Catherine Ashton on the EU annual report on human rights


EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has cast herself as a possible mediator between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army. Photograph: AFP

In the previous months Catherine Ashton has said many times that she believes that human rights should be the silver thread that runs through all the statements and actions of the European Union.

I also do believe the European Union first has to show the people it is willing to be a union for all the people living on the European continent. Its main goal should be to take care that all human rights shall and will be respected by all citizens residing in this part of the world.

European Union

European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We might be happy that we could some work to be done for the good of this cause over the last twelve months, thanks in no small part to Stavros Lambrinidis and the EEAS team led by Mara Marinaki, the working members of the EU have made a “significant reform” in their approach, their initiatives and their actions on human rights.

We can not say they came quickly to this reform. It took until last year before they adopted their strategic framework and action plan on human rights and democracy -agreed unanimously by Member States, and supported by the European  parliament at last through its high level human rights contact group.

Today the EU may be proud to have a human rights focal point officer in every EU delegation, as well as a Brussels based working group in the council. We have fully developed human rights country strategies and have a much stronger annual report which allows parliament and civil society to measure their performance against their commitments.

“The substantial restructuring of the report makes it a much more effective tool for our ongoing work. It specifically responds to the request of the parliament by following the structure of the action plan and highlighting concrete achievements and challenges.”

“The report also demonstrates the steps we have taken to increase our inter-ins and our policy coherence, visibility and effectiveness across our work. I believe we have made significant progress in these areas.” says Catherine Ashton.

In June she highlighted especially the appointment of an EUSR for human rights – the first – under their guidance and Ashton’s mandate. She paied tribute to his energy, his commitment and his determination.

He has worked with over 100 Ministers and Ambassadors across the world, worked closely with you and with the teams on the ground to raise the profile of human rights. He has also worked closely with civil society in Europe and in other countries and helped to secure really important changes.

The protection of NGOs and human rights defenders is a core priority of both Stavros and my mandate. He has actively engaged with over 150 international and local NGOs from 30 countries to safeguard their space to function freely and to promote our support. I thank him most warmly and look forward to many more achievements in the future.
Stavros knows better than anyone that this support is not just financial but also political, legal and diplomatic. In that regard I’d like to underline the tremendous value of the Parliament’s Sakharov prize.

2012 was a challenging year for civil society in many countries. There is a worrying trend in some countries to limit the space through legislation, court action and restrictions – particularly with regard to foreign funding. I ma happy to hear that the EU also believes that safeguarding the work of civil society is fundamental to the work of the EU. The safeguarding freedom of association and peaceful assembly must remain at the top of the EU agenda.

I have expressed our concerns on developments in statements but also in person. And I will continue to do so – and with Stavros’ help and the work of our delegations we will continue to try and ensure civil society is given the space they need, and that governments – old and new; transitional or permanent understand that this is fundamental to the perception of them, fundamental to the kind of society they wish to create.

NGOs and civil society should keep push the boundaries, to watch over the way governments work. They even may make governments and politicians uncomfortable. We cannot afford to sit or stand still.

Europe is constantly changing and the last few years we even have seen a revolutionary change in the faith of people in their churches or congregations. Many people where dissatisfied by the Roman Catholic Church and where disgusted by all the scandals in that church. The protestant denominations also saw many people leaving their congregations.

At the same time the Christian faith was diminishing the Islamic faith growth was astonishing and for some people a little bit frightening. but that fear for certain religions should be avoided by giving people enough information on those upcoming religions and faith-groups. Certain groups so called to work against cults do not help for a better understanding.

In 2012 we also saw the difficulty faced by many who seek to practice their faith and have the freedom of belief, or none. We make it clear this is an inalienable human right and an essential pillar of society. It is an integral part of our political dialogues with third countries.

It will be very important that at school the children learn about the other religions and cultures. Knowledge shall take away a lot of wrong ideas and the thereby caused fear. Europe should have the priority to be a state of free ideas and freedom of speech and religion. For that reason it is worthy the the EU has spoken out to condemn religious intolerance and discrimination – whether in Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Tunisia and elsewhere.

Be under no doubt that our aim in speaking is to achieve results – we know, for example that the statements made in Tripoli contributed to the release of Egyptian Christians held in Libya. The importance of this issue is why we wanted our new guidelines and why we have consulted widely to make sure that they have a strong and clear content. I am grateful again to the human rights committee for their valuable input.

But with certain fundamentalist groups becoming stronger in several European countries it looks like some people want to turn the clock backward into the forties and fifties of the previous century. There is good reason to be worried about the discrimination in some countries based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Though I would agree several politicians tried to make it discussable and contributed to the multilateral efforts especially in the UN as well as at regional and bilateral level.

Catherine Ashton and her team do agree that they have here too developed practical EU guidelines to be adopted by the Council which should reinforce the work of the EU.

