“Effective protection of fundamental rights in the EU is more necessary than ever. And this requires investment in a joined-up governance approach, where different mechanisms and institutions active in the area of fundamental rights cooperate more closely and efficiently,” said Management Board Chairperson Frauke Seidensticker in opening the meeting. “We want to work with you to develop strategies and to contribute to, or rather to create a European Union in which fundamental rights are a reality for any and all human beings who touch the soil of our countries.”
The meeting was based on participatory methodology to ensure focused group discussion. Participants acknowledged the need to increase not only cross-border cooperation but also collaboration between different stakeholders within individual EU Member States, as it is vital that ministries, parliaments, national human rights bodies and civil society at the national level work together to make a difference to the fundamental rights situation on the ground.
Key fundamental rights concerns identified by participants included:
- Migration and migrant integration, in particular the issue of security vs. fundamental rights
- Human rights education for young people and also the general public
- Transnational issues: human trafficking, connected to migration flows
- Unaccompanied minors in the asylum process
- Rights awareness from a gender perspective
- The increasing problem of hate crime and hate speech
- Access to politics for people with disabilities
- The fundamental rights aspects of state of emergency measures
In his closing remarks, FRA interim Director Constantinos Manolopoulos mentioned promising practices as well as a number of opportunities for collaboration that were identified during the course of the two-day meeting. He also spoke out about the need for new forms of cooperation in order to solve the EU’s growing challenges:
“In the years since the economic crisis, we have seen an increase in poverty in the EU, bringing uncertainty to many people’s lives and potentially leading to a greater number of human rights violations,” he said. “We have also seen how extremist parties have succeeded in boosting their popularity by scapegoating groups such as migrants, of particular relevance at present. To counter these dangers, we need new forms of cooperation between the organisations and institutions set up to safeguard fundamental rights.”
As well as FRA’s National Liaison Officers, representatives of the European Commission, the Agency’s National Parliamentary Focal Points, selected National Human Rights Institutions, Equality Bodies and Ombudsmen, and the Advisory Panel of FRA’s Fundamental Rights Platform, members of FRA’s Management Board and Scientific Committee attended the meeting. A summary can be found in the flash report below, and the outcomes of the meeting will feed into FRA’s future work.