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Fundamental Rights Conference 2012
President of the European Parliament. He has been is a Member of the European Parliament since 1994 and has served in a number of committees, including the sub-committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs.
Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. Prior to her appointment, she was Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, Media and Sports and Commissioner for Information, Society, and Media.
Assumed his duties as Minister of Justice and Public Order of the Republic of Cyprus in December 2008. In 1998 he was one of the founders of the EPALXIS party and since 2001 he has been a member of its Political Bureau.
Minister of Justice, Portugal. Previously she served as a Member of the High Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office, Member of the General Council of the Bar Association, and Member of the Supreme Judicial Council.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since September 2008, served as a judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague (2003-2008), acted as a defense attorney for anti-apartheid activists, played a role in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Other posts he has held include: Chairman of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (2010-2012); Latvian minister responsible for social integration, anti-discrimination.
Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Prior to taking this position in June 2008, Mr Kjaeurm worked on Human Rights for 25 years.
This year’s conference will focus on Justice in austerity - challenges and opportunities for access to justice.
At a time when the European Union and its citizens are deeply affected by the current economic crisis, we must maintain our vigilance, ensuring that fundamental rights do not fall victim to austerity measures and that people can access justice when their rights are violated. The FRC will therefore examine current challenges in accessing justice and explore how we can turn the economic crisis into an opportunity for innovation and reform.
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Conference trailer video
The Fundamental Rights Conference is the main annual event of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. This year the conference is hosted under the high patronage of the President of the European Parliament and in close cooperation with Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI). The Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union also supports this event.
Some 300 policy makers, experts and practitioners from EU institutions and bodies, the Council of Europe, national administrations, associations of legal professionals, judiciary, civil society and many more.
- What are the effects of economic crisis on judicial systems and those seeking justice?
- How can access to justice be maintained for everyone, including people in precarious situations, who have become even more vulnerable during the economic crisis?
- What are the emerging patterns in litigation, private legal services or state-funded legal aid programmes?
- How can we turn this time of economic crisis into an opportunity for innovation, needed harmonisation and reform? What are the solutions and who are the actors that can further access to justice at national as well as European levels?
FRC - greener and more socially responsible!
The Fundamental Rights Conference aims to be a socially responsible and environment friendly event. To this end, all the conference documents will be printed on environmentally friendly paper. Moreover, we assessed greenhouse gas emissions linked to the energy consumption of the Fundamental Rights Conference and will compensate for carbon emissions by supporting a selected carbon project initiative.
The right to access justice, as guaranteed in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, is fundamental to ensuring that fundamental rights are enforced in practice. Austerity measures are leading to cuts in public funding for justice institutions and legal aid programmes. Coupled with rising poverty and unemployment, people’s ability to seek redress becomes harder.
In some EU Member States, cuts in public spending have reduced budgets for courts and bodies with a human rights remit as well as funding for a number of measures supporting access to justice, such as legal aid programmes and victim support services provided by the non-governmental sector. At the same time, the poor financial situation and growing unemployment has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable groups of society, such as people with disabilities, irregular migrants, children, limiting even further their possibilities to access justice.
But fiscal consolidation could also be an opportunity to reform less effective structures, and explore new solutions, thereby ensuring accessible justice for everyone in the EU. Well-functioning and efficient justice systems can help reinforce economic growth. A number of EU Member States have already introduced some efficiency-boosting measures, reforming courts, streamlining various judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, ensuring better implementation of judicial decisions, improving judges’ management skills and strengthening the role of non-judicial redress mechanisms. Much more could be done to improve access to justice.
The economic crisis affects all areas of economic and political life, requiring the distribution of already scarce resources among multiple and often conflicting priorities. It is therefore more important than ever to put a rights-based approach at the core of policy making, ensuring that the principles of fundamental rights guide decision making, taking into account both the rights of victims as well as those of the accused.
The Fundamental Rights Conference will examine existing policies, help to understand strengths and weaknesses of different judicial systems and their financing mechanisms, and seek to identify the effects of austerity-driven reforms in the field. It will also foster exchange of promising practices and promote innovative solutions that could aid policy makers.
|12:00 – 14:00||
|14:00 – 14:30||
|14:30 - 15:00||
Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), European Parliament
|15:00 – 16:30||
Justice in recession? Current trends and challenges for access to justice
What are the key challenges that affect justice systems across the EU? Increasing poverty and unemployment, reduced public funding for justice institutions and legal aid programmes – how does this affect people’s ability to seek redress when their rights are violated? What are the costs of the economic crisis for access to justice? What institutional and policy changes have taken place because of the economic crisis?
|16:30 – 17:00||
Presentation of the FRA's EU Charter app
|17:00 - 17:15||
|17:15 – 18:30||
Access to justice in austerity: new opportunities for reform?
