Fundamental Rights Report 2018 - FRA Opinions

The year 2017 brought both progress and setbacks in terms of fundamental rights protection. FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2018 reviews major developments in the EU between January and December 2017, and outlines FRA’s opinions thereon. Noting both achievements and remaining areas of concern, it provides insights into the main issues shaping fundamental rights debates across the EU.

1. Focus - Shifting perceptions: towards a rights-based approach to ageing

This chapter explores the slow but inexorable shift from thinking about old age in terms of ‘deficits’ that create ‘needs’ to a more comprehensive one encompassing a ‘rights-based’ approach towards ageing. This gradually evolving paradigm shift strives to respect the fundamental right to equal treatment of all individuals, regardless of age – without neglecting protecting and providing support to those who need it. A human rights approach does not contradict the reality of age-specific needs; on the contrary, a rights-based approach enables one to better meet needs, as required, while framing them in a human rights-based narrative.

two elderly people

In this chapter:

  • Ageism and its effects on the individual, the group and society as a whole
  • EU’s increasing focus on rights of older people 

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Focus - Shifting perceptions: towards a rights-based approach to ageing

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  • FRA opinion 1.1

    The EU legislator should continue its efforts for the adoption of the Equal Treatment Directive. The directive will extend horizontally protection against discrimination based on various grounds, including age, to areas of particular importance for older people, including access to goods and services, social protection, healthcare and housing.

  • FRA opinion 1.2

    To deliver on stronger social rights protection, the EU legislator should proceed with concrete legal action, further implementing the principles and rights enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights. In this regard, it should ensure the rapid adoption of the proposed Work-life Balance Directive and accelerate the procedures for the adoption of a comprehensive European Accessibility Act. To ensure coherence with the wider body of EU legislation, the Accessibility Act should include provisions linking it to other relevant acts, such as the regulations covering the European Structural and Investment Funds.

  • FRA opinion 1.3

    EU institutions and Member States should consider using the European Structural and Investment Funds, as well as other EU financial tools, to promote a rights-based approach to ageing. To enhance reforms that promote living in dignity and autonomy, as well as opportunities to participate for older people, EU institutions and Member States should reaffirm and reinforce in the coming programming period (post 2020) ex-ante conditionalities, as well as provisions for monitoring their implementation. Such measures should ensure that EU funding is used in compliance with fundamental rights obligations.

    Furthermore, EU institutions and Member States should systematically address challenges older people face in core policy coordination mechanisms, such as the European Semester.

2. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its use by Member States

In 2017, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was in force as the EU’s legally binding bill of rights for the eighth year. It complements national human rights documents and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). As in previous years, the Charter’s role and usage at national level was mixed: there appears to be no significant improvement in its use by the judiciary or in legislative processes; and it proved hard to identify government policies aimed at promoting the Charter. Instead, with references in national courts, parliaments and governments remaining limited in number and often superficial, the Charter’s potential was once again not fully exploited.

EU Fundamental Rights Charter stamp

In this chapter:

  • National (high) courts’ use of the Charter: a mixed picture
  • National legislative processes and parliamentary debates: Charter of limited relevance

Download: 
Chapter 2. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and its use by Member States

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 2.1

    The EU and its Member States should encourage greater information exchange on experiences with and approaches to referencing and using the Charter – between judges, bar associations and administrations within the Member States, but also across national borders. In encouraging this information exchange, EU Member States should make best use of existing funding opportunities, such as those under the Justice programme. EU Member States should promote awareness of the Charter rights and ensure that targeted training modules are offered for national judges and other legal practitioners.

  • FRA opinion 2.2

    National courts, as well as governments and/or parliaments, could consider a more consistent ‘Article 51 (field of application) screening’ to assess at an early stage whether or not a judicial case or legislative file raises questions under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The development of standardised handbooks on practical steps to check the Charter’s applicability – so far the case only in very few EU Member States – could provide legal practitioners with a tool to assess the Charter’s relevance in a particular case or legislative proposal. The FRA Handbook on the applicability of the Charter could serve as inspiration in this regard.

