Putting human rights at the heart of Europe’s future - Summary meeting report

Europe stands at a delicate moment in its history, facing a convergence of major tests. Each of them taken on their own is significant. Together, they pose profound questions about the political, economic, and societal future of the continent. This is a moment for strong commitment to put human rights at the heart of our vision for Europe’s future. It is also time to demonstrate our determination to work together to this end. Against this backdrop, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) brought together around sixty human rights leaders and experts from across the continent to discuss elements of a human rights vision for the future and to identify opportunities for action. A full conference report will be available soon, including the specific ideas and proposals which arose from the meeting. Meanwhile, this is a summary of the conclusions.

The meeting focused on three major and overlapping human rights challenges: the climate crisis; the rise of disinformation and corresponding decline in civic engagement; and the war in Ukraine.

These human rights challenges are not unique to Europe, including the war in Ukraine which has a global impact. Nor are they the only challenges facing Europe, as we emerge from the pandemic and confront worsening economic pressures. And importantly, these challenges cannot be considered in isolation from each other.

The war in Ukraine and climate change are both bringing new migrants to Europe, who must be treated alike in line with international human rights law.

The energy crisis caused by the war is driving a cost-of-living crisis, exacerbated by the changing climate, with serious implications for socio-economic rights.

Disinformation and assaults on democratic institutions, which flourish more easily in times of economic difficulty, are complicating the response to each of these crises. Grappling expertly with the ever-increasing digitalisation of our lives and societies will be crucial to addressing this.

These are all urgent and complex challenges that require multi-faceted responses. They pose deep questions of our political and economic systems. They demand both careful self-reflection and courageous action.

The ambition of this meeting was to consider what contribution human rights could make in response to these current challenges, and to inspire co-ordinated or joined-up action to this end.