BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) Friday welcomed the continued socio-economic reforms and, in particular, "the significant steps taken to advance women's rights in Saudi Arabia and the increased access of Saudi women to the job market and encouraged the continuation of this progress."

This position was expressed in a statement released by the EU's diplomatic service, known as the European External Action Service, following the second Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Saudi Arabia which was held in Riyadh on 6 November, but the statement was released only today without any explanation for the delayed release.

"The dialogue took place in a constructive and sincere atmosphere. It offered an opportunity to have detailed discussions on a wide range of topics, including economic, social and cultural rights, women's rights and empowerment, rights of persons in vulnerable situations, freedoms of expression and association and rule of law, as well as cooperation in UN human rights fora," it said.

The statement said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia informed about planned judicial reforms and the introduction of new laws, notably the new Penal Code and the Personal Status Law, aimed at codifying the legal system and improving its transparency and predictability.

The EU expressed its readiness to contribute to addressing remaining challenges in this regard by sharing best practices and expertise.

"The EU also encouraged the Saudi authorities to extend the scope of labour reforms to domestic workers. The EU reiterated its position on death penalty and raised concerns regarding the steep increase of executions this year. Freedom of assembly and association were equally addressed, with the EU raising individual cases and the use of travel bans," it noted.

The EU recognised the accomplishments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding the access to education and the new curriculum and welcomed its commitment to work towards full inclusion of persons with disabilities, it said.

The EU further called on Saudi Arabia to ratify core international human and labour rights treaties, including the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and to fully cooperate with UN Special Procedures.

The co-chairs agreed to convene the next Human Rights Dialogue in 2023 in Brussels and identified a number of topics for possible further cooperation.

EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore led the EU Delegation. The Saudi Delegation was led by the Chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijiri. Representatives from EU Member States embassies in Riyadh attended as observers, it added.

The European Union and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held their first ever Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels in September 2021.

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