3. Equality and non-discrimination

The year 2017 brought mixed progress in promoting equality and non-discrimination in the European Union (EU). While the Equal Treatment Directive – proposed in 2008 – had not been adopted by year-end, the EU proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is rooted in the principle of non-discrimination. Restrictions on religious clothing and symbols at work or in public spaces remained a subject of attention, particularly affecting Muslim women. Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons made some advances, particularly regarding the civil status of same-sex couples. Meanwhile, findings drawing on a wide range of equality data – including data obtained through discrimination testing – show that unequal treatment and discrimination remain realities in European societies.

FRA icon of community assistance

In this chapter:

  • Mixed progress in promoting equality and non-discrimination in the EU
  • Religious symbols remain centre of attention
  • LGBTI equality in the EU advances
  • Discrimination and unequal treatment remain realities, data underscore
  • Discrimination testing provides empirical evidence of discrimination in EU

Download: 
Chapter 3. Equality and non-discrimination

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 3.1

    The EU legislator should continue its efforts for the adoption of the Equal Treatment Directive to ensure that the EU offers comprehensive protection against discrimination in key areas of life, irrespective of a person’s sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

  • FRA opinion 3.2

    The EU legislator should proceed with concrete legal action to deliver on stronger social rights protection and further implement the principles and rights enshrined in the Pillar of Social Rights.

  • FRA opinion 3.3

    EU Member States should ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are safeguarded when considering any restrictions on symbols or garments associated with religion. Any legislative or administrative proposal that risks limiting the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief should embed fundamental rights considerations and respect for the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.

  • FRA opinion 3.4

    EU Member States are encouraged to continue adopting and implementing specific measures to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons can fully avail themselves of all their fundamental rights. In doing so, EU Member States are encouraged to use the list of actions to advance LGBTI equality published by the European Commission to guide their efforts.

  • FRA opinion 3.5

    EU institutions and EU Member States are encouraged to continue supporting and funding the collection of reliable and robust equality data by EU agencies and bodies, national statistical authorities, national equality bodies, other public authorities and academic institutions. In addition, EU Member States are encouraged to provide the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat) with robust and reliable equality data, so as to enable the EU to develop targeted programmes and measures through which to foster equal treatment and promote non-discrimination. Where possible and relevant, the collected data should not only be disaggregated by sex and by age, but also by ethnic origin, disability and religion.

4. Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance

Seventeen years after the adoption of the Racial Equality Directive and nine years after the adoption of the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, immigrants and minority ethnic groups continue to face widespread discrimination, harassment and discriminatory ethnic profiling across the EU, as the findings of FRA’s second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II) show. The European Commission supported EU Member States’ efforts to counter racism and hate crime through the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance. It also continued to monitor closely the implementation of the Racial Equality Directive and of the Framework Decision. Although several EU Member States have been reviewing their anti-racism legislation, in 2017 only 14 of them had in place action plans and strategies aimed at combating racism and ethnic discrimination.

Composite picture of a face made up of different ethnic minorities

In this chapter:

  • No progress in countering racism in the EU 
  • More efforts needed for correct implementation of Racial Equality Directive 
  • Stepping up efforts to counter discriminatory profiling

Download: 
Chapter 4. Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 4.1

    EU Member States should ensure that any case of alleged hate crime, including hate speech, is effectively recorded, investigated, prosecuted and tried. This needs to be done in accordance with applicable national, EU, European and international law.

    EU Member States should make further efforts to systematically record, collect and publish annually comparable data on hate crime to enable them to develop effective, evidence-based legal and policy responses to these phenomena. Any data should be collected in accordance with national legal frameworks and EU data protection legislation.