This time of economic crisis could also be an opportunity to rethink how we can ensure access to justice for all, re-shaping existing institutional structures and looking for alternative and more cost-efficient ways to guarantee effective and independent justice. It is time to articulate vigorously the key principles of justice that cannot be ignored or rescinded, even in times of recession, showing how these could guide policy responses and institutional adjustments. Alternative dispute resolution, non-judicial redress, e-justice and other mechanisms could be promising tools for the road ahead. What are their costs and benefits? How do reforms in the justice system affect the most disadvantaged groups, such as persons with disabilities, migrants and the elderly? What are the promising practice initiatives that we could learn from?
|20:00 – 22:00||Evening reception|
|09:00 – 09:15||
Re-thinking access to justice in practice
|09:15 – 09:30||
Access to justice in cases of discrimination in the EU: Steps to further equality
Presentation of the FRA report
|09:30 - 11:30||
Presentation of the FRA's EU Charter app
The road to justice: next steps and commitments
Discussion with working group chairs
The working groups will focus on specific aspects of access to justice and how they can be improved, despite existing economic constraints. Each parallel session will be introduced by a panel of practitioners who will present promising practice examples, explore innovative models and raise key questions. Discussions will then continue in an interactive format aimed at pooling and sharing experience between participants on the strengths and weaknesses of different solutions, their practical implementation, as well as strategies to raise public awareness about fundamental rights and available pathways to justice.
The following five thematic working groups will cover key areas addressed at the conference:
- Working group I: Raising legal awareness: new opportunities in the age of e-technologies?
- Working group II: Rights of victims of crime in times of economic austerity
- Working group III: Ensuring access to a lawyer and access to legal aid
- Working group IV: Strengthening access to justice through bodies with human rights remit
- Working group V: Towards effective mediation policy making
Working group I: Raising legal awareness: new opportunities in the age of e-technologies?
Chaired by: Dick Heimans, Deputy Head of the Criminal Law Unit, DG Justice, European Commission
The use of information technology to raise legal awareness and hence improve access to justice is developing rapidly at both European Union (EU) and national levels. Electronic tools provide targeted e-services, including, for example, online information on the existing justice system, e-complaint forms and databases, online handling of individual complaints and the use of video technology. They are often quicker and cheaper than the traditional paper-based systems and particularly well-placed to facilitate access to justice in cross-border scenarios.
Yet, there are limits to the reach of such tools, especially since not all segments of society are sufficiently proficient in or willing to make use of e-technology. The lack of access to the Internet may also negatively affect some individuals, in particularly the most vulnerable groups. At the same time, in the context of the often severely restrained budgets of national governments in the EU, investments in new e-technologies have been reduced.
This working group provides an opportunity to discuss new models and tools offered by e-technologies at EU and national levels and their impact – both positive and negative – on access to justice in the face of economic crisis.
Questions for debate:
- Raising legal awareness – many new tools, but what are their practical effects? By being easier to use do they create more or less work? If they enable users to better understand mechanisms is the result that less times is wasted as people know where to turn for help?
- What tools work best? Distinguish between EU and national tools – can successful national or EU projects be easily replicated in other countries/at EU level?
- Does austerity mean less investment in these tools, or is austerity used as an argument for a need for more efficiency of justice, and thus more e-tools are needed?
- Ben Hagard, Head of Communication Unit, Office of the European Ombudsperson [Download presentation]
- Sabina Klaneček, IT and e-Services Directorate, Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, Slovenia [Download presentation summary] [Download full presentation]
- Ronald van den Hoogen, Program manager Innovation and e-Justice, Ministry of Justice and Security, the Netherlands [Download presentation]
- Martin Öövel, Head of Division of Information Systems and Work Processes, Department of Judicial Administration, Ministry of Justice, Estonia [Download presentation]
- Martin Schneider, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Justice, Austria [Download presentation]
Working group II: Rights of victims of crime in times of economic austerity
Chaired by: Nathalie Griesbeck, Member of the European Parliament, Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE)
In the light of the current economic crisis and the potential impact on resources, it is particularly important to recognise that all persons falling victim to crime in the EU have fundamental rights such as to access justice and receive support – regardless of legal status, country of origin or nationality. Persons who become victims of crime in a country other than their own often face additional problems when trying to access justice, such as dealing with language barriers, an unfamiliar criminal justice process and victim support mechanisms. The quality of information provided to victims of crime (in a language they understand) is a key factor in allowing them to access justice, as is assistance with handling expenses and awarding of compensation (which is generally extremely low and reportedly even more problematic in cross-border cases).
This working group will also focus on highlighting promising practices and challenges in the area of victim support, with a view to identifying effective and cost-efficient ways of implementing the new EU Directive (Measure A of the Victims’ Roadmap) establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime in all EU countries. The discussions will provide input to the FRA’s for ongoing project on Victim support services.
