Tag Archives: Democratisation

EU global election assistance and observation strategy

EU global election assistance and observation strategy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about EU global election assistance and observation strategy


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

EU global election assistance and observation strategy

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 11 April 2000 on EU election assistance and observation [COM(2000) 191 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


Everyone’s right to take part in the government of their country is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the case of elections, good governance requires an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework and a transparent and accountable election administration, in particular independent supervision and monitoring, that ensures respect for the rule of law. It is also essential for citizens to be informed and to participate throughout the electoral process.

The criteria set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the validation of observed elections are internationally accepted. Elections must be free, fair, genuine, held periodically and by secret ballot.

International election assistance consists of technical and material support for electoral processes, including assistance in establishing the elections’ legal framework, in registering political parties or voters and in providing civic education and training for local observers and journalists. Election assistance is complementary to election observation.

International election observation is intended to consolidate democracy, legitimise electoral processes, enhance public confidence, deter fraud, strengthen respect for human rights and contribute to the resolution of conflict. It is based on the principles of full coverage, impartiality, transparency and professionalism.

European Union (EU) support for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is established in the Treaties. Article 2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union clearly states that the Union is founded on principles such as liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, which are fundamental values shared by all EU countries. Election missions are accepted as part of the EU’s mandate.

Lessons learned from experience

The communication reviews the lessons learned from EU assistance and observation missions between 1993 and 2000:

  • the Union needs a coherent strategy in this field;
  • observation missions must be careful in not legitimising illegitimate electoral processes;
  • better cooperation with and training of domestic observer groups need to be established;
  • some regional and local elections also need assistance and observation;
  • exploratory missions are needed before deciding to send observation missions;
  • election observation missions need to remain in place long enough to cover all stages of the electoral process;
  • assessing elections is a delicate exercise and should lead to recommendations for future actions;
  • mission spokespersons should always make a preliminary statement after polling and final proclamations only at the end of the electoral process;
  • EU actors in the field should always speak with one voice;
  • setting up a Commission unit dealing with elections in non-EU countries is advisable;
  • the EU decision-making procedure needs to be clarified and rationalised;
  • a coherent and transparent financing policy is needed;
  • coordination between the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament needs strengthening;
  • coordination with other international actors should be based on partnerships;
  • EU missions need to be made more visible;
  • the human resources involved in election observation and assistance must match the political objectives;
  • an accelerated formula for EU decision-making would be advisable;
  • comparable methods for the recruitment of observers would improve missions;
  • EU observers should receive better training and field guidance.

Recommendations for the future

The communication stresses that the Union needs to adopt an election assistance and observation strategy that:

  • allows for case-by-case decisions;
  • promotes the development of sustainable national structures;
  • promotes pluralism at a political level and in local civil society;
  • encourages partnership between European and local NGOs and local observers.

The decision to launch an EU election observation mission should be based on an evaluation of the mission’s advisability, viability and usefulness. The Council has drawn up criteria in this respect, which are set out in Annex III to the communication. This annex also lists the conditions required for observers to be able to perform their work.

The following criteria could provide a basis for deciding on the provision of election assistance:

  • a request for assistance from the government of the host country;
  • the general agreement of the main political parties and other partners;
  • the existence of previous EU political monitoring or development programmes;
  • an adequate time-frame;
  • freedom of movement;
  • access to information;
  • the safety of the technical assistance team.

The Commission is currently studying the advisability of setting up an election unit responsible for horizontal coordination of election observation and assistance, including prior planning and evaluation, in order to assist the geographical units and Commission Delegations and to liaise with the other institutions and organisations involved. This new team should make it easier for the Council, the Parliament and the Commission to reach agreement on electoral missions.

As regards the financing of missions, various ways of accelerating and simplifying decisions to commit funds and implement expenditure are being studied.

The communication considers that the agreed criteria for selection (Annex IV) and the code of conduct for EU observers (Annex III) provide a good basis for observer recruitment.

