Does human rights matter for the EU?

What role does human rights play in the European Neighbourhood Policy? A thesis by Linde Lindqvist Gustavsson at Lund University, Sweden (2007), suggests that human rights issues might fall short when in dispute with Europe\'s self interest. The author compares the cases of Morocco and Turkey.

Published 19 August 2008

Download the thesis here. 

The international role of the European Union has often been described as the one of a 'normative power', which has the weight to influence the minds and practices of other peoples by its mere attractiveness. However, Human Rights Watch's 2007 World Report concludes; that even if the European Union has the credibility and the power to 'fill the leadership void' in terms of human rights advocacy in the world, it is for the moment 'punching well below its weight'. This study takes a closer look at the most powerful instrument that the Union possesses for promoting human rights on its borders, namely conditionality. It does so by comparing EU's human rights policies towards Turkey, through the accession negotiations, and Morocco, through the ENP. What are the EU's motives for engaging in these countries? How can we make sense of some of the similarities and differences in the European approach? And, most importantly, can these policies be effective in practice?
The conclusion suggests that EU's power is rather limited and depends upon what is seriously offered in return for compliance, as well as the will to, and need for reforms in the concerned countries. Moreover, whenever there are competing European self interests, the politics of values appears to fall short.

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