By Martin Banks - 26th July 2012
He is very familiar with EU structures
The Greek foreign minister Stavros Lambrinidis has been appointed as the EU's new special representative for human rights (EUSR).
Lambrinidis is a former MEP and vice president of parliament.
The post was given the go-ahead by EU foreign ministers at their council meeting on 28 June and Lambrinidis' nomination was confirmed on Wednesday.
The post is newly created and is designed to give a "voice" to European human rights policy.
Parliament had been calling for such an appointment for some time.
It wanted an EU envoy with an established international reputation and a proven track record and the choice of Lambrinidis was broadly welcomed by MEPs.
Parliament's president Martin Schulz "warmly welcomed" the choice, adding, "I know him very well and I am confident that his experience, education, personality and intelligence will serve the EU well in its fight to protect and promote human rights worldwide. He is the right man for the job.
"Being the first ever thematic EU special representative, he will define his job description as he goes along and will set a standard for others. In this endeavour he can count on the support, but also the scrutiny, of parliament."
Barbara Lochbihler, who chairs the assembly's human rights subcommittee, described it as a "vital role".
"He is very familiar with EU structures and has experience in foreign policy and human rights.
"The appointment is also a success for us MEPs as parliament has been calling for this mandate for years. The appointment raises our hopes for a strong and united voice for a European human rights policy."
She added, "It won't be easy to fulfil all expectations entirely. But the goal is set: the special representative must be a reliable voice for the people who suffer human rights violations.
"He should keep an eye on the bilateral and multilateral relations of the EU and monitor the implementation of human rights with international partners: in foreign and economic policy as well as in development cooperation. There must be coherence between the EU's internal and external policies as regards human rights."
The German Greens deputy added, "I am looking forward to close and constructive cooperation between Lambrinidis and the human rights committee. From now on we will work together to give human rights more prominence."
A parliamentary resolution said the envoy "must have a strong, independent, flexible and sufficiently broad mandate".
It should also "reflect EU human rights policy and cover areas including strengthening democracy, international justice, humanitarian law and abolition of the death penalty".
MEPs also called for adequate funding and staff to be allocated to the new EUSR, who should, they say, attend a hearing at parliament and report regularly to it on the human rights situation in the world.
Further reaction came from Greens/EFA co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit who said, "The creation of this new post is an important signal of the priority the EU gives to the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
"The nomination of such a high profile figure as Lambrinidis is most welcome and will help reinforce the effectiveness and visibility of the human rights dimension of EU external action."