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Protecting rights worldwide
Economy and foreign affairs were also discussed in the plenary
The economic crisis and the question of unemployment in Europe; the situation at international level, notably Syria, Mali, Myanmar and the Middle East; protecting human rights in the world along with another agenda of “concrete” events, ranging from the defence of biodiversity to higher education. The European Parliament, gathered in plenary sitting from April 17 to 20 in Strasbourg, is once more the crossroads of important and complex political and topical issues.
Rights and discrimination. The theme of human rights worldwide was addressed in a resolution drawn up by British MEP Richard Howitt, according to whom “we have to fill the gap between what we say and what we do in practice”. The report, of over 50 pages, (that hinges on the 2010 Human Rights report), presents an overview of fundamental rights in world countries, including the freedom of religion and expression, action for peace and development, in areas that include the UN and the International Penal Court. A number of sections focus on capital punishmen, torture, violence against women (for which “zero tolerance” is demanded), children’s rights, discrimination, control of arm trade, internet censorship… the document, approved with 580 votes in favour, 28 against and 74 abstentions – underlines that “EU policies should be coherent and exemplary within the EU, and also coherent and in line with fundamental values and principles, in order to maximize the European Union’s credibility at global level and the effectiveness of policies regarding human rights”.
Religious freedom. The resolution calls upon Member States to honor their commitment to shut down Guantanamo detention centre; it urges EU and its Member States to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the rescue at sea of migrants seeking to enter the European Union. The document mentions cases of human rights violated in the world, bringing specific examples in Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt… the report “calls for specific measures to counter cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment such as forced abortion and forced sterilisation”. And it “strongly condemns female genital mutilation (FGM)”. The paragraph on human rights and religious freedom “condemns any persecution based on religion or belief”. Parliament “remains committed to the realisation of freedom of religion in all parts of the world”; restates its concern regarding full and effective respect for the right to freedom of religion for all religious minorities in a number of third countries. The report “condemns all forms of violence against Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religious communities”.
Special representative. Equivocal paragraphs, on sexual and reproductive health, are also to be found in the report. It should be said that the European Union will soon have a special representative for human rights. The proposal, put forward in the report, was explicitly reiterated by Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, during the debate. The Commissioner highlighted the commitment to counter “discrimination against people of faith”, mentioning Christians in particular. “Freedom of religion should never be limited”, said the British politician. The High Representative then declared: Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, “men and women, young and old, have found the courage within themselves to assert their fundamental human rights. Some of them gave their lives for freedom”. We have to support them, with a coordinated and efficient approach for the defense of fundamental rights”.
Anti-mafia Committee. During the plenary, Parliament – that welcomed 12 “observer” MEPs from Croatia, for adhesion to the Country in 2013 – elected the members of the European anti-Mafia Committee that will tackle international crimes, human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, drugs, and other cross-border crimes, in order to draw up coordinated measures to counter the phenomenon across the EU. MEPs welcomed king Abdullah II from Jordan, who delivered an address focusing on the situation in the Middle East, on cooperation between Amman and the EU, and the conflict in the Holy Land, over which the king called for the creation of two States, “living side by side, in peace;” a “Sovereign Palestine” within 1967 lines and a State of Israel that may live in peace and security”. King Abdullah underlined “the solid ties linking Jordan and the European Union”, he conveyed his reflections on the “Arab spring”, and finally delved into the effects of the ongoing crisis on unemployment that also hit Jordan.