Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-04-17-Speech-2-033-000"

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"Mr President, our debate on the annual human rights report this year – although delayed – comes at an even more important time, because it allows us to make an input into the strategic review, which represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make human rights even more central to what we are about in the European Union. If human rights are indeed a silver thread, the review must demonstrate that there is a silver bullet. In our vote tomorrow, we shall ask Baroness Ashton to appoint a special representative to ensure that Europe’s voice on human rights is heard clearly on the world stage and that human rights are put on an equal footing with other foreign policy working groups in the Council. Indeed, we warmly thank her for adopting these proposals in the course of our joint discussions. We shall ask for a timetable to be set so that human rights focal points are designated in all our delegations worldwide. We ask for human rights organisations to be treated as partners and not simply as agents of delivery. We ask for concrete mechanisms so that allegations of human rights violations within Europe do not compromise our ability to promote human rights outside. Although it is always right to seek to protect those whose lives are at risk, there must be a major increase in the transparency of EU human rights policies, as accountability for those who abuse human rights can only be achieved if there is also accountability for those of us who seek to promote them. In this report, we name six EU countries which have failed to legislate for the International Criminal Court. We say that the European Neighbourhood Policy is wrong to tolerate thirteen countries which have failed to either sign or to ratify the UN Protocol against Torture, and we name my own country – the United Kingdom – which has shamefully obstructed EU ratification of the EU Convention on Human Rights. To the High Representative: I understand why you advocated ‘more for more’ in the wake of the Arab Spring, but we were negotiating improved trade terms with Gaddafi just four weeks before we started dropping bombs on him. Today, we ask you to address the harder question of ‘less for less’. Suspending the EU’s international agreements is too blunt an instrument, and one which is too rarely used. We ask for country-by-country human rights benchmarks and indices and for mechanisms to enable their use for a real escalation of response. Mr President, I have long argued that speaking up for human rights is more important than staying silent for the sake of European unity. This is why we should congratulate Belgium and Austria for voting for the inquiry into settlements in the Palestinian territories, and why we introduced an amendment maintaining support for the investigation of war crimes in Gaza. Whilst sincerely welcoming the cooperation of the shadow rapporteurs in not-always-easy circumstances, I regret that there was a left/right split in the votes at committee on this and on the issues of women’s rights, on discrimination against religions and on justice for the victims of extraordinary rendition. I hope that tomorrow, all of us will vote together for human rights. In this report, too, I have particularly examined the issues of social media and of business and human rights. Just as there is a constant race for new technologies, there is a race between those harnessing new media for the purpose of liberation and those who seek to use it for repression. I do not hesitate to say that Vodafone must learn from doing Mubarak’s bidding or to give due credit to Google for refusing to be complicit with censorship in China. I hope to come back to all these issues in my report on corporate responsibility later this year. Finally, we call for a new human rights tsar to be appointed in order to put Europe on an equal footing with the United States, where the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights exists; mechanisms to ensure full compliance with human rights by the European Union within our own borders; concrete measures to demonstrate that we have learnt from past mistakes from before the Arab Spring; and an understanding that freedom of expression has a new meaning in a new media age. These are some of our key conclusions this year, and I commend them to the House."@en1

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