  • FRA opinion 4.2

    EU Member States should ensure better practical implementation and application of the Racial Equality Directive. They should also raise awareness of anti-discrimination legislation and the relevant redress mechanisms, particularly among those most likely to be affected by discrimination, such as members of ethnic minorities. In particular, Member States should ensure that sanctions are sufficiently effective, proportionate and dissuasive, as required by the Racial Equality Directive.

  • FRA opinion 4.3

    EU Member States should develop dedicated national action plans to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In this regard, Member States could draw on the practical guidance offered by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on how to develop such plans. In line with this guidance, such action plans would set goals and actions, assign responsible state bodies, set target dates, include performance indicators, and provide for monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Implementing such plans would provide EU Member States with an effective means for ensuring that they meet their obligations under the Racial Equality Directive and the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia.

  • FRA opinion 4.4

    EU Member States should end discriminatory forms of profiling. This could be achieved through providing systematic training on antidiscrimination legislation to law enforcement officers, as well as by enabling them to better understand unconscious bias and challenge stereotypes and prejudice. Such training could also raise awareness of the consequences of discrimination and of how to increase trust in the police among members of minority communities. In addition, to monitor discriminatory profiling practices, EU Member States could consider recording the use of stop-and-search powers. In particular, they could record the ethnicity of those subjected to stops – which currently happens in one Member State – in accordance with national legal frameworks and EU data protection legislation.

5. Roma integration

The EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies has not yet resulted in significant and ‘tangible progress’, despite the continued implementation of measures to improve Roma inclusion in the Member States. Roma participation in education has increased, but early school leaving and segregation in education remain problems. The situation of Roma in employment, housing and health shows little improvement, while persisting anti-Gypsyism, which manifests itself in discrimination, harassment and hate crime, remains an important barrier to Roma inclusion. The need to tackle anti-Gypsyism became a higher political priority in 2017, reflected in the European Parliament Resolution on fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU. Enhanced efforts to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of integration measures are necessary, while special attention should be paid to marginalised and socially excluded young Roma and Roma women.

Roma settlement

In this chapter:

  • Taking stock of progress on Roma integration
  • Overview of the fundamental rights situation of Roma
  • Implementing monitoring frameworks

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Chapter 5. Roma integration

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 5.1

    EU Member States should ensure that combating anti-Gypsyism is mainstreamed into policy measures and combined with active inclusion policies that address ethnic inequality and poverty, in line with the Racial Equality Directive and the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia. They should also include awareness-raising measures on the benefits of Roma integration, targeted towards the general population, service providers, public educational staff and the police. Such measures could include surveys or qualitative research conducted at national or local level to understand the social impact of anti-Gypsyism.

  • FRA opinion 5.2

    National educational authorities should provide necessary support and resources to schools with Roma student populations to address all aspects of educational inclusion: to increase participation in education and to reduce dropout rates. EU Member States should implement further efforts to address segregation in education that focus on longer-term sustainability and in parallel address discrimination and anti-Gypsyism. Desegregation measures should be accompanied by awareness-raising efforts and diversity promotion in schools addressed to teachers, students and parents.

  • FRA opinion 5.3

    EU Member States should strengthen measures to support access to the labour market for Roma. Employment policies, national employment offices and businesses, particularly at local level, should provide support to enable self-employment and entrepreneurship activities. They should also implement outreach efforts to Roma to support their full integration into the labour market, with a focus also on Roma women and young people.

  • FRA opinion 5.4

    EU Member States should review their national Roma integration strategies or integrated sets of policy measures to advance efforts to promote participatory approaches to policymaking and in integration projects, paying particular attention to the local level and supporting community-led efforts. European Structural and Investment Funds and other funding sources should be used to facilitate participation of Roma and community-led integration projects.

  • FRA opinion 5.5

    Member States should improve or establish monitoring mechanisms on Roma integration, in line with the 2013 Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the Member States. Monitoring mechanisms should include further collection of anonymised data disaggregated by ethnicity and gender, in line with EU data protection legislation, and include relevant questions in large-scale surveys such as the Labour Force Survey and the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions. Monitoring mechanisms should involve civil society and local Roma communities. Independent assessments, involving Roma, should also review the use and effectiveness of EU funds, and should feed directly into improving policy measures.

