On Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament called on the EU to continue its efforts to put the respect of human rights and democracy at the centre of all policies.
The Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter, approved on 10 December by the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, focuses on several specific challenges such as effects of COVID-19 on human rights, the precarious situation of human rights defenders and the right to a safe and healthy environment, including a call for the recognition of ecocide as an international crime under the Rome Statute.
The report also recalls the European Parliament’s request to extend the scope of the EU Magnitsky Act to include acts of corruption and highlights the alternative possibility for the European Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal to adopt a new thematic sanctions regime to address serious acts of corruption.
Finally, the report highlights the need for the EU and its Member States to ensure that cooperation on different areas, such as trade and migration, does not benefit, directly or indirectly, state entities involved in human rights violations. It also calls to include specific and clear benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms for the human rights clauses in international agreements.
Soraya Rodríguez Ramos MEP (Ciudadanos, ES), Renew Europe Group Coordinator in the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Rapporteur on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World, said:
"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a major regression in human rights around the world and have also fuelled a pandemic of intolerance. Today, for the first time in the last 20 years, there are more autocratic regimes than liberal democracies. The weakening of democratic institutions and the rule of law around the world requires a commitment from the EU, both internal and external, to defend our core values, which should constitute, in the end, our main interests."
In the context of COVID-19 pandemic, the report tackles specific issues concerning its impact on women, LGBTIQ and vulnerable groups.
Hilde Vautmans MEP (Open Vld, BE), author of the opinion in the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality for this report, added:
“All around the world, women and girls are particularly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. A real shadow crisis erupted, filled with online and offline violence. At the same time, women are at the forefront of our fight against this deadly virus on the one hand, but remain underrepresented in decision-making on the other. This is a clear mismatch. If this health crisis has taught us something, it is that we must step up the fight against gender-based violence and empower all women and girls around the world.”