News Item

Call to systematically strengthen fundamental rights protection EU-wide

FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty engaged in lively debate with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on how to strengthen fundamental rights when presenting the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Report 2017 to the European Parliament on 11 October in Brussels. He underlined how despite a stronger rights protection framework in the EU, the reality on the ground is often different and warrants particular attention.

The MEPs from the Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee underlined the importance of paying continued attention to fundamental rights in areas from asylum, migrant children, Roma integration, the rule of law, online hate speech, to counter-terrorism measures. In this they expressed appreciation for the Agency’s work in promoting and protecting fundamental rights of which the annual Fundamental Rights Report is just one example.

The Director encouraged MEPs to make full use of the agency’s expertise and data when discussing justice and home affairs policies. This includes not only the Agency’s trademark surveys, but also its other tools. For example, the Parliament is making increasing use of its power to request legal Opinions from FRA on fundamental rights aspects of forthcoming or proposed EU laws. The Agency is also providing fundamental rights assistance on the ground to the Commission and EU agencies in migration hotspots. In addition, it is stepping up work in strengthening national human rights structures where they come under threat.

The Director also underlined the importance to know, refer to, and use the law, reminding that human rights are not a voluntary code, but are enshrined in EU and international law.

Another point he made was the need for the EU to be consistent in its commitment to human rights at home as abroad. Its generous advice and funding to support human rights beyond its own borders needs to be matched by unwavering commitments at home. Here the EU’s Fundamental Rights Charter should be further employed. While it provides a solid foundation for fundamental rights protection across all areas and types of EU action, at the national level it remains largely underused. This points to the need to improve awareness of the Charter to help systematically strengthen fundamental rights protection EU-wide.