Preparing for the debate, we would like to encourage all participants to think about promising practice examples in your country/field of work that you could share with the group. The working group will also be a good opportunity to share ideas and experiences.
- Ingrid Bellander-Todino, Team Leader 'Victims' Rights', DG Justice, European Commission [Download presentation]
- Frida Wheldon, Head of Policy, Victim Support Europe [Download presentation]
- Lisa Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer, Tourist Assistance Service, Ireland [Download presentation]
- Carmen Rasquete, Project Manager, Association for Victim Support (APAV), Portugal [Download presentation]
- Vlasta Langhamerovà, Member of the Board, White Safety Ring (Bílý kruh bezpecí) – Victim support organisation, Czech Republic [Download presentation]
- Joanna Goodey, Head of Department, Freedoms and Justice, FRA
Working group III: Ensuring access to a lawyer and access to legal aid
Chaired by: Tadeusz Zwiefka, Member of the European Parliament, Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI)
Ensuring access to a lawyer and effective legal aid across the EU raises particular challenges for the EU Members States, especially in times of economic crisis. More and more people are faced with scarce resources when seeking justice. It is thus particularly important to guarantee legal aid as a fundamental safeguard towards equal access to justice for all, especially for those who lack sufficient resources.
In the framework of the Stockholm Programme, a proposal on a new legislative instrument on access to a lawyer in criminal matters is currently being discussed at the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. A report on the application of the Directive 2003/8/EC on legal aid in cross-border disputes has been recently published by the European Commission. In this context, the working groups will discuss the challenges of ensuring access to a lawyer and effective legal aid in all areas, civil as well as criminal. Special consideration shall be given to cost effective practices and emerging innovative solutions in EU Member States. Further opportunities will be explored, such as the role of the non-governmental actors and private sector, including legal expenses insurance and pro-bono work.
At the working group we aim to highlight the challenges, discuss the member states practices and reflect together with the participants on practical solutions to ensure equal access to legal aid in times of economic crisis. Preparing for the debate, we would like to encourage all participants to think about promising practice examples in your country/your field of work that you could share with other participants. The working group will be a good opportunity for knowledge and good practice exchange.
- Edouard De Lamaze, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), France
- Costas Pamballis, Judge, Supreme Court, Cyprus [Download speech]
- John Wadham, General Counsel, Commission for Equality and Human Rights, United Kingdom [Download presentation]
- Fernando Piernavieja Niembro, Chair of Access to Justice Committee, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)
- Nuala Mole, Senior Lawyer, The AIRE Centre - Advice on Individual Rights in Europe
- Costanza Hermanin, Programme manager, Open Society Justice Initiative
- Staffan Moberg, Senior Legal Adviser, Insurance Sweden [Download presentation]
Working group IV: Strengthening access to justice through bodies with human rights remit
Chaired by: Jozef De Witte, Chair of the Board of EQUINET and Executive Director of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, Belgium
While access to justice typically means having a case heard in a court of law, it can more broadly be achieved or supported through mechanisms such as national human rights institutions, equality bodies, data protection authorities and ombudsman institutions. The work of these bodies with a human rights remit is typically closely tied to institutions not only at national level but also at regional and international level. These bodies thus link EU Member States to international organisations and monitoring mechanisms, supporting the more effective promotion and protection of human rights. To fulfill their role these bodies must be effective and independent, equipped with sufficient resources and the requisite competence to promote and protect – and monitor – the rights entrusted to them. As some of the main actors on fundamental rights at the national level, these bodies ensure an effective and independent focus on fundamental rights across a state, by, for example, pro-actively addressing systemic issues, suggesting solutions and raising fundamental rights awareness and knowledge.
The value and the importance of these bodies should not be underestimated. At times of economic crisis with general budget cuts it is important to ensure that such bodies – offering various forms of outreach or even low threshold complaints possibilities, especially for those already in a vulnerable situation – can deliver and even explore to what extent and how their impact could be enhanced.
Questions for debate:
- What works already? What are the promising practices regarding bodies with a human rights remit that we could learn from? What are the solutions that work even with limited budgets?
- What is missing? What are the key barriers to effective and independent bodies with a human rights remit? What are the effects of economic crisis?
- What are concrete next steps? How can we improve access to justice through bodies with a human rights remit? How can we make existing systems more effective and efficient, particularly in the context of austerity policies?
- Leda Koursoumba, Chair of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC), Commissioner for Children’s rights, Cyprus
- Zoi Kardasiadou, Head of Auditors Unit, Hellenic Data Protection Authority, Greece
- Sophia Kouloulis-Spiliotopoulos, European Group of National Human Rights Institutions and Hellenic Commission for Human Rights, Greece
- Konstantin Penchev, Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria [Download presentation]
- Niraj Nathwani, Programme Manager - Legal Research, FRA
Working group V: Towards effective mediation policy making
Chaired by: Giuseppe De Palo, Director of JAMS International and co-founder and President of ADR Center, Italy
The EU’s systematic reflection upon mediation, as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), can be traced back to the October 1999 European Council of Tampere. In May 2008 the EU Member States have decided to subject themselves to certain common rules on cross-border mediation in civil and commercial matters by virtue of the Directive 2008/52/EC (further: Mediation Directive); these had to be implemented in the Member States within three years.
