The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly-elected European Union (EU) body. Its 754 Members (MEPs) represent the EU’s 500 million citizens of the 27 Member States. While the EP lacks the power of legislative initiative, it can amend and reject legislation or make a proposal for legislation to the Commission. The EP also has a great deal of indirect influence, through non-binding resolutions and committee hearings.
Most of the EP’s in-depth work is done in specialised standing committees that prepare reports that will later be voted on in the plenary. Human rights- and human rights defenders-related issues outside the EU are dealt with by the Human Rights Subcommittee (DROI) of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET). DROI Subcommittee engages in different types of activities:
- Organising hearings and discussions, where HRDs, NGOs and experts are regularly invited to participate.
- Holding monthly debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law; and adopting reports and resolutions as a consequence of these debates. On example of this is the 17 June 2010 Resolution on EU policies in favour of human rights’ defenders.
- Drafting the Annual Human Rights report, which takes stock of the Human Rights situation in the world. The Council informs the EP of any decision taken to suspend an agreement with a country on human rights grounds.
- Awarding the yearly Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals or organisations fighting for human rights and fundamental freedoms.