Over the last decade, new fundamental rights laws and policies have been adopted and specialist institutions created. But fundamental rights challenges still remain and rights are under attack, underlining the lack of a fundamental rights culture across institutions and societies, as the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) reveals in its 2017 Fundamental Rights Report.
Ten years after FRA’s establishment, this year’s Fundamental Rights Report reflects on the highlights and shortfalls of human rights protection in the EU over the last decade. The report summarises and analyses major human rights developments in the EU over 2016, with proposals for action covering the EU’s Fundamental Rights Charter and its use by Member States; equality and non-discrimination; racism, xenophobia and related intolerance; Roma integration; asylum, borders and migration; information society, privacy and data protection; child rights; access to justice; and implementing the UN’s disability convention.
To enhance rights protection in the EU, the report makes proposals including:
- Use the Charter of Fundamental Rights’ full potential in national legislation and case law as well as in EU policy cycles like the European Semester to deliver on equality and justice for all across the EU. The creation of an EU internal strategic framework for fundamental rights and the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights would further strengthen rights protection in the EU.
- Counter the erosion in the commitment to fundamental rights and values. Against a backdrop of mounting intolerance and xenophobic rhetoric, low trust in public institutions, and backsliding in certain aspects of the rule of law, new ways to explain why rights matter to and for everyone must be found.
- Support rights defenders. With fundamental rights under attack, rights defenders need to be empowered and enabled. Civil society’s frontline role in promoting and protecting rights needs to be safeguarded. Building on national human rights institutions and support networks with appropriate resources can also increase the collective ownership of fundamental rights.
Read the Report on FRA’s website.
Equality Bodies working on multiple discrimination
P.69: By the end of 2016, attention to multiple discrimination had gained momentum among equality bodies. Equinet, the European network of equality bodies, published a specific report on the activities of equality bodies in this area. Twenty-two equality bodies from 19 Member States responded to Equinet’s survey. The activities covered by equality bodies in this area include advocating the adoption of national legislation addressing intersectionality and raising awareness on the issue. “The dominant area of work by equality bodies on intersectionality is research, with an emphasis on building a knowledge base for work on intersectionality and bringing this into public and political debate.”
Diverse challenges hamper effective functioning of equality bodies
P.86 Strengthening the powers of equality bodies contributes to more effective implementation of the Racial Equality Directive. The European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) stressed the need for standards to secure the effectiveness of such bodies. According to Equinet, these standards should address and secure, among other things, adequate financial staff and physical resources, general powers – such as commissioning and conducting research, making recommendations, conducting general investigations and challenging domestic legislation – and specific powers to underpin tribunal-type functions.
Examples were given of challenges in different countries where members face challenges linked to resources, their independence and effectiveness.
[(FRA opinion 3.4: EU Member States should allocate to equality bodies the human, technical and financial resources, premises and infrastructure necessary to allow them to fulfil their functions and deploy their powers within their legal mandate effectively and independently.)]