6. Asylum, visas, migration, borders and integration

Irregular arrivals by sea halved compared to 2016, totalling some 187,000 in 2017. However, more than 3,100 people died while crossing the sea to reach Europe. Along the Western Balkan route, allegations of police mistreating migrants increased. Some EU Member States still struggled with the reception of asylum applicants. Migration and security challenges were increasingly linked, with large-scale EU information systems serving to both manage immigration and strengthen security. Meanwhile, the push to address irregular migration more effectively exacerbated existing fundamental rights risks.

Sea coastline

In this chapter:

  • Fundamental rights challenges persist as number of arrivals drop
  • Information systems multiply
  • Fight against irregular immigration intensifies fundamental rights risks

Download: 
Chapter 6. Asylum, visas, migration, borders and integration

(pdf, 902KB) 

FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 6.1

    EU Member States should reinforce preventive measures to reduce the risk that individual police and border guard officers engage in abusive behaviour at the borders. Whenever reports of mistreatment emerge, these should be investigated effectively and perpetrators brought to justice.

  • FRA opinion 6.2

    The EU should ensure that either the EU legislator or independent expert bodies thoroughly assess all fundamental rights impacts of the different proposals on interoperability prior to their adoption and implementation, paying particular attention to the diverse experiences of women and men.

  • FRA opinion 6.3

    When depriving individuals of their liberty for immigration-related reasons, EU Member States must respect all safeguards imposed by the Charter as well as those deriving from the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, detention must be necessary in the individual case.

  • FRA opinion 6.4

    All EU Member States bound by the Return Directive should set up an effective return monitoring system.

7. Information society, privacy and data protection

For both technological innovation and protection of privacy and personal data, 2017 was an important year. Rapid development of new technologies brought as many opportunities as challenges. As EU Member States and EU institutions finalised their preparatory work for the application of the EU Data Protection package, new challenges arose. Exponential progress in research related to ‘big data’ and artificial intelligence, and their promises in fields as diverse as health, security and business markets, pushed public authorities and civil society to question the real impact these may have on citizens – and especially on their fundamental rights. Meanwhile, two large-scale malware attacks strongly challenged digital security. The EU’s recent reforms in the data protection and cybersecurity fields, as well as its current efforts in relation to e-privacy, proved to be timely and relevant in light of these developments.

Mobile phone, keyboard and lock

In this chapter:

  • Data protection and privacy developments
  • Intensification of cyberattacks triggers diverse cybersecurity efforts
  • Big data: EU and international bodies urge respect for fundamental rights amidst push for innovation

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Chapter 7. Information society, privacy and data protection

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 7.1

    EU Member States should thoroughly assess the human and financial resources, including technical skills, necessary for the operations of data protection authorities in view of their new responsibilities deriving from the enhanced powers and competences set out under the General Data Protection Regulation.

  • FRA opinion 7.2

    Data protection authorities should ensure that all data controllers give specific attention to children and older EU citizens to guarantee equal awareness of data protection and privacy rights, and to reduce the vulnerability caused by digital illiteracy.

  • FRA opinion 7.3

    When reviewing the PNR Directive pursuant to Article 19, the EU legislator should pay particular attention to the analysis of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Notably, it should consider reviewing the provisions of the PNR Directive to limit the scope of data retention, after air passengers’ departure, to those passengers who may objectively present a risk in terms of terrorism and/or serious transnational crime.

  • FRA opinion 7.4

    EU Member States should evaluate the impact of ‘big data’ analytics and consider how to address related risks to fundamental rights through strong, independent and effective supervisory mechanisms. Given their expertise, data protection authorities should be actively involved in these processes.

