Seminar and Workshop on Advanced Issues in Law and Policy of the European Union, nafta and the wto



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A The Relationship between the Council and the Commission and Parliament

The two draft Regulations referred to above have important implications in terms of this relationship. Without needing to challenge the objectives, the means, or the balance of institutional responsibilities reflected therein, there are several aspects of the proposals which warrant attention.

First, when the Commission carries out the tasks entrusted to it under the draft Regulations, it will be necessary for the lead role to be taken by the Directorate-General responsible for Human Rights and the new Human Rights Commissioner, albeit of course in cooperation with the various Commission services responsible for development cooperation and for other relations with third countries in the framework of Community cooperation policy. It makes no sense to further entrench the fragmentation of overall human rights responsibility among different Commission services, nor does it make sense to promote an unnecessary gap between the internal and external dimensions.

Second, the democratic accountability of the Community’s proposed action is weak. The European Parliament will, effectively, only be able to exercise control through the budgetary procedure but is excluded from substantive scrutiny and dialogue. In contrast, the ‘Human Rights and Democracy Committee’, proposed to be set up under Article 12, will perform a powerful oversight role. Yet it will be composed of Member State representatives, even if it is to be chaired by the Commission. The role of the European Parliament must be strengthened and made commensurate to that of the Member States or, in effect, the Council. As envisaged in the present draft, the Committee lacks precisely the democratic accountability which it will be supposed to promote in third countries.

Third, the programmes to be undertaken under the proposed Regulations involve the distribution of large sums of money (estimated by the Council at 400 million euros over five years, but likely to be greater) which will be administered either directly by, or on behalf of the Community, by a variety of public, semi-public or private agencies. Neither under the proposed Regulations, nor under the standing procedures for the Ombudsman, are there provisions for individual complaint and/or investigation of the manner in which these funds are spent, or policies are administered, by or on behalf of the Community. It is an area which is susceptible to abuse and misuse. In accordance with the general rule-of-law principle established within the Community, appropriate safeguards should be implemented. The Ombudsman, or a surrogate for the Ombudsman (such as the Inspection Panel suggested above)101 should be established to receive and investigate such complaints and, where necessary, to take further necessary action.

B Proposed Reforms in Relation to the Council’s Human Rights Role

It will, of course, be for the European Council to take the lead in adopting the initiative for a fully-fledged human rights policy for the Union. And, to the extent that the internal dimension of the human rights policy involves legislation, the Council will play its normal constitutional role in the legislative process, both at primary level and through Comitology. The critical role of the Council will, however, be in the external dimension of the human rights policy.102

The Union has a key role to play in enhancing human rights in all aspects of its common foreign and security policy and not only in relation to democratization, the rule of law and good governance in narrowly defined areas of the world. There is, after all, no material, geographical or political limitation on the reach of the Union under the second Pillar. Thus, human rights should become an important, regular and systematic dimension of the Union’s foreign posture under Pillar Two.

Until now, little attention seems to have been given to developing the Council’s capacity to make human rights a significant part of its activities.103 The secretariat of the Council is not currently well-equipped to perform human rights functions. While the Council’s Committee on Human Rights (COHOM) plays an important role, it deserves a more focused and better coordinated secretariat interlocutor with which to work.

The Amsterdam Treaty creates the new post of CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) High Representative (to be filled by the Council Secretary General). This post has already been popularly dubbed ‘Mr or Monsieur Pesc’, based on the French acronym for CFSP which is PESC. There will also be a new form of CFSP ‘troika’ consisting of the Council President, the CFSP High Representative and the Commission. We believe that within the framework of the ‘Mr PESC’ function under Pillar Two, a special Human Rights Office should be established. This Office should work in close coordination with the Commission’s new Human Rights Directorate-General, while preserving the constitutional demarcations between Pillar One and Pillar Two. An appropriately modified version of the more robust Community policies should guide CFSP.

Two objections to this proposal can be anticipated. They are that the Council Office will duplicate some of the work that the new Commission structure is supposed to perform and that its creation will only exacerbate the policy disagreements that characterize so much of the Commission-Council relationship. The effect will be to paralyse, or at least further complicate, overall EU human rights policy. These are valid concerns but they underestimate the extent to which the Commission and the Council do, and should, perform rather separate functions under their respective Pillar One and Pillar Two responsibilities. The proposal is also predicated upon the hope that greater expertise and more systematic information, on both sides, will help to align the different policy perspectives.

