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The Council of the European Union

When the EU launched the Common Foreign and security Policy ten years ago, it placed Human Rights at the heart of this policy. This stemmed from our conviction that respecting and promoting the rule of law as well as fundamental rights and freedoms not only defines the EU but is also in our interest. The European security strategy, adopted in 2003 and reviewed last year, states clearly that “spreading good governance, supporting social and political reform, dealing with corruption and abuse of power, establishing the rule of law and protecting human rights are the best means of strengthening the international order."

An integral part of EU Human Rights Policy is a series of Guidelines on issues of importance to the Union. These Guidelines are practical tools to help EU representations in the field better advance EU policy. The first Guideline, on the death Penalty, was elaborated in 1998. It was followed by six others focused on Torture, dialogues with Third Countries, Children Affected by Armed Conflict, Human Rights defenders, the Rights of the Child and Violence Against Women.

The Human Rights Working Group (COHOM)

The Human Rights Working Group (COHOM) was created under the Council of the European Union in 1987 (with the extension of its mandate in 2003) and it is responsible for human rights issues in the EU’s external relations. It is composed of human rights experts from Member States and the European Commission.

The COHOM belongs in the service of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and enters within the framework of the external relations of the EU. Consisted at the same time of experts of member states and members of the Commission.

The COHOM meets every month during one and a half day and gathers all the persons in charge of the units in charge of human rights of the various Ministries of Foreign Affairs of 28 Member States of the European Union. This frequency does not allow to treat all the cases which are in very important number. The COHOM thus has to concentrate essentially on the definition of the policy of the EU with United Nations, and leaves with the thematic or geographical working groups (who are permanent employees) the other subjects bound to CFSP, such as "the dialogues on human rights, the application of clauses human rights".

Although pass by regional or thematic working groups is necessary, the COHOM remains however concerned by the debates. The decisions take snuff in these groups can take themselves only in agreement with the COHOM, which determines if human rights are a part or not of schedules of the groups. The integration of human rights in these schedules is not still insured in spite of a work upstream importing authorities of the COHOM. Indeed several groups consider that human rights are not in their privileges or that their schedules are already enough overloaded.

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