnikava and Mr Znak, journalists and all people who are behind bars for exercising their rights. Belarus must adhere to its international commitments and obligations within the UN and OSCE. The EU will continue its efforts to promote accountability for the brutal repression by the Belarusian authorities”.

EU doesn’t recognise Taliban

Brussels 21.08.2021 The European Union has not recognised the Taliban, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday, August 21, nor is it holding political talks with the militants, a week after they seized control of Afghanistan. However during her visit to Spain the EU top executive expressed determination to support Afghan people. (Image above: archive)

Von der Leyen noted that despite the Taliban’s rhetoric, accepting inclusive approach, there have already been numerous reports of oppression targeting women, revenge killings and abductions.

“Not a single euro can go to a regime … that denies women and girls their full freedom and rights to education and careers,” she said.

“The situation is still very unclear and very unpredictable,” she added. “We will measure [the Taliban] above all by their deeds and their actions.”

Taliban: EU monitors women rights

Brussels 18.06.2021 This statement has been co-signed by Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, Honduras, Guatemala, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Senegal, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America.

“We are deeply worried about Afghan women and girls, their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. We call on those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan to guarantee their protection.

“Afghan women and girls, as all Afghan people, deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. Any form of discrimination and abuse should be prevented. We in the international community stand ready to assist them with humanitarian aid and support, to ensure that their voices can be heard.

“We will monitor closely how any future government ensures rights and freedoms that have become an integral part of the life of women and girls in Afghanistan during the last twenty years”.

Meanwhile The chief of field operations of the U.N. children’s agency expressed cautious optimism about working with Taliban officials following their seizure of power in Afghanistan, citing their early expressions of support for girls’ education.

The U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) is still delivering aid to most parts of the country and has held initial meetings with new Taliban representatives in recently seized cities like Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad.

“We have ongoing discussions, we are quite optimistic based on those discussions,” UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, told a U.N. briefing, adding that 11 out of 13 field offices were currently operational.

“We have not a single issue with the Taliban in those field offices.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 following strict Islamic law, forbidding women from working. Girls were not allowed to attend school and women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes.

EU: Afghanistan Borrell Declaration

Brussels 17.08.2021 European Union Ministers of Foreign Affairs gathered today for an extraordinary meeting to consider the latest momentous developments in Afghanistan. The country finds itself at a crossroads after decades of conflict. The wellbeing and security of its citizens, political and human rights achievements, as well as regional and international security are at stake.

The negotiation process between the Afghan government and the Taliban offered the best chance to reach a solution that would guarantee security and peaceful coexistence within Afghanistan and in the region. The EU calls on all parties in Afghanistan to respect all commitments made and to pursue further an inclusive, comprehensive and enduring political solution. The protection and promotion of all human rights, in particular those of women and girls, must be an integral part of these efforts and women should be supported and able to contribute fully to this process.

The EU stresses the utmost importance of the safety and security of all EU citizens in Afghanistan, as well as local staff working for the EU or member states. Through strong coordination among member states, every possible effort is being made to ensure their security, including through the ongoing evacuation of staff and their families in need. The European Union will also pay special attention to those Afghans whose security might now be in jeopardy due to their principled engagement for our common values.

The EU calls for an immediate cessation of all violence, the restoration of security and civil order and the protection and respect for civilian life, dignity and property throughout Afghanistan. In this regard, the EU expresses deep concern about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in areas across Afghanistan.

A comprehensive and inclusive political settlement and an enduring solution to the conflict should not be established by force, but through meaningful negotiations based on democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rule.

The EU recalls the importance of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the Afghan people since 2001, such as the rights of women, children and persons belonging to minorities, including access to education and health. Afghanistan as a signatory of the UN Charter must uphold and promote the values, rights and principles enshrined therein and honour its international obligations.

The EU aims to continue its support to the Afghan people and to democracy, good governance, human rights and social and economic development in the country, including efforts to prevent and manage the risks associated with an unstable Afghanistan in continued conflict, resulting in regional instability, drugs trafficking and uncontrolled irregular migration. In this context, EU engagement with its partners in Central Asia will be increasingly important. Combatting terrorism and preventing the use of Afghan territory by international terrorist groups remains at the core of the EU’s collective engagement in the country.

However, cooperation with any future Afghan government will be conditioned on a peaceful and inclusive settlement and respect for the fundamental rights of all Afghans, including women, youth and persons belonging to minorities, as well as respect for Afghanistan’s international obligations, commitment to the fight against corruption and preventing the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organisations.

To address the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the European Union will continue to provide needs-based assistance to the Afghan people and calls on all actors to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to Afghan women, men and children in need, including to the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The EU calls on the Taliban to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The EU will also support Afghanistan’s neighbours in coping with negative spill overs, which are to be expected from an increasing flow of refugees and migrants.

TALIBAN: UNICEF cautious optimism

Brussels 17.08.2021 The chief of field operations of the U.N. children’s agency expressed cautious optimism about working with Taliban officials following their seizure of power in Kabul on Sunday August 15, citing their early expressions of support for girls’ education.

The U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) is still delivering aid to most parts of the country and has held initial meetings with new Taliban representatives in recently seized cities like Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad.

“We have ongoing discussions, we are quite optimistic based on those discussions,” UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, told a U.N. briefing, adding that 11 out of 13 field offices were currently operational.