  • FRA opinion 7.5

    EU Member States should ensure that the national provisions transposing the NIS Directive into national law adhere to the protection principles enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In particular, national provisions need to adhere to the principles of purpose limitation, data minimisation, data security, storage limitation and accountability, especially as regards the NIS Directive’s obligation for national authorities to cooperate with national law enforcement and data protection authorities.

8. Rights of the child

Child poverty rates in the EU decreased slightly overall, but remained high. Almost 25 million children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Severe housing deprivation affects 7 % of families with children in the EU. The European Pillar of Social Rights underlines children’s right to protection from poverty and to equality; it specifically focuses on affordable early childhood education and good-quality care. Migrant and refugee children continued to arrive in Europe seeking protection, although in lower numbers than in 2015 and 2016. While the European Commission provided policy guidance through a Communication on the protection of children in migration, Member States continued efforts to provide appropriate accommodation, education, psychological assistance and general integration measures for children. Implementing the best interests of the child principle remained a practical challenge in the migration context. There was very limited progress in reducing immigration detention of children. Meanwhile, diverse European and national initiatives focused on the risks of radicalisation and violent extremism among young people.

Group of teenagers

In this chapter:

  • Tackling child poverty and social exclusion
  • Protecting children in migration remains a daunting challenge
  • Extremism and radicalisation of children and young people

Download: 
Chapter 8. Rights of the child

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FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 8.1

    The European Union and its Member States should ensure they deliver on the commitments included in the European Pillar of Social Rights to protect children from poverty, provide access to affordable early childhood education and care of good quality without discrimination. They should also ensure the right of girls and boys from disadvantaged backgrounds to specific measures to enhance equal opportunities. The implementation of the Pillar requires concrete legislative proposals, action plans, budgetary allocation and monitoring systems in all areas that affect children and their families, such as employment, gender equality, access to health services, education and affordable housing.

    EU Member States should make use of the Commission’s 2013 Recommendation ‘Investing in children’ when presenting their National Reform Programmes for the European Semester.

  • FRA opinion 8.2

    EU Member States should establish the fight against severe housing deprivation as a political priority and ensure that families with children, especially those living at risk of poverty, have priority access to social housing or are provided with adequate housing assistance. Relevant authorities should address homelessness and implement measures that include the prevention or delay of evictions of families with children, especially during winter. While doing so, Member States should make use of various housing funding programmes that the EU offers.

    The EU should promote regional and cross-national exchange of practices related to practical measures to prevent evictions of families with children. It should also promote EU-wide efforts to collect data on evictions of families with children and on homelessness.

  • FRA opinion 8.3

    EU Member States should formalise procedures appropriate for their national contexts for assessing the best interests of the child in the area of asylum or migration. Such procedures should clearly define situations when a formal best interests determination is necessary, who is responsible, how it is recorded and what gender and cultural-sensitive methodology it should follow.

    The EU could facilitate this process by coordinating it, mapping current practice and guiding the process, through the existing networks of Member States on the rights of the child and the protection of children in migration, which the European Commission coordinates.

  • FRA opinion 8.4

    To promote children’s right to protection and care, the EU and its Member States should develop credible and effective non-custodial alternatives that would make it unnecessary to detain children during asylum procedures or for return purposes, regardless of whether they are in the EU alone or with their families. This could include building on, for example, case management, alternative care, counselling and coaching.
    The European Commission should consider the systematic monitoring of the use of immigration detention for children and other people in a vulnerable situation.

  • FRA opinion 8.5

    EU Member States should address the complex phenomenon of radicalisation through a holistic, multidimensional approach going beyond security and law enforcement measures. For this, Member States should establish programmes that promote citizenship and the common values of freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination, in particular in educational settings. Member States should encourage effective coordination among existing actors in child protection, justice, social and youth care, health and education systems to facilitate comprehensive integrated intervention.

