I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union
The Candidate Countries Croatia*, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* and Turkey, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.
Strengthening the rule of law at the United Nations is a priority for the EU. The EU warmly supports the inclusion of “the rule of law at the national and international levels” on the agenda of the Sixth Committee at its current and forthcoming sessions. I will first address the legal and conceptual foundations for our common work in promoting the rule of law. After that, I will turn to more concrete issues, first the sub-topic for the debates at our next sessions and the inventory of the current UN activities that the Secretariat is to provide. I will then address the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and its secretariat Unit in some detail. These new structures are particularly important for making the efforts to promote the rule of law at the UN more operational. In the written version of this statement, you can find a brief outline of what the EU is doing in the field of the rule of law – for the purpose of being more concise, I will not read this part out.
Respect for the rule of law is a cornerstone for the peaceful coexistence of nations and an essential prerequisite for relations among States. At the international level, the rule of law is, at its core, encapsulated in the norms of international law. One of the main founding purposes of the United Nations was to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. As agreed at the 2005 World Summit, commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and international law and to an international order based on the rule of law and international law, are essential for peaceful cooperation and coexistence.
The European Union is deeply committed to upholding and developing an international order based on international law, including human rights law and the rule of law with the United Nations at its core. We believe that international law and the rule of law are the foundations of the international system. Thus, the rule of law is among the core principles on which the EU builds its international relations and its efforts to promote peace, security and prosperity worldwide. Article 6 in the Treaty on the European Union states that “the European Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights fundamental freedoms, and The Rule of Law, principles which are common to the Member States”.
In a globalizing world, the rule of law at the national and international level is even more a necessary condition for the interaction of States and their societies and an essential condition for peace and stability. Adherence to the rule of law is critical to conflict prevention, to stabilisation, recovery and reconstruction of fragile and conflict affected environments, and to sustainable long term development.
Mr. Chairman, the EU consistently has supported the initiatives to enhance the rule of law at the UN. We welcomed the Secretary General’s report of 2002, “Strengthening the rule of law”. The EU also warmly welcomed the report of the Secretary-General of August 2004 on “The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict situations” as an important milestone that considered the lessons learned in this area and reflected on the way forward. The World Summit Outcome was an important step forward, in particular its emphasis on the interconnectedness between peace and security, development and human rights. The rule of law is one of the central cross-cutting themes throughout the whole document, and rightly so.
Since then, there have been some important developments, and the EU warmly welcomes the recent initiatives to strengthen the rule of law. It is our joint responsibility to ensure adequate implementation and follow-up.
Firstly, the EU welcomes the resolution of the General Assembly on “the rule of law at the national and international levels”1 and the inclusion of the “rule of law at the national and international level” on the agenda of the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. We are open to engage actively in consultations with a view to identifying sub-topics topics for discussion at the 63rd Session of the General Assembly without prejudice to consideration of the item as a whole.
The EU believes that the item “Strengthening criminal justice at the national and international levels” would be a good proposal for the continuation of this debate at the next session. It is a sub-topic that deals with a very important item, and it addresses both the national and international level. It is well balanced, being neither too broad nor too narrow, and it opens possibility for addressing issues such as technical assistance and capacity building with a view to strengthening national criminal justice systems and the strengthening of international mechanisms for judicial cooperation. The sub-topic also opens possibility for addressing the work of the international criminal courts and tribunals and their legacy in a horizontal manner. We should of course not duplicate discussions on the ICC, the ICTY and the ICTR which are held under other agenda items of the General Assembly.
According to the above-mentioned resolution, the Secretariat is to provide an inventory of the current activities of the organs, bodies, offices, departments, funds and programmes within the United Nations system devoted to the promotion of the rule of law at the national and international levels. The report will be submitted at the sixty-third session of the General Assembly. We request the Secretary-General to prepare this report without delay, and the report should both address the means for promoting the rule of law as well as the normative content of that promotion. The inventory of these activities is vital for our future work, understanding the overall situation on the rule of law, detecting gaps and overlaps, etc. The rule of law is a cross-cutting issue for the work of the UN in almost every field. In order to address the issue in an operational and efficient way, we suggest that the preparation of the analytical report on the means of improving cooperation within the UN system will take place in close collaboration with the newly established Rule of Law Unit. It would also be very useful to request the Secretariat to prepare a report focussed on the sub-topic that will be chosen for the debate next year.