We have raised our deep concerns with Uganda and Cameroon about proposed parliamentary bills further criminalizing homosexuality. In Malawi we have spoken out against the prison sentences on gay couples and against recent events in Nigeria. We use our regular dialogues to raise this discrimination and to promote tolerance – supporting campaigns in Russia, Croatia, Turkey, Montenegro and Brazil to support local and international NGOs in campaigns against discrimination.

When we look at our changing world we should also continue to be concerned about what is happening to women and girls. No society can function well, no economy do as well as it should, without the input of the rich talent and ability of half its population – women and girls. But we cannot allow that those women and girls in other countries can be used as slaves for our society in our materialist capitalist countries. Incidents like in Bangladesh should put Europe and the United States of America into shame.

We may be pleased that we could see the successful adoption of conclusions at the recent 57th session of the UN commission on the status of women. But we may not overlook that it has not been easy. Some countries tried to water down the unconditional condemnation of violence against women through appeals to – domestic traditions, laws and cultures.

It was the tireless work of our EU delegations that was largely responsible for the defeat of those attempts. We are united in our belief that there are no acceptable circumstances for violence against women. No place where the failure to allow girls to be educated is acceptable. No society that can hold its head up where women are forced to keep their heads down.

So we continue our strong engagement in implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 – with support of 200 million euros a year for the development and implementation of national action plans, funding for NGOs and training.

And we strengthened our commitment further with a memorandum of understanding with UN women that forms the basis of a partnership to help us make progress in our international commitments.


In a series of articles at the Brethren of Christ (Broeders in Christus = Christadelphians) you may find some reasons why so much went wrong in the different faithgroups. One of the major problems is that our society has become more interested in gaining material richness instead of spiritual richness and a healthy environment for humankind, fauna and flora.

Materialism, would be life, and aspirations present the onset to look at the different generations, how they behaved and worked on the relation to each other and to nature.

In Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #1 it is mentioned how most people came to look for the coolest gadgets, the trendiest clothes, bigger and better things, in the hope to be more happy and to have a better world. Though often they forget how others have to work hard for their dreams to become true. Most of the people their new religion became the idolisation of sport-, television and film stars. those figures in the picture became the modern gods. but by choosing for those gods they lost track with the real Creator of all things and forgot His Words. Even the time that certain people went looking into the older Eastern spiritual books has far gone. People have gone via Buddhist atomism to materialism.

Greed and jealousy has mad many people blind so that they can not stand that others could create a better world for themselves. For some it looks like children have become also such a sort of material possession and the women has become again the prey for many man who boast about their many trophies, having gone to bed with so many. This ‘objectisation’ of people has become a dangerous trend in Europe and we do have to fight against it. Certain fundamentalist groups as well in Christianity as in Islam want to place the man as the superior being.

Democracia real YA Madrid.jpg

Real Democracy Now; series of protests demanding a radical change in Spanish politics, as protesters do not consider themselves to be represented by any traditional party nor favoured by the measures approved by politicians.
The first protest was called under the motto “we are not goods in the hands of politicians and bankers” and was focused on opposition to what the protesters called “antisocial means in the hands of bankers”.

In Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #5 is looked at the hippie culture and protest movements which were largely abandoned until the current crisis as a protest movement and indignados, or ‘outraged’ (the May 15 movement) and an Occupy Movement came forward again.

Movimiento 15-M of the Indignados was a spontaneous and international protest and action movement, founded in Spain in 2011 where again the young people reacted against capitalism, the economic situation and the greed of banks and included the rejection of the current political system, capitalism, banks and political corruption. However by those protesters we could notice many people who were not aware themselves that they are as just a victim of capitalism as a cause of the materialist system themselves. They also fell under the spell of matter and could still not make themselves free from materialism.


Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #2

Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #3

Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #4

Materialisme, “would be” leven en aspiraties #5

Also of interest:

Hello America and atheists

  • How Baroness Ashton engineered a secret meeting at dead of night with Morsi (
    Baroness Catherine Ashton doesn’t need much sleep, which is fortunate, because as the EU foreign policy chief she doesn’t get much of it.
    She won’t discuss her conversation with Morsi, but Ashton does admit that their meeting left her feeling more hopeful than not about the future for Egypt as a stable democracy. “I think the Egyptian nation is full of people who want to find a way to go forward, so the task really is to work out the criteria,” she says. “Democracy is not just about an election, it’s about the guarantee of elections to come, and it’s about every single thing that we take for granted as institutions that help support our democracy.”
    After her meeting with Morsi, Ashton has cast herself as a potential mediator in the disputes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military. Both sides appear to respect her impartiality.”Egypt is at the beginning of what is an important and what will be a bumpy journey,” she says. “When you’re able to represent 28 nations [as an EU commissioner], they’ve all been through all kinds of turmoil. We’ve got people who really do understand about transition, about developing a democracy, about how difficult it can be. They know about the aftermath of war, they know about all sorts of things, and all of that wonderful tapestry of knowledge is available and some can be useful.”

    Ashton is stepping down next year, but if Egypt’s warring factions do sit down around a negotiating table the chances are that Ashton will have played a key role in getting them there.