9. Access to justice including the rights of crime victims

Despite various efforts by the EU and other international actors, challenges in the areas of the rule of law and justice posed growing concerns in the EU in 2017, triggering the first-ever Commission proposal to the Council to adopt a decision under Article 7 (1) of the Treaty on European Union. Meanwhile, several EU Member States took steps to strengthen their collective redress mechanisms in line with Commission Recommendation 2013/396/EU, which potentially improves access to justice. Victims’ rights also saw progress. About a third of EU Member States adopted legislation to transpose the Victims’ Rights Directive; many implemented new measures in 2017 to ensure that crime victims receive timely and comprehensive information about their rights from the first point of contact – often the police. The EU signed the Istanbul Convention as a first step in the process of ratifying it. Another three EU Member States ratified the Convention in 2017, reinforcing that EU Member States recognise the instrument as defining European human rights protection standards in the area of violence against women and domestic violence. This includes sexual harassment – an issue that received widespread attention due to the #metoo movement.

Courtroom gavel

In this chapter:

  • Rule of law challenges and hurdles to justice pose growing concerns 
  • Facilitating access to justice through collective redress mechanisms 
  • Advancing victims’ rights 
  • Violence against women and domestic violence

Download: 
Chapter 9. Access to justice including the rights of crime victims

(pdf, 902KB) 

FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 9.1

    The EU and its Member States are encouraged to further strengthen their efforts and collaboration to reinforce independent judiciaries, an essential rule of law component. One way forward in this context is to depart from the existing approach of tackling rule of law emergencies in individual countries in an ad-hoc manner. Instead, the existing efforts should be stepped up to develop criteria and contextual assessments to guide EU Member States in recognising and tackling any possible rule of law issues in a regular and comparative manner. In addition, existing targeted advice from European and international human rights monitoring mechanisms, including the remedial actions set out in the European Commission’s recommendations issued as part of its Rule of Law Framework procedure, should be acted on to ensure compliance with the rule of law. All EU Member States should always stand ready to defend the rule of law and take necessary actions to challenge any attempts to undermine the independence of their judiciary.

  • FRA opinion 9.2

    EU Member States – working closely with the European Commission and other EU bodies – should continue their efforts to ensure that Commission Recommendation 2013/396/EU on collective redress mechanisms is fully implemented to enable effective collective action and access to justice. The collective redress mechanisms should be wide in scope and not limited to consumer matters. The European Commission should also take advantage of the assessment of the implementation of Commission Recommendation 2013/396/EU, initiated in 2017, to provide the necessary support to EU Member States to introduce or reform their national mechanisms for collective redress in line with the rule of law and fundamental rights in all the areas where collective claims for injunctions or damages in respect of violations of the rights granted under Union law would be relevant.

  • FRA opinion 9.3

    Following positive legal developments to transpose the Victims’ Rights Directive up until 2017, EU Member States should focus on the effective implementation of the directive. This should include the collection of data disaggregated by gender on how crime victims have accessed their rights; such data should be used to address gaps in institutional frameworks to enable and empower victims to exercise their rights. Further data collection at national and at EU level will shed light on this and highlight gaps that need to be filled to ensure that victims of crime have access to rights and support on the ground.

  • FRA opinion 9.4

    All EU Member States and the EU itself should consider ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). EU Member States are encouraged to address gaps in national legislation regarding the criminalisation of all non-consensual sexual acts. EU Member States should – in line with Article 36 of the Istanbul Convention – unambiguously and unconditionally criminalise the respective acts.

  • FRA opinion 9.5

    EU Member States should reinforce their efforts and take further measures to prevent and combat sexual harassment. This should include necessary steps towards effectively banning sexual harassment as regards access to employment and working conditions in accordance with Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast).

10. Developments in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The European Commission’s progress report on implementation of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 provided an opportunity to take stock of the EU’s efforts to realise the rights set out in the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Movement towards the adoption of the European Accessibility Act indicated that a major legislative milestone is moving closer. Despite significant achievements at the EU and national levels, however, implementation gaps persist in key areas such as accessibility and independent living. Tools such as indicators, as well as rulings by national courts on the justiciability of the CRPD, can help to ensure that practice follows the promise of legal obligations. Monitoring frameworks established under Article 33 (2) of the convention also have a crucial role to play, but a lack of resources, limited mandates and a lack of independence undermine their effectiveness.

