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Ladies and gentlemen,
It is really a pleasure to be here and meet you all here in Vienna. I would like to warmly welcome you to the Fundamental Rights Platform meeting 2014!
Every year now for the last seven years civil society organisations have gathered here in Vienna with a common goal: to work more closely together to make a difference for the various communities they serve.
This year again, we will have two productive days of working closely together. We will focus on the role of civil society in making fundamental rights a reality in the area of freedom, security and justice. This timely intervention is all the more important as it links in with the current EU-level discussions in a year of institutional change.
It is also timely as across the EU and in its neighbouring countries, different crisis are unfolding. These range from dealing with the after effects of the economic crisis to the rise of extremism. Such crises pose a serious challenge to fundamental rights at a time when indeed they are most needed. That’s why the work of civil society and meeting here today is so valuable.
We are confident that this meeting will lead to a comprehensive overview of the very real challenges that civil society have identified in this area. Policy makers will take such input as a basis for their deliberations. And we want to provide ideas on how civil society can be more involved in supporting the development of a common shared EU fundamental rights agenda.
For this we need your expertise and input. You see from the agenda that most of the time is devoted to working groups. So we invite you to share your considerable experience and wealth of ideas. In this way you can help make this meeting a success.
On behalf of the FRA Management Board let me first express my thanks to the keynote speakers:
We have Max Schrems, a young law student, who took up the fight against Facebook – a modern-day tale of David against Goliath. His work is a prime example of how a very small civil society organisation, can help bring about change. Many of you could be presenting your work here. Many of you are change agents. We invite you to share your experience and learning in the numerous working group sessions that will take place throughout these two days!
After our keynote address by the FRA Director Morten Kjaerum, we will have a panel discussion between policy makers. This includes: Salla Saastamoinen from the European Commission who I would like to congratulate for becoming Director for Equality Issues at the Commission; Mr Boskovits, from the Hellenic Chair of the Council Working Group on Fundamental Rights; Rosemary Byrnes from FRA’s Scientific Committee; and Natacha Kazatchkine, who chairs the Human Rights Development Network Working Group on EU fundamental rights policy at Amnesty Interntaional.
Many thanks also to those who chair the working groups later today. And to those 21 organisations that will host ‘The Floor is Yours’ session tomorrow morning. They always promise stimulating and lively debate, and are one of the highlights of the Fundamental Rights Platform meeting. I am very pleased to listen to these discussions during this meeting.
But I would in particular like to thank the nine members of the FRP Advisory Panel. We really appreciate your work and close and active collaboration in the preparation of this FRP meeting. But above all, we would like to thank you for two years of continuous dedicated support from each and every one of you. Your mandate is coming to an end; we sincerely wish it has resulted in an experience as rich for you as it has been for us.
And naturally, we are looking forward to starting another two years of collaboration with the new Advisory Panel that will be elected tomorrow.
Year after year, the Fundamental Rights Platform welcomes more and more participating organisations who are bringing with them their expertise and their determination to improve fundamental rights. And this meeting is a chance for you not only to exchange and learn from each other, but also to feed us with your vision on how Europe can make progress, in the area of freedom, security and justice.
Let me say that we are meeting here not looking for your input, and your proposals that will feed into a report that we will hand over to the Council of the European Union. We aim to collect your concerns in the area of freedom, security and justice. We aim to present a ‘catalogue of existing practices’ of how civil society is already, or could be, invited to contribute their rich experience and knowledge in helping to make fundamental rights a reality for everyone living in Europe. This meeting report will be drafted by FRA together with the Advisory Panel.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the spirit of mutual cooperation, I would like to officially open our meeting. I very much look forward to a lively and stimulating dialogue.
Thank you very much for your attention, and once again welcome.