The European Union is a unique and unprecedented phenomenon, which has had no analogues in the whole history of humankind, that ipso facto makes it a corner stone dividing people into two antagonistic categories: while ones believe that the current EU is an exceptional way to organize a prosperous union of sovereign countries for a long period, the other ones do not doubt that the project is approaching the inevitable end and was doomed at the very beginning, because it was a priori impossible to sustain it in a satisfactory manner. Nonetheless, no attempt is made in this essay to call into question existence of the EU in the near and distant future.

Throughout its history, the EU has maintained its system of values: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law[1]. Upholding and promotion of them in relations with the wider worlds is one of the aims of the Union[2]. Since 2009, when the Lisbon Treaty came into force, the interest to human rights in the EU policies has increased[3]. This provokes consideration of how the development in human rights might change the EU both inside and outside in relations with other countries or international organizations by the end of the next three decades. Thus, from this perspective, a quantity of members of the EU and its geographical boundaries are unimportant; the one that does not lose its meaning is a future role and functions of the EU in the world community, its capability of influencing on decisions of other participants of international communication.

“There is no room for complacency about human rights in Europe in the 21st century”[4], claims Susie Alegre. In order to be a world leader in development of human rights in the future the EU should “be governed by a clear and coherent legally binding and enforceable human rights framework.”[5] This determines the way for the further evolution of human rights in the EU; the key issues in this direction are concerned about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and developments in EU policies on justice and home affairs[6].

The direction of the EU’s elaboration in the field of human rights outside the union is less predictable but more sapid. The further reasoning is not based on summarizing the predictions of scientists but on the author’s idea (or hope), which is not general but deals with actual problems that arise in the world, which is not deprived of a chance to become a reality in the near or distant future. In 2017 Russia faced the act of mass violation of human rights in Chechnya where a brutal campaign against gay men was deployed. While organized groups of criminals continued to detain, torture, and kill innocent people, the federal authority turned a blind eye. However, international community did not disregard the problem. Kyle Knight, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, asserted, “If the Kremlin’s dismissive response indicates that Russia will not offer any meaningful security guarantees to the victims …, the international community needs to fill the gap. … Russia’s record of failure to investigate and prosecute anti-LGBT violence … sends an urgent signal to key international actors to step in to save the lives and dignity of people before it leads to yet more blood.”[7] In the situations like these the EU might take a position of the necessary savior for victims left without help. It is not meant that the EU should have interfered in the internal affairs of Russia then. It is just an example of circumstances in which a state may fail to protect its citizens and there is a necessity of external assistance.

A question arises, why the EU should fulfill function to save civilians. What is its interest?

Firstly, a circle of states or institutions capable of performing this role is limited to a small number of actors which possess sufficient human and capital resources. It also means that they are not afraid to use them, i.e. the risk level of deterioration of its internal situation is close to zero. Perhaps there are only two eligible candidates meet the criterion, such as the USA and the EU.

Secondly, protection of human rights is a one of the aims of the EU, so it is possible that at a certain stage of enhancement in this direction the Union will primarily focus on promoting the protection of these rights all over the world. This is not just ordinary cases of assistance, as we can observe today, it is intolerance to any acts of human rights violation requiring instantaneous interference when a state is inactive and does not impede such infringements. Just as the USSR was spending significant funds, which were domestically needed, on spreading auspicious ideas of socialism around the world, the EU could become a benefactor struggling against contraventions of human rights.

Thirdly, in some cases the EU like no other has favorable conditions for interference or other ways to force states to obey the law. For instance, the EU and Russia are closely connected with relations in many spheres, such as political, economic, and trade relations, cooperation in education, science, and innovative technologies. Due to the fact that “[t]he EU is Russia’s main trading and investment partner, while Russia is the EU’s fourth”[8], this makes it possible for the EU to impose some targeted economic measures against Russia. Not only does it support domestic suppliers, but also when such measures are aimed at protecting and promoting LGBT rights, it can find bounteous support within the target country from its NGOs, business organizations and citizens, which understand the need to struggle for LGBT rights and have resources, and at the same time, cannot solve the problem all alone without the participation of the international community.

The next question is: which legal mechanism can provide legitimacy of such interference in internal affairs of a state?

It is proposed to be the responsibility to protect (R2P), the doctrine released by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001, that changed the entrenched meaning of state sovereignty and make it not only a state’s right but also a responsibility. According to the core principles of the R2P presented in the report, “[w]here a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.”[9] In 2005, the doctrine was discussed at the 2005 World Summit, where 191 member states of the UN unanimously adopted it[10]. However, the Outcome Document limited the R2P only to mass atrocity crimes (genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity)[11]. According to article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, “murder … [and p]ersecution against any identifiable  group  or  collectivity  on  political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, … or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law” “when  committed  as  part  of  a  widespread  or  systematic  attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack” are crimes against humanity, consequently the R2P is applicable to the case given in Russia.

Taking everything into consideration, there is no doubt that human rights is a strategic direction of development for the EU. The EU is expected to have been a world leader in human rights protection by 2050. There is no absolute answer how the EU might achieve this status but in this essay one of the possible outcomes was proposed. It is hoped that the EU will realize the importance of the R2P, which may help the EU to struggle against violations of human rights all around the world, particularly in Russia, and will use it in the future. From this perspective, Russia’s place would be a recipient of this assistance. It is not obviously an assured resolution but if it were in this manner, it would make a huge contribution in the development of the global society.

[1] See article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (as inserted by the Treaty of Lisbon), on
[2] See id. article 3(5).
[3] Amnesty International’s contribution to the European Commission’s public consultation on “Shaping Justice policies in Europe for the years to come” on Accessed 13 May 2017.
[4] Alegre, Susie (2008). Human Rights and the Future of the European Union. Back page.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Knight, Kyle. “Gay men in Chechnya are being tortured and killed. More will suffer if we don’t act.” The Guardian, 13 April 2017, Accessed 13 May 2017.
[8] “The Russian Federation and the European Union (EU).” European External Action Service, 10 May 2016, Accessed 13 May 2017.
[9] Article 1(B) of The Responsibility to Protect. Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. ISBN 0-88936-960-7.
[10] See articles 138 and 139 of 2005 World Summit Outcome, A/60/L.1.
[11] See id.

Об авторе

Сергей Борха

студент факультета права НИУ ВШЭ