Forging ever closer ties with Finland to help promote fundamental rights

The FRA Director visited Finland from 22 to 23 May as the Agency continues to strengthen its ties with Member States. While there it was an opportunity to support the launch of Finland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights and meet with government ministers and the human rights community. It was also a chance to see at first hand the results of the Agency’s project on local engagement with Roma.

The Director held discussions with the Ministers of Interior, and Justice and Social Affairs. Key issues raised included the importance of the rule of law and upholding EU’s values when meeting current fundamental rights challenges across the Union. They also spoke about surveillance and the key role oversight bodies play, the migration and asylum situation, the rising levels of hate crime and xenophobia as well as independent living for disabled people.

The Director welcomed Finland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights, stressing the importance of its implementation and its uniqueness within the EU. The National Action Plan will focus on human rights education and training, non-discrimination, the challenges of the digital age and independent living for disabled people. He indicated that the Agency would follow the implementation of the Plan closely and offer its support where appropriate and relevant. At the Plan’s launch event, the Director met with civil society representatives, the Ombudsperson institutions and the Finnish Human Rights Centre. All agreed to strengthen cooperation and look for ways to support each other in tackling fundamental rights issues.

The Director met with Roma women who are being supported through FRA’s project on Roma inclusion at the local level. The women spoke to the Director about their situation in Helsinki and the benefits of the project. They emphasised the importance of access to services, the labour market and housing as well as the challenges that they faced. The project is being run in Finland by Hirundo - a partnership between the Helsinki Deaconess Institute, Helsinki City, the National Forum of Finland, the Helsinki Evangelical Lutheran Parish Union and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It seeks to increase dialogue and strengthen cooperation between the local authorities, service providers and Roma communities.

The visit also provided an opportunity to look ahead with the Finnish Government to Finland chairing the Council of Europe in 2018-2019 and the EU Presidency in 2019.