Could the EU soon have an "abuse-free” product label certifying that no human rights abuse had been committed at any stage in its production? It is one of the proposals in the own initiative report on corporate liability for serious human rights abuses in non-EU countries written by Italian EFDD member Ignazio Corrao. MEPs discuss it in plenary on Monday 24 October and vote on it the following day. Read our interview with Corrao to find out more.
How are European companies committing or contributing to serious human rights abuses in non-EU countries? We know from NGOs that there are big transnational corporations from Europe that are responsible for human rights abuses in third countries. As the European Union always claims to be a champion of human rights, having legislation ensuring that European companies respect human rights abroad would send a great signal to the world.
What measures are you proposing in your report to ensure that EU companies respect human rights?
The report is based on the UN guiding principles on Business and Human Rights, focusing on the respect of human rights in the chain of distribution and exploitation of the natural resources on third countries, especially developing countries. We also recommend the creation of an “abuse free label” for products, certifying that our companies are not violating human rights.
But this “abuse free” label would be a voluntary measure, as many of the measures in place today. How can we make sure that European companies do not contribute to serious human rights abuses in countries outside the EU?
The ideal would be to have a binding instrument, but we cannot impose it at the parliamentary level. However, we can ask the European Commission to work on it. The human rights subcommittee hopes to have a mandatory instrument allowing our companies to be different from other ones and for consumers to be able to know that European companies have to respect standards that others do not. This is something we need to do, not just for a better economy, but also for a better world.
I started to work on this report with the idea that the European Union should move forward to promote human rights all over the world. The report could be a tool to start a new way of approaching the exploitation of resources all over the world.