Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2012-02-15-Speech-3-508-000"
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"Mr President, I would like to start by thanking you once again for an exciting debate. In the European Union, we believe that everything relating to human rights is absolutely crucial to progress throughout the world and also to ensuring that these are not rights that are defined in an individual situation, but rights that are universal and that all countries bind themselves to and respect. We have not achieved this yet, but that is what we are pressing for. I would like to emphasise that we are very much engaged in this in the Council, too. We have an informal meeting between the foreign ministers in March, a Gymnich meeting, where one of the two topics we will discuss is precisely human rights – with a view to taking a decision on behalf of the EU again in June. When we have such a high profile as we do where human rights are concerned, it is also important, if I may put it like this, that we put our own house in order – in other words, that we keep to the straight and narrow ourselves. This also means, of course, that we must continually bring these matters up at bilateral meetings with third countries, and it is important, as several speakers have also pointed out, that we see progress in the form of tangible results, where the world is making progress. I would now like to add a few remarks in respect of some of the countries that have been mentioned. It is correct – as we also discussed under the previous item – that the human rights situation looks pretty dire in a country like Syria. It is also correct that, as regards Libya, there is no doubt that recent developments indicate that it is making progress where human rights are concerned. Several people also drew attention to Burma. After a long period of dictatorship and a lack of freedom for people, it looks like Burma is now making progress again. Evidence for this comes in the form of elections, by-elections, the release of prisoners and respect for minorities. It is once again important to say that what is absolutely essential where human rights are concerned is that they constitute fundamental principles that apply to everyone. We have a duty to go out and fight to ensure that they do indeed apply to everyone. That is democracy, it is the principle of the rule of law, it is human rights, it is rights for minorities, whether ethnic, sexual or religious. It is people’s fundamental right to determine their own future. Lastly, I would like to say that I understand the criticism, and I understand that you would like to see Baroness Ashton at all of your meetings (you have got second best today). However, her absence is a sign that there really is a great deal to be done. I am nevertheless firmly convinced that the criticism of Baroness Ashton would be even greater if she was absent from the next foreign ministers’ meeting, where Syria is intended to be the main topic, or from the meeting in the General Affairs Council, where the main topic will be Kosovo and Serbia. In this regard, I therefore believe that Baroness Ashton has got her priorities right. With those remarks, I would like to thank you for the debate. Keep the flag flying for human rights. That is an important European characteristic."@en1
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