UN: EU Statement on Universal realization of the right of peoples to self determination

UN 61st Session; III Committee, Agenda Item 66; Universal  realization of the right of peoples to self determination (A/C.3/61/L.46)

Explanation of Position by Ms. Jane Anttila, Advisor, Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

New York, 16 Novmeber 2006

Mr. Chairperson,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Ukraine and Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

Mr Chairperson,

I am taking the floor in order to explain the basis upon which the EU has been able to join consensus today on the resolution entitled « Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination » contained in document A/C3/61/L.46.  

The European Union considers that peoples’ right of self-determination is a fundamental principle of international law and remains a very relevant issue in today’s international context. It consequently deserves the closest attention of the international community. Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations clearly illustrates the link between respect for the principle of self-determination and the strengthening of international peace.  And the right to self-determination is firmly entrenched in common article 1 of the International Covenants.

Mr Chairperson,

The European Union firmly believes that respect for the right of self-determination is an important pillar of the international system.  Self-determination is closely associated with respect for all human rights, for democracy and for the rule of law, including the principle of equality between citizens.  Respect for the right of self-determination requires the holding of free, regular and fair elections within the framework of a democratic society. Full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms is also essential. Civil and political rights can contribute to individuals’ enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, thus underlining that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interrelated and interdependent.

Mr Chairperson,

Given the importance the European Union accordingly attaches to full and effective observance of peoples’ right of self-determination, we would have welcomed an opportunity to engage constructively on this issue.

In our view, Mr Chairperson, the thrust of this resolution remains too narrow.  We would have preferred that the resolution reflect more clearly the practice of self-determination under international law.  Moreover, the text contains a number of inaccuracies under international law.  The right itself as stated in the International Covenants is a right that attaches only to « peoples », not to « nations ».  Furthermore,  though as already mentioned the EU firmly believes that self-determination is closely associated with respect for all human rights, it is not correct to suggest that self-determination as such is a pre-condition for the enjoyment of other human rights.  The European Union would also like to have seen the right to return reflected in accordance with Article 13 paragraph (2) of the UDHR.

The European Union fears that these and other weaknesses in the text undermine the quality of the debate that should be taking place on such a central issue as peoples’ right of self-determination.  We regret the fact that this year the main sponsors did not even attempt to initiate any discussion of this draft, which, due to its essentially unchanging nature for over a quarter of a century, unfortunately does not reflect developments in the field, including General Recommendations and jurisprudence of Treaty Bodies.

The European Union can only reiterate the hope, once again, that next year’s text will be a more effective instrument for encouraging all States to respect their obligations in this important area and to co-operate with others to ensure that they are implemented worldwide, and will make greater efforts to address concerns raised by delegations.

Thank you, Mr.Chairperson.