Menneskerettigheder og handelspolitik i EU

Ian Manners

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How does the EU promote human rights and how does this become concrete in the EU's trade policy which is principally engaged in economic terms. Interview with Ian Manners, Professor at Roskilde University.

How does the EU promote human rights, and how does this turn into trade policy?

To answer this question, one must first take a step back. Trade policy is only one of many areas in the EU. And human rights in trade is one of the latest developments. The earliest development came originally within the EU itself and related to the absorption of Portugal and Spain in the 70s and 80s. The country had no tradition of democracy, the EU insisted that they adopted a certain level of human rights.

At about the same time there was an innovation in development policy and a desire to link development aid with the promotion of human rights. Only then began to find a way into trade policy. Historically, the EU's position has been that trade policy should be to the benefit of the Member States and not much else.

In the last 15 to 20 years the EU has tried to come to terms with the fact that we are for democracy and human rights, and that we should promote it internally, and in the near abroad. But when it comes to trade, the largest and most powerful tool we have not been very strong. So as to promote human rights in trade policy, a lot of it come through other channels, for example. through activism from other parts of the EU Commission, the European Parliament and of some Member States, particularly the Scandinavian countries.

This coincided with a strengthening of the ideology of the World Trade Organization (WTO), where treatment was excluded. Then again, there was this conflict in trade policy. The Directorate-General for Trade, there were some units that worked at the EU should only promote its own trade policy agenda, where other devices worked on a more social agenda. So it meant a lot, who was commissioner. The relationship between trade and human rights have a tendency to go up and down depending on who the commissioner.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights was drafted in 2000, and has now been written into the Treaty of Lisbon. How will it affect policy in the EU in terms of trade relations?

I think many of us with a more holistic, more thoughtful and a more proactive approach to trade believe that the Charter itself may produce a similar effect as the enlargement process in the nineties. It is still too early to say. The most interesting was the introduction of the words free and fair trade. I think that if you are truly neoliberal it would be crazy if you let someone put it into a constitutional treaty. But in my own research, which has focused on the promotion of fair trade in the EU, it has been interesting to observe that it was interpreted as that we have to think about how we act in this area. Not that we had to rethink everything we do.

You describe how Fair Trade concept of FLO (Fair Labor Organization) definition is officially recognized in the EU. Is not it strange that private or NGO initiatives, which in some ways contradicts the common EU trade policy will be recognized in this way?

Yes and no. If you look at other areas in the EU, in particular environmental policy and development policy, one sees indeed the EU has always worked with and initiatives from NGOs. The arguments on the environment came from the NGO movement. Greenpeace was there first. Even within the field of human rights, Amnesty International came along before the EU even picked it up. This is also true in the area of ​​social rights. And Fairtrade is just one of many. There is an interesting overlap from other social movements. Fairtrade movement learned a lot about the mobilization of the organic movement.

In trade policy the position has historically been for free trade, because the experience of protectionism in the thirties and forties. WTO regime has accelerated this process. But the interesting thing about fair trade is that it shows that there can be social exclusions. From my point of view it means: Not everything is technocratic. We have a choice. The economic crisis also tells us is that the technocratic path can not always provide all solutions. They want actual policy back.

Are there any differences between acting ethically and being competitive?

I think not. It is not an either / or. When I started researching the area was my attitude: "I do not care. I think it is worth the cost." Now, my attitude changed. If you actually look at improvements in working conditions, whether it comes to agricultural or industrial production, it does not mean that they are less productive. That was not the case in Europe 200 years ago, and this is not the case in developing countries now. The relationship between the employer and the employee changes. This results in a more engaged workforce.

About Human Rights

You are talking about an artificial distinction between "traditional" human rights thus political and civil rights, such as democracy and freedom of expression, and as economic and socio-cultural rights such as the right to work and to support their family.

Basically focused on the human rights movement, from a Western European perspective, the gross violations of human rights: torture, extrajudicial executions, ill-treatment of prisoners, etc. And they focused primarily on extremist regimes. In the 1980s they began to focus on communist regimes as religious freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of the press, etc. When we reach the 90s then adopts EU attitudes as campaign groups such as Amnesty International and Helsinki Watch regarded as being most important.

The starting point for the UN Declaration of Human Rights is that you cannot divide human rights up this way. Political and civil rights, and cultural and social rights are linked in a more universal explanation of what human rights are.

There was so to speak a division of Human Rights between the West and the Communist world, so that "we take care of the civil and human rights, and you care for basic human rights such as the right to food, the right heat, the right to have a job"; we still live with this division today.

There have been a number of attempts over the last 10-15 years, who have tried to work around these problems. One of them is a movement within the UN are trying to reinterpret what it means to have 'development'.

The second movement is a response to the WTO's success, if you can call it that. It emphasizes freedoms and not social rights. This is where the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) comes into play. In fact, the organization had been forgotten for about a hundred years, but suddenly became a focal point for reaction against the liberalization of the global economy. It is extremely interesting.

Again this demonstrates the complexity of EU policy. Some Member States were quite supportive of the WTO, while others expected the ILO to take the lead. See, for example, the declaration on "Core Labour Standards" from 1998, which basically was adopted by the EU after two years. And then you have a collision. To me this is extremely interesting, because you have to weave these two attitudes. You cannot have free trade alone, you will need to have an aspect of fair trade. And intellectually is this contradiction "free and fair trade" in the same sentence becomes, in an attempt both economically and politically to get it to make sense within the EU.

Ian Manners is a professor and works at Roskilde University, the Institute for society and globalization. His research is globalization and Europeanisation, and among other things focused on how the EU's values ​​are reflected in trade union.
Bidragets oversatte titelHuman rights and trade policy in the EU
Publikationsdato31 jan. 2012
StatusUdgivet - 31 jan. 2012

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Senest ændret: 31/01/2012

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