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FRA Director Morten Kjaerum spoke at a meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers’ rapporteur group on external relations. He pointed out that FRA will be conducting the fieldwork for its second large-scale survey of ethnic minorities in the EU this year, allowing the Agency to identify trends over a longer period. This is crucial for formulating targeted policy to combat xenophobia, hate crime, discrimination and social exclusion. The findings will feed into many aspects of the Council of Europe’s work.

With security issues at the fore of political and popular debate in the wake of the Paris attacks, FRA’s Director said that new strategies were needed to prevent radicalisation and extremism. At the same time, “we cannot defend human rights against terrorists by restricting freedoms or justice, or by allowing discrimination and racism against certain religions or minorities to persist or even increase. We therefore need longer-term and sustainable cohesion policies that can help to overcome the barriers and often increasing alienation in our societies.

The issue of social exclusion was also mentioned, with the economic crisis in Europe resulting in falling pensions, increasing homelessness and higher unemployment, threatening Europeans’ social and economic rights. Greater poverty has contributed to the current crisis of trust in democratic institutions, as well as proving fertile ground for populist movements.

Speaking at the same meeting, FRA Management Board Chairperson Maija Sakslin emphasised that cooperation between FRA and the Council of Europe “is more vital than ever to combat the ongoing, and in some places worsening, fundamental rights violations in the EU and beyond.

Council of Europe representatives present agreed that cooperation with FRA was excellent and should be enhanced further. The necessity of combating hate crime, antisemitism and Islamophobia was discussed, as well as the need for a critical examination of migrant integration measures and areas in which efforts should be stepped up.

FRA recently launched a new project on the social and political inclusion of migrants and their descendants. This aims to develop indicators for monitoring inclusion and democratic participation, an issue that is presently of special relevance.