European commission guilty of maladministration for EU-Vietnam FTA concludes EU Ombudsman

The final decision on the complaint filed by FIDH and its member league VCHR against the European Commission’s handling of the EU-Vietnam FTA was published on 26 February 2016. European Ombudsman Ms O’Reilly concluded that the Commission’s refusal to carry out a human rights impact assessment constituted maladministration. She explicitly rejected the European Commission’s arguments that a legal link to the human rights clause in the FTA and the use of other traditional tools like dialogue and development cooperation were sufficient to comply with its human rights obligations, pointing out that she "does not believe that it is sufficient to develop a range of general policies and instruments to promote human rights compliance while at the same time concluding a Free Trade Agreement which may, in fact, result in non‐compliance with human rights requirements".

The Ombudsman’s decision is a concrete step in the right direction to ensure the EU complies with human rights in its trade and investment policies, clearly implying that the EU needs to revise the economy of investment and trade negotiations. FIDH and VCHR view this decision as the consecration that human rights in trade policies are not only to be dealt with by soft diplomacy, technical advice and financial allowances, but need a revision of the proposed agreements and the enhancement of human rights protection mechanisms, including the setting up of a human rights monitoring and complaint mechanism for populations whose human rights may be affected by the investment and trade agreements.

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