Human Rights and Democracy in the World: Report on EU action in 2011
In 2011 the EU confirmed, both in word and in deed that human rights are at the centre of EU action around the globe. The commitment of the EEAS during it's first full year of operation was reflected in its work throughout the year on a Joint Communication from the High Representative and the European Commission, adopted on 12 December, entitled "Human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action - towards a more effective approach". This set out a number of ideas for carrying forward EU strategy in this field.
The Arab spring represented a landmark in the first year of the EEAS. A joint communication on 8 March 2011, by High Representative Ashton and the European Commission, stressed the need to support the demand for political participation, dignity, freedom and employment opportunities, and sets out an approach based on the respect of universal values and shared interests.
Civil society was instrumental in bringing about the changes of the Arab spring, in a general context of shrinking space for civil societies in many countries. The EU was quick to speak out on the problems faced by civil society organisations and called on all states to respect freedom of association and freedom of assembly, and to adopt legislation consistent with international standards. Support for civil society was stepped up, particularly through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.