Human rights and democracy are a core element of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU’s main framework for engaging with the countries which share its borders to the east and south. Through the ENP, the UK can extend its own reach in pursuit of its human rights objectives.
The EU holds a regular constructive dialogue with Georgia on human rights, most recently in June. Talks covered a wide range of issues, including the rights of minorities and internally displaced persons and the human rights situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Selective justice and rule of law remained concerns in Ukraine. The December, EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions made clear that progress on the proposed Association Agreement depended on Ukraine acting in accordance with EU values. Earlier in the year, the EU called on Ukraine not to implement proposed legislation that would discriminate against the LGBT community.
There were some positive developments in the conduct of the October parliamentary elections, which were judged to have delivered results reflecting the wishes of the Ukrainian people. The election campaign itself, however, was described by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) observers as lacking a level playing field due to abuse of administrative resources and unbalanced media coverage.
The Republic of Moldova made good progress in negotiations for an EU–Moldova Association Agreement in 2012, boosted by the election of a President in March after 917 days without a permanent Head of State. In February, the Moldovan parliament adopted an Action Plan on Justice Sector Reform, unlocking a possible €52 million in further budgetary support from the EU, focused on human rights in justice. Implementation of the Action Plan should begin to address widespread corruption and lack of independence of the judiciary. The government continues to have no de facto control over the Transnistria region, making it difficult to enforce country-wide human rights standards.
The conduct of Armenia’s parliamentary elections in 2012 was an improvement on the presidential elections in 2008. But even though the poll was conducted under a new electoral code, the OSCE observer mission raised concerns about the implementation of the code in practice. Bearing in mind it is an election year, Armenia will also need to ensure that there is public confidence in the accuracy of its electoral list and that it will not be open to abuse.
A democratically elected government is in place in Tunisia, and is on course towards a new and broadly supported constitution. But challenges remain, including the increase in violence by extremist elements and the need to address economic reform. The UK remains committed to working with the EU to support democratic transition in Tunisia. The EU has allocated almost €400 million of support through the ENP for the period 2011–13, an increase of approximately 40% since before the Arab Spring. In November, Tunisia finalised an Action Plan with the EU, which will support the building of democracy, the rule of law, good governance and development of human rights. The EU aims to start negotiation on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Tunisia in 2013.
In Lebanon, the EU has identified the death penalty, detention conditions, Palestinian refugees and domestic migrant workers as the main priorities in its human rights strategy. Both parties have committed to work on these issues within the framework of the EU–Lebanon ENP Action Plan, as well as on women’s and children’s rights, human rights in law enforcement and implementing the agreed recommendations in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review for Lebanon. Lebanon launched a national human rights strategy in December, which outlines the actions the state will take to address these issues, and it has pledged to establish a national human rights institution in accordance with EU and UN recommendations.
Jordan holds regular subcommittee meetings with the EU to discuss human rights matters linked to the implementation of the 2011 ENP EU–Jordan Action Plan (the first ENP partner country to do this). The EU funded a number of human rights projects in Jordan in 2012. It reaffirmed support for the work on political reform to date, but also highlighted areas where additional steps were needed. These included the consolidation of the rule of law, the rights of women and children and freedom of expression, where concerns were cited regarding a new press and publications law. The EU welcomed the constitutional amendment in September 2011, which outlawed torture. The UK supported projects aimed at eradicating torture and ill-treatment in practice. The EU welcomed the creation of an Independent Electoral Commission and sent an electoral observation mission to observe the January 2013 parliamentary elections. The EU and UK have also supported Jordan in accepting over 200,000 refugees fleeing from Syria.