Shifting Priorities, a European Outlook? Amnesty International’s Trajectories Towards ‘Europe’, 1974-1994

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In 1992, Amnesty International established its European Institutions Office to lobby the European Communities (EC). A highly contested process leading up to this was set in motion in the second half of the 1970s as a result of the increasing salience of human rights language on the international level. Established international and European intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) concerned with human rights such as the Council of Europe (CE) intensified their activities, while new players like the EC tried to claim a spot in an increasingly crowded maze of cooperating and competing IGOs addressing human rights. The history of human rights has been documented thoroughly. However, both the history of human rights in European integration and the history of Amnesty International’s European lobbying are currently in an embryonic phase. While the former focuses almost solely on state and/or European institutional actors – exclusively aimed at the 1970s –, the latter has remained largely obscured, with some studies addressing a single specific section’s European outlook during a short timespan. This thesis aims to operate on the intersection of these historiographical strands. Specifically, it concerns the question as to how Amnesty International’s European lobbying strategy – including the CE and the EC – was conceived, contested, and how it developed during the period between 1974-1994. This thesis approaches Amnesty International’s European strategy in a much-needed integral, or even holistic sense: instead of focusing on either national sections or the International Secretariat of Amnesty, this study takes into account the reciprocal relation between Amnesty’s national and transnational natures, and how this influenced 1) the formulation of ideas about and discussions on ‘Europe’, 2) the institutional development of a ‘European section’, 3) and Amnesty’s subsequent lobbying – or in some cases lack thereof – of European institutions. Following these aims, this thesis identified that there was no single Amnesty International European strategy. Instead, section-specific ideas on ‘Europe’ emerged and translated into lobbying strategies that were highly dependent on the (national) context of the sections. Within Amnesty, multiple trajectories co-existed regarding various European organizations. While the Belgian and especially the Dutch section were at the forefront of lobbying ‘Europe’, the Danish and West German ones were most skeptical about approaching the EC.
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