The EU has warmly welcomed the report of the Secretary General Uniting our Strength: enhancing UN Support for the rule of law of December 2006, and the proposals for structures to be established with a view to strengthening UN capacities in the area of rule of law. The Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group is a central steering and coordination body for all relevant rule of law UN activities. The EU recognises that the UN currently provides support in the area of the rule of law to a large number of member states through a range of agencies, programmes and processes. It has been recognised that the impact of this support could be further improved and the Rule of Law Co-ordination and Resource Group has been set up to improve communication, co-ordination and collaboration between different UN entities that are active in the field of rule of law.
The EU also supports the creation of a Rule of Law Unit to be located within the Executive Office of the Secretary General (in the following referred to as “the Unit”) which will report to the Deputy Secretary-General. The EU underlines the importance it attaches to establishing a functioning Unit with a team of dedicated professionals to assist the Group. It calls upon the Secretary General to support the full and efficient functioning of the Unit as soon as possible. It must be ensured that the Unit can work properly and with appropriate financial, technical and administrative resources. The absence of a budget line will hamper the Unit’s ability to be fully operational. If the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group is to be truly effective, it will need to be adequately supported by a fully staffed and resourced Unit. For that it needs to be further consolidated trough financing from the regular budget. The EU is of the view that the Unit should as a matter of urgency be provided with the necessary funds required for the Group and the Unit to carry out their functions. The Group and the Unit should have a broad mandate to coordinate all relevant rule of law UN activities as well as the content of rule of law promotion.
Let me finally say a few words about the EU’s efforts to promote the rule of law. The EU and number of EU Member States have already submitted comments and information of their efforts to strengthen the rule of law, published in the Secretary-General’s report (A/62/121), and I will just briefly recall some initiatives at EU level.
Promotion of the Rule of Law is a key objective for the EU. As laid down in Article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union, it is one of the EU’s primary objectives to “develop and consolidate democracy, and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedom.” The European Security Strategy states that development of a stronger international society, well functioning international institutions and a rule-based international order” is a key EU priority.
In recent years, the European Union has adopted several external actions under its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in order to meet the above-mentioned objectives – let me just mention the integrated rule-of-law mission for Iraq, EUJUST LEX” and the rule of law mission to Georgia (EUJUST THEMIS). Rule of law issues are increasingly integrated into the EU’s ESDP missions.
In order to promote the rule of law in certain areas of law, the European Union also adopts guidelines, such as the Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL). The EU has dialogues with key third countries with a view to ensuring compliance with IHL. The EU strongly underlines the importance of ensuring the rule of law in the context of the fight against terrorism.
The promotion of international criminal justice is another core objective. The European Union supports this process strongly, aiming, inter alia, at increasing the number of ratifications of, and accessions to, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The European Community also supports a wide range of actions to strengthen the rule of law through country and regional funding, in developing countries as well as in the countries that are part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Ongoing projects relating to justice and the rule of law in the period 2000-2006, with support from the European Community budget as well as the European Development Fund, all in all amount to more than 1.5 billion. The EC CARDS Regional Programme and the European Instrument on Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) also provide support to the rule of law, including the ICC and the ICTY and the ICTR.
Let me conclude. The EU is strongly committed to strengthening the rule of law at the UN. The EU warmly supports debates on the rule of law in the forthcoming sessions and proposes Strengthening criminal justice at the national and international levels” as a possible sub-topic for next year. The EU looks forward to the inventory on UN current activities in the field of rule of law and expects it to be a useful tool for further progress. We finally warmly support the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and its secretariat unit and strongly underline that they should be given the means to fulfil their functions. The Rule of Law Unit should be given the necessary means through the regular budget.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
* Croatia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.