Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nine Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) agencies (CEPOL, EASO, EIGE, EMCDDA, eu-LISA, Eurojust, Europol, FRA and Frontex) have been supporting the Member States and EU institutions in meeting the unprecedented challenges resulting from the outbreak of the virus – each agency in its respective area of work, in both the short term and the long term.
“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has been monitoring the impact of government COVID-19 responses on the human and fundamental rights of everyone, in particular the most vulnerable. Now is the moment for EU Agencies to work together in defence of fundamental rights and for the benefit of everyone in the EU,” said FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty.
In the past months, all JHA agencies have taken the necessary measures to ensure business continuity and uninterrupted operational support. At the same time, the Justice and Home Affairs agencies' network (JHAAN), under the chairmanship of Eurojust, has initiated a dialogue to share their experiences in dealing with the pandemic and consider new avenues for closer cooperation among the agencies and with key stakeholders inside and outside the EU.
The agencies’ individual and joint efforts to deal with the impact of the pandemic have been captured in a Joint Paper on the COVID-19 response by the JHA agencies, which was formally endorsed by the heads of JHA agencies during a videoconference held on 9 July. During their meeting, the heads discussed the latest developments, including the fundamental rights implications of government COVID-19 measures, the quick adaptation of organised crime to the changing circumstances and the recent surge in drug use, domestic violence and child abuse.
To tackle these and other issues more effectively related to the protection of citizens and freedoms, there is a need for increased interagency cooperation in the field of digitalisation and for sustainable financial resources in the coming years.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has been issuing a regular bulletin on fundamental rights implications of government measures to fight the virus. The bulletins reveal the main fundamental rights concerns, such as data protection concerns surrounding the use of contact tracing apps, as well as the groups most affected by the pandemic, such as older people, migrants, victims of domestic violence or the homeless.
The COVID-19 pandemic coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Justice and Home Affairs agencies' network. In the past decade, this family of JHA agencies joined forces as guardians of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Together, they contributed to the implementation of EU’s objectives in the fields of migration, asylum and external border management, the fight against serious organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, gender equality and respect for fundamental rights.