Ombudsman confirms FRA did not discriminate when not accepting NGO as FRP participant

EU Ombudsman logo
EU Ombudsman logo
The European Ombudsman has confirmed that FRA did not discriminate when not accepting an NGO as a participant in its Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP).

In early 2010 a Romanian NGO applied to become a participant in the FRP. The Agency expressed its concern over some of the applicant’s online statements. In particular, the FRA referred to the following statement: "so-called alternatives, 'families' constituted of persons of the same sex, are nothing but expressions of human degeneration". The FRA considered this statement to be incompatible with conducting a fundamental rights dialogue and refused to accept the applicant as a participant in the Platform.

As a consequence the NGO turned in 2012 to the European Ombudsman, alleging that the FRA decision was arbitrary, unjustified and discriminatory. The applicant claimed that the FRA should reconsider its decision and should publicly apologise to the complainant. On 2 April 2014 the Ombudsman closed its inquiry into the complaint, finding that there was no maladministration on the side of the FRA, that its decision was not discriminatory and that that in “assessing applications for membership in the Platform, the FRA enjoys a wide margin of discretion”.  

The Ombudsman found that there was no maladministration on the side of the FRA. Moreover, the Ombudsman confirmed that in “assessing applications for membership in the Platform, the FRA enjoys a wide margin of discretion” (Para 28). The Ombudsman concurred with FRA that the above quoted statement can plausibly be assumed to endanger the fruitful and constructive dialogue aimed at by the FRP (Para. 30). The Ombudsman confirmed that the FRA did not call into doubt the complainant's right to freedom of religion and expression (Para. 31). Finally the Ombudsman clarified that neither the lack of recognition of the right to same-sex marriage in EU law nor the lack of legal competence of the EU in matters relating to marriage and family, affects the validity of the FRA's view that the statement could endanger the dialogue aimed at by the Platform (Para. 33).

The FRP is a network for cooperation and information exchange set up in accordance with Article 10 of Regulation 168/2007 establishing FRA. The FRP aims at involving civil society in FRA activities and ensuring cooperation between the Agency and relevant stakeholders. Participation in the FRP is open to all interested stakeholders. The FRA has however laid down a set of criteria and minimum requirements which applicants for membership in the FRP need to fulfil. Once accepted as a participant, participation in the Platform is valid for 2 years after which the participants have to reapply.

The procedure for assessing applicants is laid down in detail in a Director’s decision which is available here:

http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/2279-FRP-selection-internal-procedures.pdf

The terms for participation in the Platform are dealt with in the Code of Conduct which is available here:

http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/2270-FRP-code-of-conduct-2012.pdf

The full text of the Ombudsman’s Decision is available here:

http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/cases/decision.faces/en/53956/html.bookmark