Obligations under EU Law and International Law
This book addresses the question of how the European Union can ensure that EU-based multinational enterprises (MNEs) respect human rights when operating in third countries. First, it identifies primary obligations on MNEs as developed by international law in order to tackle the above question. Secondly, on the basis of this theoretical framework it investigates how the European Union has acted to promote respect of human rights obligations by MNEs which are based on the territory of one of its Member States. Thirdly, the gap between the EU’s commitment to the respect and promotion of human rights, the potential to regulate the conduct of MNEs and the EU’s reluctance to impose human rights obligations on MNEs is explored. It is suggested that current human rights law should develop in the sense of considering companies as duty holders, together with States and other non-state actors, for the realisation of human rights. Moreover, a principle of graduation of responsibility is applied to MNEs, according to the specific human right involved, the proximity to the victim and the element of State authority exercised by the company in a particular situation. The above-depicted gradation of responsibility (from the obligation to respect, to the obligation to promote human rights) should be matched by a gradation of corresponding implementing mechanisms. Applying this theoretical framework to the EU, three main recommendations have been formulated. First, the EU should more firmly link the promotion of MNEs’ human rights obligations to international human rights law and support the constitution of...