Rue du Commerce 70-72
B-1040 Brussels

Tel.: (32-2) 502.14.99
Fax: (32-2) 502.56.86

The EU Association of Amnesty International: " A unique structure within the movement "

Why is Amnesty International concerned with the European Union ?
The sphere of influence of the European Union (EU) has continuously expanded since its founding in 1957. Human rights policy has been for a long time an exclusive national competence and EU Member States have taken decisions in this area on a mere intergovernmental basis. For 10 years EU Member States have acted more and more often in the Community framework as regards human rights. This trend has become very clear with the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union in 1993.
What is the EU Association ?
This shift of competencies from national governments to the European Union has created a new field for AI lobbying activities. In 1985 Amnesty International created a European Community project aimed at initiating, coordinating and promoting AI lobbying of the EC institutions through an office based in Brussels. Because of its successful activities the project has now become an association, whose members are the 15 EU sections.
The EU Association consists of the Brussels office with 4 staff and includes the involvement of EU sections. During its Annual General Meeting, the representatives of the 15 EU sections decide on long term orientations, finances, action strategy and organizational development of the Association. They also elect a board of directors which has the responsibility for the direct management of the Association.
What are the objectives of the EU office ?
The EU office gathers and distributes information, formulates action strategy, establishes action planning and priorities according to the AI international calendar, as well as to the EU calendar. It identifies key areas and right moments for lobbying the European Union. In order to be efficient and to influence the EU decision-making process, target groups among and within the EU institutions also have to be very well chosen.
The EU is increasingly developing policies in areas related to human rights - such as the harmonization of asylum policies or control on military, security and police transfers - to be later implemented in the Member States. The EU office, together with specialists from sections and the IS, develops AI's commentary and positions, and recommends steps to be taken by the EU institutions.
The EU office keeps EU sections informed about relevant events at EU level, writes action circulars to be implemented by EU sections, and expects them to provide regular feed-back on the results of their EU lobbying, in order to improve the coordination and cooperation between EU sections.
What are the targets of AI's activities at EU level ?
The decision-making body of the European Union is the Council of Ministers, which is composed of Ministers of the 15 Member States who are competent for the area discussed. Initiatives relating to human rights outside the European Union are mostly taken by the 15 Foreign Ministers or Development Cooperation Ministers. The Justice and Home Affairs Council deals with matters concerning human rights within the European Union such as asylum policy. On the basis of EU office's action recommendations, AI sections of the European Union are approaching their governments in a coordinated, targeted and timely manner in order to influence their positions within the Council of Ministers.
In many areas the European Parliament is much less associated to the legislative process than national parliaments. Nevertheless, in human rights matters it can be seen as a very strong moral voice and as the "best ally" of Amnesty International within the EU institutions. It can put pressure on EU governments by adopting resolutions or asking questions to the Council of Ministers or to the EU Commission. Euro-Parliamentarians can also influence the human rights policy in third countries while meeting with members of the government or parliament of these particular countries. Moreover, the European Parliament can play an important role in budgetary matters and has a veto power regarding the conclusion of certain agreements between the European Union and third countries. Amnesty EU sections actively cooperate with Members of the European Parliament. The lobbying of the European Parliament by EU sections has to be closely coordinated by the EU office, in order to avoid a lack of coherence.
The Staff of the EU office also conducts lobbying: it has regular contacts with the secretariat of the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, the EU Commission, and sometimes representations of third countries or permanent missions of the Member States to the European Union. The EU Commission, which represents the "Community interest", is approached by the EU office at an early stage because of its important initiative role. The European office also works closely together with other Brussels based NGOs.
In the area of lobbying activities the EU Association is a very successful model of cooperation between AI sections. Through this unique structure within the movement, Amnesty International exerts a visible influence on the decision- making process in the European Union.

  • The AI memorandum on Intergovernmental Conference
  • Documents

    Do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
    Amnesty International EU Association
    Rue du Commerce 70-72
    B-1040 Brussels
    Tel: (32-2) 502.14.99 - Fax: (32-2) 502.56.86

    The Staff:
  • Brigitte Ernst (Director)
  • Sandrine Grenier (Executive Officer)
  • Marike Radstaake (Executive Officer)
  • Albert Gans (Finances, accounting)
  • Mike Sinnott (Administration Assistant)

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