Dáil Éireann - Volume 474 - 06 February, 1997

Written Answers. - EU Agreements with Third Countries.

27. Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the Government supports the principle that human rights should be a central consideration in agreements between the EU and third countries. [3222/97]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Over recent years, the European Union has progressively expanded the scope of provisions relating to respect for human rights in agreements with third countries. This development compares with the situation previously where human rights were either not mentioned in such agreements, or only as a preamble.

Since 1992, the draft negotiating directive for EU agreements with third countries has contained an “essential elements” clause which defines respect for human rights as an essential element of agreements by the EU with third countries.

These agreements, which are regularly updated, now provide for suspension clauses where there are serious and persistent human rights violations and serious interruptions of the democratic process which would constitute material breaches of the agreement.

Recently these clauses have become more elaborate and provide for a conciliation procedure that seeks to keep the agreement operational as long as possible before suspension and thus provide necessary leverage whereby it may be possible to persuade a Government to respect and protect human rights and to cease the violations in question.

The Government fully supports the principle that human rights should be a central consideration in agreements between the EU and third countries and believes that this provides a valuable instrument for promoting and protecting human rights.