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"Mr. Borrell, please adapt the visa handbook!" - My plenary address on the annual human rights report

In many countries, human rights defenders face enormous dangers: They risk their freedom, their security and often their lives. They are unjustly accused and imprisoned. But if they want to enter the EU, their special situation is not taken into account - sometimes even interpreted in a negative way.

Once a few weeks ago, I was assured by the EU Commission that human rights defenders would not be disadvantaged when applying for visas and that they were "not aware of any systematic problems". This is obviously wrong. One example is the case of the Turkish LGBTI activist Özgür Gür. Last year he applied in vain for a visa for the Schengen area in order to attend a conference in the European Parliament. The application was not approved - despite the personal commitment of the Member of Parliament who had invited him. It is high time to change this state of affairs! That is why I confronted the EU foreign representative Joseph Borrell yesterday with Özgür's case and the structural problems in the visa code and demanded that the visa handbook take better account of the situation of human rights defenders in the future.

My full speech:

You can read more about my previous interaction with the EU Commission on the Visa Handbook HERE. The fight for fair visa rules continues. If you want to support it, share my demands on Twitter and Instagram or write an e-mail to EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Write an E-mail to Ylva Johansson

My demands

1. The Visa Code Handbook needs to be amended to ensure that the specific protection of human rights defenders is taken into account in the visa decision.

2. A reference to visa facilitation should be included in the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

3. external agencies that carry out the visa process for Member States must raise awareness among their staff and provide training on the needs and situation of human rights defenders

Timeline: My interaction with the EU Commission

Friday, 12 Feburary, 2020
Parliamentary question by Hannah Neumann
How does the Commission ensure that human rights defenders are protected by EU visa policy? How does the EU implement its human rights protection policy?
Friday, 12 Feburary, 2020
Thursday, 11 June 2020
Answer from EU Commissioner Johansson
In general, the Visa Code does not distinguish between categories of applicants on the basis of their profession, activity or purpose of travel. [...] The Commission is not aware of any systemic problems faced by human rights defenders who fulfil the necessary entry conditions when issuing short-stay visas.
Thursday, 11 June 2020
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Plenary address to Joseph Borrell
"Mr. Borell, you know this as well as I do: Human rights defenders* are our partners. Without them we can do nothing, when it comes to that, to promote human rights worldwide. Their scope for action is shrinking. And now our own visa policy is shrinking this room for manoeuvre even wider. Therefore, I urge you, to sit down with Commissioner Johansson, to put an end to this injustice and adapt the visa manual. To ensure that they are able to travel, to network and to participate in conferences. Our role as European Union is to support fighters for democracy and human rights to support and protect - not to make their lives more difficult. "
Thursday, 9 July 2020

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