Human Rights Must Guide Eastern Partnership Agenda | Freedom House

Human Rights Must Guide Eastern Partnership Agenda


Speaking at a Freedom House conference held in advance of the Eastern Partnership Summit that opens Nov. 28, civil society activists and human rights defenders urged the European Union to keep democracy, rule of law and human rights as fundamental principles in its relations with Eastern European states.

“The summit should not be just a pro-forma, document-signing event,” said Susan Corke, director for Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “It should send a clear signal that the human rights agenda is still in place and will be enforced.”

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a European Union initiative aimed at deepening economic, trade, travel and security engagement with its neighbors – Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine in Eastern Europe and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the South Caucasus.  Through this initiative, the EU encourages democratic and market oriented reforms in the EaP countries, whose security, stability and prosperity increasingly affect the EU. The EU offers EaP countries development and economic assistance.

Taking place in Vilnius, Lithuania, the summit is a decisive moment for the Eastern Partnership initiative. Ukraine could sign the EU Association Agreement, and Georgia and Moldova are expected to initial the association process. At the same time, Russia is pressing its neighbors to resist aligning with the EU and instead join the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and the Customs Union, both created by Russia to solidify its role as the region’s dominant economic power.

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia appear to be on a fast track towards EU integration despite mixed human rights records and relatively weak democracies. This is particularly true of Ukraine, where use of the justice system for political gain has raised grave concerns about the prospects of the Association Agreement with the EU. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus continue to commit serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and are particularly resistant to European integration.  Recognizing these challenges, human rights activists from the six EaP countries strongly encourage the EU to apply country-based strategies on human rights and democracy, and to maintain the human rights-based approach to development cooperation.

“The EU should not lose sight of the bigger picture,” said Hugh Williamson, director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, speaking at the Freedom House conference on November 18, in Vilnius. “It has leverage. It should neither panic, nor rush to sign the Association Agreement.  The EU should be committed to its own standards.”

The conference – Eastern Partnership: Can Human Rights Values and Norms Compete with Geopolitics? – included prominent analysts and human rights defenders, as well as European and national decision makers from Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Russia, the United States and other countries.

See photos from the Eastern Partnership Conference.
Watch David J. Kramer’s address to participants of the Eastern Partnership Conference.
See the conference agenda.
Read Susan Corke's remarks at the Eastern Partnership Conference.
Recommendations on the Human Rights Agenda in the Eastern Partnership Countries

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