Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT) - Morten Kjaerum

Speech by FRA Director at the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' rapporteur Group on External Relations (GR-EXT), Strasbourg 26 November 2013.

Mr Chairman,

Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, and many thanks for the invitation to talk to you today and exchange views on our current and future cooperation. As Frauke Seidensticker mentioned just a few minutes ago, I will go into more detail about the day-to-day cooperation between the Council of Europe and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

To begin with, I can tell you that our collaboration has developed further over the past year. And this is not an opinion, but is based on fact. One recent proof of this was the active participation of several CoE representatives at our annual Fundamental Rights Conference, which we held earlier this month. We were pleased to welcome, among others, Snežana Samardžić-Marković and Christos Giakoumopoulos. For more details, I refer you to the 16-page document that has been circulated and lists all the areas of our collaboration.

1. FRA’s recent and forthcoming work

This year’s Fundamental Rights Conference was devoted to the subject of hate crime, a topic on which FRA has already built up a solid body of research data and analysis. Our discussions at the conference, whose participants included victims of hate crime, showed very clearly that hate crime is a problem that must be acknowledged and effectively combated by policy makers throughout the EU. I am pleased that we will soon be following up on the conference recommendations with our colleagues from the CoE, in particular given the Council’s work on hate speech.

Only a few days before the conference began, we published a report on experiences of antisemitism and hate crime against Jewish communities in a selected number of EU Member States. The scale of fear among the communities in the eight countries covered by the report is very disturbing, with many respondents afraid to go out on the street wearing anything that could reveal them to be Jewish and afraid for their children when they go to school. This high level of fear is summed up by the fact that over the last few years, 29% of respondents had considered leaving their country of residence. ECRI and other CoE bodies will benefit from the in depth of knowledge contained in the report. Interactive data maps on FRA’s website will facilitate the use of this and other FRA surveys in the future.

The findings of the antisemitism survey were strikingly similar in many ways to the results of our large-scale survey of 93,000 LGBT people throughout the EU. This was the case with regard to the vast scale of underreporting, an issue that was discussed at length at the Fundamental Rights Conference. And it was also the case with the devastating effect on communities of offensive language by politicians and other public figures.

FRA has discussed the LGBT survey with CoE staff on a number of occasions, and the methodology used in the survey could certainly be extended to European countries outside the EU. Indeed, a number of non-EU countries such as Norway and Montenegro have already expressed their strong interest in using FRA’s methodology. Expanding the survey in this way would give us a great wealth of data on the experiences of LGBT people throughout Europe and how to combat the prejudice that does so much damage to people’s lives.

Looking forward, next March we will be presenting the results of our Violence against Women survey, which interviewed over 40,000 women across the EU. One of the recommendations we make is that EU Member States would do well to consider acceding to the Istanbul Convention. I will be interested to see how discussions on this topic develop and to explore possible next steps with the CoE.

2. Joint projects with the CoE

  • Apart from the complementarity and synergy our collaboration generates, we can look back on a number of successful joint projects and meetings. For example,
  • We published a handbook on European asylum and immigration law earlier this year that was jointly produced by FRA and the European Court of Human Rights. Interest in the guide was extremely high, with more than 13,000 downloads from FRA’s website in four months and a great demand of the printed version.
  • Continuing our cooperation in a similar way, we will be jointly producing a handbook on European data protection law early next year. This aims to assist judges, lawyers and policy makers who work in the area of data protection, a field which changes rapidly in line with technological developments and the current global discussion.
  • Just last month FRA, the CoE, the European network of equality bodies (Equinet) and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHIRI) held a joint conference to discuss future cooperation that can help combat human rights abuses that have been increasing in the wake of the economic crisis.

It is clear that this crisis is having a far-reaching effect on human rights throughout the EU. One example is the increase in child poverty in a number of Member States, which challenges basic rights such as the right to housing, education and health. Another challenge is the rise in extremism and the attendant threat of increased xenophobia and racism.

3. Potential for future cooperation

This is why it is so important for us to work together. And indeed, there are many areas in which we can develop our cooperation in the coming years.

  • We need to further strengthen and develop our collaboration on Roma issues, in particular at this juncture when there is a commitment in Member States to improve the situation of the Roma.
  • Another area is related to children and justice, where the implementation of the CoE’s guidelines on child-friendly justice needs to be ensured.

To conclude:

Our two organisations cooperate both closely and smoothly. We complement each other through our division of labour. By deepening our cooperation and our outreach, I hope that we will be able to jointly break down barriers to move the human rights agenda forward. Together, we can help make fundamental rights a reality for all Europeans.

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

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