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Legal Basis and Scope of the Human Rights Clauses in EC Bilateral Agreements: Any Room for Positive Interpretation?

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It is well known nowadays that the European Community includes a so-called human rights clause into the framework agreements that it concludes with third countries. It is also widely recognised that, in virtue of the relevant provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties, such a clause grants the Community a right to suspend the agreement should human rights and/or democratic principles be breached. The question to be explored in the present paper is whether, in the light of its legal basis, the clause fulfils a mere ‘negative’ or ‘sanctioning’ function or, by contrast, there is room for the pursuit of positive measures of active promotion of human rights—that is the granting of technical and financial aid. It is argued here that the clauses present an ideal starting point for the pursuit of a comprehensive human rights policy at the EU level. Such a policy should encompass positive measures in the first place, systematic dialogue in the second, and suspension or negative measures of less extent only as ultima ratio in particularly grave cases which cannot be addressed through ordinary (dialogue and aid) routes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: PhD candidate at the European University Institute, Florence

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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