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During the visits, he was invited to address the German and Italian Parliaments about FRA and its work on fundamental rights. It enabled FRA to speak directly to parliamentarians, inviting them to make use of FRA and its findings in their daily work as they strive to tackle fundamental rights issues. In both parliaments, there was much interest in FRA’s work in light of the strengthening of national parliaments’ role in EU policy and law making through the Lisbon Treaty. A role for FRA in the EU’s framework to strengthen the rule of law was one of the suggestions coming from parliamentarians, together with a call on FRA to strengthen its outreach to national parliaments.
FRA prepares for cooperating with Italian Presidency of the EU
On 12-13 May, FRA visited Italy, as it prepares for its Presidency of the Council of the EU which will begin on 1 July. During the visit the Director had the opportunity to address a joint meeting of competent parliamentary committees of the Italy’s Lower Chamber and Senate. He gave examples of FRA’s survey work, often providing for the first time comparable EU-wide data on issues such as hate crime, Roma integration or violence against women. While the results of such work are probably what the agency is most associated with, he also took time to explain some of the other strings to FRA’s bow. This included its comparative legal work and qualitative research, its opinions on draft EU laws, its practical handbooks on subjects such as asylum or data protection law, and its good practice exchange with Member States on issues such as hate crime and Roma integration.
Against the backdrop of the unfolding tragedies off the coast of Lampedusa in Italy, FRA made special reference to its work on migration and asylum during the parliamentary meeting. This included its report on treatment of third country nationals at the EU’s borders, the rights of irregular migrants and its cooperation with Frontex on hard wiring fundamental rights into its work.
While in Italy, FRA was also able to discuss its flagship event, the Fundamental Rights Conference which will focus on fundamental rights in the area of migration, integration and border management. The event will take place in Rome on 10-11 November.
FRA speaks in German Parliament on added value of EU agencies
On 7 May, the FRA Director presented the work of FRA to the EU Affairs Committee of the German Parliament. He gave examples of the different types of work the agency carries out across many different fields. He also spoke of the different ways the German Parliament could make greater use of FRA’s work. In addition, he used the opportunity to raise the parliamentarians’ awareness of the wider work of the network of EU agencies, which FRA is chairing in 2014.
As the visit to Berlin also coincided with Europe Day on 9 May, it was also an opportunity to speak about FRA’s work on fundamental rights during an event co-organised by the European Commission Representation in Berlin and the German Institute for Human Rights.
Both visits were also an opportunity to hold bilateral meetings with national ministers and to meet with national NGOs.