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EU Gets First Special Representative For Human Rights

The European Council has appointed Stavros Lambrinidis as the 27-member European Union's first ever Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights, in line with a recommendation made by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the bloc said in a news release on Wednesday.

"I am delighted to appoint Stavros Lambrinidis as the first EU Special Representative for Human Rights. Human rights are one of my top priorities and a silver thread that runs through everything that we do in external relations. This is therefore a key portfolio for the European Union and for me personally," Ashton said in a statement.

"With his talent and huge experience, Mr Lambrinidis will be a tremendous asset to us. I look forward to working with him in putting the protection and promotion of human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action, and enhancing the coherence, effectiveness and visibility of our work in this field," she added.

Lambrinidis will take office on September 1, with an initial mandate running until the end of June 2014. He had earlier served as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece as well as a former Vice-President of the European Parliament. Earlier in his career, Lambrinidis was Chairman of the Committee for Human Rights in the Bar Association of Washington, D.C.

Lambrinidis' new role as the EU special Representative will be to enhance the effectiveness and visibility of EU human rights policy. He will have a broad, flexible mandate, giving him the ability to adapt to circumstances, and will work closely with the European External Action Service, which will provide him with full support.

His appointment follows the adoption of the EU's Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy last month. The Framework sets out principles, objectives and priorities, which are all designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy as a whole in the next ten years.

One of the commitments of the Action Plan is that the EU should give an account of its performance in its annual report on human rights and democracy in the world. This should present an opportunity to all stakeholders in EU policy, including civil society, to assess the impact of EU action and contribute to defining future priorities. The Action Plan covers the period until December 31, 2014.

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