The first human rights discussion between the EU and Saudi Arabia held on Tuesday


RIYADH: The EU welcomed the reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia, and noted that “significant steps” have been made to advance women’s rights in the Kingdom.

In a press release by the EU External Action Service, the European Union diplomatic service, appreciation the Kingdom on Tuesday, following a discussion between Saudi Arabia and the EU in Brussels on Monday.

Among those present in the talk, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore led the EU delegation and the Saudi delegation which was led by Awwad Saleh Al-Awwad – the Saudi Human Rights Commission president.

Other Representatives from EU member states also attended as observers.

In a tweet from Gilmore which read: “I co-chaired, with Al-Awwad, the first-ever Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Saudi Arabia. A very big agenda. Engagement matters.”

A Saudi Human Rights Commission spokesman told Arab News that Al-Awwad highlighted the most prominent reforms achieved in the Kingdom in human rights.

He added that the Saudi Human Rights Commission president pointed out what they were able to achieve in the short period during, and stated that the most important factor that contributed to achieving these reforms is the presence of a political will represented in the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The European Union encouraged the Saudi authorities and urge them to work more towards achieving women’s full enjoyment of all human rights.

In the discussion, they planned judicial reforms and the EU acknowledged the changes recently introduced in the kafala (sponsorship) system, including the reforms of labour laws that came into effect in March 2020.

“We were very pleased to host the first EU-KSA Human Rights Dialogue. We had been preparing this dialogue, which is unique for our bilateral relations, for some time and we were satisfied to see that the meeting was successful.” The EU’s ambassador in Riyadh, Patrick Simonnet, told Arab News.

Simonnet added that “This is the first human rights dialogue that the Kingdom (held) with an international partner and we are excited that it was held with the EU. We have discussed a series of issues related to human rights, including the recent reforms for women’s empowerment, labour rights as well as the upcoming reforms in the penal code. We also explained the work of the EU in the field of human rights and we hope that we will be able to coordinate actions with Saudi Arabia in international fora.”

He said the dialogue has built upon the excellent relations they have established locally with the human rights commission, especially under the leadership of Dr. Al-Awwad. Adding that they are looking forward to more fruitful and comprehensive cooperation with the Kingdom on human rights.

Saad bin Mohammed Al-Arifi, the head of the Saudi mission to the EU, welcomed the discussions, pointing to the efforts made by the two sides in this context, adding that he hoped this dialogue would support solid relations between the Kingdom and the European Union.

The two sides also reviewed reforms achieved in freedom of expression and association, the rule of law, religious freedom, the right to work, and means of cooperation between the two sides within the framework of the United Nations.

The co-chairs then agreed to convene the following Human Rights Dialogue in 2022 in Saudi Arabia.


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