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For the first time, the EU has equipped itself with a framework that will allow it to target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, with a range of restrictive measures such as travel bans and fund freezing.
On 7 December, the Council adopted a decision and a regulation establishing a new horizontal global human rights sanctions regime, following the earlier adoption of conclusions of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, which promotes further advancement of universal values worldwide.
The enhancement of the EU global human rights framework shows that the promotion and protection of human rights remain a cornerstone and priority of EU external action, with potential implications for international higher education and research.
One of the concrete enforcement instruments at the EU’s disposal is the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, including its thematic and geographical programmes such as the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument. For example, the provisional agreement on Horizon Europe (see ACA Newsletter, December 2020) introduces respect of human rights as one of specific criteria for the association of third countries to the new Framework Programme. Further conditions could be specified in a new Communication on the global approach to research, innovation, education and youth planned for the second quarter of 2021.