Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

Opinion

MEPs demand more from EU on human rights in Asia

  • Myanmar - led by Aung San Suu Kyi (pictured) - is a cause for concern, specifically the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority, which has had consequences for the whole region, particularly Bangladesh (Photo: Burma Democratic Concern (BDC))

Today, heads of state of 51 Asian and European countries will be in Brussels for a summit with the EU.

As members of the European Parliament, we denounce the fact that many countries around the table are major human rights violators. We are therefore calling the EU to wake up and demand more from its partners.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

For the past few years, the primacy of human rights has been put into question on the international stage.

A far-right and relativist movement has been increasingly successful in attacking the core values of the European Union.

Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 US presidential election is symptomatic of a dangerous trend that endangers the lives and rights of millions of people worldwide.

Multilateralism is challenged and international law is questioned.

Inside the EU, the challenges are similar; the far-right continues to gain ground; anti-immigrant and racist sentiments played a large part in the successful campaign for the UK to leave the EU; some member state governments are becoming illiberal and dictatorial; those who help refugees are prosecuted.

The EU does not seem to be realise that everything it stands for is falling apart.

As Europeans, we must take action and hold ourselves and our partners to the highest possible standards when it comes to human rights, democracy and rule of law.

Meanwhile, the situation in Asia continues to deteriorate whilst the EU remains passive.

For years, the European Commission has been proud to use trade as a powerful tool that can bring positive change in foreign countries.

However, current developments reveal a worrying trend in EU policy.

Vietnam

The human rights situation in Vietnam, for example, especially when it comes to freedom of assembly and expression, have consistently deteriorated since the beginning of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations.

The lack of free civil society, particularly in the field of labour rights, is extremely worrying.

Despite these developments, the EU is trying to speed up the FTA process, pushing for a swift implementation.

In countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) schemes, such as Pakistan and the Philippines, progress is often overshadowed by backwards steps in other fields.

If the EU wants to retain its position as a champion of human rights globally, it must use the tools it has to the fullest.

Real pressure is essential to achieve positive human rights outcomes.

We cannot reasonably expect the EU to have any credibility if, on the one hand, it presents trade deals as efficient ways to improve the situation and, on the other hand, it increases the legitimacy of oppressive regimes by signing FTAs with them.

China

The EU's reaction to the situation in China is also concerning.

The extent of the human rights violations currently taking place in the Xinjiang region calls for much more serious consequences from the international community.

The persecution and systematic imprisonment of one million people on the basis of their ethnic background constitutes a violation of unbelievable proportions.

NGOs have furthermore raised ongoing concerns over the detention and torture of human rights defenders.

Despite the gravity of the accusations against the Chinese state, the EU's response has been extremely weak.

We Europeans must join forces with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to ensure that arbitrary detention stops and a thorough and independent investigation is conducted into these violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

Philippines

In the Philippines, the far-right ideology of the current government and its consistent violations of human rights have not been met by the EU with a sufficiently firm response.

In Indonesia, LGBTIQ+ and disability rights are under attack, with very serious consequences for human rights defenders who face increasing danger due to their peaceful human rights activities.

Thailand's military regime continues to sink lower with the resumption of the death penalty after nine years of moratorium.

Cambodia faces tremendous issues in terms of land rights and harassment of human rights defenders.

Myanmar

Myanmar is also a cause for concern, specifically the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority, which has had consequences on the whole region, particularly in Bangladesh which is struggling to host hundreds of thousands refugees.

Cases of attacks against Bangladeshi human rights defenders have also been reported in the last few months, as part of the repression against peaceful student protesters.

We paint a bleak picture, but as committed members of the European Parliament, we believe the European Union can and should take real action to positively impact the global human rights situation. We believe member states must work together in an effort to defend our values.

We are fiercely committed to human rights, and unapologetically pro-European.

We demand from the European Commission and the member states that they embrace this identity with us. The EU's survival depends on it.

Joint declaration by MEPs Petras Austrevicius, Klaus Buchner, Ana Gomes, Jude Kirton-Darling, Ana Miranda, Julie Ward

Disclaimer

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

Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin currently live outside Spain. They were prosecuted for the serious crimes, and they have fled justice. It is not possible to judge in absentia in Spain, where the justice system protects the rights of defendants.

Letter

MDIF responds to Orban criticism

In his response, Dr Zoltan Kovacs does not even try to refute my main point about Hungary: that most Hungarian news media have been captured by the state, and that this anti-democratic trend is spreading across Eastern Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  2. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat
  3. Tanker attacks pose questions for EU on Iran deal
  4. Johnson skips TV debate for UK prime ministership
  5. Slovakia's first female president takes office
  6. Irish immigration officers flew back business class
  7. Catalan MEP denied taking seat in European Parliament
  8. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  2. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  3. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  4. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  5. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  6. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  7. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  8. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us