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Labour rights in Colombia in the perspective of a Free Trade Agreement with the EU

The EU’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia and Peru, on which the European Parliament is expected to vote in the coming months, is the subject of deep controversy. NGOs from both sides of the Atlantic question whether such an agreement should be concluded, because of the continued violation of human rights, especially in Colombia.

Image Copyright Vahe Katrjyan ,2012. Used under licence from Shutterstock.com

Colombia suffers persistent internal violence, which stems from competition for resources and local influence between various paramilitary groups. Violence is used by economic operators to secure their interests.

Therefore the situation of trade unions’ and workers’ rights is one of the major points of concern with the FTA. Indeed Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in which to exercise one’s labour rights, with huge numbers of trade-unionist workers harassed and even killed over recent decades.

The actions taken by the Colombian government to comply with its international engagements in this field, have been severely criticised by civil society groups. They regard them as insufficient, and point to a lack of real political will to implement them. Therefore, there are calls to the European Parliament to block the FTA or to make consent conditional on measurable progress in the field of human and labour rights.

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