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Europe is going to have “its” special representative for Human Rights. To do what ?

(BRUSSELS2 in Copenhagen) EU foreign ministers approved the idea of ​​creating a post of special representative for Human Rights. The mandate has begun to be examined in the working groups, notably in the COPS, the Political and Security Committee. And the objective is to achieve, in June, an appointment.

This special representative will have a dual mission, both symbolic and diplomatic. It's a " important signal » sent, specifies a diplomat to B2. It is about being able to “raise the issue of human rights” within the diplomatic service, as well as within the European Union, and to unite energies. Third countries will thus be able to have a high-level referent within the European Union on these issues. But, above all, it will be able to build links and alliances, both bilaterally and multilaterally. Some countries are evolving on these issues: South Africa, on the status of homosexuals for example (a delicate subject in Africa); Brazil, with the new president, also wants to strengthen this subject... The special representative will also have important work with the international institutions in charge of these issues (UN, etc.) and NGOs.

This position is not supposed to be the role of a “human rights commissioner” capable of expressing slightly stronger positions. He will have to " naturally reflect the position defined within the European Union ". He could therefore not express a more decided point of view on sensitive minority issues, for example that of the Tibetans in China, than that defended today in communications from the European Union. But it will be an important interlocutor for NGOs, minorities or opposition movements, if necessary. In a way, a door for the voiceless. This special representative will focus on the situation in third countries, and not within the European Union (this is a point that had been discussed between diplomats).

As for the name, none has been circulated yet. But it seems certain that the northern countries (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, etc.) will have the prize in this position. What seems to be emerging is that this special representative should not have the profile of a classic diplomat. He must have serious political substance. Otherwise " there is no point in creating this post which is precisely intended to demonstrate the pre-eminence of the subject for Europeans » explained a Nordic diplomat. The French could also have a candidate. But what several countries – including France – want is to first discuss the substance, the strategy before starting to consider names.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).