Person in a wheelchair

In this chapter:

  • The CRPD and the EU: taking stock for the future
  • The CRPD in EU Member States: reforms, rulings and measuring results
  • Familiar challenges impede effective CRPD monitoring

Download: 
Chapter 10. Developments in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

(pdf, 902KB) 

FRA opinions

  • FRA opinion 10.1

    The EU and its Member States should intensify efforts to embed CRPD standards in their legal and policy frameworks to ensure that the human rights-based approach to disability is fully reflected in law and policymaking. This should include a comprehensive review of legislation for compliance with the CRPD. Guidance on implementation should incorporate clear targets and timeframes, and identify actors responsible for reforms. Member States should also consider developing indicators to track progress and highlight implementation gaps.

  • FRA opinion 10.2

    The EU should ensure the rapid adoption of a comprehensive European Accessibility Act, which includes robust enforcement measures. This should enshrine standards for the accessibility of the built environment and transport services. To ensure coherence with the wider body of EU legislation, the Act should include provisions linking it to other relevant acts, such as the regulations covering the European Structural and Investment Funds and the Public Procurement Directive.

  • FRA opinion 10.3

    The EU and its Member States should ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities enshrined in the CRPD and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are fully respected to maximise the potential for EU Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to support independent living. To enable effective monitoring of the funds and their outcomes, the EU and its Member States should also take steps to include disabled persons’ organisations in ESIF monitoring committees and to ensure adequate and appropriate data collection on how ESIF are used.

  • FRA opinion 10.4

    EU Member States that have not yet become party to the Optional Protocol to the CRPD should consider completing the necessary steps to secure its ratification as soon as possible to achieve full and EU-wide ratification of its Optional Protocol. The EU should also consider taking rapid steps to accept the Optional Protocol.

  • FRA opinion 10.5

    The EU and its Member States should consider allocating sufficient and stable financial and human resources to the monitoring frameworks established under Article 33 (2) of the CRPD. As set out in FRA’s 2016 legal Opinion concerning the requirements under Article 33 (2) of the CRPD within an EU context, they should also consider guaranteeing the sustainability and independence of monitoring frameworks by ensuring that they benefit from a solid legal basis for their work and that their composition and operation takes into account the Paris Principles on the functioning of national human rights institutions.

10. EU Member States and international obligations

The standards, procedures and institutions that ensure human and fundamental rights in the EU cover local, national and international organisations including the EU itself, the Council of Europe and the United Nations (UN).

The list below describes key developments during 2017 in relation to a number of core international obligations that the EU and its Member States have taken on. Each heading links to a page where full data can be found.

  • What commitments have EU Member States made to Council of Europe human rights law instruments? (Acceptance of selected Council of Europe conventions)

    In 2017 Portugal ratified Protocol No. 12 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on the general prohibition of discrimination, becoming the 10th EU Member State party to the instrument.

    Five EU Member States – Austria, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Slovenia – ratified Protocol No. 15 to the European Convention, which reduces the time-limit for applications and stresses the subsidiarity principle and the margin of appreciation. With this, 22 EU Member States have ratified the protocol. An additional nine have signed it, including Greece in 2017.

    Estonia became the fifth EU Member State to ratify Protocol No. 16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that allows the highest courts and tribunals of a High Contracting Party to request the European Court of Human Rights to give advisory opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention or the protocols thereto.

    Greece signed the Protocol in 2017 – the fifth EU Member State to do so. Greece in 2017 ratified the Convention on Cybercrime, bringing to 26 the number of EU Member States who are parties. Greece ratified the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminali-sation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems becoming the 17th EU Member State to ratify it. With the Czech Republic ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2017 all 28 EU Member State are now State parties to the treaty.

