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Sometimes Speaking with a Single Voice

The European Community as an International Actor, 1969–1979


Lorenzo Ferrari

In the late 1960s, the European Community was a loose association of countries focusing on economic matters. By the late 1970s, it had become a real international actor: member states had started to coordinate their foreign policies, the EC had joined the United Nations and the G7, and it had established direct relations with almost all of the world’s countries. What happened in those years?
This book provides the first comprehensive historical account of the early phase of the EC member states’ cooperation in international affairs. Community activities, the European Political Cooperation and the European Council are all considered, relying on a wide range of archival sources. Why did the EC member states decide to cooperate in international affairs? How did they do it, and in which domains? What idea of Europe as an actor on the global stage did they put forward?
As the author shows, the EC stressed its own profile as a «force for good» in international affairs – especially with regard to development cooperation, the reform of the international system, and human rights promotion. In the early phase of the EC’s international activity one can find the origins of many traits – and flaws – of the EU’s foreign policy nowadays.
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Chapter 6: The EC as Promoter of Human Rights Abroad


← 170 | 171 →CHAPTER 6

The EC as Promoter of Human Rights Abroad

During the 1970s, human rights were established as an important issue on the international political agenda, attracting an unprecedented amount of attention from the UN and from individual states alike, as well as attention from NGOs and influential sectors of public opinion.1 Increasing criticism was directed at the ongoing instances of colonial rule, at the policies of racial discrimination like apartheid, at the violent repression of domestic political opposers, and so on. As an indication of the increased relevance of human rights, in 1977 the Nobel Prize for peace was awarded to Amnesty International. According to Samuel Moyn, the main reasons for the increasing attention paid to human rights during the 1970s were “the failure of more maximal visions of political transformation”2 and the nonpartisan, ecumenical character of the notion of human rights.3 Some civil society actors and political actors in many Western countries came to regard the promotion of human rights as a viable goal on which to focus.

The increasing salience of human rights affected the EC as well as many other international actors. The EC discussed human rights with regard to Western Europe, so that cooperation with the Council of Europe and the possibility for the EC as such to join the European Convention on Human Rights were considered.4 The EC discussed human rights with regard to its neighborhood as well: during the 1970s the EC engaged in...

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