Foreign affairs, human rights, security & defence

Foreign affairs, human rights, security & defence

Foreign and security policies are an integral part of the EU's activities and together we can work to defend peace, democratic values, human rights and global security. We must be committed to dialogue and improving co-operation, strategic co-ordination and joint action.

To achieve this the EU must be united in its vision, committed to multilateralism and focused on international co-operation. We must work for increased dialogue and understanding between the world powers – especially the EU, the USA, Russia, the Arab countries and Iran – to find solutions for resolving conflict and bringing stability to the Middle East and the rest of the world.

We believe that a more constructive approach to Africa is needed, based on a long-term, tailor-made strategy. The EU needs a long-term vision, working with our African partners to build a peaceful and stable Africa and Europe together. We need to recognise that the security and prosperity of Europe depends on that of our African partners.

All of the EU’s external affairs activities must share the same goals and international trade and development should be a key part of our strategic vision.

The S&D Group supports a robust and ambitious European External Action Service and backs the work of the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy in promoting consistency and co-ordination across Europe's external actions and between EU institutions and member states.

For the S&D Group, a strategic and comprehensive vision of world developments is essential so that Europe is ready to react much more proactively – and faster – to current events. Proactive engagement, strategic leadership and policy co-ordination must be the central tenets of the European External Action Service.

Keeping the door open to its neighbours gives the EU more political impact and visibility, and at the same time improves economic, social and political stability in Europe’s neighbourhood. The EU must be consistent, recognise progress achieved and honour its commitments to candidate countries. On the other hand, these countries must fulfil all their obligations and meet the Copenhagen criteria to have a real prospect of joining the EU. All EU candidate countries must be judged on their own merits.

The S&D Group strongly supports European integration and a European future for the western Balkan countries. We firmly believe that the EU's enlargement policy strengthens stability and democracy in the region and we want this important and successful policy to be continued. All candidate countries must remain fully focused on implementing real reforms, particularly in the areas of the rule of law, judicial independence, freedom of expression and the fight against corruption.

Turkey is an important partner and we want to see Turkey committed to Europe, to democracy and to the rule of law. But since the failed military coup d'état President Erdoğan has used disproportionate and unjustified repression against Turkish citizens and moved Turkey's democracy towards a more authoritarian system. The situation has deteriorated even further with the sweeping new powers for the president in the new constitution – narrowly voted through in a highly unfair election environment. The S&D Group has always been a fierce supporter of Turkey's accession process. However, it is clear that the constitutional-reform package is not in line with the EU membership criteria. As long as Erdoğan continues to undermine democracy and the rule of law, talks on Turkey joining the EU must be suspended, but we will continue to stand by all those fighting for democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey.

Europe must continue to take an active interest in promoting democracy and stability in its neighbourhood – especially where we can help resolve conflict and bring peace and prosperity to our friends.  

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is very worrying for the region and potentially dangerous for European security. All conflicting parties need to realise that only a diplomatic solution can bring lasting peace. The Minsk peace deal is probably the only hope we have for a comprehensive and lasting agreement based on respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity and recognition of the legitimate interests of the Russian-speaking communities in Ukraine's eastern regions. It will be crucial to continue insisting on implementation of the deal and monitor the situation effectively. Europe should clearly and firmly state that the results of military aggression will not be recognised. The economic sanctions will be maintained and can even increase if the Minsk agreement is not fully respected. The illegal annexation of Crimea will not be recognised. The choice about whether further sanctions are placed on the Russian people and their economy is in Putin’s hands.

The time has come for Europe to play a stronger political role internationally, particularly in the Middle East and north Africa, and the S&D Group launched the #EUWakeUp campaign to call for more action. The EU must stand alongside its allies, regionally and internationally, to deal with the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region, resolve some of the long-standing conflicts and fight to uproot the debased ideology of Daesh (the so-called Islamic State).

The European Union must play a genuine political role in the Middle East peace process. A comprehensive, peaceful solution can and must be found to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. The S&D Group supports the two-state solution with the state of Israel and an independent, contiguous and viable state of Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security along the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Israel has the right to exist within secure borders and Palestinians have the right to self-determination and a state of their own. The building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and all acts of terrorism and violence against innocent citizens are utterly unacceptable. We call for serious engagement from both sides to resume credible peace talks, leading to tangible results.
 
