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As the world's biggest aid donor, the EU actively supports human rights and democracy:


This has a budget of € 1.104 billion for 2007-2013. Its key objectives are to enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries and regions where they are most at risk, and to strengthen the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democracy.

This has a budget of € 2.062 billion for 2007-2013. It is designed to address a number of global security and development challenges by financing actions that re-establish stability in emergency situations, where human rights are particularly at risk.


The ENP aims to strengthen the prosperity, stability and security of Europe's neighbourhood. It has an overall budget of almost € 12 billion for the period 2007-2013. One of its three strategic objectives is supporting democratic transition and promoting human rights.


This has a budget of €16.9 billion for the period 2007-2013. It includes a thematic programme “Non-state actors and local authorities in development”, which aims at encouraging inclusion of all actors, especially vulnerable and marginalised groups.


This has a total budget of € 22.682 billion for the period 2008-2013, for providing development aid in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. It covers several priorities, including policies for support to human rights and democracy and gender issues.


This has a total budget of € 1.740 billion for 2007-2013, covering a range of activities, notably in crisis management, including strengthening the rule of law. The EU currently has ten civilian missions around the world, from Bosnia & Herzegovina to Afghanistan.


The EU has a range of practical ways for supporting human rights and democracy:


These have been agreed unanimously by the Council of the EU on the following subjects:

–         Death penalty

–         Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

–         Human Rights dialogues

–         Children and armed conflict (CAAC)

–         Human Rights Defenders

–         Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child

–         Violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them

–         Promoting compliance with International Humanitarian Law

Under the EU Action Plan, work is due to start on: Freedom of Religion and Belief; rights of persons who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual (LGBT); Freedom of Expression.


The network of human rights focal points is nearly complete: 116 EU Delegations already have one, and many have two, in both their political and cooperation sections.


The EU seeks to have such a clause in all its political framework agreements, such as Association Agreements and Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, with third countries. The clause provides that human rights constitute an essential element of the agreement.


The EU conducts dedicated human rights talks with nearly 40 countries around the globe (the longest standing, begun in 1995, being with China). Their main aim is to improve the situation on the ground, but also to better understand local conditions. Human rights issues are also, of course, raised in other forms of political dialogue up to Summit level.


The EU makes extensive use of public declarations to put across its concerns or to welcome positive developments. In other cases, when it judges that this will be more effective, the EU may prefer to "demarche", or make private representations to non-EU countries.


The EU mainstreams human rights and a gender approach into its crisis management missions and operations, with a view to ensuring effective and sustainable results.


Since 1993 the EU has conducted more than 110 observation missions. Their purpose is to assist partner countries in their objective to hold elections of a high standard, by analysing the electoral process and providing an impartial and informed assessment of the elections.


  • Election expert missions

Given the number of elections across the world each year, the EU cannot meet every request for an election observation mission. An election expert mission is an alternative menas of providing input for confidence-enhancing steps both during and after an electoral process.


This follows the entire electoral cycle, rather than a specific election. It provides support to the institutional capacity of Electoral Management Bodies, technical and material support to electoral processes, as well as the long-term needs of civil society.


This is set to be established in the near future as a private law Foundation under Belgian law, with its headquarters in Brussels. It will not be a European instrument and will act independently, though with backing from the EU and its Member States. Its purpose is to make it easier and faster for pro-democracy activists to obtain financial support from Europe.


First published in 1999, this catalogues EU work across the whole range of thematic issues, in bilateral and multilateral relations. The report on 2011 is to be adopted on 25 June 2012, at the same time as the human rights package. It contains more information on subjects above.