European initiative for democracy and human rights

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European initiative for democracy and human rights

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about European initiative for democracy and human rights


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Human rights > Human rights in non-EU countries

European initiative for democracy and human rights (EIDHR) (2000-2006)

Following the expiry of Council Regulations Nos 975/1999 (developing countries) and 976/1999 (other third countries), which served as the legal basis for the activities carried out under the initiative, this initiative was replaced by the financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide from 1 January 2007.


Created by an initiative of the European Parliament in 1994, the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) grouped together the budget headings for the promotion of human rights, democratisation and conflict prevention, which generally had to be implemented in partnership with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international organisations.

Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) reaffirms that the European Union (EU) “is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States”. Article 49 of the TEU stresses that respect for these principles is also required of those countries wishing to join the European Union. In addition, Article 7 introduces a mechanism designed to punish serious and persistent violations of human rights by EU Member States. This mechanism was further strengthened by the Treaty of Nice, concluded in December 2000. It also extended the objective of promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms to development cooperation and to all other forms of cooperation with third countries in accordance with Articles 177 to 181 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities (EC Treaty).

Articles 179 and 308 of this Treaty made it possible to create a legal basis for all the EU’s human rights and democratisation activities, which were further strengthened in 2000 by the solemn declaration of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which now guides the EU’s external relations.

The EIDHR provided added value in relation to the other Community instruments in that it complemented the Community programmes carried out with governments such as the EDF, TACIS, ALA, MEDA, CARDS, PHARE and the rapid reaction mechanism (RRM), and because it could be implemented with different partners, particularly NGOs and international organisations. It could also be used without host government consent or where leading Community programmes were not available for other reasons, such as their suspension. In addition, it complemented the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Thematic priorities

In May 2001, the Commission adopted a communication on the EU’s role in promoting human rights and democratisation in third countries, in which it provides for the development of a coherent strategy and one more oriented towards a certain number of thematic priorities and “target countries” for human rights measures. The new approach has been developed in collaboration with several Directorates-General. The Member States, the European Parliament and NGOs are also involved in its implementation.

In 2005-2006, four thematic campaigns were launched each covering a limited number of specific priorities, as follows:

  • promoting justice and the rule of law
    The measures financed concerned the effective functioning of the International Criminal Court and other international criminal tribunals, abolition of the death penalty and reinforcement of the international mechanisms for the defence of human rights;
  • fostering a culture of human rights
    The funds distributed were used, among other purposes, for the enhancement of civil society organisations in the field of defence of the rights of vulnerable groups, the promotion of international instruments in this field and the fight against torture;
  • promoting the democratic process
    The funds were used to promote democratic electoral processes and to enhance a basis for democratic dialogue in civil society;
  • advancing equality, tolerance and peace
    The measures financed concerned equal rights and equal treatment of individuals, including people belonging to minorities, respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and the commitment of civil society to conflict prevention and resolution.

There were two cross-cutting issues in addition to the thematic priorities: promoting gender equality and the rights of the child.


Each region and the eligible countries in that region were the target for two of the four thematic campaigns, except in exceptional cases.

In each campaign, a series of coherent projects were selected. Global projects covered one or more priorities in two or more eligible regions, regional projects covered one or more priorities in one eligible region and national projects covered one or more priorities in one eligible country.

The programming was based on two types of project:

  • macro-projects, i.e. global and regional projects for which minimum aid of 300 000 was granted for the candidates installed in EU territory and a minimum of 150 000 for candidates in the target region or country covered by the project;
  • micro-projects supporting small-scale activities at national level with an aid volume of between 10 000 and 100 000. They could be submitted only by civil society organisations in eligible countries, although these organisations could work in association with EU NGOs.

The budget for the period 2005-2006 was 106 million per year, broken down as follows: 93 % for campaigns (48 % for macro-projects, 32 % for micro-projects and 13 % for election observation activities) and 7 % for unforeseen events.

These campaigns were implemented through calls for proposals for the macro- and micro-projects. Cooperation was encouraged between the EU civil society organisations and those of the eligible countries.

Unlike in previous years, implementation through targeted projects had become the exception. These projects could be submitted by national or international agencies such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or the African Union (AU).

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