Courts increasingly use the Charter, showing the impact of this modern instrument. But its use by governments and parliaments remains low.
For instance, there is little indication of anyone regularly scrutinising national legislation that transposes EU law for compatibility with the Charter.
The Council of the EU called on Member States to regularly exchange their experiences with the Charter and strengthen relevant national bodies.
However, it is not easy to pinpoint exactly when the Charter applies at national level. This is a key hurdle to its fuller use. Low awareness of its added value compared with existing, long-established legal sources is another serious obstacle.
Legal practitioners who understand the Charter and can put it into practice at national and regional/local levels can help widen its use and improve its implementation. More specialised training of national actors on the use of the Charter is thus essential.
Find out more about related European and national case law, and related provisions in national constitutional law as well as in international law in the Charter section.
In this chapter:
The long-awaited adoption of the Equal Treatment Directive did not happen in 2019, leaving the EU’s non-discrimination legal framework incomplete. However, the appointment of a new Commissioner for Equality and the adoption of new legal instruments linked to the European Pillar of Social Rights advanced the equality agenda.
The effectiveness and independence of equality bodies, a key element of the equality policy framework, continued to raise concerns.
The EU and Member States undertook initiatives to bolster the collection and use of equality data, including through discrimination testing. Meanwhile, national equality and non-discrimination policies brought about legislation and action plans. Some aim to improve the protection of particularly vulnerable groups. Others aim to better implement the prohibition of discrimination.
The fundamental rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons advanced in several Member States. At the same time, there was a backlash against the basic right to non-discrimination in others.
The European Court of Human Rights and national courts set standards on the limits of free speech and incitement to hatred and hate speech.
At EU level, there were some policy developments regarding antisemitism in 2019, but very few developments addressed racism and xenophobia.
Some Member States adopted policies to better address racism and to encourage people to report hate crime, but assessing their impact remained difficult.
People with minority backgrounds and migrants continued to experience harassment, violence and ethnic and racial discrimination in different areas of life in the EU, according to survey and poll findings. Discriminatory ethnic profiling remained a persistent challenge in 2019, research in a number of Member States showed.
But ten years of efforts at EU, international, national and local levels appear to have resulted in little tangible change, as evidenced in FRA’s surveys and reports and the European Commission’s 2019 Report on the implementation of national Roma integration strategies.
Many Roma continue to live segregated lives. They face hostility from non-Roma neighbours and mistrust local and national politics that fail to take effective steps to tackle anti-Gypsyism.
Respect for fundamental rights at borders remained one of the top human rights challenges in the EU. There were deaths at sea, threats against humanitarian rescue boats, and allegations of violence and informal pushbacks.
In a handful of Member States, asylum applicants continued to face overcrowding and homelessness.
The first five-year cycle of Schengen evaluations found fundamental rights gaps in return policies, but less so in border management.
The EU adopted legislation providing the legal basis for making interoperable its large-scale information technology systems. The instruments that regulate these systems provide safeguards, but their effectiveness depends on how they are implemented.
Meanwhile, immigration detention of children increased. Unaccompanied children who turn 18 still experienced gaps in right and services, undermining their social inclusion.
The year 2019 was the first full year in which the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applied. With a renewed and expanded mandate, data protection supervisory authorities led the enforcement process across the EU. They faced a heavy, and steadily increasing, workload.
Civil society organisations specialised in data protection proved to be strong allies in implementing the GDPR.
In parallel, the ever-increasing use of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition, continued to create fundamental rights challenges, including regarding privacy and data protection.
As in previous years, the misuse of personal data and new technologies threatened both fundamental rights and democratic processes.
Challenges with illegal online content and disinformation persisted, prompting national and international stakeholders to reconsider legal and technical avenues to tackle them effectively.
Thirty years after the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2019 brought new policy developments at EU level.
The new European Commission committed itself to adopting a new comprehensive strategy on children’s rights. Its priorities included the establishment of an EU Child Guarantee. This is important because, despite a slight improvement, almost one in four children in Europe remained at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The risk is highest for children with migrant backgrounds or with less educated parents.
By June 2019, Member States had to incorporate into national law the Procedural Safeguards Directive for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal procedures. However, several Member States were still amending their national laws throughout the year. The European Commission initiated infringement procedures for lack of notification against seven Member States.
The deadline to incorporate into national law the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which aims to strengthen online safety, is in 2020. There was little progress in this regard.
Meanwhile, although online sexual abuse was on the rise, the European Commission had to initiate infringement procedures against 23 Member States for failing to implement the Sexual Abuse Directive.
EU institutions in 2019 pushed to improve victims’ access to compensation and justice. The Council of the EU called for a new strategy on victims’ rights. This both acknowledges that gaps in victim protection remain and signals Member States’ commitment to enforcing victims’ rights. The Council called on FRA and other EU agencies to support Member States in this effort.
Some Member States continued to oppose the Istanbul Convention in 2019. This triggered a particularly strong response by the European Parliament. It asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to address various aspects of the appropriate legal basis for the EU to accede to the convention.
Meanwhile, challenges to the independence of courts continued. They underlined the need for more effectively coordinated efforts to uphold the rule of law. The European Commission issued a blueprint for action, proposing the so-called ‘rule of law cycle’.
A decade on from the November 2009 Council Decision on the conclusion, by the European Community, of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2019 saw several major developments. These will shape the second decade of the convention’s implementation by the EU and its Member States.
The first ever designated European Commissioner for Equality, who is in charge of CRPD implementation, was appointed. The European Accessibility Act, which introduced common accessibility requirements for select products and services, was adopted. The European Parliament and the Council of the EU came to a preliminary agreement on language on disability and accessibility regarding the European Structural and Investment Funds.
An evaluation of the 2010–2020 disability strategy began. It will feed into a future EU disability strategy.
Meanwhile, Member States took steps to ensure inclusive education and equal employment for people with disabilities.
A number of Member States also took action towards ensuring a built environment accessible to all.
Changes to national electoral laws gave people with disabilities significantly more opportunities to participate in European elections, although accessibility remained a problem.