“We have not a single issue with the Taliban in those field offices.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 following strict Islamic law, forbidding women from working. Girls were not allowed to attend school and women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres warned on Monday of “chilling” curbs on human rights under the Taliban and mounting violations against women and girls and a U.N. official warned on Tuesday that thousands of Afghan rights workers were at risk. read more

UNICEF cited some Taliban local representatives as saying they were waiting for guidance from their leaders on the issue of educating girls, while others have said they want schools “up and running”.

One Taliban health director in Heratwhere UNICEF is the only U.N. agency present had also asked female employees to report to duty, Ben Messaoud said. UNICEF had not yet established a direct communication with the Taliban in the capital Kabul, he added.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the worries of many Afghans about the Taliban were “thoroughly understandable”.

“We call on the Taliban to demonstrate through their actions, not just their words, that the fears for the safety of so many people from so many different walks of life are addressed,” he said.

Unlike many countries which are scrambling to evacuate their diplomats from the country, the United Nations does not plan staff evacuations and is appealing for additional aid for its operations amid warnings of growing humanitarian needs.

Taliban announces “general amnesty”

Brussels 17.08.2021 The Taliban announced a “general amnesty” for all government officials on Tuesday, August 17, and urged them to return to work, trying to calm the mood in the capital city after Sunday chaos at Kabul airport as people tried to flee all directions. Women would also be allowed to play a role in government that corresponds with Sharia law, the group said.

The comments by Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, represent the first comments on governance in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover of the country on Sunday, August 15.

“You should restart your routine life with full confidence,” Samangani said in announcing the amnesty. Some appeared to take the advice to heart, with white-capped traffic police reappearing on the streets for the first time in days.

Women would also be allowed to join the government in accordance with sharia law, he said.
“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Samangani said, using the militants’ new name for Afghanistan. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”

“The structure of government is not fully clear, but based on experience, there should be a fully Islamic leadership and all sides should join,” he added.

Belarus: Borrell declaration on migrants

Brussels 30.07.2021 “The instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees is utterly unacceptable. Using human beings in need to advance political goals violates fundamental European values and principles. Accordingly, the EU and its member states condemn the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees by the Belarusian regime” reads the Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union on the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees by the regime.

“The EU and its member states will address the ongoing surge in irregular crossings into the EU from Belarus to preserve the integrity of its external border. In line with its gradual approach, the EU will consider the possibility of restrictive measures targeted at migrants’ smugglers abusing human rights or those otherwise involved in trafficking in human beings.

“The EU and its member states remain determined to effectively manage migratory flows in order to protect the EU’s external borders. People who have no right to stay in the EU shall be returned. In this context, the EU and its member states will take all necessary measures in accordance with EU and international law.

“The EU and its member states, in solidarity, already increased their support, including through the deployment of the FRONTEX rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance, and are ready to strengthen it even further. Member states will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets.

“We will continue to implement our external migration policy. We will work to further strengthen EU return capacities as part of a comprehensive approach, including through dialogues and partnerships with the countries of origin and transit”.

MEPs debate Hungary EU budget restrictions

Strasbourg 06.07.2021 The budget conditionality regulation does not require any additional clarification to be applied and rule of law breaches must be addressed without delay, say the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

“We are now one step closer to finally applying the Conditionality regulation against those breaking the Rule of Law in the member states. With the Parliament’s contribution to the guidelines, we offer the Commission the means and tools to act without hesitation. The regulation is ready to be used”, said the co-rapporteur Petri Sarvamaa (EPP, FI) after the vote.

In a resolution adopted by the Budget and Budgetary Control committees on Thursday with 53 votes 11 against and 2 abstentions, MEPs regret that the Commission has decided to abide by the non-binding December 2020 European Council conclusions and delay application of the budget conditionality regulation.

They stress that the guidelines cannot alter, expand or restrict the scope of the budget conditionality regulation and that, in order to add any value, they must clarify how the legislative provisions will be applied in practice, outlining the procedure, definitions and methodology.
They also call on the Commission to set out a “clear, precise and user-friendly system” for submitting complaints under the regulation.

MEPs call on the Commission to investigate swiftly any potential breaches of the principles of the rule of law “that affect or seriously risk affecting the sound financial management of the Union budget”, by pointing out that “the situation in some member states already warrants immediate action”. The Commission should report to Parliament on the first cases under investigation by October 2021 the latest, they add.

MEPs finally criticise the Commission for having missed the deadline set by Parliament to apply the regulation and adopt the guidelines by 1 June 2021. They welcome the 23 June letter by the President of Parliament saying that if the Commission does not act, the EP will take action in the Court of Justice.

“We have said from the beginning that the guidelines were not necessary, but the Commission put forward its proposal and asked the EP for its position. So here it is. Parliament is always ready to work with the Commission on the rule of law, and in turn we expect the European Commission not to deceive us. It must act swiftly and strongly”, said the co-rapporteur Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, ES).

French European Affairs junior minister Clement Beaune said on Wednesday he expected a form of sanctions against Hungary over Hungary’s anti-LGBT law.

Beaune also said he was not in favour of kicking Hungary out of the European Union, reiterating earlier comments to this effect from French President Emmanuel Macron.

“I am not in favour of Hungary being kicked out of the European Union”, he told RTL radio.

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