Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Human rights in the world 2012 and EU policy on the matter

Delivered in Plenary - 10 December 2013

Mr President

On behalf of the ECR Group let me congratulate my friend pán Kukan on his comprehensive report on human rights in the world. I join colleagues in endorsing the bulk of this year’s report, which outlines the potentially beneficial role played by the External Action Service amongst other things, in addition to the perennial human rights probes we face in North Korea, Iran, China, Zimbabwe, Belarus and Russia – particularly Russia with the ongoing shameful Magnitsky case and the Khodorkovsky prolonged incarceration, for instance. The ECR is committed to improving democracy and human rights both within the EU and outside of it.

I recently authored a human rights report on the Sahel in Western Sahara, where I made clear the importance of civic, political, cultural and minority rights, in addition to the importance of linking human rights with developmental policies. As ever, the debate will continue about what constitutes a human right and, as such, I have misgivings about the term universality. All human rights originate in a specific time and cultural context. For instance, I distinguish between fundamental civil and political rights versus the social-economic rights favoured by the Left of this House. Sometimes we must accept that simply because we do approve of a certain cultural practice, such as levirate or sororate marriages in parts of Africa and the Middle East, it does not necessarily constitute a breach of human rights.

Human rights policy must be aimed at helping those most vulnerable, with the least heard voices, live the lives that they have freely chosen without harming others. We must continue to work with the EU instruments and with all our international partners in the democratic world to ensure that this may, some day, become a reality for all on this planet.