"The European Union, Vietnam, and Human Rights as Law: The case of the 1995 EU-Vietnam framework agreement and its human rights clause"

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The year 1995 marked a major watershed for modern Vietnam. It completed its post-Cold War strategy of "multilateralizing" its foreign policy by joining ASEAN, normalizing relations with the US, and signing a comprehensive framework agreement with the EU. All three are recognized as major accomplishments for modern Vietnamese diplomacy. However, in the EU-Vietnam framework agreement, Hanoi made an unprecedented concession when it agreed to the human rights clause in the treaty. For the very first time, Vietnam had accepted an explicit, legally binding stipulation on human rights in a bilateral treaty. This remarkable development resulted from the confluence of three major dynamics. First, Hanoi had committed itself to establish sound relations with all major economic centers-of-gravity at the time, ASEAN, the US, and the EU. Second, the EU also was keenly interested in stronger relations with Asian countries but was flexible about prioritizing any particular bilateral relationship. Third, Brussels' diplomats had to work off a treaty template when negotiating fundamental bilateral agreements. The standard EU framework agreement at the time included a human rights clause. In 1995, the EU was insisting that any treaty with Vietnam would have to include a clause on human rights. Initially, Hanoi rejected such a treaty provision, and the negotiations stalled. However, when Hanoi realized that Brussels felt no urgency to complete the treaty and was unable to compromise on human rights, Vietnam's leadership reconsidered. In order to complete the strategy of "multilateralizing" its international affairs, Vietnam had to accept the human rights clause in the treaty with the EU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
JournalAsia Europe Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul 3


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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