CRISIS ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA – WHAT ROLE FOR THE EU?
Interview with Dr Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, political advisor at the European Parliament, by Human Rights Lawyers Network Without Frontiers (USA)
Q.: The world has been witnessing a dramatic escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula. In violation and disregard of UN Security Council resolutions, the North Korean regime has continued its trajectory towards improving its nuclear capabilities. Since 2006, it has conducted six nuclear tests and developed its ballistic missile technologies, threatening regional and global peace. What is the EU’s role in the international response to such provocations?
The EU’s policy of critical engagement towards North Korea aims at decreasing tensions on the Peninsula, through the pursuit of political dialogue, human rights and humanitarian assistance while upholding the international non-proliferation regime.
When assessing the EU’s policy vis-a-vis North Korea it is important to consider the EU as a different kind of international actor, with a unique institutional architecture and multi-layered governance. Notwithstanding this complexity, human rights promotion remains at the core of its normative identity, guiding its foreign policy. This implies that as a normative power, the EU has placed the pursuit of human rights, along with democracy and rule of law, at the centre of its relations with North Korea via diplomacy and engagement. This is the EU’s core aspiration and the driving force behind its engagement policy.
Q.: What are the implications of the EU’s inherent institutional complexities when it comes to engaging North Korea?
As a result of its inherent fragmentation, a wide range of tools and instruments need coordination with a great variety of voices. Thus, the European Parliament (EP) remains only one actor shaping the overall policies, along with the Council (1), the External Action Service (2) and the European Commission (3).
Most importantly, it is member states that ultimately shape external policies on a European level, which requires internal coordination and implies limitations to acting and speaking with one voice. Nevertheless, in spite of limitations, it needs to be stressed that the EU has used sanctions as another tool to promote its Common Foreign and Security Policy objectives. It has implemented restrictive measures imposed through UN Security Council Resolutions and has reinforced them through its own measures. It is through this angle that Europe’s role in addressing the crisis in North Korea should be assessed.
Q.: Focusing on the EU’s emphasis on human rights in its engagement policy, what are some of the tools EU institutions have developed to ensure that human rights remain an international priority?
EU institutions have elaborated a sophisticated tool box and different mechanisms to enable the EU to contribute to addressing human rights in international crises.
These include Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions – for example in July the Conclusions deplored the ‘ongoing and grave human rights abuses’ by the North Korean regime and stated its commitment ‘to continue working with partners to draw attention to these violations, to assure international accountability and to maintain pressure on DPRK to cease its human rights violations’.
The Annual Report on Democracy and Human Rights, as elaborated by the EEAS, as well as resolutions as tabled by the European Parliament have equally condemned state repression and called on the regime to abide by international human rights obligations. Conferences, seminars and debates in the Parliament are further tools to reinforce such calls.
Q.: How does the EU’s focus on human rights complement ongoing efforts of the international community focusing on denuclearization? Does it work?