Ladies and gentlemen
Like the FRA Chairperson, I am very pleased to present to you what the
Agency has achieved with this year’s Annual Report, as I trust that it will serve
as a point of reference in your day to day work on fundamental rights.
More particularly, the Annual Report:
• provides you with data and analysis on the fundamental rights situation
across the 27 Member States,
• highlights the key developments and major challenges both in policymaking
and on the ground,
• and, importantly, presents examples of promising practices illustrating
how these challenges could be addressed.
Allow me to highlight three substantive fundamental rights issues from this
year’s report, which are of particular political importance at the moment:
• Firstly, asylum and migration
• Secondly, the Roma
• Thirdly, disability in the context of the EU’s international obligations
1). Firstly, turning to asylum and migration. The report documents the
pressure of migration into the EU in 2010 that was concentrated in particular
Member States at the EU’s external borders. This led to significant difficulties
in guaranteeing the fundamental rights of migrants in terms of their reception
conditions and the right to asylum.
Research conducted by the Agency in the field found conditions in detention
centres that included extreme overcrowding, poor sanitation and no warm water
during freezing winter temperatures. It also found that there was no systematic
screening of migrants, which prevented those in need of protection from
applying for asylum.
In turn this means that individuals transferred back to these countries under the
Dublin II Regulation were placed in a situation where their rights were not
Ladies and gentlemen – the Common European Asylum System must ensure
that transfers will not be made where the receiving State cannot guarantee
minimum fundamental rights standards.
At the same time, the fact that pressure was concentrated on particular States at
the EU’s external borders underlines the need for greater solidarity measures as
part of the fundamental rights protection regime.
These issues and their implications for the EU and the Member States have to
be kept in mind as the Common European Asylum System continues to be
2). Secondly, the report deals at length with the status of fundamental
rights implementation for the Roma across the EU. 2010 saw a renewal of
political momentum in combating the marginalisation of this group. As
requested by the Commission in its Communication on national integration
strategies, the Agency will continue to play a key role as an important source of
reliable and robust research and evidence-based advice.
Our Annual Report highlights the sharp differences between Roma and the
general population, for instance, regarding the rates of employment.
Employment rates for the Roma were between 10 and 30 percentage points
lower than for the majority population in the 7 Member States that the Agency
I would like to draw your attention to some of the suggestions made by the
Agency in the Annual Report to overcome the challenges facing the Roma.
• One, ensuring that EU non-discrimination legislation is fully enforced.
• Two, ensuring that governance – between local authorities that deliver
services and national and European policy makers – is sufficiently
coordinated and joined up.
• And three, ensuring that available EU structural funds find their way to
the local level – which is made easier if such a joined-up approach is
3). Finally, I turn to the issue of disability. In its resolution on Fundamental
rights in the EU adopted last December, the Parliament welcomed the inclusion
of an annex in the Agency’s 2010 Annual Report which offered an overview of
human rights treaties binding the Member States. I am happy to inform you that
this has now been expanded into a full chapter of the report.
In December of last year, a new dimension was added to the EU’s international
fundamental rights obligations, as the EU itself ratified the UN Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
This is the first time that the EU has become party to an international human
rights treaty. It places the EU under a direct obligation to deal with disability as
a human rights issue and not only as a medical issue or as a matter of social
policy or employment relations. In this sense it is, of course, of direct relevance
to your work.
The Agency’s ongoing work in this area looks at the right to political
participation, conditions in long-term residential institutions, legal capacity,
and access to justice.
Ladies and gentlemen
I trust that this report will become your point of reference for the state of play
of fundamental rights in the EU when they arise in your day-to-day work. As
the Agency continues to collect and analyse data over time, it will become
possible to identify trends in rights protection. This can give you not just a
freeze-frame snap-shot, but rather a moving picture over a given period,
allowing you to see whether laws and policies are working to improve a
situation, and what new challenges are on the rise.
I would like to thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.