EU proposes meeting with PH on human rights issues

Published September 18, 2020, 11:45 AM

by Roy Mabasa

The European Union (EU) has proposed a meeting with the Philippines by the end of the year to discuss in a clear and constructive way various human rights issues in the country, specifically those related to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs campaign and the case of journalist Maria Ressa who had been convicted of cyber-libel early this year.

In her remarks before the European Parliament Thursday (Friday in Manila), European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said  the EU and the Philippines have most to gain from constructive engagement as they look forward to meeting its Philippine government counterpart this autumn even under a virtual setting.

“The EU remains convinced that both the Philippines and the EU have most to gain from constructive engagement. During our January Joint Committee, we agreed on the establishment of a Subcommittee on Good Governance, Rule of Law, and Human Rights. This Subcommittee, expected to meet regularly, will be an important forum for directly addressing all human rights issues. The European External Action Service (EEAS) has proposed to hold a first meeting already this autumn, by the end of this year, even under a virtual format,” Urpilainen said in a speech she delivered on behalf EU High Representative and Commission Vice President Josep Borrell.

She reiterated that the EU has  expressed its concerns about various human rights issues in the Philippines on numerous occasions, including recently through separates statements, meeting with Philippine authorities early this year, and in its biennial Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) report last on February.

GSP is a system adopted by the EU that removes import duties from products coming into the EU market from vulnerable developing countries like the Philippines, subject to compliance to certain international values and principles, among them human rights.

Concerning the monitoring of the Philippines’ commitments under GSP, the European commissioner said they had clearly communicated their concerns to their Filipino counterpart and the Philippines’ reply will be taken into account in assessing its compliance to the GSP+ conditionalities during their future bilateral dialogue with the government.

“The European Commission and the EEAS will continue raising these matters with the Philippine government in a clear and constructive way,” she said.