A delegation from the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) visited FRA on 17-18 May. The visit allowed both sides to explore how they can continue to work together on the common goal of further protecting and promoting fundamental rights across the EU.
The FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty spoke of the agency as a ’fundamental rights centre of excellence’ assisting EU institutions and other actors build a culture of fundamental rights. He also outlined his vision for FRA’s future and the importance of the organisation’s relationship with LIBE and the wider Parliament.
FRA outlined how its work goes beyond just research drawing on four key thematic areas: refugee protection, migration and borders; racism and discrimination; child rights; and the Fundamental Rights Forum. As a practical example, a FRA staff member is currently providing fundamental advice to other EU agencies at the hotspots in Greece. The delegation then heard about FRA’s second minorities and discrimination (EU-MIDIS II) survey and how the data from people with immigrant or ethnic minority backgrounds will provide insights into the impact of EU and national anti-discrimination and equality legislation and policies.
The LIBE Committee delegates spoke about increasing cooperation with FRA on child rights. They were also interested in further leveraging the potential of FRA Opinions without the need for formal requests. They also welcomed the upcoming Fundamental Rights Forum.
During the visit the delegation also had the opportunity to engage with the wider FRA stakeholder family to learn first-hand about the impact of FRA’s work on its stakeholders. The EU MIDIS and violence against women surveys were cited as examples of valuable source of data to civil society organisations. Here it was also mentioned how the agency acts as a vital bridge for knowledge sharing between civil society and national institutions. The creation of FRA’s National Parliamentary Focal Points were also seen as an important step towards facilitating the participation of national parliaments in creating European policies, an issue of particular relevance given the current political climate.
FRA and the delegation both agreed on the importance of cities as human rights champions. FRA’s Director spoke of how he will begin meeting city level officials during country visits in order to cultivate these relationships alongside FRA’s continued support to the Human Rights City initiative.
The delegation was led by Jószef Nagy, the European Parliament Rapporteur on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the EU, and also included Caterina Chinnici and Heinz. K. Becker. In his closing remarks, Mr Nagy spoke of how FRA findings are needed to provide the robust and objective evidence-based advice that should feed into public debate. He also underlined the significance of FRA’s work in helping Parliament show EU citizens that it is able to deal with new, emerging challenges.
On May 30, FRA will present its Fundamental Rights Report 2016 to the LIBE Committee in Brussels.
See the following interview with MEP József Nagy, the European Parliament Rapporteur on the situation of Fundamental Rights in the EU, about key challenges and how the Agency can support the work of the LIBE Committee: