The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover much of the continent.
The EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential.
One of the EU’s main goals is to promote human rights both internally and around the world. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights: these are the core values of the EU. Since the 2009 signing of the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights brings all these rights together in a single document. The EU's institutions are legally bound to uphold them, as are EU governments whenever they apply EU law.
EU and EIUC
EIUC has close relations with the European Union.
It is financed by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).
Education and training have always been key elements of the EU’s policy on human rights and democratisation. A special priority in this regard concerns skills building for human rights organisations and developing networks of highly qualified experts.
With a view to implementing the EU’s policy on human rights and democratisation, the European Parliament and the European Commission took a strong initiative in supporting already in 1997 the establishment of the European Master’s Degree Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA), and subsequently in 2002 the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC).
It continued to actively support the development of EIUC activities. The Declaration of the EU on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Vienna, 10 December 1998) testifies to this fundamental support by expressing the commitment of the EU institutions to the continuation of E.MA. The European Council has also recognized over the years the added value of EIUC activities, as witnessed in the conclusions of the Cologne European Council of 1999 and, on a continuous basis, in the declarations expressed by representatives of the Council participating in on-going events organised by EIUC.
For the funding period 2004-2006, the framework regulating EU support towards EIUC was established by Decision N°791/2004/EC of the European Parliament and the Council (21 April 2004), which mentions EIUC as one of the 7 European Institutions that seek “to extend and deepen knowledge of the building of Europe, or to contribute to the achievement of the common policy objectives in the field of education and training both inside and outside the Community”.
The EU Regulation (EC) No 1889/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, adopted on 20 December 2006, has ensured continued funding for EIUC for the entire period of the financial perspective 2007-2013 since it establishes a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights - EIDHR), and in this context expressly names EIUC as beneficiary. Article 13 of the Regulation specifically envisages: “grants to support operating costs of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC), in particular for the European Master’s Degree Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation and the EU-UN Fellowship Programme, fully accessible to nationals of third countries, as well as other education, training and research activities promoting human rights and democratisation”.
As no other European institution (except for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) is earmarked for funding in this financing instrument, it is clear that EIUC has been given a strong vote of confidence from the side of the EU institutions and has a solid base for its continued promotion of human rights and democratisation though education, specialised training, research cooperation, and an expanding range of other activities.
It also serves as think-tank by organising « Diplomatic Conferences » on current political issues on human rights and democratisation by gathering academics, experts, officials of the European External Action Service and members of the European Commission.
From year to year, the EIUC calendar includes special events involving Commission representatives, COHOM members, and EU parliamentarians. The Degree Awarding and Opening Ceremony in September and specialised human rights training courses for officials of the European Commission are other prominent examples of such constructive EIUC – EU cooperation.
The visibility of the European Union in EIUC’s on-going activities is regularly ensured in numerous ways:
- EU representatives contribute to the E.MA programme as experts in several thematic sections as well in a second stream (i.e. optional) series devoted to EU mechanisms and policies on human rights. This participation is almost invariably successful and appreciated both by students and EU representatives.
- European perspectives on human rights are salient in the E.MA programme in general and play an especially central role in the thematic section devoted to the regional human rights system.
- Readings dealing with EU policies on human rights and democratisation and the role of the Union in promoting human rights in Europe and internationally play a central part in the E.MA course.