The European Union styles itself as a champion of human rights. And it is – in the realm of lofty words. For instance, the organisation’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, grandiloquently states:
“The European Union sees human rights as universal and indivisible. It actively promotes and defends them both within its borders and when engaging in relations with non-EU countries.”
Let’s perform a small experiment: how many of you, dear readers, have heard the name ‘Stavros Lambrinidis’ before? What – you never heard about the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights??? Well, it would seem, then, that the organisation hasn’t been promoting human rights quite so “actively”!
|Public execution in Saudi Arabia|
Let us now navigate to the official website of the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia – an absolute monarchy in which what passes for ‘law’ is… well, whatever the ‘royal family’ deems fit; based on its interpretation of a 7th century religious code. Saudi Arabia, in which not just homosexuality and adultery, but also ‘witchcraft’ is a capital crime. Saudi Arabia, where – yes, in the 21st century – people are beheaded in public squares; where amputation of limbs is a ‘legal punishment’, as is public whipping. Saudi Arabia, a society which can only be honestly described as ‘gender apartheid’: one in which women are inferior BY LAW; denied even the paltry liberties granted to men, from which they are strictly segregated. THAT Saudi Arabia.
|Each Saudi women is appointed a 'legal guardian'|
(usually the father or husband), who is the only
person entitled to make decisions for her.
But a visitor from Mars reading the web page of the ‘human rights-active’ EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia would never guess that’s the situation. There is no hint of outrage on that website, no ‘strong condemnation’, no serious censure of all those appalling human rights violations.
Among other important ‘news’ displayed on the Delegation’s website, one finds an announcement that the Delegation wishes to sell one of its used cars. Well, I don’t know what that used car is worth in Saudi Arabia; but I know one thing: it certainly won’t be driven by a woman!
An additional important document – displayed among ‘news’ such as European Commissioner statements, etc. – is a tender for the procurement of cleaning services for the Delegation. Saudi companies are invited to participate in the tender process, provided they satisfy a series of financial and legal criteria; but one would search in vain for any requirements related to human rights – such as equal opportunities and equal pay for female employees. Companies can practice gender apartheid – and still become valued suppliers to this Delegation of the 'human rights-conscious' European Union.
And it’s not just the Delegation. European consumers and companies buy freely from Saudi corporations – even state companies and those owned privately by the same ‘royals’ who impose the gender apartheid. European companies doing business in Saudi Arabia are, of course, subject to Saudi laws; which means that they enforce gender apartheid themselves. But that does not seem to run contrary to EU ‘human rights' agenda.
Saudi Arabia is just an example, of course – albeit one of the most strident ones. Basic human rights – such as freedom of speech, expression and protest, freedom of press, freedom from arbitrary arrest and torture, the right to a fair trial, etc. etc. etc. – are severely violated throughout most of the Middle East; but that’s of no consequence to the EU, which – to use Mr. Lambrinidis' inspired phrase – "engages in relations" with the violators.
|A 'delighted' Catherine Ashton at a meeting with|
an Arab League ministerial committee. She praised them for
progress in the 'empowerment of women'.
At a recent meeting designed to advance such cooperation, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton addressed an all-men Arab League ministerial delegation:
“I'm delighted to be here. I'm always pleased to be in this room, meeting with colleagues from the Arab League. I think everyone knows how much the European Union values the collaboration between us...”
Nor is this attitude confined to the Middle East. In fact, the list of human rights infringements blissfully ignored by the European Union is much too long to include in this article. From one-party China to homophobic Zambia; from top-executioner Iran to repressive Venezuela, they all get a pass, a shrug or – if they are rich and powerful – even a warm expression of ‘delight’ from the EU High Representative.
And it’s not just about remote places, either. Even when obvious human rights abuses occur right under its sanctimonious nose – see the recent protests in Ukraine – the EU barely moves a finger. And why would it? Ukrainians might be hungry for freedom (and for bred!); but leaning too much in their favour would upset mighty Russia, EU’s top energy supplier… ‘Human rights’ or the relationship with Russia? Why, Russia of course…
So, coming back to the EU Special Representative for Human Rights and his lofty words, it seems that Mr. Lambrinidis has got one thing right: the European Union has certainly been “engaging in relations”. For the sake of material gain, with no concern for human rights. Now, it seems to me that there’s a name for such activity – and it’s not ‘human rights activism’!