    In 2017 three EU Members States – Cyprus, Estonia and Germany – ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), with this, 17 EU Member States have ratified the Convention. The EU itself also took steps to become party by signing on 13 June 2017.

  • What commitments have EU Member States made under the specific Council of Europe instruments on social rights? (Acceptance of European Social Charter provisions)

    In 2017 there were no developments with regards to commitments by EU Member States made in relation to Council of Europe instruments on social rights.


  • What assessment has the Council of Europe expert body on social rights made in terms of EU Member States’ compliance with its obligations? (Conformity of national laws and practices with European Social Charter provisions)

    In 2017, the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) required state parties to submit information on their laws and practices giving effect to provisions in the thematic area “Health, social security and social protection”. Conclusions were issued in relation to 14 EU Member States.

    The ECSR deemed three EU Member States to be in conformity with 50% or more of the examined provisions of the Social Charter: Ireland, Latvia and Romania. The remaining Member States were deemed to be in conformity with fewer than 45% of examined provisions.

    Percentage figures are based on those provisions within the year’s scope of assessment to which states agreed to be subject to.


  • How many complaints from individuals in EU Member States are brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that qualify for a judicial assessment? (Applications allocated to a judicial formation (ECtHR) per 10,000 inhabitants)

    In 2017 Romania was the EU Member State with the highest proportion of applications per 10,000 inhabitants, although statistics released in the ECtHR Annual Report 2017 show that it decreased from 4.15 to 3.31 applications per 10,000 inhabitants. Hungary, meanwhile, has also seen a sharp decrease in applications per capita, from 5.67 in 2016 to 1.99 in 2017.

    The United Kingdom had 0.06 applications per 10,000 inhabitants, the lowest proportion in 2017. Germany follows closely thereafter, with 0.07 applications allocated to a judicial formation of the ECtHR per 10,000 inhabitants. The figures for most EU Member States have remained relatively stable, but the decrease for a few has led to the EU average dropping from 1.74 in 2016 to 0.7 in 2017.


  • How many cases are awaiting decision by the European Court of Human Rights per EU Member State? (Number of cases pending before ECtHR judicial formations)

    After an increase in 2016, the number of cases involving EU Member States that are pending be-fore judicial formations at the ECtHR decreased in 2017. At the end of 2017, 23,974 such cases were pending – compared to 30,986 in 2016. The largest numbers of pending cases relate to Hungary, Italy and Romania ranging from 3,500 to almost 10,000 cases, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum are Luxembourg, Finland and Ireland, with between 8 and 19 cases pending, respectively.


  • In how many and what types of cases does the European Court of Human Rights find violations in EU Member States? (Number of ECtHR judgments finding a violation)

    In 2017, out of the 423 judgments on the 28 EU Member States, the court found rights violations in 314 (74 %) of the cases, just as in 2016. Violation relating to inhuman and degrading treatment as well as to the right to a fair trial remain significant. However, in 2017 also the protection of property is among the most commonly judged violations.
     


  • How good are EU Member States at implementing judgments by the European Court of Human Rights? (Number of ‘leading’ [indicating structural problems] pending cases with average execution time of more than five years)

    Croatia and Greece in 2017 had the highest rates of judgments that take longer than five years to implement. Meanwhile in Bulgaria, Italy and Latvia the number of leading cases not yet implemented decreased significantly in 2017. The overall trend in EU Member States has been stable with regards to the number of such cases in 2017.


  • What commitments have EU Member States made to United Nations human rights law instruments? (Acceptance of selected UN conventions)

    The Czech Republic ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2017. This means 21 EU Member States are now parties. An additional 1 has so far signed it.

    Luxembourg has accepted the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness as the 20th EU Member State to become party.


  • What commitments to international human rights law have EU Member States made in relation to rights of persons with disabilities? (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

    In 2017 there were no developments with regards to commitments made by EU Member States in relation to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


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