How to get the EU to act?

The EU has various specific tools at its disposal to react to human rights violations, in the short and long terms.

In the field

Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategies

Those strategies can be referred to when calling on the EU to act on a particular issue. Civil society’s input is considered in the drafting and implementation process of the strategies.

To ensure you will be consulted, contact the head of the political section or the human rights focal point at the EU delegation. If possible, also contact the geographical desks and the human rights unit of the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels.

Partnership Priorities (previously European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans)

Partnership Priorities include specific topics that the EU should monitor very closely on an ongoing basis, in order to ensure that relevant related reforms receive EU support and that the agenda of joint meetings – such as the human rights subcommittees – address these topics systematically.

Once Partnership Priorities are set, NGOs should carefully monitor their implementation. Any lack of progress should be reported to the EU.

Human rights dialogue

Human rights dialogue discusses both ongoing and structural issues in a country. The EU and the partner country set jointly the agenda of the meeting. EU delegations should hold consultation meetings with civil society ahead of subcommittee meetings as well as debriefings after.

Contact the EU delegation to ask for information on the meeting, get a specific issue on the agenda and call for consultation or debriefing if they are not organised.

Local statements

The EU Heads of Mission can jointly agree to make local statements on human rights issues to condemn ongoing violations or take a stand on an individual case.

Contact the EU delegation immediately after an incident or violation has taken place.


Demarches are confidential statements or interpellations issued by the EU towards the host country. They are particularly relevant for serious and urgent cases. As it is non-public, a demarche may be an easier action to advocate for from the EU than a public statement.

Specify which authorities the EU should address and detail the exact concerns it should raise.

Visiting a victim of a human rights violation in detention

A visit – or at least attempting a visit – from an EU representative to a detained victim of a human rights violation can send a powerful message and have a positive impact.

Trial observation

Trial observation is a common form of intervention by the EU, particularly when there are pre-existing doubts about the fairness of the trial or the country’s judicial system in general. Ideally, a public statement should be issued after the trial observation.

Concrete assistance to individuals

The emergency fund for human rights defenders at risk, managed under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), allows for EU delegations to quickly provide small grants of up to 10,000€ directly to individuals or organisations in need of urgent support.

The EU mechanism for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, Protect Defenders, run by 12 NGOs, can also provide small grants and emergency support, including for temporary relocation.


Brussels level

Council conclusions

They are the most authoritative form of an EU political statement, thus providing an excellent basis for further advocacy efforts.

Due to the time required for the drafting and adoption of the text by Member States, this tool may not be appropriate for urgent cases. You should time your advocacy efforts at least four weeks before the Foreign Affairs Council meeting.

To influence Council conclusions, national governments are key advocacy targets.

EU bilateral relations with a Southern Mediterranean country

NGOs can also try to influence the EU’s bilateral relationship with a country ahead of Association Council meetings or negotiations.

For high-level and political meetings, it is better to focus on one or two priority human rights issues and advocate for their inclusion.

Public statements

Public statements by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on behalf of the EU or on behalf of the mandate holder are an appropriate advocacy objective if you are dealing with urgent situations/ individual cases, as well as for ongoing issues.

Public statements can also be made by the President of the European Parliament, by members of an EP delegation visiting a country, or by chairs of a relevant EP committee.

European Parliament resolution

European Parliament resolutions on foreign policy matters are not binding to the EU. Yet they are useful advocacy tools for exerting pressure on other EU institutions and the governments of Southern Mediterranean countries.

The drafting process of such resolutions routinely takes a few months. The Parliament also issues three ‘urgency’ resolutions on particularly worrying human rights situations, or specific cases, in individual countries at each plenary session – for those, the drafting takes maximum a week.

Make sure to follow up on the resolution by contacting MEPs to ask if the requested actions have been taken into account by other EU institutions.

Parliamentary questions

MEPs can ask questions to the Council of the EU, the European Commission, or the HR/VP on what is being done to address a specific human rights issue in a country.


Member State capital level

Significant attention should be paid to advocacy towards individual Member State governments since they shape EU foreign policy and have the same types of tools available to address human rights issues.

We hope what’s above has helped you better navigate the EU institutional maze and identify avenues for advocacy.