Daesh is a serious and insidious global threat and we must work together to counter their propaganda and protect the thousands of people in danger. We need a comprehensive EU strategy for the region and immediate additional aid and assistance. The S&Ds support the international efforts to defeat Daesh, including military means if necessary and in accordance with international law, and intelligence sharing must be promoted.  We need serious action to address the issue of foreign fighters and the political and socio-economic factors that have allowed terrorism to spread. Regional dialogue is essential – including with Iran and Saudi Arabia. Restarting US-Russian dialogue on Syria could de-escalate tensions and put the focus on areas of mutual agreement, such as ending the immense human suffering and finding a political solution that respects the rights of all ethnic and religious groups. Obviously, achieving a peaceful solution for Syria is also key to tackling the refugee crisis.

The political situation in Iran is an issue where the EU should speak out more strongly. We have consistently supported dialogue with Iran to defuse tensions and resolve disagreements, aiming for a step-by-step normalisation of relations. We fully support the Iranian people’s desire to re-engage with the world and improve their economic situation. The nuclear deal, the lifting of sanctions and the return of international investors to Iran have reinforced the trend towards a greater openness to the world, including the EU.

The Maghreb region has been at the centre of historic changes since 2010, embarking on a long process of change and reform. The S&D Group takes a major interest in the success of their work on democratisation and modernisation. Tunisia is the most promising example of democratic consolidation after the Arab Spring and we want to encourage social dialogue, respect for human rights and active citizenship. Stronger co-operation is needed with North African countries to tackle the common challenges facing the region and Europe: migration, refugee crises, the prevention of radicalisation and terrorism, but also regional integration and international diplomatic efforts to build a government of national unity in Libya.

Both the EU and Africa can benefit hugely from a strong EU-Africa partnership and the S&D Group is committed to development and political stability in Africa as part of the post-2015 global development agenda and beyond.

We support the United Nations’ efforts to tackle the root causes of migration: improving the economic and social situation for people, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and providing education and employment opportunities. We must improve development co-operation and conflict resolution, and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth to ensure that people have a real chance of a better life in their homelands. Closer co-operation with African countries is also vital to tackle extremism, focussing on social and economic development as well as security. We are deeply engaged in debates and dialogue on African political and social issues, both in the European Parliament and in the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and we regularly take part in election monitoring in the region.

We are vocal about the need to ensure there is adequate funding for our partnerships and development programmes working with African countries. We are especially committed to access to education for all children, especially in conflict areas, through our EDUCA initiative and we encourage frank and open debates with our partners about upholding universal human rights.

We also continue to push for development-friendly clauses in all economic partnership agreements, especially on sustainable development. We have made it very clear that improvements in relations between the EU and other countries should be linked to their compliance with all their obligations under international law, particularly in relation to human rights. The S&Ds are calling for the European Commission to propose a real long-term European strategy on a partnership with Africa to turn these values into action.

Boko Haram has become a global threat, putting the whole region in danger, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Thousands of people have been killed, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced, families have been destroyed and women and girls sexually abused. Political leaders need to realise that the fight against Boko Haram demands the same commitment as the fight against Daesh. Working together with African countries, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and the EU member states, we can also play a key role as mediators to achieve peaceful solutions. In Mali, for example, ministers and armed rebel groups reached a peace agreement in 2015 after months of tough negotiations. Despite delays and resistance, this peace agreement was a success for all the people of Mali. The fight against fundamentalism requires effective diplomacy and a common, long-lasting strategy from the international community and neighbouring African countries.

Few regions in the world have so much in common with Europe as Latin America. The S&Ds understand the plural, diverse and changing political landscape in Latin America, with its ongoing challenges, and we want to work with civil society there. We continue to engage in ambitious and constructive dialogue to build deeper strategic alliances with Latin America. Our aim is to promote social cohesion and tackle inequality, to support democratisation and human rights, and to encourage sustainable development, environmental protection and regional co-operation.

Therefore, we have constantly pushed to include binding rules on social, working and environmental standards in trade negotiations. The S&Ds successfully fought to ensure the EU's free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru also included a roadmap on improving human rights and labour standards. We support the ongoing negotiations for an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement with Mexico, to make sure both parties benefit fully.