Respect for human rights lies at the foundation of the European Union, together with fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. Without human rights, there can be no lasting peace or security and no sustainable development. The EU is convinced that this is a legitimate subject of concern and a major responsibility for the international community. It therefore attaches particular importance to respect for human rights, both within and outside its borders.
Human rights guidelines
The EU guidelines on human rights are policy documents adopted by the Council.
To date, the EU has developed seven sets of guidelines:
- Death Penalty (PDF)
- Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (PDF)
- Human Rights dialogues with third countries (PDF)
- Children and armed conflict (PDF)
- Human Rights defenders (PDF)
- Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child (PDF)
- Violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them (PDF)
Guidelines are legally not binding, but very pragmatic instruments of EU human rights policy. They provide the different EU officials - not only at headquarters, but also in third countries - with elements allowing for sustained action in a number of key areas of concern.
Human rights dialogues
Human rights dialogues are one of the tools which the European Union may use to implement its human rights policy, and they constitute an essential part of the Union's overall strategy towards third countries. The European Union has established some 30 human rights dialogues, consultations and dedicated discussion forums with third countries. The number of dialogues is increasing rapidly, which is a sign of the growing role of human rights in international relations.
SG/HR Personal Representative for Human Rights
Since 29 January 2007, Riina Kionka has served as Personal Representative for Human Rights in the area of CFSP for Javier Solana, Secretary-General/High Representative for CFSP. At the same time, Mrs Kionka is responsible for human rights within the Council Secretariat, thus bringing more coherence and continuity to EU human rights policy (with due regard for the responsibilities of the European Commission). Her double function means that Mrs Kionka is engaged in a broad spectrum of activities on a broad range of topics, ranging from public diplomacy to policy formulation, including mainstreaming human rights into CFSP and ESDP, participating in human rights dialogues and consultations with third countries and generally contributing to the implementation of EU Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Guidelines as well as EU human rights policy in the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
At the multilateral level, the EU is active in the frames of Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.
Estonia participates actively in working groups dealing with human rights in the framework of EU. One of the priorities for Estonia has been the activities against violence against women. Estonia also participates in the respective task force which deals with implementation of the guidelines of violence against women and girls.
Additional information on EU activities in the field of human rights: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showPage.aspx?id=1634⟨=EN