New EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy: a stronger Europe in the world?
COMECE welcomes the EU’s priority actions proposed for the next five years in the global promotion of human rights and democracy, and calls on the EU institutions to increase their ambition in the protection of religious freedom and in the area of business & human rights.
Elaborated by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the EU draft policy document follows the expiration of EU’s Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, and envisages to focus EU’s promotion of human rights globally on protecting and empowering individuals, making societies more resilient, democratic and inclusive, as well as on reinvigorating multilateral cooperation and addressing challenges posed by new technologies.
Several of COMECE’s recommendations expressed in its contribution to the pertinent EU consultation have been reflected in the proposed future Action Plan. COMECE particularly welcomes EU’s ambition to become a more constructive and effective global promoter of human rights by pursuing a joined-up approach and breaking down existing silos between its internal and external policies.
The reinforced focus on challenges posed by digitalisation and climate change is also a welcome development, as well as the proposed human-rights based approach to migration governance and conflict prevention. Aiming to effectively integrate the promotion of economic, social, cultural and labour rights in EU’s external action, the future EU Action Plan also promises to increase the protection of indigenous communities and of human rights defenders.
While encouraging bold action to counter shrinking civic space and to reach out to religious and faith-based actors in view of their involvement in peace-making, reconciliation and mediation, the EU proposal, however, lacks ambitious measures for the promotion of religious freedom which according to COMECE “should be guaranteed and protected in all its dimensions – private and public at the individual as well as at the collective level” on the basis of the concept of common and full citizenship.
Building upon pertinent proposals contained in the draft EU Action Plan, COMECE reiterates its call to the EU Council to raise EU’s ambition in the area of business and human rights and to support the work on a binding European and international due diligence legislation for businesses in order to ensure compliance of their actions throughout the entire supply chain with legal, social and environmental standards.