European Union Agencies have pledged to strengthen fundamental rights protection in all areas of their work during a meeting of Heads of EU Agencies in Brussels on 20 February. In recognition of the enabling nature of fundamental rights, they have signed up a joint statement, which they will abide by in their internal and external dealings.
Fundamental rights are part and parcel of the EU, including its agencies, no matter which area they work on. They are enshrined in the EU Treaties and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, and since late 2009 have become legally binding. This does not just mean that agencies should not violate rights. They should also proactively safeguard rights in certain areas, such as combating discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, and protecting personal data. In addition, following the EU’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), EU institutions, including the EU Agencies, should seek to employ people with disabilities, and ensure the workplace is reasonably equipped for people with disabilities.
For all EU Agencies fundamental rights is a matter of concern both in regard to their particular mandate as well as on internal issues. On the one hand, there can be challenges arising from the mandate of an Agency, where they relate, for example, to law enforcement, medicine or the environment. On the other hand, internal fundamental rights issues are the same across all Agencies and relate primarily to human resources, data protection, non-discrimination, integration of people with disabilities, workers’ rights, the right to good administration, access to documents, and access to justice.
As a result, each EU Agency has agreed to strive to: