A year in review: FRA highlights 2013

2013 has been a year of achievements in fundamental rights, but also one of great challenges. This is reflected in FRA’s work, with publications this year on the rights of irregular migrants, harassment and discrimination of LGBT people, and experiences of antisemitism.

This year’s Fundamental Rights Conference was held on the subject of hate crime, a topic that has been climbing steadily up the EU agenda. The conference conclusions and all FRA publications are available online.

Combating hate crime

Fundamental Rights Conference poster

Violence and offences motivated by prejudice and bias are a daily reality throughout the EU. Such hate crimes can affect anyone in society. Unfortunately, they are all too common, as FRA surveys on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and antisemitism revealed. Two examples alone are telling: 1) 26% of LGBT survey respondents from all across the EU had been attacked or threatened with violence in the last five years; 2) 76% of Jewish respondents in eight Member States said that antisemitism had worsened over the last five years.

Whoever the victim is, such offences harm not only the individual targeted. They also strike at the heart of EU commitments to democracy and the fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination. In response, FRA’s annual Fundamental Rights Conference was dedicated to combating hate crime in the EU. Organised in cooperation with the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, it brought together over 400 participants decision makers and practitioners from across the EU to give victims a face and a voice and explore effective strategies to tackle hate crime.

FRA’s annual Fundamental Rights Platform meeting also focused on the victims of hate crime. More than 200 participants from a wide range of NGOs working on a wide variety of fundamental rights issues across the EU came together to identify challenges and promising practices for victim support. They also explored how national and EU institutions can best support civil society organisations as they provide help to victims of help crime.

Tackling migration, borders and asylum

Arrival of immigrants in the sea of Lampedusa

With the tragic events off the coast of Lampedusa in October 2013, migration was once more at the top of the EU agenda. FRA research has underlined the need for the EU to ensure the implementation of border, migration and asylum laws comply with fundamental rights. It issued a report entitled “Fundamental rights at Europe’s Southern Sea Borders” describing the hazardous journey that migrants face, and the many deaths at sea. It discusses current maritime surveillance mechanisms and cooperation with third countries, and details the treatment of migrants when they arrive on shore.

This year FRA also released a Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration, produced together with the European Court of Human Rights. The guide has so far proved extremely popular with the lawyers, judges, prosecutors, border guards, immigration officials and others, and has been downloaded more than 13,000 times. An updated version of the handbook will be published early in 2014.

FRA Symposium 2013 poster

Promoting the rule of law in the EU

There were worrying developments concerning the rule of law in some Member States. As such it was felt that there was a need to ensure there are means of assessing rule of law compliance across the EU. For this reason, FRA’s Fundamental Rights Symposium 2013 focused on the rule of law and its implementation in the Member States. Some 80 key experts from across Europe came together and examined issues such as key fundamental rights elements of the rule of law, and existing as well as potential instruments for its measurement and evaluation.

Safeguarding fundamental rights in times of crisis

Annual report 2012The ongoing economic crisis has led to rising unemployment, and budget cuts have resulted in deprivation for many vulnerable groups across the EU. It has also been a testing time for fundamental rights, and has implications for democratic legitimacy and the rule of law. This year’s FRA annual report considered the impact of the current crisis on the rule of law, as well as efforts by Member States to ensure trust in their justice systems. It pointed to the impact that budget cuts are having on access to justice, as well as on education, healthcare, and social services for vulnerable groups such as children. As in previous years, the annual report also highlighted the wider challenges and achievements in many areas of fundamental rights across the EU.