Good morning. I am glad to be with you today to present the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ annual report. I would like to begin by thanking you, the members of this Committee, for your efforts to mainstream fundamental rights across so many policy areas, as we have been hearing today. I hope that our discussions today will support you in the forthcoming debate on the European Parliament’s report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union.
Before I hand over to FRA interim Director Constantinos Manolopoulos, who will talk about some areas of key concern for us, I’d like to say a few words about the changes we have made to both the structure and length of this year’s report. While it was formerly something of a catalogue, with close to 300 pages of developments in the field of fundamental rights, this has now been shortened so as to focus on selected key issues in more detail.
at the end of last year, the Treaty of Lisbon celebrated its fifth anniversary, which means the Charter of Fundamental Rights has also been in force for five years. It is therefore time to assess its benefits and shortcomings. For this reason, the last chapter of this year’s Annual Report is dedicated to the Charter, and tracks its use in all 28 EU Member States. This enables an examination of the role of the Charter in national courtroom settings, which in itself tells us a great deal about the fundamental rights issues encountered by European citizens in their everyday lives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Moving on, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the focus section, which as in previous years opens the annual report. Last year, the Focus discussed the development of an EU strategic framework in order to revitalise the EU’s commitment to fundamental rights. This year, the Focus elaborates on this discussion by concentrating on one of the tools presented in last year’s annual report: fundamental rights indicators.
One of the functions of fundamental rights indicators is precisely to improve the comparability and objectivity of data and information. And I think it is clear to us all that greater knowledge and broader awareness of fundamental rights issues in the Union help to ensure fuller respect of fundamental rights.
In order to identify, collect and analyse the relevant data, indicators need to reflect the status and outcomes of efforts at national level. For this, we need a framework in which these can be placed. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has developed an excellent tool for evaluating human rights compliance that assesses outcomes, as well as the efforts made to achieve them. This framework, which FRA uses as well, identifies three categories of indicators. These are labelled structural, process and outcome indicators, comprising the legal and policy framework, the implementation of policies and the effectiveness of complaint mechanisms and support systems, and the real situation of rights fulfilment on the ground.
In 2007, in response to a request from the European Commission, FRA began developing an indicator framework to guide its collection and analysis of data in the area of rights of the child. The Agency followed this with indicator frameworks for the rights of people with disabilities and Roma. Indeed, 17 Member States have agreed on the common framework for monitoring integration developed by FRA’s working party on Roma integration indicators.
Of course, whichever area of fundamental rights they are designed to measure, it is vital that such indicators are well-considered and scientifically robust.
- Firstly, they must be agreed on together with the actors to be assessed
- Secondly, they must be based on rigorous methodological criteria
- Thirdly, they need to have a clear normative interpretation
- And finally, they should be populated promptly and efficiently with relevant data
Ladies and gentlemen,
Rights-based indicators allow the measurement of not only results, but also efforts to improve fundamental rights compliance and combat rights violations. An EU fundamental rights indicator framework that reflects the provisions of the Charter could therefore prove indispensable to mainstreaming fundamental rights throughout the EU’s work.
Finally, establishing a robust and rights-based indicator framework strengthens the authorities’ accountability and transparency at both the EU and national level vis-à-vis European citizens. In an age of growing mistrust not only in politicians but also in entire institutions, such measures can go a long way to bolster democratic legitimacy.
I will now hand over to FRA’s interim Director, Constantinos Manolopoulos, to go into more detail about some key fundamental rights challenges addressed in this year’s annual report.
Thank you for your attention.