Guidelines for success

For election assistance and observation missions to be successful, the communication recommends taking account of the following aspects:

  • drawing up a clear mandate for the mission;
  • always starting with an exploratory mission;
  • setting up an EU field elections unit with a core team responsible for coordination;
  • sending technical assistance into the field sufficiently early;
  • producing regular mission reports;
  • training all EU observers using a common training programme;
  • working with other organisations in order to train observers;
  • deploying long-term observers two months before election day and keeping them in place until any electoral disputes have been resolved;
  • ensuring that all observers abide by the code of conduct.

In order to assess the outcome of an election, the communication advocates the use of the criteria set out in Annex III.

To improve visibility of the EU’s electoral activities, the communication suggests publishing information on these activities on the Internet, establishing good relations with the media, using relevant publicity material and including visibility into agreements with other partners.

Related Acts

European Parliament resolution of 8 May 2008 on EU election observation missions: objectives, practices and future challenges [Not published in the Official Journal].

Council Conclusions on election assistance and observation. Development Council – 31 May 2001 [Not published in the Official Journal].

The Council welcomes the communication and cites the principles by which EU support for elections should be guided: dialogue with the authorities involved, improving the confidence of the electorate in elections, preventing conflict and eliminating fraud. It stresses that a line needs to be drawn between election assistance and election observation. The Council also considers that the appointment of a chief observer from the European Parliament is advisable for each election observation mission. The action to be taken includes:

  • building institutional capacity, including framework agreements on election finance and political parties;
  • training of local personnel;
  • making citizens more aware of their right to vote;
  • setting up election sites;
  • supporting local civil society;
  • supporting the media.

A review of support for election processes is expected every three years.

European Parliament resolution of 15 March 2001 on the Commission communication on EU Election Assistance and Observation [Not published in the Official Journal].

The European Parliament welcomes the communication. It suggests that a European Parliament election coordination group is established, as well as calls on the Commission to prepare country strategy papers on election assistance and guidelines for evaluating election assistance. It recommends that overlaps between European and international missions should be avoided and proposes that a conference is organised with other actors in order to establish common working and assessment criteria. The European Parliament also considers that it is important to commit election assistance aid under the budget lines for each geographical area.

Human rights and relations in the Mediterranean

Human rights and relations in the Mediterranean

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Human rights and relations in the Mediterranean


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

External relations > Mediterranean partner countries

Human rights and relations in the Mediterranean

Document or Iniciative

Communication of 21 May 2003 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament “Reinvigorating EU actions on Human Rights and democratisation with Mediterranean partners. Strategic guidelines” [COM(2003) 294 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


In this communication the European Commission makes ten recommendations for enhancing political dialogue and financial cooperation on human rights between the EU and its partners of the Mediterranean region (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority). These recommendations will be implemented at three interrelated levels:

  • through political dialogue and financial aid;
  • through the regional aid given to the MEDA programme and the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); and
  • at regional level.

The ten recommendations

The EU should ensure that the issues of human rights and democracy are systematically included in all institutionalised bilateral dialogues with Mediterranean partners. It should explore with its partners the possibility of setting up technical sub-groups (below the political level) to address these issues. More cooperation would also be desirable on matters such as legal reforms, the regulatory frameworks for civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), freedom of speech and association and women’s rights.

To promote a regular, in-depth dialogue on human rights and democratisation in the region the Union should ensure that more people know about the key human rights issues and available documentation in each of the Mediterranean countries. Standard methods of analysis and regularly updated data should be used to produce fact sheets on the situation in each of the partner countries.

The Commission should seek to ensure greater cooperation between its Delegations in Mediterranean countries and the Member States’ embassies in the same countries. The human rights related issues of the MEDA and EIDHR programmes should be handled by experts. A further aim of such cooperation should be the implementation of UN human rights resolutions.

Workshops on human rights issues should be organised in cooperation with civil society and the national authorities of the Mediterranean countries. Such workshops would provide the EU with local knowledge, which it could use in identifying projects for implementation under EIDHR, and with a platform for promoting its policies on human rights, democratisation and the rule of law. The workshops would also help those engaged in Mediterranean civil society affairs to coordinate and plan their activities more effectively.

