Home Human Rights Speech by the President of the European Parliament on human rights in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Turkey | The President | European Parliament

Speech by the President of the European Parliament on human rights in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Turkey | The President | European Parliament

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I am proud to be president of an institution that defends the voice of the people of Europe and defends human rights around the world.
People turn to us when a journalist is imprisoned, when women, political opponents or minorities are victims of violence or discrimination. The European Union is the only region without the death penalty.
We are much more than a currency or a market. We are a beacon for fundamental rights around the world.

Let me remind you that the first condition for becoming a member of the EU is to share these values. This is why compliance with the Copenhagen human rights criteria is non-negotiable.
Despite this, also on our borders, in countries aspiring to join the EU, we are seeing very worrying developments.
First, freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. Access to independent information and open debate constitute the basis of the political rights of our citizens.
As a former journalist, I know how important it is to be able to work freely. The duty of journalists is not only to report the news, but also to monitor politicians without fearing for their safety or freedom.
This is why we are very concerned about the latest developments in Türkiye.
The country reportedly has the highest number of imprisoned journalists. Erdogan’s recent statement accusing Die Welt’s German journalist Deniz of being a terrorist simply because he is doing his job is extremely worrying.
I call for his immediate release, as well as that of dozens of Turkish journalists unjustly detained.
It is also unacceptable that the Turkish president mentioned Nazism when talking about a democratic country. Germany fully guarantees all fundamental freedoms and with these comments Erdogan offends all Europeans.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the National Association of Journalists recorded forty (40) cases of media freedom violations in 2016 alone.
In Albania, Belarus, FYROM, Moldova and Montenegro, several journalists have been arrested or prevented simply because they were doing their work.
The situation in Russia is also worrying. It is estimated that more than thirty-six (36) journalists have been murdered there since 1992 (1992). Our press conference room is named after Anna Politkovskaya, in her memory.
Second, another key element of democracy is freedom of thought and association. How can society be open and fair if you don’t have the right to debate or have different opinions?
This is why we are very concerned about the oppression of political opponents in some of your countries.
Elected parliamentarians are in prison in Turkey, thus depriving their electorate of voice. This is a very serious attack on Turkey’s democratic qualities.
We are fully on the side of the rule of law and democracy and we strongly condemn the attempted coup in Turkey. We expressed European solidarity with all the victims.
However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the forty-one thousand (41,000) people imprisoned and ninety thousand (90,000) who lost their jobs following this dramatic event.
According to media reports, more than six thousand (6,000) political activists are in prison and more than one hundred and twenty-five thousand (125,000) civil servants have been investigated.
Our call today is for full respect for due process and the rule of law.
In Moldova, the opposition leader and five other activists were arrested for political reasons.
In Albania we see problems in the treatment of minorities. And the list continues.
Unfortunately, despite your efforts and the support of Europe, we see that the situation is not improving. In fact, the Commission’s 2016 reports indicate that no progress has been made in the area of ​​freedom of expression in the six Western Balkan countries.
And the situation is getting worse in Türkiye.
Next year we will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. It recognizes the fundamental role of people like you in protecting and promoting human rights.
We must not limit ourselves to admiring your courage. We will continue to support you, support you.
We cannot enjoy peace, stability and prosperity without respect for human rights, the rule of law, gender equality and freedom.
Human rights are the only way to make the world a better place to live.
It has never been easy. But you are not alone. The European Parliament takes on this mission with you:
We debate the human rights situation at every plenary session;
We have a human rights subcommittee;
We created the Sakharov Prize, awarded to human rights icons from Mandela to Malala;
As co-legislators, we approve the EU budget by linking our aid to a commitment to human rights.
This commitment is also reflected in our action in favor of democracy and in our electoral observation missions with the participation of this Parliament.
We also maintain constant exchanges with many countries to help strengthen democratic capacities.
As we speak, European Parliament officials are meeting with Ukrainian officials at the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament). They will explore support measures aimed at making parliamentary procedures in Ukraine more democratic and transparent.
As I mentioned, another initiative of the European Parliament that I am particularly proud of is the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Since 1988, the Prize has been awarded to recognize the struggle of those whose self-sacrifice has advanced human rights around the world.
I was touched recently when I met Lamya Aji Bashar, the winner of Sakharov, a young Yazidi woman kidnapped by ISIS. She is a source of inspiration for all of us and for the Muslim world.
I also had the honor of meeting Sakharov Prize winner Hauwa Ibrahim, who spent her life defending women against harsh sanctions imposed by Sharia law.
They symbolize the very spirit of this prize, which we also proudly promote through the Sakharov Prize Network.
The European Parliament, in partnership with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, has invited you to exchange ideas and share your experiences of the battle for human rights in your countries.
As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and as history has shown us, a peaceful and strong future for Europe goes hand in hand with the stability of our closest neighbors.
We all have a responsibility to demonstrate even greater strength and courage in exercising our role as defenders of the universal values ​​that underpin the overarching reason for our Union.
Europe is a success when it embodies dreams of progress, prosperity, freedom and peace.
Your fight is our fight. I wish you every success with this conference.
Thank you for your attention.



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