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“No future without a constitutional state”

The EU must attach strict conditions to payments, says Beate Rudolf, Director of the German Institute for Human Rights.

Beate Rudolf, Director of the German Institute for Human Rights
Beate Rudolf, Director of the German Institute for Human Rights © DIMR/Anke Illing

Ms Rudolf, when the topic of human rights comes up, we tend to focus on regions outside Europe. But are human rights under threat in Europe as well?
I see a threat in authoritarian tendencies that propagate inhuman ideologies and are even able to implement them in government policies. Hungaryy and Poland are just the most visible examples. But in other states as well, government politicians are promoting the exclusion of refugees. They are fuelling anti-Semitism, racism, hostility and prejudices towards the disabled, homosexuals and transsexuals. They are demeaning poor people, or refusing women the right of self-determination. The second threat to human rights is when people take them for granted. The state will only respect human rights, when people demand them.

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How do human rights and a constitutional state fit together?
They are indivisible. Human rights limit and steer the actions of the state. Independent courts of justice protect human rights whenever governments, parliaments or administrations violate them. And on the other hand, human rights protect the constitutional state, because they safeguard the clarity of law, the commitment of the administration to the laws and the independence of the judiciary.

What can the German EU Council Presidency promote in this area?
The rule of law has to be the uppermost priority. This is what the federal government formulated for its time of Council Presidency. The result of the EU Summit in July was disappointing in this respect. The negotiators failed to make the distribution of funds dependent on respect for the principles of the rule of law. This means the EU is continuing to fund governments who are working to dismantle the rule of law and human rights. I hope that the European Parliament will oppose this development.  Without the rule of law in all member states, the EU lacks legitimacy and in the final instance, no future.


Beate Rudolf has been director of the German Institute for Human Rights since 2010. Before that the legal expert taught and researched in the fields of fundamental and human rights for more than 20 years.

Interview: Helen Sibum


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