National action plans on human rights (drawn up for the MEDA programme) should take account of the situation in the country concerned, in particular its human rights legislation. The plans should set out the objectives and the financial and technical assistance needed. They should encourage the Mediterranean partner countries to accede to international human rights conventions and promote cooperation between the state and civil society.

Regional human rights action plans should be established whenever two or more partner countries wish to cooperate more closely on this issue. Their plans could, for instance, focus on women’s rights or co-operation in the field of justice. They could also strengthen contacts with regional bodies such as the Arab League.

Starting in 2005, the human rights and democracy dimensions should be given more prominence in national indicative programmes and country strategy papers drawn up for the MEDA programme. Extra funds will be provided for this objective.

Also starting in 2005, human rights, democracy and the involvement of civil society should play a bigger part in the regional indicative programme and regional strategy applied under MEDA.

The EIDHR’s role in the Mediterranean should be modified to include helping to build up the capacity of civil society in the region to engage in matters such as freedom of association and speech, defence/advocacy of the rights of specific groups, good governance and fighting corruption. The MEDA and EIDHR programmes should complement each other more than they do at present.

Synergies between existing instruments created to observe and assist in elections (political dialogue, MEDA, EIDHR) should also be fully exploited to improve the framework within which elections are held in the region’s different countries.

The human rights situation in the Mediterranean

This Communication summarises the UNDP Arab Human Development Report for 2002. The report’s main conclusions are:

  • deficits in governance (in connection with freedoms, marginalisation of women, preventing their access to knowledge) hamper the full development of democracy and respect of human rights;
  • discrimination against women hampers economic and social development;
  • the judicial system is not independent enough;
  • NGOs active in the civil and political spheres are weak and are prevented from networking internationally;
  • access to education is uneven and ill-adapted to the requirements of the modern economy;
  • authoritarianism and poor economic and social performance favour extremist political movements.

Although most of the countries in the region have signed up to the most important international instruments on human rights, this is not reflected in the situation on the ground since the countries do not comply with these international standards.

Context: European Union measures in the Mediterranean region

The Commission communication entitled “On the EU’s Role in Promoting Human Rights and Democratisation in Third Countries” establishes a human rights strategy for application in the Union’s external affairs. The aim of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership agreements concluded between the European Union and each of the region’s countries is to establish an area of peace and stability founded on the principles of human rights and democracy. Similarly, the Action Plan agreed at the Valencia conference reaffirmed the commitment of all the parties to human rights, democracy and the rule of law in this region, whilst the association agreements concluded or under negotiation with the Mediterranean countries include the condition of engaging in a political dialogue covering, inter alia, issues of human rights and democracy. The Union’s operational cooperation instruments for human rights in the Mediterranean are the MEDA programme, which has been up and running since 1996, and the EIDHR which was set up in 1994.

Related Acts

Final Report (approved by the European Council in June 2004) on an EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East (PDF ).

Turkey: the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations

Turkey: the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Turkey: the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations


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

Enlargement > Ongoing enlargement > Turkey

Turkey: the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations

In its Communication of October 2004 the European Commission finds that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria and recommends opening accession negotiations with Turkey. It does however set certain conditions for opening negotiations. It suggests a strategy based on three pillars.
In the Commission’s view the final objective, accession, is clear but it cannot be guaranteed in advance.

Document or Iniciative

Communication of 6 October 2004 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey’s progress towards accession [COM(2004) 656 final – Not published in the Official Journal]


The Commission considers that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria and suggests opening accession negotiations subject to certain conditions. It also proposes – for the first time – establishing a tight framework for the negotiations using a three-pillar strategy.

The Commission stresses that accession cannot take place before 2014, and that it must be thoroughly prepared to allow for smooth integration and to avoid endangering the achievements of over fifty years of European integration.

Opening negotiations subject to conditions

In the light of the changes that have taken place in Turkey in recent years, the Commission considers that it sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria. It has made substantial progress with political reform, in particular through the far-reaching constitutional and legislative changes adopted in recent years in line with the priorities set out in the Accession Partnership. However, the Law on Associations, the new Penal Code and the Law on Intermediate Courts of Appeal have not yet entered into force. Moreover, the Code on Criminal Procedure, the legislation establishing the judicial police and the law on execution of punishments have yet to be adopted.

