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What is the difference between human rights and fundamental rights?
The term ‘fundamental rights’ is used by the European Union (EU) to express the concept of ‘human rights’ within a specific EU internal context.
Traditionally, the term ‘fundamental rights’ is used in a constitutional setting whereas the term ‘human rights’ is used in international law. The two terms refer to the similar substance as can be seen when comparing the content in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union with that of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
What are the most burning fundamental rights issues in Europe?
Asylum, the situation of Roma and data protection are some of the most burning fundamental rights issues today.
Asylum - The influx of North Africans to Europe in the wake of the Arab spring fuelled public debate on asylum and underlined the urgency of establishing a Common European Asylum System that fully respects fundamental rights. An agreement – reached as speedily as possible – on a Common European Asylum System will establish a framework that will help guarantee that fundamental rights are fully respected in the field of asylum.
To ensure a rights-based Asylum System, the effective monitoring of deportations, for example, must be ensured. Forced deportations remain a reality in the EU – despite efforts to increase voluntary returns. Only effective, independent national monitoring can ensure that deportations are handled in a manner in line with the fundamental rights standards outlined in the Return Directive. Yet, at the end of 2011, 13 EU Member States had not yet established such systems.
Roma - Far too many Roma in the EU suffer widespread poverty, pervasive discrimination and lack of access to justice. Education and housing are areas of particular concern. Only 15% of young Roma adults have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education; and on average, about 40% of Roma surveyed live in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food.
Last year, the EU reinforced its commitment to Roma inclusion with the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. The latest findings of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) suggest ways to convert this commitment into reality. They point to some important considerations that should inform national strategies and action plans. A consistent and robust monitoring of progress is needed to ensure that the commitments made are making a tangible difference to the situation and the lives of Roma in the EU.
The FRA will regularly provide robust and comparable data on which the EU institutions can base their monitoring – as has been requested by the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies of April 2011.
Data protection - There is a continuous need to balance the opportunities offered by new technologies to promote freedom of expression, cultural and social life, and free movement, against the potential threat to other rights. National data protection authorities also face difficulties in terms of independence and lack of human and financial resources.
In addition there are a number of cross-cutting issues. These include:
- austerity measures resulting from the economic crisis hitting the most vulnerable members of society and limiting access to their legal rights – such as people with disabilities;
- lack of rights awareness;
- difficulties in getting access to justice;
- underreporting of cases of discrimination;
- poor data collection about the situation on the ground.
How does the FRA support fundamental rights?
The FRA provides the EU Institutions and Member States with robust independent evidence-based advice, hereby helping to make fundamental rights a reality for everyone in the EU.
To do this, the FRA performs the following main tasks:
- collecting and analysing information and data;
- providing assistance and expertise;
- communicating and raising rights awareness.
However, it is the EU institutions and Member States that draft, change and implement the laws and policies that have an impact on people living in the EU.