Wednesday

25th May 2022

Letter

Europe must defend everyone's rights

  • European history is full of people who were forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution. The work European nations have done to develop and protect the rights of people over the last 70 years cannot be lost.

Dear Heads of State and Government,

We are civil society organisations, which are supported, collectively, by hundreds of thousands of people across Europe, working with those less fortunate to alleviate poverty, provide essential aid and defend people’s rights.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

With xenophobic populism on the rise across Europe and the globe, this is an appeal for leadership to uphold the rights and values that have been founding principles of the European Union for 60 years.

Together, we need to prevent legitimate concerns about migration management from being hijacked and used to derail the European project.

On a daily basis, we witness widespread solidarity with people who are fleeing brutal wars, persecution, human rights violations, instability, and extreme poverty.

Throughout Europe and the world, we see people welcome refugees and migrants into their communities, open up their homes and donate money, materials and time to help.

Only this week, many of them travelled to Brussels to call on you to uphold your commitments to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and “Bring Them Here”. We also hear people expressing their concerns about the future, asking their governments to show leadership and respond to the arrival of large numbers of people.

We take pride in the European commitment to international law and human rights and we look to you to foster and promote this commitment at home and abroad.

Yet, when increasing numbers of people in need arrived in the summer of 2015, Europe failed to come together and respond with humanity, dignity, and solidarity.

To this day, European nations are unwilling to respond in line with their obligations under international and European law, defaulting to responses that keep people far away and out of sight.

We hear you repeating your commitment to European values – respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. But we expect to see them in your actions, too.

Too many leaders have been preoccupied with stopping people from reaching Europe, at the risk of reducing access to protection for those who need it the most.

You have the responsibility to manage migration in a fair manner that addresses the legitimate concerns of citizens. It must be principled and based on facts, not on populist rhetoric. Strength doesn't mean turning away those most in need. Strength is about showing a way forward that upholds values.

Further, if the EU and its member states want to remain credible international actors, they cannot expect countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to host millions of refugees, while simultaneously pushing migrants and refugees back at EU borders, stranding thousands in inhumane living conditions on the Greek islands, or sending them back into an uncontrolled conflict zone like Libya.

Your decisions have life and death consequences, and if you continue to lower standards, countries around the globe will follow suit.

Instead of countering the rise of xenophobic populists, Europe’s response has too often been to copy their recipes. But an approach based on deterrence and border closures cannot override an effective long-term policy. We expect statesmanship that stands up for humanity and dignity and that addresses people’s fears, instead of fuelling them.

We expect sustainable, long-term migration policies that guarantee respect for people’s rights rather than pushing them into danger. These include expanding safe and regular pathways to Europe, such as humanitarian and other visas, increasing resettlement spaces and improving access to family reunification schemes, as well as improving worker mobility across skill levels.

Other global concerns such as conflict and instability, poverty, inequality and climate change must remain at the top of the European agenda.

You and your governments must assess the impact of your policies on the human rights and living conditions of women, men and children on the move, as well as Europe’s long-standing commitment to uphold these rights and improve the lives of people everywhere.

On the brink of the European Union’s 60th anniversary, we ask you to show solidarity, respect for humanity and dignity, and responsibility. We ask you to be truly inspiring leaders for the future.

Our commitment to the European Union’s core values cannot falter. Only a Europe that really stands by its values can be a strong and credible leader in a world shaken by increasing populism and so-called alternative facts.

European history is full of people who were forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution. The work European nations have done to develop and protect the rights of people over the last 70 years cannot be lost.

Only a Europe that defends the rights of everyone, without exception, is a Europe we can be proud of.

Click here for a full list of signatories.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us