Turkey is making serious efforts to ensure proper implementation of these reforms. Nevertheless, legislation and implementation measures need to be further consolidated and broadened. This applies specifically to the zero tolerance policy in the fight against torture and ill-treatment and the implementation of provisions relating to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, women’s rights, International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards including trade union rights, and minority rights.

In view of the overall progress already achieved with reforms, and provided that Turkey brings into force the outstanding legislation mentioned above, the Commission recommends that accession negotiations be opened. It proposes that when opened, they should be organised around three pillars.

Three-pillar negotiations

The first pillar concerns cooperation to reinforce and support the reform process in Turkey, in particular in relation to the continued fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria. The EU will therefore monitor the progress of the political reforms closely. This will be done on the basis of a revised Accession Partnership setting out priorities for the reform process. Starting at the end of 2005 there will be an annual general review of the progress of political reforms. To this end, the Commission will present a first report to the European Council in December 2005.

The Commission may also recommend suspending the negotiations if there is a serious and persistent breach of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms or the rule of law on which the Union is founded. If such a recommendation is made, the Council may, by a qualified majority, decide to suspend negotiations.

The second pillar concerns the specific way in which accession negotiations with Turkey are to be approached. They will be held in the framework of an Intergovernmental Conference consisting of all Member States of the EU. For each chapter of the negotiations, the Council must lay down benchmarks for the provisional closure of negotiations, including a satisfactory track record on implementation of the acquis. Existing legal obligations relating to alignment with the acquis must be fulfilled before negotiations on the chapters concerned are closed. Long transition periods may be necessary.

In some spheres, such as structural policies and agriculture, specific arrangements may be needed. The Commission is considering permanent safeguards concerning the free movement of workers. Turkey’s accession is also likely to have an important financial and institutional impact. The EU will therefore need to define its financial perspective for the period from 2014 before negotiations can be concluded.

The third pillar entails enhanced political and cultural dialogue between the people of the EU Member States and Turkey. This includes a dialogue on cultural differences, religion, migration issues and concerns about minority rights and terrorism. Civil society should play the most important role in this dialogue, which the EU will facilitate.

Assessment of issues raised by Turkey’s possible accession

As well as the Regular Report on Turkey and its recommendation, the Commission has also presented a detailed impact study on issues raised by Turkey’s possible accession to the European Union. The study concludes that Turkey’s accession would be a challenge for both the EU and Turkey. If well managed, it could offer important opportunities for both. The necessary preparations for accession would last well into the next decade. The EU will evolve over this period, and Turkey should change even more radically. The Community acquis, i.e. the whole body of EU policies and legislation, will develop further and respond to the needs of an EU of 27 or more. Its development may also anticipate the challenges and opportunities of Turkey’s accession.


Relations between the EU and Turkey go back a long way. In 1963 Turkey and the European Economic Community entered into an Association Agreement which referred to the possibility of membership. In 1995, a customs union was formed and, in Helsinki in December 1999, the European Council decided to grant Turkey the official status of an accession candidate. It considered at that point that the country had the basic features of a democratic system but displayed serious shortcomings in terms of human rights and the protection of minorities.

Against this background, in December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council concluded that the European Council of December 2004 should decide on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission whether Turkey fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria and, accordingly, whether the EU would open accession negotiations with Turkey.

Related Acts

EEC-Turkey Association Agreement (1963), Official Journal No 217 of 29.12.1964.

Conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004

The European Council decided that the European Union would open accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. The negotiations will be based on the three pillars proposed by the Commission in its recommendation of October 2004.


Commission report COM(98)711 final
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission report COM(1999)513 final
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission report COM(2000)713 final
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission Report COM(2001)700 final – SEC(2001) 1756
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission Report COM(2002)700 final – SEC(2002) 1412
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission Report COM(2003)676 final – SEC(2003) 1212
Not published in the Official Journal

Commission Report COM(2004)656 final – SEC(2004) 1201
Not published in the Official Journal

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.