As already noted, there is no constitutional bar for the Union’s foreign policy to pursue policies which would have as their objective and would be aimed at promoting and defending the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international instruments concerning human rights, the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in third countries, even outside specific Community policies. The existing Community model should provide guidance to the type of activities to be pursued under Pillar Two. It warrants emphasizing the fact that this Pillar does not contain any constitutional limitations to consensual action in this area.

The specific polices proposed in relation to the Council revolve around monitoring, cooperation, responding to violations and general policy promotion.



Monitoring. Under the auspices of the Commission, which would draw upon its 129 ‘delegations’ in third countries, and in cooperation with ‘Mr PESC’, an Annual Report should be prepared giving an overview and details of the state of human rights in the world from a European Union perspective. Part of this Report would cover those states coming within the EU’s cooperation framework – and the main raw material would be generated by the Commission and its delegations. Reports for other countries would draw primarily upon information generated by the Office of Human Rights of CFSP using all resources available to it. It is acknowledged, however, that the precise modalities for drawing up the Annual Report would clearly need to be the subject of considerable discussion and negotiation among the institutions concerned. It would thus be foolhardy to seek to prescribe them in any detail in this context.

It is sometimes suggested that such reporting, long called for by others, should focus only on countries with which the EU has a specific relationship. But this would make little sense in terms of the resulting coverage and would require many invidious decisions as to which countries to cover and which to overlook. The resulting patchwork would be seen as discriminatory and incomplete.

The very publication of this report – the idea of which, it can safely be anticipated, will be contested by many in the national foreign policy establishments – should be a constant and stable feature of the Union’s foreign policy posture. Third countries will simply know that their human rights record will be one element in their relationship with the Union and that it will not be an ad hoc, subjective or avoidable dimension of the relationship.

As noted above,104 the Parliament has consistently criticized the Annual Memorandum presented to it by the Council on the grounds that it is both inadequate and greatly delayed. The new report which we propose would be sent annually to the European Parliament and would provide it with an ideal basis upon which to play a constructive and informed role in relation to its long-standing human rights concerns.



Cooperation. Over time, the CFSP should adopt and put in place the same type of pro-active programmes which are already a feature of the Community’s cooperation and development cooperation frameworks. These would involve support for public and private organizations involved in the enhancement of respect for human rights. Such initiatives could be characterized as Common Action and be subject to all Pillar Two management, budgetary and decisional procedures. They would be designed to give the CFSP the necessary flexibility to provide positive forms of assistance to reinforce its other policy orientations. Perhaps the best example is the possibility for the Council to offer funding and expertise to assist governments in third states to establish national human rights commissions. This is a high priority objective of the UN human rights programme and has been strongly supported by the EU in that context. Again, however, it is somewhat anomalous that national commissions have not been set up within most EU countries.105

Responding to violations. The Union cannot remain indifferent to large-scale violations of human rights. While acknowledging the particular difficulties faced by the EU in relation to especially complex and controversial cases, we believe it is essential for the EU to continue to strive to ensure an appropriate balance between the positive and negative dimensions of its policies. Whilst we do not agree with those who advocate the automatic application of economic or other forms of sanctions in certain circumstances, and while we consider that the impact of any proposed sanctions upon human rights must always be taken fully into account, it is clear that sanctions should not be excluded from the range of policy options available to the Union. Their appropriate form and duration will inevitably differ from case to case, but there will be instances in which there is no other reasonable response.

There are two developments which could assist greatly in enabling a tailored and more effective EU response to violations. The first is the better integration of human rights considerations into defence and security policy as well as economic and commercial policies. The second is the development of the expertise and routine consideration of human rights which would result from the creation of the proposed Human Rights Office.



General policy promotion and representational policies. The EU has a particularly important representational role, especially vis-à-vis other international organizations, in the context of which greater attention should be paid to human rights. These issues are increasingly prominent on the agenda of the UN Security Council and should be made so in relation to those of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to name but two important forums. The EU should take a more pro-active role, both through its individual Member States and collectively, to promote the incorporation of human rights concerns into the mainstream activities undertaken within such settings.

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