The FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty, addressed Members of the European Parliament in Brussels from 25-26 January for the first time in his capacity as the Agency’s head. It was a valuable opportunity to engage directly with MEPs to hear about their fundamental rights concerns and for them to keep abreast about FRA’s recent and ongoing work.
FRA presented the findings from the Agency’s report on ‘Surveillance by intelligence services: fundamental rights safeguards and remedies in the European Union - Mapping Member States’ legal frameworks’ to members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE). The report was launched in November 2015 after the European Parliament called for thorough research on fundamental rights protection in the context of mass surveillance. He spoke of the findings from the perspectives of existing legal frameworks, oversight mechanisms and the remedies that are available for those who have had their rights to privacy or to data protection violated.
The FRA Director also presented to LIBE the priorities for 2016 of the network of EU Justice and Home Affairs Agencies, which FRA currently chairs. He underlined the network’s role in cooperating on issues of common interest in order to deliver cross-agency advice and support to the EU institutions. He gave the example of how network members worked together to support the impact assessment for the EU’s Smart Borders pilot for faster and more secure border-control processes, as requested by the European Commission. In 2016, the network’s priorities will, in particular, include support to the European Agendas on Security and on Migration, and also entail working to ensure respect for fundamental rights which is an area cutting across all joint cooperation activities.
Then on 26 January, the FRA Director participated in the launch of the European Parliament’s Antiracism and Diversity Intergroup. To mark the occasion, Michael O’Flaherty took part in a panel discussion on work done to document and monitor racism, and to promote diversity. Here he spoke of the Agency’s long track record and current work in this area looking at hate crime as it affects Roma, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, Jews, Muslims, LGBTI, and people with disabilities, for example. FRA has also established an ad-hoc Working Party on combatting hate crime to counteract the endemic underreporting of hate crime. The Working Party brings together Member State experts to identify and share practices encouraging victims to report hate crime, and improve the recording of hate crime.