The Humanitarian Law Principle of Independence Versus the European Union’s Missionary Principle

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According to public international law, humanitarian aid must comply with four fundamental principles, one of which being the principle of independence. Duly complying with this principle means that the humanitarian objectives must be autonomous from political, economic, military, or other objectives, and the principle serves to ensure that the sole purpose of humanitarian aid remains to relieve and prevent the suffering of victims of humanitarian crises. This requirement places the European Union—one of the world’s largest donors of humanitarian aid—in a dilemma since, arguably, the Union’s treaty-bases simultaneously require that it promotes, amongst others, principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights, and free trade when providing humanitarian aid to third countries. This article analyses this dilemma. It points out that whilst conflicts only arise infrequently, there have been occasions where they have indeed arisen, and it is argued that the principle of independence takes precedence over the treaty-based duty to promote ‘European values’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalYearbook of European Law
Pages (from-to)810-828
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2017

ID: 147914488