The focus of the discussions held within this working group will be to analyse practical costs and benefits of mediation for cases involving fundamental rights violations. The experiences gathered since the adoption/implementation of the Mediation Directive will serve as a basis for discussions on the desired balance between litigation and mediation in the EU judicial practices. Most specifically, the question of how the use of mediation impacts other fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be looked at. Also, the practical experience gathered so far should be seen as an important source of information for decision-makers as regards future EU financial support for initiatives fostering mediation as an effective method of alternative dispute resolution.
Questions for debate:
- What fundamental rights does ADR promote (Art 47 and beyond?) How does the use of ADR impact other fundamental rights?
- How can we ensure that mediation results are properly enforced in cross-border cases?
- What are legal and financial incentives that could further promote mediation?
- How can the EU better promote mediation through its financial instruments? What are the priority areas for mediation under the Civil Justice Programme?
- Izabella Csalotzky, Programme manager Civil Justice Programme, DG Justice, European Commission
- Michel Benichou, Head of the French delegation to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and expert in mediation, France
- Magdalena Grudziecka, Member of the Board, Association of Mediators, PolandDorin-Valeriu Badulescu, President, Mediation Council, Romania
- Maija Gellin, Director of National Programme for School Mediation and Restorative Approaches in Education (VERSO), and Board Member of Finnish Forum for Mediation (FFM), Finland [Download presentation]
- Zeno Sustac, Vice-President, Mediation Council, Romania
Working group chairs
Due to the limited capacity of the venue, participation is upon invitation only.
Participants were selected to represent the broadest possible range of fundamental rights concerns as well as geographical variety.
For more information about the conference please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location & how to get there
The FRC 2012 will be held on 6-7 December at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Jozsef Antall 4Q2
Rue Wiertz 60
Entrance for registered participants is exclusively through Altiero Spinelli (ASP) entrance at Place du Luxembourg.
Please do not forget to have your valid ID.
The FRA is happy to answer any of your press related questions about the Fundamental Rights Conference 2011. Please send an email to email@example.com or call us: +43 (0)1 58030-642 (direct line) or +43 (0)664 8858-1511 (mobile).
Every year the Fundamental Rights Conference brings together the key fundamental rights actors in the EU to examine a specific fundamental rights issue, stimulating the debate on challenges that exist and exploring solutions on how these could be overcome.
Justice in austerity
Budget cuts in the wake of the current economic crisis should not affect a person’s legal entitlement and right to access justice. This was the theme of the 2012 Fundamental Rights Conference, organised by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and held at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Dignity and rights of irregular migrants
The conference was organised in cooperation with the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and discussed how to improve access to fundamental rights for migrants in an irregular situation, namely of those persons without authorisation to stay in the EU. The discussions were drawing on FRA’s EU-wide research on the situation of migrants in an irregular situation, which was published in the run-up to the conference. The conference discussions underlined the importance of applying a fundamental rights approach in migration management and offered a number of practical suggestions to facilitate access to justice, respect the right to education and health, preserve the best interests of the child, combat labour exploitation, reduce the use of immigration detention, and end situations of legal limbo for persons who are not removed.en] [fr] (pdf)
Ensuring justice and protection for all children
The previous FRC, held in Brussels on 7 -8 December 2010, stimulated the debate on challenges and strategies to protect particularly vulnerable children and deliver child-friendly justice in the European Union.
The emphasis during this conference was on exploring avenues for Member State authorities to better protect vulnerable children by following an integrated approach to child protection and involving civil society and children themselves.
Fundamental Rights Conference 2009
Making rights a reality for all
Making rights a reality for all was the theme of the FRC 2009 which was held in cooperation with the Swedish Presidency of the EU in Stockholm on 10-11 December 2009.
The focus was on identifying solutions to protect and promote the rights of marginalised groups which are most vulnerable to discrimination and exclusion in the EU.
Fundamental Rights Conference 2008
Freedom of expression, a cornerstone of democracy - listening and communicating in a diverse Europe
The Fundamental Rights Agency launched its Fundamental Rights Conference in Paris on 8-9 December 2008.
The event examined key issues and challenges related to freedom of expression. Entitled "Freedom of expression, a cornerstone of democracy - listening and communicating in a diverse Europe", the conference aimed to contribute to policy and action within the European Union and to help shape the evolving space for communication among Europeans.
2008 Programme [en] (pdf)