What are European legislators reading on the North Korean human rights situation? We were recently alerted to a EU Parliamentary briefing (in .pdf) from last September that provides a useful overview in its own right. The document, prepared by Anete Bandone in the Directorate-General for External Policies, takes an unsparing look at the human rights record, beginning with the standard catalogue of abuses.
Of greater interest is the reminder of the EU’s involvement with North Korea. The European Union launched assistance programs to the DPRK at the time of the famine in 1995, with a total of EUR 366 million in aid provided to date in the form of food aid, medical, water and sanitation assistance and agricultural support. Diplomatic relations were established at the EU level in May 2001. A country strategy paper (.pdf) was adopted in 2002, but it has since been suspended with no plans on the table to resume. Rather, EU foreign policy has focused marginally more on human rights, encouraging the DPRK’s new leadership to use its next universal periodic review in 2014 to burnish its image.
The European Parliament has been more forward-looking. A hard-hitting Parliamentary resolution (.pdf) passed in July 2010 supported continuing humanitarian engagement. But the European parliamentarians already supported the Commission of Inquiry concept and called on the EU to appoint an EU special representative on the DPRK to ensure “persistent attention and coordination both within the European Union and with key partners such as the United States and the RoK.” Nothing appears to have come of this proposal, but recent EU statements strongly support actions taken by both the Security Council and the Human Rights Council on the country.