  • EU Should Demand Release Of Bahrain Activists, Says HRW (
    European Union (EU) High Representative Catherine Ashton should pursue with Bahrain the immediate release of 13 high-profile activists and others detained or imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights, says Human Rights Watch. Ashton will attend an EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting in Bahrain on June 30, 2013.The 13 activists, two of whom hold citizenship in EU countries, are serving long-term or life prison sentences solely for exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. On June 27, the EU’s special representative on human rights, Stavros Lambrinidas, tweeted a call for release of the activists after he visited some of them in Jaw prison in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. But the call has not been issued in more specific terms, no names have been publicly mentioned, and the EU high representative remains silent.

    “If human rights are truly at the center of the EU’s foreign relations as its ministers have pledged, then the high representative and member states need to show it at the EU-GCC meeting by vigorously pressing for the release of the Bahraini activists,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch. “If they don’t, they will consign human rights to the margins of the EU’s foreign policy, undermine their own credibility, and leave the activists they had promised to support suffering in prison.”

  • Ashton’s visit to Egypt: Sign of leadership?! (
    The people of Egypt will determine their own future and those who have the privilege to be in leadership positions have the responsibility to ensure that that happens. We have some experience that might be of value and we can help by having conversations with everyone, to listen, and to be able to offer some thoughts. And that includes elections in the future that we said we would be very happy to observe. And help with the process. And we recognize the importance of what is going to happen in terms of the constitution and the people working on that. I will be talking later this morning with Mohamed ElBaradei again and I will of course stand ready to come back to Egypt if I can be of further service.


  • [Opinion] EU human rights strategy: one year on (
    Exactly one year ago EU foreign ministers adopted an ambitious new strategic framework on human rights and democracy. The appointment of an EU Special Representative for Human Rights and the adoption of 36 key objectives, ranging from the fight against the death penalty to the protection of children’s rights, were supposed to help bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality and integrate human rights across the EU’s external policies.
    the EU’s human rights policy has failed to live up to expectations. A report last week by the European Court of Auditors found that EU development aid to Egypt intended to promote human rights and good governance has largely been squandered. Much of it went directly to the Egyptian authorities, who refused to commit to human rights and democracy programmes, while 4 million euros allocated to civil society groups was subsequently cancelled.At the same time, the rights of minorities and women in Egypt have deteriorated, freedom of speech has been curtailed and there has been a deeply worrying clampdown on pro-democracy NGOs – including the imprisonment of 43 NGO workers and the drafting of a new law which would ban foreign NGOs from operating in the country unless approved by the state. Despite all these developments, the European Commission has failed to propose suspending any of the 1 billion euros of aid committed to Egypt since 2007.
    Meanwhile the EU’s first Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, is currently visiting Bahrain, but it appears he has not been given a strong enough mandate to openly criticise the Bahraini government. I hope that at next week’s EU-Gulf Cooperation Council in Manama, EU foreign ministers will take a firmer position and call for the immediate release of political prisoners and for steps to be taken towards democratic reform.
    +EU arrest warrant needs urgent reform
  • EU’s top diplomat meets with detained Morsi in Egypt (
    Ashton was not blindfolded, but the location of her meeting with Morsi remained shrouded in mystery and EU officials put their `’faith fully in the interim authorities to make sure that she got there safely and returned safely which is what turned out to be the case. Everything was fine,” EU spokesman Michael Mann said.

    Egypt’s army-backed administration originally said they were holding Morsi for his own safety, but last week authorities announced he was being detained pending an investigation into allegations he conspired with the Palestinian militant group Hamas to enable him and several other Brotherhood members to escape from prison during the 2011 uprising against Mubarak.

  • Moving Egypt back to the democratic path (
    Even in a country as turbulent as Egypt is today, some traditions transcend the sharpest divisions and provide brief periods of calm. Last week, on my drive into Cairo we saw very few cars. The city’s legendary traffic jams had disappeared. It was just after dusk. People were at home with their families, breaking the daily fast during Ramadan. For a few precious hours, rival groups were putting their differences on hold.

    Catherine Ashton

    Catherine Ashton

  • EU’s top diplomat says Egypt’s Morsi doing ‘well’ (
    Egypt’s detained ex-president is well and keeping up to date with developments through news media, the top EU diplomat said Monday after she made the first visit since a military coup deposed him July 3.
    Despite ElBaradei’s appeal, neither side showed any sign of willingness to make the concessions needed for reconciliation. The Brotherhood rejects calls to work with the new leaders, insists that Morsi be reinstated and called for more protests on Tuesday.The government, meanwhile, has made no conciliatory gestures in its crackdown on the Brotherhood and has forged ahead with a transition plan that provides for parliamentary and presidential elections early next year.
  • EU’s Ashton: Morsi Is ‘Well’ (
    She’s the first outsider to meet face to face with Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi since his overthrow nearly a month ago. “He’s in good health. He’s in good humor.” (Via BBC ) The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton spent a reported two hours with the ousted president at an undisclosed location.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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7 Responses to Catherine Ashton on the EU annual report on human rights

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