Speaking at the opening of seventh World Congress Against the Death Penalty on February 5, a number of European Parliamentarians took the opportunity to demand that the EU prohibit trade with countries who still retain capital punishment.

Members of the European Parliament political parties, the Socialist & Democrats and Greens/EFA, said Brussels should apply the principle of conditionality with respect to a country’s human rights record when distributing EU funds in African, Caribbean, and Pacific, or ACP, states.

“As EU citizens, we say ‘No’ to the death penalty…this message must be heard across the world. The EU should make it easier for authorities to block trade, for example, to countries which still retain the death penalty,” Alex Mayer, a Member of the Committee of Economic and Monetary affairs said.

The initiative to make the abolition of the death penalty a prerequisite for trade relations with the EU was also endorsed by Klaus Buchner, a member of the sub-committee on human rights, who said trade is a primary tool to encourage states to respect both the rule of law and an individual’s fundamental rights.

The initiative, however, has little chance to attain any legal framework in the near future as in the run-up to the unpredictable economic and political consequences posed by Brexit, few in the EU have the appetite to risk trade relations with any state linked to the EU by the Cotonou Agreement that covers over 100 countries with a total population of some 1.5 billion people.

The ACP-EU Partnership Agreement was signed in Cotonou, Benin in 2000 and expires in 2020. It is the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU. At present, there are 53 states in the world who still have the death penalty, including China, India, the US, Japan, and Singapore.