Date: Wed, 11 Mar 98 01:02:30 CST
From: Amnesty International <email@example.com>
Subject: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TO EUROPEAN UNION ASSOCIATION
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL EUROPEAN UNION ASSOCIATION
Rue du Commerce 70-72
Brussels—The European Union should ensure that the issue of human rights is considered seriously before the official beginning of the accession negotiations with Central and Eastern European countries, Amnesty International said today.
Right before the European Conference—the ceremonial meeting which will mark the start of accession negotiations—of 12 March 1998 in London, the human rights organization expressed its concerns about the current lack of priority for human rights issues in the negotiation process.
Just five years ago, the Copenhagen European Council put as a first
condition for accession
stability of institutions guaranteeing
democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of
minorities. However, in the European Commission document, Agenda
2000—For a stronger and wider Union of 1997 and in subsequent
Commission documents concerning enlargement, this degree of priority
is no longer maintained. In the future Accession Partnerships between
the European Union and the Central and Eastern European Countries,
human rights are not the subject of improvement programmes. On the
contrary, they are simply mentioned as a condition to obtain or
suspend financial aid devoted to other priorities, such as economic
adjustment or implementation of the acquis communautaire (the whole
European Community legislation).
The current view by the European Commission that
fundamental rights is in principle guaranteed in most of the applicant
countries is in Amnesty International's opinion far too
Examples of structural human rights violations are
abundant in these countries. Ill-treatment by law enforcement
officers, lack of alternatives to military service for conscientious
objectors and insufficient protection of asylum seekers are three
constant concerns. And although all candidate countries have a
moratorium on the death penalty, several of them have not yet
officially abolished it. All these issues are not seriously addressed
in the EU's assessment of preparedness for membership, nor in the
programmes designed by the Union to assist Central and Eastern
European countries to meet the accession conditions the human
rights organization said.
Since the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty respect for human rights is
a constitutional principle of the European Union.
The process of
enlargement to Central and Eastern European countries will be one of
the first opportunities for the EU Member States to give concrete and
positive meaning to this commitment. It will be a chance to further
improve the human rights situation for all individuals in an enlarged
Union, Amnesty International concluded.