Are Human Rights a European Value?

Europe’s commitments in the context of its migration policy are often framed in terms of promoting or protecting ‘European values’. Marie Göbel dissects the grammar of ‘European values’ – and argues that we should drop the value language if we are really committed to protecting migrants’ human rights.

Marie Göbel, University of Utrecht

The idea of European values has seen a revival recently in EU politics. It was mainstreamed when Ursula von der Leyen introduced a Vice Presidency for “Promoting our European Way of Life” after becoming European Commission president. Responding to criticism, von der Leyen was quick to point out that the idea behind this was simply to reaffirm Europe’s commitment to the basic values laid out in the EU’s founding treaties: freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity and human rights. But what do we mean when we speak of human rights, for example, as a European value? And what practical difference does this make?

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